Art finds a new home: Art Swap provides space for community to exchange art


Jessica Ma/The Daily Northwestern

At Saturday’s Art Swap, attendees Holly Walters and Shirley Swift lean over to examine an artwork on display.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

Holly Walters and her mother Shirley Swift don’t necessarily consider themselves professional artists — but on Saturday, Walters’s canvas, glossed in resin and covered with swirls of glistening blue paint, lay on display at the Noyes Cultural Art Center.

The mother-daughter pair were among about 20 attendees who participated in the Art Swap, organized by the Noyes Art Gallery and Evanston Made.

“We both tinker with art stuff, and we figured maybe we’ll meet people like us who just tinker,” Walters said. “(Art Swap) seemed like a fun event.”

Community members gathered for over an hour to exchange artwork they owned or created, ranging from pottery to paintings. Evanston Made kept the leftover items, which it may use to fundraise for programs, according to organizer Angela Allyn, the city’s community arts programs coordinator.

The center hosted its first Art Swap last spring. Allyn said she expects the event to happen twice annually, in the fall and spring. 

Allyn decided to begin the Art Swap after visiting Iceland, where she learned about a library program where visitors could trade their artworks. At the first event, Allyn said she spoke to a woman who brought in artwork collected from a variety of places, including Paris. 

“The pieces all had stories,” Allyn said. “Telling the story and connecting with these people made the object you were taking home now that much more meaningful.” 

To open the event, Allyn distributed numbered slips of paper to participants, which designated an order for them to select pieces. Attendees were able to socialize with one another and browse artwork laid out on tables.

Attendee Toby Manewith (Weinberg ʼ88) exchanged three of her own pieces and received three pieces of artwork in return. Manewith took home pieces by Walters and Swift, as well as a wearable art piece. 

“My sister and I have been doing clothing swaps for ten years,” Manewith said. “Some people get nervous … but I’m used to it because we do it with clothes.” 

Art Swap also supports community building, Allyn said. People of all ages come to collect artwork and learn about each other’s work. 

She added that the Art Swap also creates a marketplace for artists who aren’t widely known and makes art sustainable and accessible.

“I don’t want the acquisition of art to feel like a really big scary thing,” Allyn said. “It’d be nice for somebody who liked the piece to end up with it. You want your art to have a life.”

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Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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