Two recent alums exceeded their funding goal to open a community art center in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.
Stephanie Preston (BFA 2013) and Jean Marie Cate (BFA 2014) are waiting to find the perfect space for an artist studio and classroom. They envision Vignette Vignette as a place where Andersonville residents will make art together or just enjoy the storefront window vignette of artists pulling paper or drawing up a cup on the pottery wheel they pass by on the sidewalk.
This spring, the pair closed out a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $15,700, exceeding their goal by $700. The vision necessitates the perfect location. It has to have a large window, of course, and it has to be in the heart of Andersonville.
The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce describes the area as “a quaint neighborhood in the middle of a world-class city.” That vibe is what initially attracted Preston when she moved there as a student at SAIC. She says it’s a place where people put down roots; neighbors know each other, and business owners live and work there. Cate recently relocated there as well. “We want to be a part of that community every day life. I want to be able to walk to work with my dog,” she says.
The two see Vignette Vignette as a place where their neighbors can stop by and try something new without the cost and hassle of purchasing the materials themselves. Each class and workshop will include art supplies. It will also be a place with a social mission. Some workshops will have a giving component. For example, a knitting workshop might end with donating the hats and scarves made to a coat drive. Or a ceramics class might make bowls to serve a free community meal from. “We both have this idea of holistic care,” Preston explains.
Cate and Preston first met each other as SAIC students taking a ceramics class at Ox-Bow. They were having a critique outside on a cold and rainy day. “Nobody was dressed for the weather,” remembers Preston. “So we raided the costume closet, and we were all wearing crazy clothes trying to stay—no, we didn’t stay dry at all.” Back inside, Cate and Preston laughed so hard about the experience, they cried.
After graduation, Preston shared her dream of opening Vignette Vignette with Cate, and Cate enthusiastically signed on for the project. The two alums recruited a team of artists they met at SAIC who share a talent for teaching and embody the interdisciplinary spirit of the school. The Vignette Vignette teachers will lead classes designed around their interests and hopefully become interwoven into the lives of residents in this tight-knit neighborhood.
“There are plenty of places where you can learn technical skill, but I think we’re unique because of our location,” says Preston.
But the location has not been easy to come by. Cate and Preston continue to make plans and raise funds while they wait for the perfect store font window to become available.
“It’s a little vignette of activity. It’s a snapshot. It’s like a storybook picture,” says Preston.