To wrap up 2020 in an artsy, positive and hopeful way, I’m working on a daily gratitude project during November and December, where I dig through the last eight years of the work we’ve done at Evanston Made, pick out highlights and share. Thank you for being on this journey with us! -Lisa Degliantoni, Founder and Executive Director

Kombucha Brava
Kombucha Brava Signature Cocktail NYE!

12.7.20 Kombucha Brava Joins the Party!

We’ve had numerous discussions over the years about members who don’t live in Evanston and members who make things other than visual art. And by “we’ve” I mean me and Kathy Halper, an early co-director/co-designer of Evanston Made (EM) who has advocated for artists in Rogers Park and Wilmette to be able to join. 

In addition to the expansion beyond city borders, I’ve long wanted to expand beyond artists to include makers of FOOD and DRINK! It’s not to say that I haven’t invited FEW Liquors to join or reached out to Hewn Bakery… but we’ve yet to design an organization that has the right programming to support more than artists. We’re working on it. 

So you can imagine my absolute joy when Regina Sant’Anna with Kombucha Brava reached out to support Evanston Made with a donation, a partnership and a request to be a member! 

Located in the Main Dempster Mile neighborhood at 707 Custer Ave., Kombucha Brava’s Tap Room manufactures and sells kombucha. You’ve probably seen Regina and her family at the Farmer’s Market in Evanston, and at many community events, selling their delicious kombucha. During Covid, you can shop online at

In celebration of this new member, we invited Kombucha Brava to participate in our First Annual NYE Auction and Benefit for Evanston Made. They made a signature cocktail and mocktail, click here to watch the video of Regina and Doug making the drink. Event info and recipe below. 

Thank you Regina and Doug for your support of Evanston artists, we are excited to help grow awareness for your delicious and healthy kombucha! 

NYE Art Auction ONLINE, at, RSVP here and info below. 

No plans for New Year’s Eve? Stuck at home with nothing but Netflix? Well, now you’re invited to a fun art auction hosted by Evanston Made! And we’re partnering with Kombucha Brava to create a signature cocktail! 

About this Event

Put on your finest gallery-hopping garb and pick out a spot in your home that could use a little pick me up! Because we’re bringing you fine art, jewelry, crafts and more that will be available to bid on from noon to 6 p CST on Thursday, December 31!

All the offerings will be available to view and bid on through the website,

This auction is the first for what will be our one and only annual Evanston Made fundraising event. All proceeds go towards programming and development and allow Evanston Made to continue their mission of connecting Evanston arts with the public.

We’re so grateful for all the donations and to partner with Kombucha Brava to create a signature cocktail for the event! Regina Sant’Anna and Douglas Skites are outside their headquarters at 717 Custer Ave., where they make and sell delicious kombucha! Purchase here

Signature Cocktail Recipe

  • Ice
  • 1.5 ounces of vodka
  • 6 ounces of Kombucha Brava’s lemon, ginger, turmeric and pepper)
  • Lemon wedge
  • Mint sprig
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup (we did not use this…feel free to add it or not)
  • Combine vodka and kombucha over ice in a lovely glass, garnish with the mint and lemon. 
  • And cheers!
Jill Schacter, Evanston Public Library podcast host

12.6.20 The Check Out w Host Jill Schacter

As the years have gone by, we’ve yet to crack the code with getting press for Evanston Made artists and arts initiatives. No Chicago Magazine cover story, no New York Times exposé. But like the kids say, when you’re too thirsty, no one comes around…so just keep sending our press releases and hoping…

Imagine my excitement when Jill Schacter invited me to appear on Evanston Public Library’s new podcast, The Check Out, to talk about the work we do with Evanston Made. Are you kidding? It was episode two and I would be interviewed by Jill, the show would be produced by communications consultant Steve Johnson, and it would be edited! (An edited show is key, for a interviewee as chatty as me. And yes, I know that all rhymes.)

The interview turned out great, because Jill did a marvelous job of helping me tell ALL of Evanston Made’s origin story. If you are curious about the years of work volunteers and artists have put into building our organization to the 300 member behemoth it is today, click here to listen to the interview, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

(Sidebar: I just texted my friend Catherine, asking for a master class on getting press for Evanston Made artists, the hustle is REAL.)

Jill is also awesome, because over the years, as the marketing and communications person at EPL, she has been a strong advocate for all things Evanston Made. She’s helped connect us the library members for workshops and exhibits, helped get the word out about our events and really been supportive of our efforts to grow awareness for Evanston’s Arts Community.

I’m incredibly grateful for my interview with Jill, now I need to convince her to interview a few of the Evanston Made member artists! Standby.  

Evan Girard, Evanston Made Group Show Opening 2019
Evan Girard, Evanston Made Group Show Opening 2019

12.5.20 Evan Girard

The photo of me and Evan, taken at the 2019 EM Group Show at the Evanston Art Center, sparks such a great memory of such a great milestone. 

Backing up, we launched the #collectevanstonart hashtag on social media around Jan. 2019 to drive awareness and encourage sales for the annual Group Show at the Evanston Art Center in June. That show featured more than 150 artists and we ended up with our biggest sales in an exhibit to date. The hashtag worked! 

But what also happened is we revealed a new untapped resource to grow a collector base; the Evanston resident, who loved their city but didn’t identify as an “art collector”. We needed to cultivate more art collectors in Evanston. 

Aha! Moment #1: people with civic pride/love for Evanston might be interested in art that beautifully showcases where they live. 

Aha! Moment #2: very few people identify as art collectors (or art patrons) and we would need to change that if we were going to build the infrastructure and marketplace for artists to launch creative careers. 

Back to the milestone…After this photo was taken, Evan and her husband Michael went into the exhibit, mixed and mingled, enjoyed refreshments and bought a painting of Lake Michigan by Lynne Miller Jones for their son who was moving away for college. Evan and Michael and their son LOVE the lake, and LOVED the painting and Evan was thrilled to find the work and purchase it.

Of course Evan has grown into a “Super Fan” of all things Evanston Made and an art collector and arts patron and ambassador. I am so happy to know her as she is constantly connecting me to other people who love Evanston Made’s mission and member artists. 

EM has experience such massive year over year growth and really an explosion of activity, because we’ve tapped an incredible vein, kind of struck oil on both ends; 

  • interest in art and artists from the general public 
  • artists who deeply wanted to connect with one another and share their art

I remember most of the June Group Show 2019 opening reception in slow motion, with all the disparate pieces of months of work coming together and gelling! Thank you, Evan for making that memory and milestone so very special!

Daniela Kovacic by Joerg Metzner
Daniela Kovacic by Joerg Metzner

12.4.20 Picturing Evanston Photography Project by Joerg Metzner

When Evanston photographer Joerg Metzner explained his project concept for Picturing Evanston, I was thrilled for his camera to be turned on the Evanston Art Scene. Here’s just a snippet from the Picturing Evanston website describing what he set out to do; “With its initial phase launched in Spring 2018, Picturing Evanston is not meant to be a complete catalogue of every artist and creative endeavor, but an intimate portrait of some of the city’s creatives and their work and the entrepreneurs, organizers and businesses who support them.” Click to read more. Joerg’s focus on Evanston’s artists and the portraits and interviews that were produced are wonderful content for the artists who participated! 

What is evident in the Studio Visits is that Joerg is an incredibly talented photographer and is genuinely interested in the process of art making. His project includes more than just photos of art and artists, it includes candid and authentic conversations and photographs with artists making. 

His interviews with the subjects are so great to read, because his questions invite beautiful answers like this exchange Joerg had with artist Daniela Kovovic;

Joerg: Why art?

Daniela: It is going to sound dramatic but I would be limping through life without it. For me it is a necessity.

You can read all of the interviews here

Another wonderful aspect of this project are the Artist Portraits taken June 1, 2018 at the opening of the Evanston Made group show at the Evanston Art Center. This series of portraits is such a personal expression of each artist. That was the first time we asked our members to participate in a sitting and you can see on their faces exactly how they felt about it. But roll taking and “owning it” is exactly what needed to happen.

Be sure to browse the rest of the website to see beautiful photos of public art.

