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Lakeview East First Fridays

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Brandy Agerbeck

The city’s newest art walk is happening in a neighborhood most Chicagoans would assume has no art scene to speak of. Still, it seems enough people were aware of Lakeview East’s First Fridays to create healthy crowds in each of its four locations. Launched last month as a collaboration between Inkling, a local art and craft gift shop, and Loose Leaf, a nearby café, the walk also includes Clothes Optional, a vintage clothing and home goods store, and Spare Parts, a boutique and gift shop. Lester Palmiano and Phillip Jolliffe at Loose Leaf had been holding monthly art shows regularly for two and a half years. It wasn’t until last month, however, that Lester and Stephanie Keller of Inkling decided to put a walk together. Stephanie reported that the other two locations were “more than receptive” when asked if they wanted to join in. Together, these four businesses comprise Chicago’s only art walk put on solely by non-gallery spaces.

Stephanie said she was interested in using her store’s wall space to bring more awareness to local artists. She commented that she knew personally that exhibit opportunities for artists are crucial. Opening Inkling never would have been possible if not for the support she received when selling her work at various craft fairs while working a full time job. As she spoke, her passion for providing the same opportunities to other artists was palpable.

The show at Inkling featured artist Brandy Agerbeck who had first met Stephanie when they were booth neighbors at the inaugural Renegade Craft Fair in 2003. Her pieces were small, playful Christmas ornaments with a retro flair. Dangling from nearly every branch of the silver display trees was a quirky smiling face.Brandy explained that she started making the pieces a year ago after the death of a parent as a kind of art therapy. With a different mindset this year, however, she’s starting to move more into 2D work and has become passionate about drawing as an activity for anyone and everyone. She has even launched a website to advocate this idea.

In addition to Brandy’s work, Inkling also featured 2D works by Laura Berger, whose opening was last month. Coincidentally, Laura’s pieces had also been inspired by the death of a parent when she found it helpful to busy herself with uplifting art pieces.

Two doors down at Loose Leaf, the new exhibit also featured a mixture of three and two-dimensional works. For the show, Ciara Petruna, a documentary film and production design student at Columbia, was asked to display more than just photographs. To do that, she collaborated with Jordan Vouga to create jewelry that Jewelry by Ciara Petruna and Jordan Vouga complemented her other pieces. The photographs were inspired by the absence of nature in the city and told the story of a man leaving an urban area and heading to rural Virginia. The jewelry hung in between the photos on rough pieces of wood and were composed of stones and other natural materials. Within them, Jordan and Ciara attempted to create an escape from the city by capturing pieces of nature, according to the artist statement. At nine o’clock the café really picked up as Jordan’s band Bigcolour set up in the front and played a fifteen minute set.

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Jewelry by Ciara Petruna and Jordan Vouga

By the time the band finished up, Spare Parts, the third location on Broadway, was closed. Fortunately, Lori Lindbeg over at Clothes Optional was more than happy to answer a few questions. She explained that the store had a history of selling art, but hadn’t shown in about a year. Lori purchased the store seven months ago and always had the intention of exhibiting artists. She first showed work at the inaugural art walk last month and encouraged by that success, plans on continuing for the long term.

Matt Pearl, an Art Institute undergrad and one of the several artists showing work, had been a long time customer of the store. His pieces were hung high on the wall, above the wracks of seventies dresses. They had been made with anexperimental process of screen printing graphite on panel. The works featured retro images like pong and roller skates done over the bold backgrounds with white paint. He explained that he was a very nostalgic person, drawn to things from the past that had faded away.  It seems then that a store full of retro home décor and Members Only Jackets was the perfect complement to his work. Clothes Optional also featured screen prints and t-shirts by several other artists on the main floor, and 2D works by Ali Wonder downstairs.

A characteristic shared by each venue of the Lakeview East Art Walk that distinguished it from others in the city was its casual mixture of objects traditionally divided into art and craft. At both Clothes Optional and Inkling, artists’ images were just as easily applied to flat, framed pieces as they were to t-shirts and greeting cards. A similar mixture occurred at Loose Leaf, where the jewelry was informed by the concept behind the photography. Whether its this blurring of boundaries or simply the free beer and music that draws people to Lakeview East  on a Friday night, it’s clear that the art walk is off to a good start.

For more information on art in Lakeview East, visit www.lakevieweastfestivalofthearts.com.