Local Art Organization Flourishes with Gallery and Events

On the corner of Winthrop and Granville Avenue sits a seemingly normal, old city apartment building. But through the first floor doors lies a hidden gem. String lights run along silver air ducts, shining down on exposed brick walls covered by canvases, panels and frames.

Established in December 2017, Gallery 1070 is the most recent addition to local art organization Edgewater Artists in Motion (EAIM).

Since its opening, Gallery 1070 has been the site of several exhibits, according to Kevin Flynn, president of EAIM. Most recently, the gallery held a Women Empowerment exhibit, which featured art ranging from paintings to photography, sculpture, mixed media — combining multiple mediums in one piece of art — and jewelry, with each piece tied to the empowerment theme.

Gallery 1070 has also been used for pop-up shops, workshops and is open to the community as a space to rent for parties and other events, according to founder of EAIM Rae Ann Cecrle.

Georgia Velisaris is a former teacher and local artist whose work was featured in the gallery’s Women Empowerment exhibit. After learning about the gallery from a friend who had already been involved with EAIM, she participated in a pop-up shop and said she plans to continue to be involved with the organization in the future.

Velisaris said the gallery is a great local space for all the artists in the area to come together and display their work.

“Being an artist can be a very solo kind of a job … but I think it gives artists an opportunity to connect with their fellow artists and share thoughts and ideas … [and] to have a place to show their work and let the public know what they’re doing,” Velisaris said.

Lucy Clasen, a jeweler and Edgewater resident who has been involved with EAIM for seven years, said her work has been featured in several shows and she has done multiple pop-up shops in the gallery since it opened. She said the gallery is a great outlet for artists to show their skills and for community members to see local art.

“I think it’s a real positive because it’s getting people more aware of the artists in the area,” Clasen said. “The goal is to bring more and more art related things to this whole neighborhood.”

EAIM was founded in January 2009 by Cecrle, a property owner and investor. On her way to a meeting, she noticed multiple businesses had shut down and left behind nothing but bare storefronts. As the country’s unsettled economy hit Edgewater businesses, Cecrle saw opportunity in a dark time. She said she contacted other property owners and asked to use their vacant storefronts for advertising.  

Keeping the greater good of the community in mind, Cecrle said she started with advertisements in the windows and soon set up a sign calling for artists to submit their work to fill the empty spaces. Abandoned storefronts soon turned into public art displays.

“We started having artists bring in their artwork, we cleaned up vacant storefronts, we put lights around the windows … and eventually we had about 28 different windows filled and about 140 artists in the windows,” Cecrle said. “So that began Artists in Motion … our mission was to help the businesses and to help the community and then also to be helping the artists.”

Cecrle said the first storefront she fixed up was on Broadway Ave. and it’s now occupied by ice cream shop Lickity Split. EAIM repurposed unoccupied windows in Edgewater’s commercial districts and CTA stations. Eventually, businesses began to flourish again and EAIM started losing its storefronts, but this didn’t stop the organization from bringing art to the community.

In 2013, the area’s alderman, Harry Osterman, asked the organization to do an art show, which marked the beginning of an annual tradition. Each year, on the last weekend of September, tents line Granville Ave., live music plays on three different stages and members of the community come out to enjoy the work of artists from the Chicagoland area. From jewelry to paintings, pottery, photography, clothing and more, the Edgewater Art Festival provides something for everyone to enjoy.

Cecrle said the festival features the work of about 100 artists. It also includes a children’s corner with face painting, a puppeteer and other family-friendly activities, creating entertainment for all ages.

“I know that the community really loves this little art festival,” Cecrle said. “It’s different. It’s more unique than other festivals throughout the city of Chicago and we want to maintain that.”

While Cecrle and Flynn said the festival is the organization’s main event of the year, EAIM continues to grow with new programs and events. These include classes that are held in the gallery and concerts that take place in the gallery and a vacant building across the street (1101 W. Granville Ave.) about every two months, Flynn said.

Cecrle and Flynn encourage students to get more involved with the organization, whether by attending concerts, browsing exhibits at the gallery or volunteering at events.

“We want Loyola to be involved,” Flynn said. “There’s just so much excitement and buzz around here — it’s youthful energy, it’s good … I’m trying to make it so it’s not just a bunch of old people … so we have to keep new energy in.”

A spring-inspired exhibit called Art of Rebirth will run at Gallery 1070 from May 2-June 9, and EAIM will hold a Prince tribute concert June 7 at 1101 W. Granville Ave. More information about upcoming events, renting the gallery space or getting involved with EAIM can be found on their website.

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