Lastly, one of my favorite parts of the website is Jorge’s bio, totally worth reading and memorizing;

Joerg’s photography is narrative by nature, encompasses environmental portraits, landscape, documentary and editorial photography. Point him in any direction for a travel assignment and he will happily hit the road.  Born and raised in the Harz Mountains of Germany, Joerg worked as a dental technician before moving to Ireland  herding goats, photographing and painting. Finding himself in Los Angeles  he attended Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture, and later graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in Photography and Visual Communication. He has worked for various design firms and agencies in Chicago, including his own. Joerg’s other photography projects can be found on his site

Joerg’s membership and this project are two very important milestones for Evanston Made’s growth and I’m so grateful for both!

Instagram, USE it. 
Instagram, USE it.

12.3.20 Instagram, USE it. 

I know it’s going to sound crazy to recognize a social media platform as a milestone worthy of recognition in our journey to build an arts organization but hear me out…we had been using Instagram for years as a marketing platform for Evanston Made but hadn’t made the time to do a deep dive to learn all the benefits of the tool. And as any well-oiled social media platform is designed to do, there are many, many ways users can employ Instagram to engage new fans.

So it was with GREAT excitement in 2018 when artist and volunteer Liz Cramer stepped up to offer help with social media, specifically with Instagram.  Liz tackled learning how to use the platform effectively, growing our followers month over month. She tackled stories, video, slide shows, reels – every new thing tool Instagram threw at us. And all the while we closely tracked our insights and saw our reach and impact grow for both EM and our members.

Now Liz is busy building out the shopping component for Instagram where users can click directly on an item from the feed and purchase. That would be a massive jump in providing art sales for our members, if users could shop from the images we share! 

Without the designated time and volunteer energy, a social media tool like Instagram is just a photo sharing platform – cats, food, holiday cheer. But if you can get a volunteer to dedicate real time to learning how the tool works best, you can turn Instagram into a driving force of engagement. 

Additionally, we took our learnings and best practices using Instagram for EM and created a professional development track, where we teach artists how to use Instagram to launch or level up their creative career.

The moment we started effectively learning how to use Instagram’s power to engage the world with Evanston Made Artists was a game changer for Evanston Made; we saw regional attention for First Saturday Evanston programming grow, we heard from artists who increased sales, we heard from numerous first-time fans AND we discovered NEW members with our hashtag #evanstonmade.

I cannot encourage any creative business owner enough to find a human willing to take on Instagram to share what you do. There is no better return on investment for people working in the creative sector than Instagram. Periodt. 

Valerie Kahan, I am Evanstrong Mural, La Principal Evanston
Valerie Kahan, I am Evanstrong Mural, La Principal Evanston

12.2.20 Valerie Kahan is a Creative Force!

“You don’t know Valerie Kahan?!” most humans would ask me in an aghast tone? To which my reply ALWAYS was “NO! I just got here EIGHT years ago and knew ONE person when I landed. Who is SHE?!” 

I’ll tell who she is and it’s best shared in the project we worked together on this Spring as our world turned to crap because of Covid! I was part of a weekly Zoom call for nonprofit leaders helping Evanston residents in need and someone on the Zoom call asked, “Lisa, what are the ARTS going to do to save us?!” (Not in those exact words, but if you’ve been reading this blog, I take a lot of liberties with numbers and exactness.) Out of that question was born a conversation that included Valerie, and centered on making art accessible to children suffering through closed schools, which then turned into gifting free Art Kits to children in Evanston. 

Earlier in the spring Valerie, who is the founder of Art Makers Outpost, had collaborated with the Rube Goldberg society to sell kits for kids to make a Goldberg-like kinetic sculptures and join a competition to honor the BEST invention. I loved this idea of A. celebrating Goldberg and B. of providing kits for kids to create something.

So when presented with the question on the Zoom call, I immediately thought of Valerie and it took only one call to make magic happen. Valerie was part of a team who gave out more than 1,000 FREE art kits to kids in Evanston. She sourced donated materials (because she cares about the planet and knows that gently used arts supplies are always ready for donation), coordinated drop times and packing days, managed to fill hundreds of bags AND run her busy life as a mom, wife, sister, daughter, real estate agent, etc. Amazing! 

Barely a month later, I heard from Valerie that she was working on another super fun project! She was painting a selfie portrait mural outside of her friend Eric’s restaurant, La Principal, on Main Street! Once finished, the mural had a space for people to stand in to take a selfie with big, colorful, wings behind them. Titled, “I am Evanstrong”, this mural is still up at 700 Main Street, and was part of the “Evanston Art Connects” initiative in May! Check out the cool art map from that Evanston and bookmark it!

Most recently, Valerie took over the old Ice House Gallery Space at 609 South Boulevard, to house Art Makers Outpost headquarters and artists studios! Art Makers Outpost is an environmentally conscious, youth & adult art makers space for artists to create by repurposing items in an imaginative way. 75% of materials utilized are items otherwise destined for landfills & are sourced through the community. Learn more about what they do and sign up for classes at

I’m so grateful that a creative force like Valerie is in Evanston because she creates endless possibilities for the people around her to create AND that is what you need to build an ARTS community and turn a city into an ARTS destination – a whole bunch of people with the vision and creative energy of Valerie Kahan!

So the next time someone asks YOU in an aghast tone, “You don’t know Valerie Kahan?!” you can say you do. And you can meet her every Saturday in December, when she’s hosting safe shopping at Art Makers Outpost, click here to RSVP. Did I mention she’s AntiRacist AF? That’s another post! 

Evanston Made Facebook Fundraiser
Evanston Made Facebook Fundraiser

12.1.20 FUNdraising is FUN

Thank you to everyone who made our first Giving Tuesday so FUN! I know it’s rare to hear people PUMPED and EXCITED to fundraise, but the first word in fundraising is FUN and I had so much fun yesterday raising money for Evanston Made! 

It occurred to me halfway through the day, right around my favorite time of day at 12:34 p.m., that part of my fundraising job is hosting Donor Appreciation Events and parties! I spent the rest of the day watching donations come in and adding people to my fantasy invite list for the Donor Appreciation Rave I am hosting at the Maple Street Garage in July 2021. (Don’t tell Kathy and Liz, they’ll kill me.)

Leading up to launching our first fundraising phase, which we finally can do thanks to our Board and nonprofit status, we worked to make our goal realistic and spent a ton of time crafting language to spark people’s willingness to give. We landed on the fundraising goal of $30,000 by 12/31/20 and by midnight 12/1/20 we were at just over $6,000 raised. If you want to give, we are hosting one fundraiser on Facebook here and also accepting donations on our website. Donate $50 or more and receive Ben Blount’s “Artists are Essential” letterpress poster as a gift of gratitude!

But the BEST part of our First Giving Tuesday is that we got to 100 donors! 100 people gave $5 and up to support Evanston Made’s Mission to connect Evanston Art and Artists to the Public! That’s amazing and so validating! Seeing 100 people step up and donate to help us become a sustainable arts organization is awesome. 

Thank you everyone who made yesterday so FUN! 

Evanston Made Fan, Anne Wolff
Evanston Made Fan, Anne Wolff

11.30.20 Anne Wolff, Super Fan!

This is from a Facebook memory in 2019 and still holds true: So much is on my gratitude list this year like this woman, Anne Wolff! She is ever present at ALL Evanston Made art events. Always first to arrive so she can cycle over to 6 more events. Always giving shout outs to Evanston artists on Insta! Always making the GRIND to build a thriving arts community so worth it! Thank you, Anne! #grateful #evanstonart

This photo of me and Anne was taken at the Annual Group Show opening reception, June 2019, at the Evanston Art Center, the BEST opening party EVER! Nan Stein captured amazing event photos that night, if you need an event photographer, reach out!

This year Anne is at the helm, again, with her enthusiasm for all things Evanston Made. She is chairing our first annual New Year’s Fundraiser and if you’re an artist, you just might hear from her! 

Thank you, Anne, for making all this community arts building work so worth it! Seeing you Collect Evanston Art, attend First Saturday Art Events, meet artists, share Evanston art on your Instagram feed, helps the world see Evanston’s thriving arts community!!

Perspective Photography Gallery
Perspective Photography Gallery

11.29.20 Perspective Photography Gallery

One bright spot in the Evanston Gallery scene has always been Perspective Photography Gallery on Chicago Ave., north of Dempster on the westside of the street. This gallery is a cooperative nonprofit, with a board and members who pay dues to be part of the gallery. Each member hosts gallery hours and is put on an exhibiting rotation on the gallery walls. This model creates really engaged artists who participate in all aspects of the gallery life.

