Elmhurst Art Museum

Last week I visited the Elmhurst Art Museum, which has two lovely exhibits up.

The cartoon-like works of the Forced Field exhibit by Hebru Brantley seem cheerful at first, but have an underlying message that is more serious. Hebru’s Flyboy is a recurrent theme, based on the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.

The collection is a vibrant array of 2-d and 3-d art, and the power of repetition is clearly illustrated in both his painted and sculptural works. His Lil Mama character is also featured in the exhibit.

In the exhibit notes, the works showcased at the Museum also allude to the way communities keep each other in check, not wanting a person to break out of the mold. It is interesting to consider that we want our younger generations to excel, yet if they get too adventurous those around them will over-protect and try to reel them back in.

The title “Forced Field” is a reference to South Siders not letting anyone go past a certain point of their neighborhood out of fear and/or ignorance.

The titles add a sinister dimension to the vibrant paintings on display. Some were over my head, but others indicated the state of the nation very clearly.

Not being American I am learning a lot about the history of race relations, yet I suspect that many viewers will be introduced to new ideas through Hebru’s art.

There is a graffiti wall by Hebru in the museum where people can add art and take selfies as Flyboy. I like the accessibility of the art work, even with the subtle messaging behind it. Forced Fields is up through November 26, and is definitely worth a visit.

I also perused Wesley R. Baker’s American Images exhibit, which closes September 22. This striking art work also addresses various political subjects, with artist statements going in depth about the meaning of each piece. Wesley’s love of motorcycles is evident in one half of the room, and I enjoyed his depiction of the freedom he and fellow riders experience while taking road trips.

The painter also illustrates his awareness of historic and political events. One sculpture serves as a stark reminder of slavery’s shackles. 

I learned about Ira Hayes through another sculpture.

His native American themed paintings evoke both the beauty and the struggle of indigenous tribes in America.

I didn’t realize that the museum also owns the McCormick House. Built by Mies van der Rohe, the building is undergoing renovation to its original state after being relocated to the Elmhurst Museum site in 1992. The house was originally built in 1952 for Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. and his wife.

Mies designed the minimalist house as a prototype for a proposed group of smaller, affordable middle-class homes in nearby Melrose Park. Unfortunately,glass, steel and brick on a concrete slab design proved unpopular and the project did not take off. The house has a framework of peripheral columns and ceiling beams, which allowed for an open and adaptable interior with movable wall partitions, now configured as storage spaces.

There are also some large scale sculptures on the museum grounds to interact with. It was a lovely outing prior to the Girls Nite Out event.

Ravenswood ArtWalk this weekend

Fresh off the Girls Nite Out event in Elmhurst, I am busy prepping for the Ravenswood ArtWalk. Ravenswood ArtWalk is celebrating its 16th anniversary, once again bringing hundreds of artists into the community and filling the street with art, music, great food and local craft beer. The 2017 Ravenswood ArtWalk takes place on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 along Ravenswood Avenue between Irving Park and Leland, from 11 AM – 6 PM.

I’ll be setting up in the Hayes Building, located at 4043 N Ravenswood, just down the street from the outdoor portion of the festival (on the east side of the tracks). You can stroll the outdoor market, beer garden, live music, food trucks and children’s activities at Ravenswood Ave and Berteau, and then meander into our building. 

The ArtWalk features more than 300 artists and 50 venues, while placing special focus on the diverse talents of the Ravenswood Corridor. Attractions for this year include a rooftop party at the Airstream building, tours of the All Saints’ bell tower, free group dance lessons, a peak at specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum archives, kids’ building projects from Bit Space and a public installation from local artist Dana Parisi.

All businesses are open from 11-6PM. At the center of the festival is the outdoor RAW Street Fest, which features two stages of live music, artists in tents, Begyle Brewing’s craft beer garden, a food truck roundup and children’s activities.

