Public art project aims to color every Evanston ward this July


Courtesy of Joshua Valdovinos

One of Valdovinos’ pieces for the public art project in Elgin. The Evanston project is based on Elgin’s storm drain art.

Wendy Klunk, Development and Recruitment Editor

In an attempt to spread color to the least expected places, the Evanston Fourth of July Association is sponsoring a public art project to be displayed throughout the city from July to October.

The organization is recruiting nine artists, who will each create a unique design in their assigned ward. Fourth of July Association Celebration Manager Jamie Black proposed the project. He said it was time for the organization to become more involved in the Evanston community beyond hosting Independence Day festivities.

“This is really out of my comfort zone,” Black said. “I felt like I needed to step up and take the lead on something because we’re not as relevant as we should be. I feel like we need to do more in the community.”

Anyone is eligible to apply to be an artist in the project. Applications are open until Feb. 28 and artists will receive $1,000 for their contributions.

There are three possible locations in each ward for the art pieces, which will be painted near storm drains. Artists will submit original designs based on one of three themes: community, diversity or the Fourth of July. Evanston residents will take precedence, and artists who identify as people of color or members of the LGTBQ+ community are especially encouraged to apply, Black said.

Black got the idea for the project from Elgin, where storm drain art decorates the city streets. He said artists beautified storm drains and sewer grate spaces that are often overlooked.

Freelance artist Joshua Valdovinos, who was one of the artists for the Elgin project, said art is a way for him to express himself and let out his energy in a constructive way.

“(Art) is something vital for people to have for when they need some creative expression,” Valdovinos said. “Art and painting is just one of the expressions that I use to balance myself out as a person.”

Riya Kamat, who works at her family business Artem Pop-up Gallery in downtown Evanston, said public art can bring more shoppers and revenue to a city.

“It’s a great way to involve the community,” Kamat said. “But also, given how the pandemic has affected business and traffic around the area, it would be pretty beneficial in bringing traffic over. Once you say art installation, people obviously want to come check it out.”

Black plans to create a map of the works so residents can walk around the city to check out all of the pieces.

He said he hopes the project will push people to walk to neighborhoods they don’t often visit.

“I want to get people moving about the city and talking to people that they might not ordinarily talk to, and maybe make new friends,” Black said. “That is my vision.”

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Twitter: @WKlunk

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