This model is something that we studied closely when thinking about ways to make Evanston Made sustainable. I remember the first several times I visited Perspective and was impressed with the “gallerista” who also happened to be super knowledgeable and excited about the work on the walls, because it was hers. That was an AHA moment for me, as usually galleristas (staff who sits at the gallery desk welcoming art patrons) are not that into the art and are possibly on track for an arts administration job that requires gallery hours, like an internship.

The other reason Perspective has been so inspiring to watch is how they host events that put Evanston on the art map, like the LENS exhibit. LENS is an annual juried exhibition of photography, where photographers are invited to submit work for possible inclusion in the exhibition. This show is typically curated by a well known artist/curator and draws hundreds of applicants. What’s more the events around the exhibition draw hundreds of art patrons to Evanston. Learn more about the 2021 show here

LENS 2015 was where I overheard a skinny-jean-wearing-bearded hipster boy say to his friend, “I had no idea Evanston had art galleries!” That moment is forever crystalized in my mind and I often pull up that memory when I think my work is done. 

Other well-known events that draw hundreds are the Vicinity and Student Perspective Group Shows, both are inclusive and professional exhibitions. 

Also, another project I love, Perspective published a photography book celebrating their 10 year anniversary, click here to see, honoring the 34 past and present members. This book offers stunning works and is a testament to the talented roster of photographers.

I’m grateful that Perspective is here in Evanston, showing us how to include ALL artists in the journey, and ever expanding the art patron’s knowledge of Evanston’s Art Scene!

C3 Evanston
C3 Evanston

11.28.20 Creative Commerce Committee (C3)

Part of the push to make Evanston Made a sustainable Arts Organization is the awareness that volunteer initiatives often die when the main driver dies, moves away, burns out, has a change of heart, finds a new cause, etc. 

We have all watched initiatives come and go, especially in the arts. I want to recognize the work of a small group of people who worked very hard on an arts initiative that is no longer around, C3. The most effective background info is this recruiting email we would send potential members; 

We’d like to invite you both (or just one of you depending on bandwidth) to become a member of the Creative Commerce Committee (C3), a newly formed committee that will report directly to the City of Evanston’s Art Council. We are inviting key members of the community to be a part of this new and exciting initiative to support and celebrate the arts in Evanston.

In 2015, the Evanston Arts Council redid its strategic plan and one of key elements is to bridge art & business. The Council has asked a small group of the recent graduating class of Leadership Evanston to carry out this plan with the creation of the Creative Commerce Committee; this committee is charged at looking at strategic partnerships with the entire community, not be a programming committee, in an effort to bridge arts & business in Evanston.

This Leadership Evanston team vetted a list of arts stakeholders and we are inviting you to participate in this exciting endeavor. The time commitment is a bi-monthly meeting (every other month), with appointments lasting 1-3 years. Please know the committee is only being formed with 15 members and although there will be a much larger advisory committee, this selection process to get to you was very intentional.

Granted this group disbanded in 2019, the people at the table did really good work thinking about the intersection of art and business. I am grateful to have worked alongside Jaime Leonardi w Stumble & Relish, Sandeep Ghaey w Vinic, artist Amanda Evansotn, Annie Coakley w Downtown Evanston, Gina Speckman w Chicago Northshore, artist and Art Therapist Angela Lyonsmith, artist Lindy Stockton and Liz Cramer, artist and Co-Director of Evanston Made. 

C3 met monthly at Vinic and brainstormed ways to engage the art and business communities. We hosted several great events, my favorite one was the “Keeping Evanston Artsy” panel discussion on how to grow awareness and engagement for the arts, which was very well attended and super fun. There are still Facebook and Instagram accounts, in case this initiative comes back to life, Liz Cramer keeps those feeds alive. 

But initiatives are hard to keep going without programming and funding, which is most likely why C3 disbanded. We didn’t have a budget and without City of Evanston or private funding, we’d have to form a nonprofit organization to fundraise, which was more time and effort than anyone could take on. 

What I miss most about C3 is a monthly wine date/meeting with a group of arts advocates who want to Keep Evanston Artsy. The end of C3 is another reason I’m so passionate to find the resources to keep Evanston Made alive. 

Evanston Made is lucky that for 8 years we’ve managed to find volunteers to keep programming running and growing, but if we want to truly grow and impact the arts, we need to invest in our organization and the people who run it! I’m grateful to have C3 in the rearview mirror to learn from and hopeful that this initiative will come back to life.

Cécile Trentini Garage Door Project, Evanston
Cécile Trentini Garage Door Project, Evanston

11.27.20 Cécile Trentini 

It’s difficult to share the exact mix of emotions I felt the first time I visited Cécile Trentini’s Art Studio – jealousy, excitement, curiosity, jealousy, amazement and jealousy. An incredibly talented and prolific artist, Cécile’s studio is fantastic to visit. She has fancy rolling tables to house huge portfolios, great lighting, plenty of wall space and so much work!

I originally learned about Cécile’s art at a group show in the Saw Room Gallery at The Alley Gallery, where she created quilts of images printed on fabric taken on her Daily Walks – the patterns followed All Yellow, All Objects on the Ground, Animals. Click here to see the body of work and follow her on Instagram at @cecile.trentini and @dailywalking2020

In addition to her body of work being amazing, I value her ability to share art and make us pause for beauty. Cécile recently created the Garage Door project, making layers of designs with tape on her garage door, adding new layers and colors. The small photo above doesn’t do this project justice, you’ll need to walk by on the east side of Main at Asbury.

Lastly, I remember thinking “how do I NOT know of this artist??” when I first saw her work. Another burst of mixed emotions to include anger and excitement. I LOVE finding out about yet another amazing artist who is living in my community, it feels like such a win to live among such creative talent! I am so thrilled Cécile calls Evanston home! 

Evanston Made Group Show Opening Party, Evanston Art Center, June 2019
Evanston Made Group Show Opening Party, Evanston Art Center, June 2019

11.26.20 Evanston Art Center

The second year hosting studio tours, we had several people ask that we host a tandem event, an art exhibit showcasing the work of artists participating in the studio tour so that people could design their studio tours with artists they wanted to collect.  Great idea!

We put up an exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center featuring works by more than 75 artists and hosted a fantastic opening reception.

The following year, studio tour sign ups grew and we needed to host an exhibit with almost 100 artists, 2D and 3D. While Noyes has plenty of space, we wanted the exhibit to have a street presence to increase awareness of Evanston Made programming. 

We approached Paula Danof, the Director of the Evanston Art Center, with a request to host the group show and she agreed, giving us the entire first floor and the second floor galleries. That first year we hosted 100 artists for the Group Show and an exhibit featuring art and sculpture by Fran Joy and Jevoid Simmons on the second floor. 

Over the years, the EAC has been an ideal location, allowing EM to continue to expand programming to include a Pop Up Shop, Evanston Made Kids & Pop Up and the Side / Lot Film Experimental Festival. All the while, the staff at the EAC has been amazing partners! Shout out to Sam, Cara, Kumar, Larry, Cicero, Kristen for the patience you have for us (me) all May every year! 

We didn’t host the Group Show at the EAC in 2020, we moved it online instead, and the photo above shows what we all missed the most – the humans! The Group Show opening reception at the EAC is always a massive celebration of art, artists and community and we cannot wait to get back to it! 

Lucky for us, we booked the Group Shows for 2021 and 2022 at the EAC, the First Saturdays in June – Save the Dates!

IceScape, WinterHearth, Evanston
IceScape, WinterHearth, Evanston

11.25.20 Jason Brown, Come Back!

Jason Brown is a magical human to have as a neighbor, friend and co creator. He would appear, be busy working on the most interesting projects, and then vanish for a bit. 

I remember the first time I met him, with his colleague David Anthony Geary, at the Evanston Public Library, where they were hosting knitting circles for their KnitsPlosion project. Remember when yard bombing was super radical? 

Jason and David had asked for funding from the Evanston Arts Council (where I was a citizen volunteer) and I remember thinking that I had to see their proposed event in action. Event description here: “Partnering with a Quilting Guild of north Evanston, KnitSplosion brought together cast-off projects, experienced knitters, and newbie placemakers to create a warm yarnbombing for the trees outside of the Evanston Public Library, Main Branch.” Me and my youngest roommate Louie went and checked out the event and I remember thinking how cool it was that these two young artists were able to gather such a diverse crowd – all ages, genders, were packed in a room knitting.