Participating venues include:

  • Manz Building (Multiple Attractions!)
  • Ballroom Dance Chicago
  • Hayes Properties Marketplace (me and a few other artists!)
  • Thresholds
  • RAW Street Fest
  • Deagan Building (Multiple Venues!)
  • Mathias Spider Schergen’s Garage Gallery
  • Lillstreet Art Center
  • Ravenswood Fellowship United Methodist Church
  • Beyond Design

  • DEFY MFG Co
  • Lucila’s Homemade Alfajores
  • John Roggari Studio
  • CHEX Studio
  • Wellbeing Personalized Healthcare
  • All Saints’ Episcopal Church
  • Bill Bartelt Watercolors
  • Images Gallery Cooperative
  • 4500 Artists

  • Alternative Schools Network (Airstream Building)
  • Blackbird Gallery & Framing
  • Manifold
  • Tam Wim
  • Platform Coworking Pop-Up Market (where I used to have a spot
  • Viva Vintage Clothing
  • a. favorite design
  • Dovetail Brewery
  • Begyle Brewing Co.

It is the ArtWalk’s mission to generate community investment in, and public awareness of, the unique hub of creative industry that exists in Ravenswood. You can share your impressions of the weekend with: #RAW2017 on social media.

The  Ravenswood ArtWalk is easily accessible by Public Transit: CTA Brown Line: Montrose – Irving Park | CTA Bus: Ashland – Damen – Irving Park- Montrose | Divvy | Metra: Ravenswood Station.

As you can see, fair prep includes tagging new pieces, ensuring I have enough necklace cords of varying lengths to go with my pendants, reviewing the art fair instructions and checking off the items I need to bring along!

Girls Nite Out and ArtWalk week

It’s a busy week for me! Tomorrow I head out to Elmhurst for the Girls Nite Out Event. Since I had a blast at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art last year, I might stroll the Elmhurst Art Museum Wednesday morning prior to my setup time.  

The Wilder Mansion hosts Girls Nite Out from 4 to 9 pm on Wednesday, September 13. Organized by RGL Marketing for the Arts, this annual event is going to be full of exciting vendor booths, food and wine samples, and lovely people to mingle with.

On Saturday and Sunday, I am off to the Ravenswood ArtWalk. The 16th annual festival will include pop-up artist markets, live music, open houses and a street festival with local bands, Begyle beers and plenty of art projects for kids. I will be on the first floor of 4043 N. Ravenswood. RAW takes place along Ravenswood Avenue from Irving Park Road to Leland. It includes an outdoor market, beer garden, live music, food trucks and children’s activities at Ravenswood Ave and Berteau.

4043 N Ravenswood is a remodeled industrial building that’s home to a variety of artists and local businesses. This space has been a cornerstone of RAW for a number of years and is located just down the street from the outdoor portion of the festival (on the east side of the tracks).  Attractions for this year include a rooftop party at the Airstream building, tours of the All Saints’ bell tower, free group dance lessons, a peak at specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum archives, kids’ building projects from Bit Space and a public installation from local artist Dana Parisi.

My location, 4043 N Ravenswood, was originally built in stages from 1910 to 1930 for the Manz Corporation, an engraving and commercial printing company. Eventually the building extended from Belle Plaine Avenue to Irving Park Road and across the alley to another building on Hermitage Avenue. In the 1960s manufacturing declined, and the neighborhood deteriorated.

The Manz Corporation moved to the suburbs and the building was partially sold, then fell into disrepair. After serving as a multi tenant industrial venue until 2000 the building got tied up in litigation. In 2005 Hayes Properties bought the property and started restoring it. Now it looks like sections of the 90,000 sq ft.building are available for leasing.

So come take a stroll and peek into other venues that are not generally open to the public. You will have a blast examining art work, learning more history, and sipping and noshing on local libations.

Plant Stakes for the Trunk Show

Last summer I made a dragonfly stake on a whim and it was well-received. This year I took the production level up a notch and added ladybug stakes to the collection. I distributed them at my various boutique outlets, and they steadily fly off to new homes. A post on Facebook prompted Ayla’s Originals to coordinate a trunk show with me.

So for Ayla’s Trunk Show this coming weekend, August 12 and 13, I am replenishing the batch. The traditional ladybugs go fastest, so red was on the brain this week.

