At Evanston Made’s First Saturdays Art Events this weekend, attendees got the chance to enjoy artwork at local businesses, venues, galleries, bars and restaurants.
Evanston Made is an organization that seeks to help Evanston artists in a variety of ways, from helping them grow in their profession to connecting them with potential patrons.
With the first Saturday events, Evanston Made executive director Lisa Degliantoni realized that getting people out of the house and away from Netflix was her first challenge. Then it was getting them to stick.
“People don’t like to hang out too long,” Degliantoni said. “They like to go in, get some bad wine, have a piece of cheese, look at art, bounce and go to various, right?”
Her solution to the problem was to invent First Saturdays, where Evanstonians can jump from an afternoon drawing class at Sketchbook Brewery to evening gallery openings at The Village Farm Stand. The events are inspired by Chicago’s First Fridays.
“We said to anyone in the art world, whether you’re a gallery, whether you’re a coffee shop with art: Be open,” she said. “Hold an event if you want or a booze sale or an artist talk, and we’ll put you on a little card.”
While First Saturdays started small, by September 3rd the events were spread across 12 Evanston locations, thanks to their members and partners like Dempster Mile.
“Dempster Mile has been a great partner” and “an economic driver for Evanston,” proving “you can have a great art collection with all Evanston artists,” said Liz Cramer, co-director of Evanston Made.
At Wine Goddess, at 702 Main St. in South Evanston, Ben Blount’s prints stood among the company’s wine bottles.
Blount is a Detroit-born artist who is a “believer in the power of the printed word” whose work “often explores questions of race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about life in America.”
One print reads “I love you like paper loves ink” in a red that represents wine. Another reads in a bright yellow and orange gradient, “Black don’t crack, Asian don’t raisin and Brown don’t frown,” in capital letters and underlined in small script reading, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” with the first letters of each word having capital letters.
At Trapdoor’s studio at 1303 Chicago Ave., Micah Sweezie showcased “Tear Lines.” The collection juxtaposes ceramics, found objects and a roll of TikTok videos. Sweezie’s mother is Vietnamese, and Sweezie, who goes by the pronouns they/them, grew up in Vietnam for several years before returning to the states.
As for ceramics, Sweezie said there is something profound and “amazing” about engaging with materials sourced directly from the Earth, which, after intense firework, take on a form that can last forever.
One of Sweezie’s favorite objects in “Parting Lines” was a deflated and wrapped bicycle tire.
For Sweezie, these are the moments that spark curiosity and give insight into the care that went into the objects’ original creation. When asked what it means to them to host a show that explores politics and making processes in a progressive city like Evanston, they said they hope the show can bring audiences to “question discomfort” and people’s ” history and relations to an object.”
Sweezie said Trapdoor curator Ava Decapri encouraged Sweezie to “take free reign to go down”.
Decapri is also an Evanston Made potter who joined after connecting with Degliantoni. While the budget and the space are minimal, Sweezie and Decapri made the most of it.
Decapri prioritizes emerging artists, considering how difficult it can be to land a solo show early in a career.
A perfect final stop on the First Saturday tour was at Evanston Pour, where Russell Muit’s “Storm Print City” is on view for the next month. The collection of relief prints from manhole covers and “antique, ornate and symbolic pieces of iron in the street” colored all the company’s walls.
Muit finds inspiration for his prints around the world, from Arkansas and the Jersey Shore to Europe and the Philippines. Bartender Maggie Meyer said Russ “comes in once a week” and supports the business.
Meyer also said that while all the art that comes into Evanston Pour is wonderful, she especially appreciates how Muit’s bright designs light up the space.
Degliantoni says she wants “murals on every wall, and “art at every coffee shop” and “dentist’s office,” but she doesn’t “want it to be from Target.”
What she does want are local businesses that put local artists in the spotlight. Yesterday’s First Saturday accomplished exactly that mission as new opportunities and relationships were forged in Evanston’s arts community.
Sweezie is on Instagram under the handle @Ceramicnoodles and their website is micahsweezie.com. Blount’s is benblount.com and Muit’s website features videos of his creative process.