I became a groupie/fan of all things Jason Brown at that very moment. And for the next 5 years, I was constantly impressed with his community art building initiatives, see some of Jason’s work here

What I valued most in Jason was not his endless energy and organizing ability, but the way he looked at place and people. 

His IceScape event that we hosted together is the most illustrative of his skills; he is capable of adding a layer of beauty to something as off putting as a frozen beach. We painted a frozen beach together, that’s the photo above. Event description here: “IceScape. A strange phenomenon happens every winter on the beaches of Lake Michigan’s north shore – a vast berm of ice and snow creates surreal lakeside hills. We took this opportunity to paint with food coloring, ice creations, and natural pigment.” It was so cold that day, but dozens of people showed up to “paint” the ice and there was a Sun Times journalist covering the event. I remember feeling so bad for them, working in the freezing cold while we all screamed and ran around and threw color on the ice. It was so much fun! I would never have thought of bringing people together to make an art installation in the middle of winter. 

I am grateful for Jason’s vision. He showed me how to create art events that had points of access for all. Granted, it would be better if he came back soon and worked on an event with me, but as I look to possibly activating a golf course with art in the middle of winter, I will pull from my work with Jason and possibly add a layer of beauty to frozen tundra.

Side / Lot Experimental Film Festival, Evanston Art Center
Side / Lot Experimental Film Festival, Evanston Art Center

11.24.20 Anne and Mat Rock! 

Just when you think an event cannot possibly get any better, Anne Hayden Stevens and Mat Rappaport show up to prove you wrong! And I don’t say this with anger!

After our third year hosting the Evanston Made Annual Group Show at the Evanston Art Center, it was hard to imagine it getting any bigger or better. We had a successful pop up shop full of artisans, we had more than 100 2D and 3D artists exhibiting work, we had a symbiotic working relationship with the staff of the Evanston Art Center! There was little room in the event execution for leveling up! This is the exact moment in the life of an event that there is room to grow, right when you are getting comfortable!

Luckily for Evanston Made, Anne and Mat, along with the curatorial help of Alice George and several other volunteers, created the Side / Lot series of events and programming to happen alongside the annual Group Show. Side / Lot included an Experimental Film Festival where filmmakers of all ages could submit a film for consideration to show. The opening night film festival event showcased the films on the wall of the building across the parking lot, outside, literally in the side parking lot. The first year was a wonderful celebration of creativity and playfulness, and the weather allowed for outdoor viewing.

Side /Lot also curated an art installation on the wall of the EAC, inviting several artists to create large scale wall installations and performance art pieces. The public was invited to attend artist talks and performances, outside, literally in the side parking lot. 

Both of these additions to the annual group show were huge successes for several reasons; audience expansion, the addition of film and filmmakers to the Group Show, and art installations on a big enough scale that traffic was alerted to art happening inside and outside the EAC building.

Not that events need to constantly change and reinvent offerings, but after a few years, events can get stale, and when you run on a thin volunteer crew like we do at Evanston Made, it’s hard to find the energy for new ideas. That’s why the entrance of new blood and new ideas is such a gift!

I am so grateful for Anne and Mat and all they bring to the Evanston Art Scene, and I look forward to many more creative collaborations in the years to come!

Teresa Parod Evanston Art
Teresa Parod, Garage Door Murals, Evanston

11.23.20 Transforming Mundane Spaces

While Evanston Made relies on the planned and organized production of art making via public art and group exhibitions, we also rely on a certain amount of whimsy. By whimsy, I mean random acts of art like yarn bombing trees, sculptures that pop up in front yards, sidewalk chalk art, etc. If we can encourage art making and sharing across all neighborhoods and environments, we are successfully keeping Evanston Artsy and building Evanston as an Arts Destination! 

You can imagine my sheer joy when I met Teresa Parod, an artist with an incredible body of work, who was excited to share with me news about her latest mosaic project in Cuba. Teresa also shared the news of her garage door mural project and Day of the Dead front yard art installations. Both projects invite the public to engage with art in expected places like front yards and allies.

Teresa lives in North Evanston and after being commissioned to do a mural on a commercial business wall, she started painting garage doors in the alley behind her home on Thayer St. The paintings Teresa does are playful and colorful, with a very unique design sense – I recognize her work immediately and love it.

Teresa is incredibly prolific and you can see on her website so is the popularity for her mural work. There are more than 20 garage doors finished and when Spring 2021 rolls around, I am confident there will be many more. Terea’s work has been featured in numerous news outlets, WTTW, the Daily Northwestern, the Chicago Sun Times, etc., showcasing her talent and resident’s willingness to support private murals.

I’m grateful to prolific artists like Teresa who are helping build Evanston into an arts destination! Be sure to reach out to Teresa if your garage door could use a little color!

Evanston Made Board
Evanston Made Board

11.22.20 Recruit and Keep True Fans!

Read the essay 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly and you’ll understand the

importance of having true fans to support your work. Securing true fans can be the tipping point for artists; it can sustain their work. Read the essay here

Part of growing Evanston Made into a sustainable arts organization is recruiting and keeping true fans. If we audited the total number of fans who consistently engage with our programming, we could get to 5,000 people. But how many of those people are true fans, great volunteers, willing to spread the good news of our organization and work for it? Fortunately we have many true fans, too many to list. But in the last several years, we’ve needed a new level of “work” to be done by our true fans. 

Our first board is the manifestation of 8 years of work, a group of true fans laser-focused on making EM a sustainable nonprofit arts organization. The board formed in 2018 as a working board to create the documents and systems needed to apply for nonprofit status. Shout out to Melissa Raman Molitor and Evan Finamore who devoted hours to designing our bylaws! It’s not sexy work. Board 1.0 is the reason we got our npo/501c3 status approved! I will always be grateful for that massive accomplishment made possible by that first group including Amy Amoroso, Angela Lyonsmith, Kathy Halper, Liz Cramer.

The dozen board members we now have are all EM fans who over the years had voiced enthusiasm for what we were doing. They showed up consistently at our programs. They collected Evanston Art and shared the news on social media. They talked about our organization to anyone willing to listen. They also put in hours of time to shape our mission, values and goals. Thank you for joining us Anne Laverick, Cortney Lederer, Denise Barreto and Mat Rappaport.

The work is never done when building a sustainable arts organization, because the true fans, patrons, members and volunteers are fluid. We will soon recruit new board members and set new goals! If our organization’s future is determined by our past, I am very excited at the prospect of working with many more volunteers and true fans to do great work for the Evanston Arts Community.

Mission: Evanston Made creates engagement between Evanston’s visual arts community and the public. Click here to learn more about us.

Evanston Made Donation Stations
Evanston Made Donation Stations

11.21.20 Donation Stations 

Evanston Made gets approached by organizations and people all the time with great ideas that they want us to produce! Literally dropping huge ideas off in our inbox or voice mail, with expectations that we’ll deliver on them. Of course, we sometimes execute on these unsolicited ideas, IF there are volunteers to help!

When Annie Coakley with Downtown Evanston proposed that we invite kids to paint decommissioned parking meters that would be installed throughout Downtown Evanston, I said “totally!” The meters would collect donations for Connection for the Homeless and feature painting by children 10 years old and under. How adorable is that idea?

We set up shop in the parking lot of the Evanston Art Center during an Evanston Made Kids event and let children paint the meters – pure, creative freedom was given to all, a detail we’ll come back to.

Downtown Evanston then installed the meters (12 in total) throughout Downtown Evanston, and began collecting donations. In the photo above, my son Louie found the meter he painted and is pictured making a donation. “There’s the meter I painted!” he yelled when we found it! That’s pretty cute when a child can see their work in public in action.

Of course the haters showed up, because that’s what haters do, show up. Annie heard complaints that people thought the meters were ugly, that the children should have been given creative direction, that the meter art looked sloppy. I gave myself exactly 14 minutes to be angry, and then moved on to some other worthwhile topic to be truly angry about like income inequality.

People’s reactions, positive or negative, to the initiatives you throw out into the world are part of the deal. How you react is also part of the deal. Annie and I laughed off the haters. Instead, I chose to cherish this photo and this memory of my little Louie seeing his painting project do good in the world. How often do kids get to do that? Enjoy total creative freedom to produce something and then see it live in the world? Clue: answer rhymes with clever.