Meanwhile, the jig I had set up for the Morpho application needed to be dismantled. However, I was inspired to create a stake form that setup before making the change.

I had also just made two mini-books, and that book setup led me to make two bookish stakes.

Then I changed the jig to my custom-created dragonfly template, and started bending wire into the popular dragonfly stakes. When my fingertips were sore I closed the studio for the evening.

The next morning I fired up the griddle and my irons, and started laying out the outfits for each critter. I hand-stamped lime green paper and interfacing fabric to reflect the writings of a book. Then I painstakingly added each page, which takes a lot of aligning, adjusting, cutting and realigning.

The books are my most time-consuming piece at this stage, followed by the dragonflies and their waxing intricacies.

I hand-colored interfacing with rainbow stripes (in permanent marker) for the ever-popular rainbow dragonfly.

One ladybug was begging for polka-dotted fabric, and the other two were given red tissue paper.

Storm clouds were brewing, so I also used that tissue paper and another fabric scrap for a test ladybug ornament, which I swiftly hung outside.

Soon the buckets came down and even splattered onto the deck.

Nonetheless, I stepped out in the rain to see how my own two creatures were faring. Rain was bouncing off the dragonfly.  The ladybug was shielded from the onslaught, but soon the angle changed and it too started getting wet.

After the storm, both ornaments were wet, but undamaged.

Upon closer inspection you can see spots of rust in the dragonfly, which has accumulated since I hung it in April.

But overall the droplets just hang out on the wax until they evaporate, and the fabric and tissue strips remain intact.

I waxed my new creations. The whimsical oval piece was fun to design.

Then I photographed them as the light and angle allowed.

Stakes are harder to take pictures of than my other pieces. They don’t lay flat like regular ornaments, and getting all the angles in a photogenic way is challenging.

The Everlasting Fire Studio vases showcase each one well, though.

I really like the bookish ones, which will be a whole other outdoor test run. As ornaments, these books are more fragile than my other pieces. So for now I’d recommend them indoors only.

Good thing I have a volunteer with an outdoor plant I can send one of these off to.

My fireplace mantel is also a bit crowded, so I played with one corner for now, which isn’t ideal.

I will need to work on a light box setup to block out the windowsill.

Meanwhile, they look pretty as a bouquet and by themselves, and make me happy.

Since I will be showing at a bead store next, I also wanted to play with some bling on a stake.

The organic creation received 3 led crystals, which I know will hold up outside.

I plan on asking Ayla what else is suitable for outdoor sun catchers when I set up my trunk show this weekend.

The new creations will have their own table at the Ayla’s Originals Trunk show. I will also bring my jewelry and angels of course. 

Ayla’s Originals Store is located at 1511 Sherman Avenue in Evanston. I will be there Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 to 5 pm. Then all unsold pieces go home with me again.

There are lots of fun shops and eateries around 1511 Sherman. Be sure to take a selfie with Wonder Woman at the Other Brother Coffeehouse!

Trunk Show at Ayla’s this weekend

Whew, I thought 2 weeks between shows is a long time, but there is still a lot to be done by Saturday.

When I went to the Bead & Button show in June I stopped by Ayla’s booth first, and was promptly stickered by Joe.

At that time, we made plans for a trunk show, and August 12 & 13 felt so far away. I optimistically purchased some large hole pearls for the occasion. Fast forward one eventful month and I am wrangling wire like crazy, with idea after idea piling into my brain.

My aim is to make sure I am using beads sourced via Ayla, so I went through my inventory list, and I’ve attended quite a few of Ayla’s bead shows over the years, along with visits to the store itself with friends.

I compared the inventory dates to my visual archives (photos snapped after each shopping spree) and set those beads aside in my jewelers bench.

Soon I had ideas and matched papers to my designs.

The last batch came from Kina’s Trunk Show, and I started with those first.

I was pleasantly surprised that the vintage beads I bought from Ayla actually fit the 16 gauge wire, and had fun stringing those.

