First Saturdays showcase the work of local artists and their venues

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At Evanston Made’s First Saturdays art events this weekend, attendees had the chance to view artwork at local businesses, venues, galleries, bars and restaurants.

Russell Muit’s art decorates the walls of Evanston Pour. Credit: Olivia Landon

Evanston Made is an organization that seeks to help artists in Evanston in a variety of ways, ranging from helping them grow in their profession to connecting them with potential patrons.

With the events of First Saturdays, Evanston Made executive director Lisa Degliantoni acknowledged that getting people out of the house and away from Netflix was her first challenge. Then it was about making them stay.

“People don’t like to hang around” for too long, Degliantoni said. “They like to come in, have bad wine, have a piece of cheese, look at art, bounce around and go to several, don’t they?”

His solution to the problem was to invent First Saturdays, where Evanston residents can go from an afternoon drawing class at Sketchbook Brewery to evening gallery openings at the Village Farm Stand. The events were inspired by Chicago’s First Fridays.

“We said to anyone in the art world, whether you’re a gallery, whether you’re a cafe with art: be open,” she said. “Host an event if you want, a drink sale or an artist talk, and we’ll put you on a little card.”

While the first Saturdays started small, the September 3 events took place at 12 Evanston locations, thanks to their members and partners like Dempster Mile.

“Dempster Mile has been a great partner” and “economic driver for Evanston”, proving “that you can have a fabulous art collection with all the artists in Evanston”, said Liz Cramer, co-director of Evanston Made.

At Wine Goddess, at 702 Main St. in South Evanston, Ben Blount’s print work stood among the company’s wine bottles.

Ben Blount’s print work is on display at Wine Goddess, 702 Main St., during the first Saturday of Evanston Made. Credit: Olivia Landon

Blount is a Detroit-born artist who “believes in the power of the printed word” whose work “often explores issues of race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about life in America.”

A print said “I love you like paper loves ink” in a red evoking wine. Another reading in a bright yellow and orange gradient, “Black don’t crack, Asian don’t raisin and Brown don’t frown”, in all caps and underlined by a small script reading, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, with the first letters of each word in capitals.

At Trapdoor’s studio at 1303 Chicago Ave., Micah Sweezie presented “Parting Lines”. The collection juxtaposed ceramics, found objects and a reel of TikTok videos. Sweezie’s mother is Vietnamese and Sweezie, who uses the pronouns they/them, spent several years growing up in Vietnam before moving back to the United States.

When it comes to ceramics, Sweezie said there’s something deep and “breathtaking” about engaging with materials straight from the earth that, after intense firings, take on a form that can last forever.

Artist Micah Sweezie presented a collection called “Parting Lines” at Trapdoor’s studio, 1303 Chicago Ave. Credit: Olivia Landon

One of Sweezie’s favorite things in “Parting Lines” was a deflated, wrapped bicycle tire.

For Sweezie, these are the moments that spark curiosity and provide insight into the care taken in the original creation of the objects. When asked what it meant to them to present a show that investigates politics and the manufacturing process in a progressive city like Evanston, they said they hoped the show could lead audiences to ” questioning discomfort” and “people’s history and relationship with an object”.

Sweezie said Trapdoor curator Ava Decapri encouraged Sweezie to take “the free field to leave”.

Decapri is also an Evanston Made ceramist who joined after meeting Degliantoni. While budget and space are minimal, Sweezie and Decapri made the most of it.

Decapri gives priority to promising artists, given the difficulty of obtaining solo exposure at the start of a career.

A perfect final stop on the First Saturday tour was at Evanston Pour, where Russell Muit’s ‘Storm Print City’ hits theaters next month. The collection of relief prints from manhole covers and “antique, ornate, symbolic iron pieces in the street” colored every wall of the company.

Muit finds inspiration for its prints around the world, from Arkansas and the Jersey Shore to Europe and the Philippines. Bartender Maggie Meyer said Russ “comes once a week” and supports the business.

Meyer also said that while all of the art that goes into Evanston Pour is great, she particularly enjoys how Muit’s light designs illuminate the space.

Degliantoni says she wants “murals on every wall and ‘art in every cafe’ and ‘dentist’s office,’ but she doesn’t ‘want it to be from Target.’

What she wants are local businesses that spotlight local artists. Yesterday’s First Saturday fulfilled exactly that mission while forging new opportunities and relationships in Evanston’s arts community.

Sweezie is on Instagram as @Ceramicnoodles and their website is micahsweezie.com. Blount’s is benblount.com and Muit’s website presents videos of his creative process.

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