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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

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First Saturdays offer a glimpse into the minds of local creators

On the first Saturday of every month, local studios open their doors to aspiring artists as well as casual enjoyers of art. This is all thanks to Evanston Made, a not-for-profit arts organization headed by local artist Lisa Degliantoni which has served the Evanston art community for four years by providing outlets for Evanston creatives to showcase their talents. One of Evanston Made’s signature programs, First Saturdays, showcases local artists and makes small businesses more accessible to Evanstonians. In doing so, the artists and studios behind First Saturdays have increased profits for small businesses as well as opened the doors to a largely under-the-radar art scene. 

On December 2nd, we booked two (free) First Saturday tickets and headed to the Alley Gallery, a picture framing shop in downtown Evanston, and the Noyes Cultural Arts Center to talk to some local artists and familiarize ourselves with the art made by our community. 

It was eye-opening to see and talk to the artists of Evanston. Although one often sees their work in shops around town, one rarely meets the creatives behind the work. We were lucky enough to get a first-hand experience of seeing how a studio operates. 

On a whim, we stopped into local ceramicist Anne Sills’ studio, B10A, in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Although we had not planned to visit Sills’ studio, in the end we were quite happy we did. Our experience proved that there is always a story to be found, often in places one may not expect. Tucked away in the corner of the basement of the Center is the studio Sills shares with her studio partner. As we browsed the shelves and tables of mostly anthropomorphic pottery, Sills explained to us her artistic process and history with the art form, as well as the importance of First Saturdays for local ceramicists

 “[The community can] come and see how people make their work and where they make it. Especially people who may not know how ceramics happen or how practices work.” 

Seeing the person behind the intricate works of clay opened our eyes to just how hard these creators work to provide beautiful art for Evanstonians and beyond. 

Although First Saturdays do create more recognition for local artists, being the only ceramicist in the building, Sills voices that “it would be great if [First Saturdays] had more times we could have sales.” More sales would increase foot traffic and opportunities for local artists to expand their business; but for this to happen, more people need to know about Evanston Made. 

One takeaway from our experience at the Alley Gallery in downtown Evanston is that businesses could do more to increase the number of people who visit them on these First Saturdays. Owners should be more clear about where the event is happening. When we visited the Alley Gallery, there was virtually no indication that First Saturday was happening. We had checked the Evanston Made website that Saturday morning to confirm, but when we arrived everything seemed like business as usual. There was no artist on site and no direct signage about the event. While waiting for an artist or owner to emerge from the back room, we decided to browse the store and stumbled upon some very beautiful and intricate woodworking for sale. Perusing, we also noticed the large collection of Evanston-themed posters and paraphernalia that the gallery carries. While it was clear there was art to be sold–and Evanston-centric art at that–the lack of signage made it difficult to know what the story behind the artist was and how the art was created. Though the gallery was purposefully cluttered with art, our only other companions in the store were the young adults running it and the few other First Saturday-goers that walked in as we were on our way out. While getting lost in the detailed pieces was enjoyable, it seems that attendance would increase if businesses were more transparent that they are hosting at their locations. 

Passing through bustling downtown Evanston on our way to the Noyes Cultural Art Center, we looked on as other First Saturday events commenced. One common thread we noticed among the varying studios and stores was the presence of children and families. First Saturdays are a great way to have kids get in-touch with their creativity, as art impacts children by sparking imagination, fostering confidence in their burgeoning skill sets, and for many, First Saturdays can be their first step into the art world. In addition, meeting the actual artist behind a work of art will only grow their respect for the artform. 

Growing up in West Village (where Evanston Made has its roots) has inspired me (Anya) to be more connected to my neighborhood through art. One tradition that has stuck with the West Village community is the annual Art Truck festival. The neighborhood kids and I enjoyed walking down Ashland Avenue on a sweltering late summer day and cooling off inside a U-Haul truck completely transformed on the inside with paintings. 12-year-olds, elderly couples, and part-time renters alike would gather on the sidewalks, their faces lit up with excitement when the renowned Art Truck pulled down the street. Much like First Saturdays, Art Truck is free and brings families together with art as the driving force. Art Truck has been a part of Evanston Made since 2011, and the success of the event has helped other, newer events like First Saturdays come to fruition. 

There are many other ways to introduce people to art, but museums like the Art Institute are far away and expensive. Evanston Made’s First Saturdays are accessible, affordable, and are something anyone can go to, no matter what age or experience with art.  

Overall, the experience was very rewarding and we would recommend reserving tickets and popping into an Evanston Made First Saturday event. 

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About the Contributors
Anya Gill, Staff Writer
Meera Field, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Meera Field (she/her). I’m a sophomore and I write for Arts and Entertainment. This is my second year writing for The Evanstonian, and I'm excited to continue writing about things I care about. Outside of The Evanstonian, I like to hang out with my friends, cook, and skate at Robert Crown. 
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