Terrain Biennial brings 23 pieces of art to the Evanston community


Photo courtesy of Kathy Halper

“Social Animals.” Kathy Halper’s Terrain Biennial sculpture stands in front of 1508 Greenwood St.

Joanna Hou, Reporter

After a year of pandemic-related uncertainty and disconnect, the theme of the Evanston art festival Terrain Biennial, “Keep in Touch,” centers around connecting artists with each other and their communities.

Terrain Biennial runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 15 and features 23 unique art installations across various neighborhoods. This year, Evanston’s exhibits are part of a coalition of 51 locations worldwide displaying artwork. Founded by the late artist Sabina Ott, Terrain aims to spotlight local art. 

The festival provides artists with unique venues for displaying their art, including street corners, front yards and public walls. Dropn Pearls Hair Artistry owner Yeefah Thurman said she loves the idea of making art publicly accessible. Her piece, an interactive library box, tells a story of how White propaganda fuels anti-Black sentiment. 

“The purpose of (my) piece is to foster conversation… and foster racial healing,” Thurman said. “If my advocacy were sequestered in some kind of high end art gallery, then who is the message really getting to?”

Thurman, who hails from a long line of civil rights activists, said advocacy is important to her work. Art gives her a platform to share stories from marginalized communities, she said. 

Terrain hosted a public viewing of Thurman’s work at 1100 Florence Ave. on Oct. 3. The artist recalled witnessing a particularly heartwarming reaction to her work.  

“At the front of my piece is a mirror that says ‘Look at yourself, what do you see?’’’ Thurman said. “A little girl was passing by with her mommy and she says, ‘Look, Mommy, I can see myself!’” 

The audience is only half of the equation: Terrain also gives artists the freedom to explore. Kathy Halper’s sculptures, titled “Social Animals,” feature three dogs engaging in neighborly conversation. Halper said her art aims to encourage people to recognize their humanity and to bring neighborhoods together. 

Terrain was one of Halper’s first times playing around with sculpture. 

“(Sculpture work) was a new thing for me,” Halper said. “I learned so much from doing these three. Now, I really feel like I understand how to go about doing this.”

Natan Diacon-Furtado’s art also incorporates experimentation. His final display is a product of collaboration — after making 11 intricate postcards, inspired by global southern patternmaking, he mailed his art to local artists Alice George and Shawn Decker, who created the display. 

Because his postcards are presentable in any direction and order, the final product is a result of George and Decker’s arranging. The piece is featured on 1324 Ashland Ave. 

“Alice and Shawn get (the postcards) and get to decide how they get presented to the world; it’s like their curation and my piece,” Diacon-Furtado said. “Not a lot of places are really into the idea of artists collaborating with their venue.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the name of Kathy Halper’s sculptures. The title of the piece is “Social Animals.”  

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Twitter: @joannah_11

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