First Sketch Thursday showcases local talent

By WilliamPrentiss

Normally, artist Joshua Binder paints his large murals on city walls without prying eyes watching, but on Oct. 8 he will be drawing on a smaller canvas without that luxury for West Town’s first Sketch Thursday.

The West Town Chamber of Commerce will kick off a new series of free events featuring local artists drawing works of art, which will be sold off in a silent auction. Artists will be given three hours to create while attendees observe them and mingle with their fellow art enthusiasts. All guests are encouraged to bring a pencil and paper if they want to do their own drawing. Cocktails and martinis will be served, of course. Event organizers plan on featuring eight artists for their first Thursday, including Binder. He said he thought the event sounded odd to him at first, but the silent auction won him over.

“It’s a little strange and awkward just because I like to do art away from people,” Binder said. “Then I was like, hell, there is going to be a silent auction of these things at the end of the night. That’s another chance to make money doing what I love doing, so why not?”

Binder’s plans to make his three hours under the spotlight more fun by taking turns with two other artists drawing different parts of a sketch. He said it will make the night feel more like an art party game than a high-pressure situation. As far as what he will actually sketch, he’s hoping an eclectic crowd comes out to give him some inspiration.

“Well, why not [sketch]the people that are there?” Binder said. “As long as it’s a more collective group of people, the more the merrier. It’ll be like riding the el train, hopefully.”

So far, Binder, Anne Farley Gaines, Stephen Giannini, Layne Jackson and Sarah Lawshe are confirmed, while Michelle Scott, Plamen Yordanov and Augustina Droze are expected but unconfirmed.

Program Director Matthew Westfallen said the idea for Sketch Thursday came from an artist the Chamber’s Art Committee hired to paint murals on the viaduct between Halsted Street and Third Street on Chicago Avenue in late 2008. The artist told Westfallen about an event in San Francisco called Sketch Tuesdays and Westfallen thought it sounded like a good idea. The Chamber had been looking for ways to tap into the local art community for the past year and worked with local artists to promote the West Town community, he said.

The Architrouve Curators Bob and Darci O’Connell will host the event. Darci is a member of the public art committee in the West Town Chamber of Commerce that was responsible for commissioning the murals done in the West Town area. Westfallen said it was “a marriage made in heaven.”

Participation on the main artist panel is invite-only, but that could change, along with the frequency of events, depending on how the first couple of Sketch Thursdays go.

“It’s invite-only because we don’t know the response, we don’t know the turnout, so we can get some folks who will come on board and bring some good art,” Westfallen said. “Then beyond that, we might say, ‘Well listen, there’s 20 seats left. Come on and bring your stuff.’”

Westfallen hopes the event gets people from all over Chicago to come out and stop for drinks or go to a restaurant before or after the event. He wants them to come out and experience a couple different flavors of the neighborhood instead of just coming to West Town to buy a pair of jeans and leaving, he said.

Gallery Manager Victoria Nicodemus said The Architrouve is excited to introduce artists to the community who have contributed to the beautification of West Town. It’s more of an educational event than an exhibition, she said.

“One of the main reasons why we agreed to do the Sketch Thursday event is because we want interaction between the artist and community,” Nicodemus said.

Westfallen said he thinks student artists would be a nice fit for the event and if they could find someone who knew a lot of students and a venue willing to work with them, they would do it. The event is also a good opportunity for people to mingle, observe the artistic process and for other artists to network with their fellow professionals, he said.

“You’ve got these established artists, some folks that are just on the uptick and then some that are just getting starting,”

Westfallen said. “If we can hit all those crowds, all the better. Make it a little bit deeper of an artist community.”

All Sketch Thursdays will be on the second Thursday of every month at different West Town venues.