Courtesy of Staci Page
In late February, Ben Schapiro — owner of the Everyday Cycles and Motion bike shop — and local artist Staci Page collaborated with Evanston Made to create the city’s first Little Free Art Gallery.
“This is art for everyone, by everyone,” Page said.
The gallery, which functions similarly to a free library pop-up and is located at 1127 Dewey Ave, does not require an even exchange of art — anyone can leave or take works as they wish. The pieces, which must be under five by seven inches in size, are of all different types of mediums and are original work by local art lovers of all ages.
Although Licky Lab & Alpaca Gallery is the first of its kind in Evanston, it is not the last. The gallery, and another on Hinman Avenue, are both part of a movement inspired by Little Free Art Galleries that began in Seattle. Evanston Made Founder and Executive Director Lisa Degliantoni said she was inspired to advocate for the movement’s arrival in Evanston after seeing one in St. Louis on Facebook.
She said the galleries will welcome art from children and adults alike, as well as from experienced artists. But most importantly, the galleries will feature those showing their work for the first time. Degliantoni said she likes the idea of Little Free Art Galleries popping up in all of Evanston’s wards and acting as “neighborhood glues.”
“I’m seeing a lot of the artists live in proximity to the little free art galleries, and a lot of the people who are adding art to it are also little kids,” Degliantoni said.
Schapiro, a close friend of Page’s, spearheaded the creation of the gallery after seeing Degliantoni’s Facebook post searching for a builder. After looking through the designs of other Little Free Art Galleries, Schapiro took inspiration from one in Seattle, but made it his own by incorporating forced perspective, which uses an optical illusion to make the art seem larger, and a large glass front to fill the space with light.
“What you get is a nice, light-filled space on a cloudy day, instead of a dark box,” Schapiro said. “Anything you put in there looks really good, it’s visible, it’s natural.”
In the gallery, Schapiro and Page “every now and then” have labrador and alpaca figurines roaming the gallery. Page said they chose the gallery name because of both Schapiro’s pet labrador retriever and the figurines, but ultimately because it’s “different, it’s joyful and it makes both of (them) smile.”
Page said she looks forward to seeing the ways in which the gallery, a “public art experiment in progress,” and others like it can create community in Evanston.
In the future, she hopes the park near the gallery will also be a place people can come to sit down and make some art.
“I’m always delighted to see people using and enjoying the gallery as much as I do,” Page said. “We can all benefit from more creativity in our lives.”
Schapiro said Licky Lab & Alpaca Gallery fits with his idea of what Evanston is about — a sense of interaction with others in a way that helps people to “improve, feel better or have a moment of joy.”
He said he ultimately hopes the art gallery will encourage community members to try to show their art. Schapiro added that the organizers especially want to see original work from local artists of all kinds.
“I really want the message to be ‘come try this out,’” Schapiro said. “Give yourself a little boost by putting your art on public display. It’ll go someplace, and somebody will appreciate it for a while.”
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