I’m grateful to Downtown Evanston and Annie Coakley, for all the dedication and enthusiasm to make ART a part of our shared living room that is Downtown Evanston!

Hannah Ross Mural
Hannah Ross Mural

11.20.20 Taking the show on the road!

One of our goals is to take the show on the road and show the world Evanston art via traveling exhibits and pop ups. But sometimes the day-to-day duties of running an arts organization can be so time consuming, that dreams and goals have to wait. That’s why when other people manifest our goals and dreams, it’s so rewarding! 

Recently, Swantiques owner Lora Swanson reached out for recommendations of Evanston Made artists who do mural work. We love getting that phone call and we love recommending our members for commissions, it’s a service we provide members and the public. Call anytime for recommendations for artists, 847-544-8205. 

Back to Lora Swanson. Lora is the owner of Swantiques, which features antique, vintage, and mid-century furnishings. The showroom is located at 8020 Lawndale Avenue in Skokie, Illinois, and Swantiques had a big, boring garage door that needed a little color!

Lora commissioned artist Hannah Bess Ross, a talented illustrator, painter, designer, ceramic artist and it turns out muralist! Check out the lovely design and color she added to the Swantiques garage door!

I’m super grateful when projects like this come together and that Evanston Made can help. It’s also super exciting for our artists to showcase what they do in other markets, even if it’s 15 feet away! Thank you Lora and Hannah for making this happen!

Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris
Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris

11.19.20 Boomerang Townies Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris

There are lots of humans who grow up in Evanston, move away, and come back because they love this town! I call those humans “Boomerang Townies”, they came back because they love Evanston! And you probably know a few of them now that you think about it.

Two humans who fit that category are artist dynamo duo couple Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris, both creative powerhouses on their own, but it’s what they’ve done together that makes me so grateful they exist! 

Lea and Dustin had been painting and producing murals in Rogers Park for a decade before they turned their attention to Evanston! Here’s a great Chicago Sun Times article on their work and background. Photo by Mary Norkol / Sun-Times

In 2017, under the Art Encounter organization, they formed the Evanston Mural Arts Program (EMAP) which exists to make art available to all – AWESOME! From “the goal of EMAP is to uplift and beautify neighborhoods with mural art through creative partnerships with community organizations, schools, and business districts. We pair professional artists with community members and youth to create large-scale public works of art that last for years to come.” 

Since this program was formed in 2017, murals have gone up across Evanston and MORE are on the way! As you might imagine, murals take a tremendous amount of work from choosing the artist design, to funding the mural, to cleaning the walls! I am so grateful Lea and Dustin are putting the hard work into making these murals happen, even sometimes designing and painting them too! It’s so inspiring to see a couple do so much creative good together!

EMAP also added exciting layers with a fun mural hunt, mural walks and tours, interviews with artists and more. Check out all of this at

This initiative creates more than just beautiful walls in our city, it helps make Evanston an arts destination! Only people who truly love their city are willing to put this much work into beautifying it! 

Evanston Made is so grateful for EMAP’s contribution to our city and for Lea and Dustin’s giving back to the arts community! 

Backlot's John Kim portrait by Chris Froeter, Evanston
Backlot’s John Kim portrait by Chris Froeter, Evanston

11.18.20 John Kim is one of Evanston Made’s True Fans

Opportunities for our members to exhibit and sell their work is one of the biggest values of Evanston Made membership. As we grew to almost 300 members in 2019, we needed to expand exhibiting space and increase the frequency. Where else could we show and sell members’ art where enough eyes would see it and potentially buy?

Lucky for Evanston Made, Backlot Coffee Central Street coffee shop owner John Kim was inundated with emails like this; “I am an Evanston photographer. I would like to show you my work for possible display in your coffee shop.”

Busy running a bustling coffee shop, John Kim, looked to us for help. He asked if Evanston Made would be willing to curate a monthly exhibit of art? John and his team had installed a simple to use art-hanging system, which allows artists to clip framed work to the walls without nails. This efficient system is easy to use and all we had to do was curate the walls. We said YES!

Since January 2017, we’ve curated more than 36 exhibits for artists, giving them the chance to show work solo and keep 100% of the art sales. With hundreds of coffee customers walking through the shop, artists get tons of exposure and have been known to enjoy sales! 

Another bonus? We got to curate the new walls when Backlot expanded to Sherman Ave.! 

Another bonus? John Kim truly loves what Evanston Made does! He always reminds us that our arts advocacy work is much needed in our community! He buys art from our members and he sings our praises to his customers. He even made a testimonial video for us to share as part of our Year End Fundraising campaign! 

We’re working on recruiting 1,000 True Fans like John Kim, so that Evanston Made can become a sustainable nonprofit arts organization! For now, we’ll keep curating the walls at Backlot(s) and appreciating all that John Kim does for us!

Stop by and check out the art, it’s all for sale and 100% of the proceeds go to the artist! Backlot Coffee at 2006 Central St. and 1549 Sherman Ave. The portrait of John was painted by artist Chris Froeter. Chris did this portrait to attract customers and support small businesses during the pandemic.

Darren Oberto Cyanotypes, Saw Room Gallery, Evanston
Darren Oberto Cyanotypes, Saw Room Gallery, Evanston

11.17.20 A Gallery is Born!

We talked earlier about the Death of a Gallery, now we shall celebrate the Birth of a Gallery! May 2016, Evanston opened its arms and hearts to The Saw Room Gallery at the Alley Gallery!

The Alley Gallery is a staple of Evanston’s Creative Community, selling and framing art for collectors throughout the NorthShore. For those of you out of the loop, pause to read their story;

Established in 1985 by local legend & avid tinkerer Chris Molloy, he had a simple business philosophy: provide the finest custom framing and have fun doing it. No project was too complex for Chris, and that stands true today.

Over the years, Chris became a mentor to many artists, engineers & craftspeople interested in design, fine art, custom framing. Several members of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre began their working life at Alley Gallery, along with many others who pursued careers in countless areas around the world.

When Chris passed away in 2010, he entrusted his legacy to his employees. We strive every day to continue his philosophy. As working artists, we have an eye for composition and the knowledge to conserve artwork in a variety of mediums. Along with our parrot, Jessica, we continue Chris’s dedication to design, quality and fun in framing.

Back to the story about the birth of a gallery…behind the counter at the entrance of the Alley Gallery, there used to be a really big storage room. The brilliant minds of the staff now running the shop (Darren Oberto, Ross Martens, Chris Greene and Avram Eisen) worked to imagine the storage room as an art gallery. Fast forward through lots of manual labor, paint, cleaning to May 2016, where the Saw Room Gallery hosted its first exhibit, a group show featuring the art of the shop owners and artists in residence, Darren Oberto, Ross Martens, Chris Greene and Avram Eisen.

This expansion of adding an art gallery to the art shop had a ripple effect that benefitted many! More white wall space to exhibit work is a win for artists in the region. Adding another location for the public to see art on First Saturdays was fantastic – research shows people leave the house for multiple events, not one. And lastly, the chance to create more opportunities for people to meet Darren, Ross, Chris and Avram and see their art, increased our ability to make Evanston an Arts Destination.

It takes money and time and creative problem solving to reuse space in a way that benefits many. I am so grateful to the team at the Alley Gallery for expanding their shop and adding more exhibiting space for artists. Click here to learn more about what they do and see their art. 

Photo credit: “Out of the Blue”: cyanotypes by Darren Oberto, Saw Room Gallery, October 2018

Ellen Greene Art, Soapie's, Evanston
Ellen Greene Art, Soapie’s, Evanston

11.16.20 Ellen Greene to Moves to Evanston!

I’ve alluded to the “census work” aspect of what we do at Evanston Made, we have to know the artists who live here in order to build the community. Working with existing artists is only part of it, we also have to embrace newcomers and recruit! 

When looking for a new home many residents seek out green space, access to public transportation, good schools, Whole Foods, etc. One thing we’ve heard through the grapevine is that many people move to Evanston because of it’s artsy vibe and growing population of artists. If you’re looking for a “tribe” as an artist, Evanston has a healthy number of creatives to meet and befriend. As we know, artmaking can be a lonely practice and peers in that space are essential for connection and growth.

As we launched the Membership Model and Member Mixers, we were astonished to find that this service, social connection and networking, was becoming one of the biggest value adds for our members. By increasing membership, we would help artists not only connect better with their community, but deepen relationships with artists to elevate their practices, share spaces and materials, elevate skills and more. 