I waxed the pieces, with the cage versions being a bit more challenging than the others. The etched jade also fit the thicker wire, and I am glad my friend and I shared this strand last summer.

Ayla’s store has many beads that can be strung directly onto the steel wire for a swinging bead effect. David Christensen creates a gorgeous array of glass beads that I have had in my collection for a while. This pendant will get some matching earrings too, though whether that happens by Saturday is still a question mark.

Ayla’s Originals offers freshwater pearls, Czech glass, Swarovski crystals, antique trade beads and gemstones from all over the world. If you see something you love in the store this weekend, I am happy to design a piece if you aren’t interested in creating your own.

In 2016, Ayla’s Originals received an official proclamation from Evanston’s Mayor for the 20th anniversary in Evanston. The store’s history is longer though.

Two decades ago, Ayla was a Director of Human Resources in corporate America. She frequented a bead store to take her mind off her waning passion in the work she was doing.

After a few workshops, Ayla began designing her own jewelry. The bead store owner was retiring, putting Ayla in a position to take over the store’s lease after resigning from her job.

The Ayla’s Own jewelry line was soon featured in the Art Institute of Chicago and Field Museum Gift Shops and well publicized. In 1998 Ayla’s Originals moved to Sherman Avenue in Evanston.

The store offers classes, private lessons, and private party options. The store offers a wide array of You Are Beautiful merchandise as well.

You can get a bingo card for special discounts on future purchases. Ayla and her husband, photographer Joe Pizzo, reside in Evanston.

Ayla’s Originals Store is located at 1511 Sherman Avenue in Evanston. Hours are: T,W, F: 10 am to 6 pm; Th: 10 am to 7 pm; Sat. 10 am to 5 pm; Sun 12 to 5 pm. Closed Mondays.

I will also be bringing my stakes, which are getting additional siblings this week.

There is so much more to make!

Morpho’s 6th Annual Encaustic Exhibition

On Friday, I will be attending Morpho Gallery’s National Call for Encaustic Entries Opening party. This annual exhibit of encaustic artists will be held  August 4 at from 6 to 9 pm at 5216 N Damen Avenue in Chicago.

The 6th Annual Encaustic Exhibition includes 2D and 3D work made with the hot wax method of encaustic. Juried by Kathy Blankley Roman and Dan Addington, the exhibit includes works by several FUSEDChicago members and some encaustic artists I look forward to meeting that evening. The exhibit will be held August 4th through September 2nd 2017. Morpho Gallery’s hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 6 pm, and Saturdays from noon to 6 pm.

Artists included are: Brad Hook, Cat Crotchett, Laura Graveline, Anna Wagner-Ott, Brenda Erickson, Candace Law, Carol Myers, Carrie Baxter, Cindy Lesperance, Claudia Hollister, David Brown, Deborah Martin, Derek Brennan, Jeannette MacDougall, Jodie Sutton, Karen Ruth Karlsson, Katelyn Patton, Kathryn Isbister, Kathy Blankley Roman, Kay Vinson, Kaylee Dalton, Lamia Holden, Laura LaRue, Linda Mayer, Elizabeth Hubler-Torrey, Patricia Lagger, Penny Park, Rinat Goren, and Teresa Foster (the ones in bold are my FUSEDChicago friends).

For this show submission, I made a whimsical wall hanging. I was inspired by Brenda’s Now That’s A Jig! Shapes and put a bunch onto the Jig, initially thinking I would work with a 6 x 6 shadowbox.

Of course I went off-jig right away and started rearranging the wire as I went to make the shape more freeform.

Soon I had the basic shape to make a wall hanging.

I wanted to incorporate a vintage book page, which then determined the rest of the palette.

After some rearranging, I settled on purple and blue tones in addition to the text papers.

Then the fusing began.

With the fan going for ventilation, I had to weight the snippets down to keep them from fluttering off the table.

As always, the Xacto knife is my friend.

My friends recruited me for an evening meal, and it is always good to call it a day after a few hours in the studio anyway, because you need perspective and also don’t want to rush the design process.

While I liked the piece where it was, I still wanted to add the remaining papers as planned. I did swap out some swatches as the remaining papers were attached.

