Evanston Made highlights Black artists during Black History Month


Courtesy of Lisa Degliantoni

Evanston Made’s show of emerging Black artists at Backlot Coffee in February. This month, Evanston Made is highlighting local Black artists and their work through their Black Art Drive.

Laya Neelakandan, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Evanston Made is highlighting local Black artists through their Black Art Drive, which raises awareness and funds for Black artists.

This month, Evanston Made is curating an ongoing list on their website of Black artists selling their work, and the organization will be donating 100% of all February sales to Black artist members. From prints to paintings to botanical art to clothes, these artists have much to offer.

Evanston Made’s Black Art Drive this Feb. (Courtesy of Lisa Degliantoni)

Local textile artist Bryana Bibbs grew interested in the medium after realizing in college that painting was not a good fit for her.

“The beauty that I find in textiles is it can be manipulated in a way you can’t manipulate a painting,” said Bibbs, who is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “I also enjoy that repetitive process that comes with weaving and spinning because it’s very meditative.”

Evanston Made found Bibbs in 2019 at an Evanston Art Center art show, where Bibbs was teaching at the time. Bibbs said she decided then to leave her part-time job in retail management to become a full-time artist.

Beyond Black History Month, Bibbs said Evanston Made has been doing a “phenomenal job” of supporting Black artist representation.

Evanston Made Executive Director Lisa Degliantoni echoed that the organization is committed to showcasing Black artists year-round, not just during the month of February.

“We believe the best and fastest way to help Black artists and creatives is to purchase and support their work,” Degliantoni said.

Artist Ben Blount said Black artists’ work is largely underrepresented, especially in museums.

Blount said there has recently been more focus on Black artists in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, but lack of Black representation in the art community has been a longstanding issue.

As a letterpress printer, Blount makes books and other prints on a decades-old printing press, a process he grew to love while taking classes at Columbia College Chicago.

“I love the tactile nature (of letterpress printing) and the old equipment,” Blount said. “There’s a history built into it with the sounds of the press and the smell of the ink.”

Local photographer James Hopkins, who was also featured in the Black Art Drive, offered hope for the future of Black representation within the art community. Hopkins, who works in information technology, said he enjoys telling the story behind each picture he takes.

“It’s about the ability to view something that, from one angle, may not look like something but if you stare at something long enough and process it, you can normally get something out of it,” Hopkins said. “I like the problem-solving of photography.”

Hopkins said Evanston is a great city for diversity in the arts. He also said he is “impressed” by the younger generation’s investment in art.

“Here, you will be subject to see every culture, every different viewpoint, from food to imagery to music, and if you open your eyes enough, you’re able to see that,” Hopkins said.

For artist Bryanna Christian Renee, centering Black people in her art is the most important and impactful aspect of her work. 

Renee said the pandemic was actually the motivating factor for getting into art, as the extra downtime was perfect for dabbling in painting. She said she likes painting because it’s “the one thing (she has) control over,” especially during the uncertainty the pandemic has brought. 

What she focuses on the most is representation for the Black, indigenous and people of color communities in her art.

“On social media, there’s such a great BIPOC community of artists, but you don’t see them in galleries,” Renee said. “I would like to create and cultivate a space where Black people are front and center and where they know they are front and center.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @laya_neel

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