So when my friend Ellen Greene, the super prolific and interesting artist, was leaving her home in some town north of Evanston, I began praying to the art gods that Ellen would land in Evanston and join Evanston Made. To have Ellen on the roster of artists would not only raise brand awareness for EM but would provide inspiration and motivation for other artists. 

For example, Ellen approaches her art practice in a myriad of interesting ways and has the vision to explore many different inroads to income and exposure. She models art making in ways that teach many artists how to elevate and make money!

She is willing to do pop ups with a variety of store owners, her incredibly successful “Evanston Art Connects” Angels installation with Yun Park at Soapie’s Cleaners on Chicago Ave. helped many artists learn about pricing and exhibiting work in creative ways. Photo above! 

Ellen’s enthusiasm for merchandising work is inspiring. She takes parts of larger bodies of work, breaks them down to affordable price points and invites customers to engage. This kind of scaffolding cultivates collectors, who might be introduced to Ellen’s work as college freshmen on a $29 art budget, who grow into young professionals with a $590 art budget. Ellen’s collection of goods at Nice Lena and Friends is what I’m talking about.

Additionally, Ellen’s ability to share her Artist Journey authentically is what I value about her the most! By hearing her story, many artists feel permission and validation for their journey. It can be lonely pursuing your passion but hearing other people’s origin stories can make you brave. I know Ellen makes me brave. 

Ellen’s been here for a few years now and we’ve been able to collaborate on several amazing projects. Her arrival in Evanston and Evanston Made was a big win! Let’s recruit more artists like Ellen to move here and share their authentic journey in the arts, it will make us all more brave and able to create a thriving arts community!

Thank you, Ellen Greene for being so awesome AND for moving to Evanston!

Shop Evanston Made Art Shop
Shop Evanston Made Art Shop

11.15.20 Happy Birthday, Art Shop!

If we were going to get people to #collectevanstonart they had to be able to shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, around the entire world! We needed an Art Shop on the Evanston Made website, but did people buy art online? Would our members be open to selling art and merchandise online? Who would deliver the art? There were so many logistical issues, but there were other successful models like auction houses and Etsy to look toward. And the holidays were coming, it was time to get busy!

Website developers Kathy Halper and Rick Levine spent endless programming and design hours building out the backend of the Art Shop (I know, sexy web developer talk is why you read this blog) and it looked great! Now we needed the items to post and sell from our members… 

We sent a call out to our members – “We are ready to sell! Are YOU?

We are starting to fill the Evanston Made Online Shop with goodies just in time for the holidays!

We welcome all members to submit items they’d like to sell. Ceramics, jewelry, small art, art prints, textiles, it’s up to you! You can submit up to three items. They should be under $300 retail.

This is going to be our BIG promotional push for the next 6 weeks so get in on the action and fill the shop! You can choose whether to charge for shipping or include it in your price. For more details go to the links below.” 

Well the rest is history and thanks to Facebook, today we are reminded that our Art Shop is celebrating a one year anniversary. We’re still hard at work creating a platform for our members to sell their art and merchandise 24/7, online, and thanks to COVID, everybody shops online these days!  (Silver lining….) Kathy is still hard at work making sure the shop stays current, check out the new redesign she launched today at – Kathy makes it easy to shop by price, medium, Holiday, etc. You’re welcome.

Another layer we added in 2020 was promoting the Art Shop on Instagram! Liz Cramer creates slide shows, videos and adorable posts promoting new items for sale. This has been a major game changer, upping awareness for #evanstonart outside the city limits. Follow Evanston Made on Instagram at @evanston_made 

Join in the artsy fun and bookmark the Evanston Made Art Shop! The next time you are considering a gift for that special someone (or YOU), first browse hundreds of items at

Thank you Kathy, Liz and Rick for making this one year anniversary possible!

Ben Blount and Vanessa Filley Citizen, Evanston
Ben Blount and Vanessa Filley Citizen, Evanston

11.14.20 Vanessa Filley and Frances Willard 

Creative problem solving is one of the most frequent activities we’ve encountered building Evanston Made. A consistent problem for EM to creatively solve is “how to engage the public with art” in new and interesting ways. 

As we were planning the 2018 studio tour, we knew that adding more locations to show art was key to expanding our audience. And the locations needed to be more than just galleries and studios, we needed to expand into restaurants, coffee shops and spaces where people didn’t expect to see art. We had to turn the city into an art gallery, so that engaging with art was easy, almost accidental. 

Fine art photographer, Vanessa Filley, has been creating a body of work (#metoo) that I thought would look really incredible exhibited inside the Frances Willard House Museum (FWHM) and reached out to the director Lori Osborne to set up a meeting to discuss. Much to my amazement, Lori and Vanessa conceived of a plan to host Vanessa as the first artist in residence at the museum. We would feature Vanessa’s new work at the FWHMon the studio tour and design programming for the public to see the work in progress, meet the artist and learn about Frances Willard. This intersection of history, feminism, photography, civic engagement and art helped us expand audience participation for both the annual studio tour and the FWHM.

From the event invitation; “As FWHM’s inaugural artist in residence, Filley’s project was inspired by the museum – its story and its collection. Her work imagines a web of connections bridging the perseverance of women organizing throughout history to women organizing today. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Filley’s art in the setting that inspired it, and hear first-hand from the artist on her relevant and thought-provoking project.” 

In addition to the artist talks, demos and museum tours, artist Ben Blount created “Citizen”, a newspaper, in collaboration with Vanessa during her residency, featuring Evanston stories. The cover is featured in this blog post.

The “yes and” nature of so many creatives in Evanston have made community arts building work incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful for Lori and Vanessa’s vision, and for the beautiful work Vanessa was inspired to create inside the museum.

Harvey Pranian, YEA Day Evanston
Harvey Pranian, YEA Day Evanston

11.13.20 Harvey Pranian and YEA!

The mastermind behind Evanston’s annual outdoor children’s art exhibit, Young Evanston Artists (YEA), Harvey Pranian, is the biggest inspiration and driver for my work as a community arts builder in Evanston. For 29 years, Harvey gave himself over to this annual children’s outdoor art exhibit. He knocked on doors for 11 months, recruiting volunteers and donations, coordinated with art teachers to curate the art on display, and then for 30-days leading up the event would obsessively plan the layout and production of the day’s event, all the while praying for sunshine because, Chicago weather May. 

Harvey did have help over the years and art teachers are the reason the art on displays happened at all, but I once walked by Raymond Park at 6:30 a.m. a week before the event to find Harvey spray painting the grass with large oranges Xs to mark where each school would place their art. 

For those of you out of market, YEA is a one-day, annual, outdoor children’s art exhibit featuring art by Evanston children 18 and under, curated by art teachers and founded by Harvey, 30 years ago. Imagine streets and parks packed with hundreds of kids taking photos in front of their art, surrounded by proud art teachers, parents, guardians, siblings and friends. It’s a day of joy, pride, community and art – all focused on art made by children. This concept was conceived by Harvey, he thought children should have the opportunity to exhibit art just like adults. Brilliant, but so much work! 

I became friends with Harvey, joined his volunteer team, and tried to glean why he gave so much to children’s art expression, even though his children were grown adults and living outside the market. He would share with his love for outsider art, the inspiration many famous artists found from children’s art and his joy at seeing proud children showing their art to their families at YEA Day. Harvey’s intention is pure and beautiful and has made him the recipient of a lot of love and awards from the community. 

YEA changed hands several years ago, becoming a nonprofit organization, run by Hope Washinushi and a board of art advocates. You can learn more about their mission and support this great cause at

I tribute YEA to my “aha moment” when looking for a group to support and give back to. Who could I serve the way Harvey did? Who would benefit from an annual exhibit, showcasing art, standing in front of it proudly with family and friends looking on? Why adults of course! And we did that. Our annual group show is no YEA, but it’s a pretty beautiful expression of community and art and I credit Harvey for planting that vision in my mind.

Hevanston Gallery, Evanston
Hevanston Gallery, Evanston

11.12.20 Hevanston Gallery

One of the reasons we are working to make Evanston Made a sustainable arts organization is to guarantee to the community that it stays. So many initiatives started by a driven human die when the human moves aways, gives up, tires out.