With big (to me) pieces like this, the wire isn’t always flush. It is a delicate balance of making sure the forms will be straight enough to hold the paper and also keeping in mind how the piece will hang in the end.

A Traveler’s Whimsy by Maike’s Marvels.


I am curious to see how the accepted pieces came together. Morpho Gallery always showcases a variety of techniques at this annual show. 

I didn’t get into the show, but this piece proudly hangs on my own wall until I am ready to part with it.

Evanston Sidewalk Sale pop up

This weekend is the annual Evanston Sidewalk sale. Retailers along the Main-Dempster Mile and in Downtown Evanston will be setting up tables in front of their businesses for a communal sale and art fest.

Local artists have been invited to be a part of the action in downtown Evanston. Stroll down Sherman Ave. between Church St. and Davis St., to check out jewelry, accessories, children’s clothing and more! Artists will display their wares in downtown Evanston on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

The brand-new Evanston Pop up Gallery will be participating as well, and I plan on being there with some of my extra pieces in addition to what the two shelves inside hold.  

The 1200 block of Sherman is close to many lovely eateries and unique shops. Downtown Evanston will have a giveaway on their Instagram feed, and some restaurants will have special discounts that weekend.

As artists we are limited on discounting our creations, but we hope you stop by anyway to get to know this shop and get some gift-shopping done. You will find gifts at a variety of price points, and new products keep being added each week.

On Saturday, July 29, Downtown Evanston and Main-Dempster Mile are providing free entertainment. Stop by 1603 Orrington Plaza (outside of LYFE Kitchen) to enjoy big games and music.

Street musicians Chicago Traffic Stop will make stops near delicious venues at: 1603 Orrington Plaza, Frio Gelato (517 Dempster St.), Blind Faith (525 Dempster St.), Cultivate (704 Main St.) and The Wine Goddess (702 Main St.). Beaches will play outside of yummy Hoosier Mama (749 Chicago Ave.) and the School of Rock Evanston will rock out in the parking next to their building at 1311 Sherman Ave.

Catch a free ride on a pedicab on Saturday, July 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. special thanks to First Bank & Trust. Pedi-cabs will take shoppers from downtown Evanston to Main Street and Dempster Street, making stops in each district. The pedicabs are first come, first serve and do not have specific pick-up or drop-off times. They’ll hang out for a bit to see if there is a pick-up.

  • Church Street and Maple Avenue, across from Terra & Vine
  • Chicago Avenue and Grove Street, at Raymond Park
  • Dempster Street and Chicago Avenue, near Stumble & Relish
  • Chicago Avenue and Kedzie Street, outside Hoosier Mama

I had a blast last year with Sara Jane at See Jane Sparkle, and highly recommend shuttling back and forth between the various stops to see what vendors are looking to send to new homes.

The Evanston Sidewalk Sale is accessible via public transit. To get to downtown Evanston take the CTA Purple Line “el” to Davis or the Metra to the Davis stop, to get to the Chicago/Dempster district take The CTA Purple Line “el” to Dempster or Main or the Metra to the Main stop.

Angel will be happy to pose for selfies with you.

Encaustic 2017 Show

On Friday I visited the Bridgeport Art Center for Encaustic 2017: Rebirth of an Ancient Medium. Several FUSEDChicago members were part of this exhibit, so I knew it would be a fun social gathering of members.

In addition, I am always inspired by the works of my friends, and I enjoyed perusing the various walls showcasing a variety of encaustic techniques.

This all-encaustic exhibition includes the work of FUSEDChicago members Dan Addington, Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Cat L Crotchett, Helen Dannelly, Shelley Gilchrist, Carol Hamilton, Jeff Hirst, Cindy Martin Lesperance, Ahavani Mullen, Sarah Rehmer, Michele Thrane, VA de Pintor Art Works and Kathleen Waterloo. Also included is Jane Michalski and Paul Rinaldi.

Watching the group photo come about was fun.

Alicia’s cubes cast beautiful shadows.

