Evanston RoundTable
Evanston ceramacist Joanna Kramer. Credit: Rebecca Nottonson

During the RoundTable’s Spring Membership Drive, we’re showcasing some of the Evanston writers who bring you the stories of our community every week. They come from all walks of life – some are professional journalists, and others come to us from backgrounds in business, the nonprofit world, academic life or the arts.

Jean Cunningham checks off several of those boxes. A former business consultant and nonprofit leader, she also is the author of three books. The RoundTable recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of The Art of Making Art, Jean’s interview series featuring Evanston artists.

As a nonprofit newsroom, we depend on the community’s support to fund our growing coverage of the arts scene in Evanston. If you have not yet become a member of the RoundTable, won’t you join us today?

Jean recalls: “I retired from my business consulting practice in March 2019 and was looking forward to categorically leaving my business life in the past, traveling the world with my husband and building new Evanston relationships. Then, COVID-19 hit and travel stopped. I found myself passing time by exercising, tending my new community garden plot and throwing myself into watercolor and acrylic painting, which I had dabbled in for several years. A new venture I wanted to explore was crystalizing as I painted: How could I connect to, get involved with and support the Evanston art community?”

Jean Cunningham

Researching Evanston art via the internet, Jean discovered Evanston Made, an arts non-profit led by Lisa Degliantoni and Liz Cramer, and learned that they were seeking a volunteer to interview artist members.

“I had published three business books in my career and wrote a monthly newsletter for years. This was a perfect match: art connecting, writing and even working with my husband who had long been my editor. I connected with Lisa and we came up with a plan for the interviews.”

The series began running in the RoundTable in May 2021. The interviews reflect Jean’s business-related interest in the processes used in working toward a goal. “It focuses on one Evanston artist and describes what the artist does to achieve a final artwork, shows in-process and completed art works and provides information on how the reader can learn more about the artist and the art.” 

Standouts include her interviews with ceramacist Joanna Kramer and painters James Deeb and Aydin Dincer of Prairie Joe’s fame.

“One of the best moments in this entire project is when an artist later tells me that it’s had an impact on their life: they’ve gotten a new commission, made new contacts or sold some art. One told me he was contacted by a reader to share their studio process with a school group.”

Please become a member of the Evanston RoundTable during our Spring Membership Drive. Did you know that we’re a nonprofit newsroom? If you haven’t become a member yet, the month of May is a great time help us build community with local journalism.