When I moved to Evanston I heard from so many art lovers that Evanston used to have a film festival, host trolleys to art galleries, have the BEST lakefront art fair in the world, host the largest garage sale. I was so sad to have missed ALL the artsy fun, but was determined to bring back some of the good old artsy days.

One of the first gallery owners I met was Steven Bialer who was running Hevanston Gallery on Davis Street in Downtown Evanston with Charlie Athanas. The gallery offered a variety of original work, ranging from sculpture and stained glass to photography and oil painting, with the majority of the items created by Chicago and Evanston-based artists. I loved visiting the space and talking with Steven, we became friends and he designed the first Studio Tour Map, another of my favorite EM milestones. 

The gallery helped me learn about Evanton artists, with the 2014 Memories of Birds exhibit standing out in my memory. Seeing works by Sarah Kaiser-Amaral, Eleanor Spiess-Ferris, Cary Cochrane, and Alexander Berns was particularly inspiring.

When Hevanston closed its doors, I felt momentary panic for the future of art galleries in Evanston. I understand that galleries come and go, that the art market goes up and down, but I wanted MORE art galleries and art shops in Evanston, not less. 

Steven and I have maintained our friendship, I’m still trying to fit him into the EM journey, we’ll figure something out. And new galleries have opened, but Hevanston Gallery will always have a space in my heart, it showed me how to celebrate local art in a professional and welcoming environment. Thank you, Steven and Charlie!

Leopold Segedin, Evanston Artists
Leopold Segedin, Evanston Artists

 11.11.20 Do you know Leo Segedin?

Building an Arts Community entails a tremendous amount of census work, knocking on doors, asking people if they know an artist on their block. As a new Evanston resident and founder of Evanston Made, I had two challenges; I knew one person when I moved to Evanston and I heard there were 12,000 artists living in Evanston. How in the world was I going to meet artists? I’m so shyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…

I made it very clear to everyone I met that I wanted to get to know the artists in our community and people got to work introducing me. Paul Segedin reached out one day asking if I knew his father, Leo Segedin – of course I didn’t but I would soon know him and his work well.

I remember the first time I went to visit Leo’s studio, in his attic, up 95 stairs, that he climbs every day and I was winded to climb ONCE!  Leo is small in stature, quiet, sweet, funny and PROLIFIC! He started painting at 12 years old and is well into his 90s today; he has been an exhibiting artist since 1947. 

His art studio is packed with the mess of a busy artist; work leaning against walls, dirty paint brushes, mason jars of colored water and lots of natural light. You can learn about Leo’s career painting Chicago on his website,, but just a few milestones here; Leo was born in Chicago in 1927, received his BFA (1948) and MFA (1950) from the University of Illinois. He has taught at the University of Illinois (assistantship, 1948-50), U.S. Army Engineers (drafting, 1952-54) and at Northeastern Illinois University (1955-87). He has also taught at the Horwich JCC and the Evanston Art Center. He is Art Professor Emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University. He retired in 1987 after teaching there for 32 years. Leo lives in Evanston and his son Paul Segedin curates and exhibits his work, publishes books and merchandise like a puzzle!

But I digress…while I was incredibly honored to meet Leo Segedin, the legend, it soon became evident that Evanston was crawling with artists (some of them were legendary) quietly working away in their studios. It’s a fulltime job unearthing ALL the artists and I’ve only met 300. Thank you, Paul, for introducing me to your legendary father, and for being a member of Evanston Made yourself! I’m so happy to be doing this community art building work in this community. 

P.S. Do you know of an artist who we could bring into the fold? Send me an email so that I can put them on my radar, we’ve still got so much work to do! evanstonmade[at]

Amy O. Woodbury Art Sale, Evanston Artist
Amy O. Woodbury Art Sale, Evanston Artist

11.10.20 Amy O. Woodbury’s Front Yard Art Sale

So much of the work we do at Evanston Made calls for weaving skills. We scan the existing art scene for bright spots and then weave them together to make something bigger. Amy O. Woodbury’s Annual Front Yard Art Sale is one of those bright spots.

Amy has been hosting an Annual Front Yard Art Sale for 19 years running, rain or shine, with art for sale at all price points, placed in trees and under tents in her front yard. Collectors, tourists, neighbors travel for this annual sale, with several collectors buying a piece every year, building their Evanston Art Collection.

This annual front yard art sale is a testament to Amy’s creative solving problem skills and to a willing public, who is happy to shop for art in alternative locales. These two factors; innovative artists and willing public, were early indicators that we could capture on and expand on this concept and offer our artists the opportunity to sell work in alternative spaces. Amy’s Annual Front Yard Art Sale has led us to explore selling art in spaces like empty parking lots, personal garages, sidewalks and more.

Many artists struggle to find venues to sell their work, laser focused on the traditional white wall spaces. In a market that has limited gallery and retail exhibition space (Evanston) and hundreds of artists, this can be a consistent challenge. Exhibiting and selling art is a crucial part of the artist’s journey. Learning how to make it fun and accessible and normal to sell art in a front yard (or really any space other than a traditional gallery) is a learned skill.

Community Art Building, like sourdough, needs a starter and Amy (even though we’ve never told her directly) is that starter. Her annual sale provided a case study on how to meet artists where they were at what the public would be willing to do in terms of engagement. Weaving artists and the public in the name of engagement is what we do at Evanston Made, and you never know where we’ll start.

Joanna Kramer, Midwest Clay Guild, Evanston
Joanna Kramer, Midwest Clay Guild, Evanston

11.9.20 Collaborators are Key

Growing Evanston Made has always been our mission – more events, more awareness, more exposure. If our goal is to connect Evanston artists with the world, we would need brand awareness inside and outside of Evanston. How would we get Evanston Made to be a household name? Such lofty goals must be achieved with baby steps and collaborators!

Reaching out to Evanston’s existing arts organizations to build partnerships is something we work on everyday. Back in 2016, we reached out to the Midwest Clay Guild in the hopes they would be on the studio tour. Their location on Payne was easy to get to and close to Noyes Cultural Arts Center where the Group Show was up. The Guild had more than 20 ceramic artists working in the space and would add a nice list of names to the map. Also, there were price points at all levels for people to shop and start their Evanston Art Collection.

Joanna Kramer was one of our first contacts, along with Jill Birschbach, at MCG, and both were willing to host workshops, wine nights with demos, pop up sales. Joanna is pictured here being a willing spokesmodel, letting us put her face and name on all of our promo materials. People loved her ceramic pieces and her participation helped grow attendance at studio tours. 

Collaboration has been key at every step of building Evanston Made. We’re thrilled to continue working with MCG and that Joanna is now in a studio on Wesley Ave. with Julia Finlayson, slinging mud and Keeping Evanston Artsy! 

Know of any individuals or arts organizations we should be collaborating with? Send us an email with contact info to info[at] – we are always looking to expand our reach and need your help doing it!

Evanston Made Group Art Show, 2016
Evanston Made Group Art Show, 2016

11.8.20 The First Group Show

After hosting several studio tours, people asked that we host an exhibit of the works by artists in the studio tour. People wanted to see the art in person before choosing which artist to visit during the studio tour. Our website wasn’t robust enough at the time nor was our social media game anywhere near as strong as it is today.

Producing a Group Show was going to be so much work for a volunteer group of very few people and the logistical challenges were numerous; where in Evanston was there space big enough to exhibit almost 60 artists, who would install all the work, who would make the catalog, were just some of the issues at hand. 

Luckily, Noyes Cultural Art Center was available and we had enough to fill the second floor. We relied on a handful of volunteers to do the installation and managed to pull off a group exhibit of the 60 artists on the studio tour. We hosted our first Group Show and it soon became our highest attended event of the year, generating sales for hundreds of artists!

I am so grateful to Darren Oberto, Ross Martens, Stephen Murphy, Harvey Pranian, Amy Amoroso, and the many volunteers who have hung our group show over the years. We ended up moving to the Evanston Art Center to exhibit our Group Show the following year, as we grew to more than 100 artists on the studio tour.

Being able to showcase art AND offer the public access to artists in their studios has been an incredible achievement for Evanston Made. The access allows people to see an artist’s entire body of work, get to know them personally and hopefully begin to collect their work. 

As we continue to grow and gain new artist members, we are met with the challenge of space. Luckily, it’s a great problem to have and we continue to have willing and creative volunteers to help solve the problem!