She used the hooks already on the ceiling which is kind of a work of art.

In other installations the public can walk through her art work.

The color palettes are as varied as the techniques and substrates.

Kathleen Waterloo documented her work.

Michele Thrane’s work spans wide.

So much inspiration on each wall.

A wide variety of scale and texture.

Shelter Me Sweet Nurse by Dan Addington is large and has exquisite detail.

It makes a statement on the wall.

Life Signs: Rewind, Power, Play by Cindy Lesperance are a great take on the changes in technology.

Her dot technique is mesmerizing.

I love the shadows cast by some of the sculptural pieces.

Artist Helen Dannelly offered a demonstration for those unfamiliar with encaustics.

It was fun to watch the reactions to the demonstration and see the audience return to the art work with fresh eyes.

I am looking forward to the 3D class she and Alicia are offering in October.

This show runs through September 8 and is worth seeing in person.

You can see more photos at the FUSEDChicago Facebook Page.

The Bridgeport Art Center is located at 1200 W. 35th Street in Chicago. Enter on the North Side off of Racine / 34th Place to park.

FUSEDChicago offers various events and has resources for workshops and additional encaustic exhibits.

I’m inspired to enter the studio again.

 

Evanston’s new Pop-up Gallery

On Thursday, a new pop-up shop will be opening its doors to the public. The Evanston Pop-up Gallery officially launches at 11 AM to showcase the art work of 50+ artists.

I snapped a photo of the application email when I walked by in June, and was promptly invited to see the space when I applied.

Having been a visitor to the former rendition of this storefront, I liked owner Steve and Sally’s vision for the space, and started scoping out the various options for my own display. 

After a few calls back and forth, we agreed to a pair of shelves by a mirror and I scoped out the dimensions some more.

It is always exciting to see something new take space. 

Maybe that’s why decorating shows are so popular, because we see spaces transform into something new.

I sat down at my bench and made some new earrings for summer.

Then I picked out the pieces I wanted to bring in and made the inventory sheet for it. The sheet was sent off so Sally would have time to add the inventory to the system.

After peeking in to see how lusciously other displays were coming together on Saturday, I decided to visit Michael’s and HomeGoods to scope out new shelf decorations.

HomeGoods inspired the look, and found the right pieces to complement each other.

I did some staging at home to ensure the dimensions would work.

On Monday I returned to Sherman Avenue. Steve put up my rented shelves and I started putting my display together.

Then the barcode stickers were printed and I cut them to size to fit my tags for the next 2 hours.

Then I heard a familiar voice, and Margarita and her mom popped in to plan out their space for Golden Sapphire bath bombs, soaps and other delicious materials to keep people and pets clean. Their natural and handcrafted bath and skincare products are safe for the environment, children, pets, and the rest of your family. All materials are recycled, and they use natural ingredients. I looove the bath bombs.

We are also partners at Hip Circle Empowerment Center’s Women-Powered Retail Zone so it will be fun to collaborate on this space as well. We decided to have fun in the selfie booth.

Angel also christened the selfie booth, and then Steve jumped in on the fun.

I also learned that Elektra and her husband will bring in their lampwork glass. Everlasting Fire Studio will bring in their beautiful  wine glasses, marbles and paperweights, and some pendants. I use their vases for my trunk shows.

The shelves were soon arranged, and I really like the look. It’s fun to see how a vision comes together in actuality.

I am super excited to see how the rest of the spaces come together.

There is already a lot of great art to see.

The pop-up gallery opens 11 am to 7 pm on Thursday at 1627 Sherman Avenue Evanston.

Then on Monday, the Mayor and Alderman will be present for a 4 pm ribbon cutting.

Check Facebook for updates, special events and hours

Here’s to a successful new boutique!

Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt

“I see this quilt as an opportunity to create repair.
When you have empathy, it is hard to do damage.
We haven’t dealt with the idea of how we have dehumanized black folk.”
~ Melissa Blount

On June 25, Evanston residents gathered for the unveiling of the Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt at the Frances Willard House Museum. The Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt was created by Melissa Blount, Making Evanston Equitable Together (MEET) and community volunteers, to honor and draw attention to the lives of Black women and girls lost to violence in Chicago by incorporating their names into a community quilt.

Community Sewing Circles of all levels gathered over the last several months to create this unique and beautiful quilt. 50 participants received the names of 56 women killed in 2016 through May 2017 and hand-stitched quilt blocks based on the biographies of each person.

Then the Blounts collected all the squares and sewed them into proper quilt blocks. The colors blue, white and red reflect the Chicago flag. Evanston Stitchworks had provided advice on the pattern, and then print artist Ben Blount assisted with the pops of red within the quilt. One person focused on making the stars, which are purposely sewn on incorrectly to show that Chicago is ‘upside down’, said Melissa.

The final quilt was revealed at the Frances Willard Home. “It turned out amazing, much more than I ever thought,” Melissa Blount

The quilt came out of Ben Blount’s exhibit in February at 1100 Florence. Around Martin Luther King Day a colleague stated that if there was a day off for every black man killed, no work would be done. Ben took this comment to heart, and started researching the number of men killed in 2016. In Chicago alone, this made for 275 Holidays in 2016, which he documented as a calendar.

While he was focusing on the men, he felt he was dismissing the lives of the black women. So his wife Melissa Blount took up the torch to research the homicides of women. Using the DNAInfo Chicago Murder timeline, she collected the names and stories of 56 women and girls.

Inspired by Seneca artist Marie Watt and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Melissa chose to create a quilt (which she had never done before). She started hosting social justice social circles. Using pink floss, the attendees set about sewing their squares after they were given names and stories of their individual. One mother brought her young son, who worked on the quilt block of an infant. The youngest name is of a 2-month old baby.

One baby on the quilt was born prematurely after her mother was shot, and died later. Another baby died after a woman in her 8th month of pregnancy was beaten. Three sisters are also memorialized on the quilt, who were killed in an aunt’s multi-unit house fire set by arson. One name is the daughter of a Chicago Police officer another the cousin of a basketball athlete.

When Frances Willard House curator Lori Osborne heard of the event, she offered the museum up as a venue to unveil the quilt. The Frances Willard House served as headquarters for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an initiative to defend women’s rights by curbing domestic violence which was linked to men’s alcohol abuse.

“It was this blending of the past and the present in such a special way that made this venue so appropriate,” said Lori.

The women’s temperance movement used quilts as an expression to add their voices to political statements, Lori explained. A Victorian quilt was on display that held signatures of women from Illinois, Iowa and Colorado.

“It [quilting] was giving them back a voice in the power they lost,” said Lori. A petition at the Frances Willard House was sewn together after individual signatures were collected in various parts of the US.

Melissa pointed out that Frances Willard is criticized for not helping Ida B. Wells with the anti-lynching movement. Ida had asked Frances to participate, and she was originally on board. However, when she approached southern women about the initiative, she was told that these men were ‘rightfully’ being lynched, and that Frances would not be given funding for her initiatives if she became part of the anti-lynching campaign. So Frances backed off.

“Frances was about helping women deal with domestic violence and substance abuse,” said Melissa. “Frances was a badass for her time. She raised the marriageable age for women, she worked on prison reform, she wanted to empower women with Gladys (her bicycle) and movement.”

“The history of America is so complicated and nuanced. I don’t want to erase her contribution because she was a woman of her time,” Melissa said.

Nonetheless, today we should be bolder, especially in Evanston. Quoting a conversation with a younger woman, Melissa said: “If your feminism is not intersectional, it is not feminism.”

Melissa’s aim is to act as allies and collaborators in the idea of peace building and creating a beloved community. She believes Evanstonians can serve as an example to the rest of the country. Niles North School was involved in the project as well after one staff member participated in an early sewing circle.

“What we have here in Evanston can be solved if we are really intentional about doing this work”, said Melissa. “There is a cognitive dissonance between what we think Evanston is [in terms of diversity and equity] than what it actually is.”