First Saturday Evanston Art Events
First Saturday Evanston Art Events

11.7.20 First Saturday Evanston Art Events 

We repeatedly heard from gallery owners that crowds drive right through Evanston to attend Chicago art events and that when they planned artist receptions on First Fridays, people would choose Chicago over Evanston. 

That was a major aha moment! We would be just like Chicago and program a monthly gallery crawl, except that it would be on First Saturdays! We would invite people to host events of any kind to include pop ups, community art making, studio tours, artists talks, but that they would occur between 9a-9p, on the same day.

We know people prefer to have multiple events to attend instead of just one, and that the average guest attends an art event for 30 minutes and then moves on.

It’s been almost two solid years of First Saturday Art Events and attendance and engagement keeps growing. This Google map keeps populating and we’ve have more than 1,700 RSVPs for the events on Eventbrite.

Save the date, tell your friends, share the art you see on social using #evanstonmade and help grow Evanston’s Art Community with us!  

Collect Evanston Art
Collect Evanston Art

11.6.20 #collectevanstonart 

The 2019 Annual Member Exhibit at Evanston Art Center featured works by more than 150 artists in the galleries and 65 artisans in the pop up shop. We had done great work leading up the opening night to promote the event but really wanted to drive sales. So much of what we do is focused on helping artists SELL their work and we needed people to shop.

The taglines, shop local or support local artists, felt tired and we needed something sexy and new and exciting. Our campaign was born: Collect Evanston Art! We asked people to invest in art, at any level, and share the work installed on their wall with images on social media using #collectevanstonart

If you go onto instagram and search #collectevanstonart you will see the results of our work and you can follow the hashtag so that you stayed notified of what art is being collected and where.

Evanston Made is an economic driver for the creative class in Evanston and one way we do that is making sure the calls to action are clear for artists and the community; See, Sell, Buy Evanston Art! And we make it so easy with Portfolio Pages and the Art Shop on – pages you can bookmark and shop for art 24/7!

11.5.20 Oops! Wrong Name!

Open Studios Evanston Art Event
Open Studios Evanston Art Event

Thanks to Angela Duckworth, we all know that value of being failure resilient and our first name was a failure! 

We named ourselves after our first studio tour, Open Studios Evanston. It’s a name a national art organization uses and perfectly described what we were doing, hosting tours of Open Studios in Evanston.

We launched a website. We worked with artist Lorena La Grassa (an incredibly talented artist who passed away too early), to create an artsy logo pictured here, and put it all over event posters. We did good marketing work and got the word out for the studio tours, we saw great turnout for the events and people learned about our organization.

And then we got a phone call, from a very nice person at Open Studio Project on Sherman Ave., who invited us to consider changing our name, people were confusing their arts organization with our studio tour event. 

It was 2015 and we had been using this name for several years. We’d have to find a new name, rebuild the website, get a new logo, start from scratch building awareness for what we were doing. But if we were going to continue to build the arts community in Evanston, we had to put years more work into it, and we were just beginning. 

You all know where we landed. In 2016 we launched our new name, new logo, new website. That’s another entry, as it took a village. 

But to circle back to failure, doing due diligence and research on your event/organization name is worth it. Lastly, I’m no longer mad at all the people who didn’t warn the new girl in town that her event/organization name was very similar to another arts organization and would cause confusion. Onward.

11.4.20 Artist Fran Joy

Evanston Artist Fran Joy
Evanston Artist Fran Joy

To carry out Evanston Made’s mission to connect Evanston artists with the world, we needed artists to showcase. Photographer Christopher Bradley offered six portrait sessions to capture artists in front of their work, in their studio. This would be our first professional photo shoot. 

Artist Fran Joy, my friend and arts mentor, was willing and ready to be photographed in front of her panels. The backdrop alone perfectly frames Fran in her art, and her expression perfectly captures the confidence and authenticity that is Fran Joy. The artist portraits were all stunning and on exhibit in City Hall for years. 

Fran has been another “north star” in my Evanston Made journey, always calling to say “what are we going to do next”? She has kept the momentum of the last eight years at a steady clip, participating in studio tours, exhibits, members mixers, professional development – all of the member offerings. And Fran helped us learn how best to serve Evanston artists by offering honest feedback and insight into what artists need to get their work collected.

On a personal note, Fran has been an invaluable mentor to me on my journey as a community arts builder and human. We worked alongside one another for six years on the Evanston Arts Council, Fran guiding me to keep equity and inclusion a priority in everything I did. She has said “yes!” to invitations to show work, co-host pop ups and she’s been an amazing collaborator on the “Women Speak” event. 

As we grow, it’s going to be difficult to have deep relationships with 12,000 artist members. Fran has laid the foundation for showing us how to best serve Evanston artists, and how to showcase their work with the world. We can and will grow as an arts organization because of members and mentors like Fran.

11.3.20 Artist Studio Tours

Maike, Evanston Made Studio Tour Map
Maike, Evanston Made Studio Tour Map

The FIRST time I saw a human on the street participating in the Artist Studio Tour, using the tour map, was truly one of the greatest feelings. To work on producing an event for months and to see it in action, successfully happening, in a town where microbursts can destroy the best laid plans in an instant, was awesome.

AND the map was being used by one of Evanston Made’s biggest fans and future artist member, Maike van Wijk. Maike’s enthusiasm and support for ALL things Evanston Made, would be key to our growth. She became the “north star”, the “customer”, who I would envision when thinking about designing events and engagement.

Maike grew into a fantastic volunteer over the years, photographing events, sharing posts on social media – really just growing into a solid Evanston Made Fan!

So much of the work we do is for artists but the other part is the community. We need the community to engage with our programming, attend our events and collect Evanston art! I’m so grateful for Evanston residents like Maike who made our endless hours of planning and work so rewarding!

This year’s pivot #297 calls for virtual studio tours in November to help promote the Holiday Art Shop. Stay tuned for more info. AND hopefully in 2021 we’ll get back to artist studio tours in person in June and October.

11.2.20 Boundary Issues Group Show

Boundary Issues Group Art Show, Evanston
Boundary Issues Group Art Show, Evanston

The Boundary Issues Group Show in June 2019, has been a massive bright spot in my time with Evanston Made as it put us on the contemporary art scene map in a big way! 

Background: When someone offers you an empty warehouse, you curate a Group Show, featuring interactive art installations by a dozen artists. That’s what happened in May 2019, thanks to artist David Rubman, a handful of artists and of volunteers! David called and said “hey, I have an empty warehouse space available for a month or two, if you want, you can use it to curate a show!”

We were just a month out from hosting the Annual Group Show at the Evanston Art Center, and had plenty to do, but do you turn down the chance to curate an exhibit in a warehouse….no! Under an extremely tight deadline, no budget and “do anything” creative direction, we managed to produce an incredible exhibit, Boundary Issues. Hundreds of art lovers visited the Pitner warehouse during the month of June, and we grew Evanston Made’s curatorial prowess and awareness well beyond the city of Evanston boundaries. 

I am so grateful to David for the space, and for all the exhibiting artists who said YES; Ben Blount, Melissa Blount, Joey Garfield, Ellen Greene, Vanessa Filley, Dave Ford, Dustin Harris, Mat Rappaport, David Rubman, Anne Hayden Stevens, Erin Hayden, Jeff Robinson. 

Event and art installation photos here

11.1.20 Art Under Glass

Art Under Glass, Evanston
Art Under Glass, Evanston

Today I’m reflecting on the impactful and meaningful work we do with artists and members of Evanston Made, specifically the Art Under Glass initiative, where art and design installations are placed in vacant storefronts in Downtown Evanston. I love this project.

Art Under Glass provides artists a platform to share their work with the public, an opportunity that is a crucial piece of an artist’s practice. Evanston Made connects artists to the public with programming like Art Under Glass and I am so grateful to be part of this organization in this amazing city filled with so many creatives!

Congratulations to artists Barbara Ruiz, Destiny Wesley, Christie Russert, Aidan Dillon, Sarah Kaiser, Peter Mudd, Ellie Hazlett, Bryana Bibbs, Shellie Argeanton, Rob Larson

Learn more about the participating artists and if you’re in the market, stroll by the windows and if you are so inspired, collect Evanston art, fashion, design!


Evanston Made believes the world should know about Evanston’s artists and we’re determined to make that happen. Support our mission and make a donation of any amount today at