How does this quilt relate to Black Lives Matter? Melissa had an answer to that: Black Lives Matter has become equivalent to police brutality in the news. However, this brutality is as a result of the trauma of white supremacy. The underfunding of schools and resources in certain communities is an intentional state sanctioned act of discrimination, which creates space for violence, Melissa said: “Violence happens when you are proximate. “

The quilt encouraged the conversation about the issue of racism and oppression, and humanizes the lives of babies and women. The stitchers were asked to hold these women in their hearts as they sewed.

“We are all connected,” Melissa said. “If we are not really invested in helping each other, there is no hope for us. It’s about how our lives are all limited without having deep conversations and interactions with one another.”

MEET wants to continue gathering the community to engage in social justice handwork activities. Melissa and MEET plan to create a second quilt based on the lives lost from June 2017, because they know there will be more deaths.

Another quilt in the shape of the American Flag will focus on national violence against women, also with an eye on mental health issues based on the recent death of Charleena Lyles.

 

Lastly, the misgendering of two people in the media gave rise to the idea of researching transgender violence and creating a quilt for those losses.

The quilt traveled to the Evanston Art Center for public viewing and an additional talk at the end of June. This quilt is intended to travel, and initiatives are underway to move the quilt to other places. The names and stories of these women will also be bound into a book. “The stories of their deaths are so varied,” said Melissa. “It’s just been a transformative experience.”

As part of the local Black Lives Matters Movement, the Blounts are selling their remaining 281 Black Lives Matter yard signs for $10 each (via email) to raise funds for Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration.  The funds will go toward chartering buses that will take the children of incarcerated mothers to their prisons for visitation, a 4-hour ride for many. Selling out of these signs will ensure funding for these buses until the end of the year. BLM Shirts are available at www.blountobjects.com.

“When you incarcerate a mother, you are creating a ripple effect,” said Melissa. With 80% of incarcerated mothers having children under age 18, these children will experience incarceration themselves. Foster care has a criminalization effect on these children. “Segregation hurts us all and limits us all,” she said.

When a listener at the Evanston Art Center discussion expressed a sense of powerlessness at the current state of the world, Melissa quoted Bryan Stevenson in addressing our problems:
1. Get proximate
2. Change the narrative
3. Protect your hopefulness
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

“Officers are not lying when this say they feel threatened. The narrative of who black people are, that’s what we need to change,” she said.

While Melissa is lauded for the quilt effort, she is aware many other movements preceded the quilt. “There are people who have been in the trenches long before me,” she said, citing Chicago Freedom School, Black Youth Project and other names I didn’t catch.

In keeping with #SayHerName, here are the names on the quilt, by age:
Babies under 1 year old: Katana (Greenlee) Hornbuckle, Melanie Watson, Janylah Mack, A’Miracle Jones
Children under 10: Madison Watson, Shaniyah Staples
Tweens and Teens: Takiya Holmes, Kanari Gentry Bowers, Jessica Williams, De’Kayla Dansberry, Sakinah Reed, KeeKee Fleming, Tatyanna Lewis, Nateyah Yahah Hines, Parasha M. Beard
Women in their 20s: Tykina Ali, Jamayah Fields, Wilteeah Jones, Tiana Brown, Emoni House, Tenisha Mallet, Adrianna Mayes, Daysha Wright, Marilyn Duffie, Diamond Turner, Jacquetta Pearson, Brittany Leflore, Dominque Victoria Scott, Tiara M. Parks, Africa Bass, Tiara Richmond (KeKe Collier), Jessica Hampton, Latania Anderson, Makeesha Starks, Patrice Calvin, Kiara Kinard, Precious Land, Naisha Weems, T.T. Saffore, Julia Martin
Women in their 30s: Tanisha Jackson, Shari Graham, Chiquita Ford, Pamela Johnson, Nykea Aldridge, Shameka Heard, Kayana Q. Armond, Othijah (Otha) M. Mooney, Babette Miller, Camille C. Cooley, Chanda Foreman
Women in their 40s: Shacora Jackson, Dejenaba A. Altman, Yvonne Nelson
Women in their 50s: Sylvia Brice, Cynthia Richardson