A sandwich board stands in front of a doorway on 2328 N. Milwaukee Ave., where a staircase leads you to the second floor studio space above the restaurant Dos Amigos. There, people, mostly from Logan Square, stop in to make art, collaborate on art projects, meet other artists and discuss art and whatever else is on their minds. Jan. 17 marks the sixth anniversary of Make & Meet! AnySquared’s Studio Day Art Making Sessions.
Recently, two neighborhood art events involved many of the visitors to AnySquared, including planning and painting a community mural in July on Medill Avenue, just north of Milwaukee. Also, artists from AnySquared studio organized and participated in the Hearts and Minds exhibit at the Hairpin Art Center in November. Additionally, AnySquared organizes and involves artists from the neighborhood in exhibits at Cole’s, a nearby bar and music venue.
Tracy Kostenbader has been the chief organizer and supporter of the AnySquared art drop-in day. In fact, she lives in the apartment space where AnySquare is held. She provides art supplies as well to people who drop in to work, many of which have been donated.
Kostenbader explains that she helped found “AnySquared in January 2010 as an art and planning group. Initially AnySquared members had already been cooperating and working on projects together in 2009, including meeting for artmaking ‘studio days’ at my space in the fall of 2009.
“The first collaborative project as AnySquared resulted in [email protected] in April 2010 shortly after Cole’s bar opened, as well as the monthly Cinema Minima film series. With 27 shows and counting, the [email protected]’s Exhibit Series has featured 300+ artists over the six years. In winter of 2010, AnySquared also officially opened our weekly Wednesday artmaking/planning sessions to the public. We invited fellow artists to come by as well as new collaborators, and neighbors. From the beginning Studio Day was intended to be a space to share skills, hatch projects, engage in and make art and promote an atmosphere of conviviality where you can make friends.”
I talked to a few visitors of the AnySquared studio space, such as Gretchen Hasse, who talked about how visiting AnySquared inspired her art and allowed her to meet other artists.
“Without the space I would be lonely and not that productive,” Hasse says. “I enjoy being around others who take art seriously; it helps me make progress on my own work. Working at the space has inspired my art because of the variety of people who come here. They have introduced me to things that I’ve never heard of before. They help critique my work.
“I started publishing a webcomic in July , and I usually work on the current week’s page during Studio Day. While I’m working, I talk to people about what my comic is about, how I arrived at my style, what my plans are, how I publicize it and so on. I have gotten a lot of great feedback and ideas from people of all ages. Right now I’m inking my comic; people at another table are doing collages; someone else is working with Sculpey, and a woman sitting across from me is cutting a giant onion out of brown paper.”
A common observation of several of the AnySquared visitors is that working around others helps them. Cesar Moyorido, a self-taught artist, is exploring sculpting and wants to explore all the art mediums; he says, “Seeing and meeting all these artists makes me want to make more time for art and to better myself at it.” Angie Mead Crenshaw, an interior architect, who makes functional artwork also, says that she felt drawn to the space after going to the Hearts and Minds show. She says she likes “the philosophy of collaboration with other artists at AnySquared and the unique, homey feel of the space.” Finally, Tatiana Howard, a painter and arts organizer, says, “Coming here to AnySquared I got a feed off other artists’ work and process, and I like being surrounded by people who are working because it wants to make me work.”
On a final note, Tracy observes that artists need support: “The challenge of making art is that there is not a real economy for making art, except for a few artists. Yet it is still important for artists to continue making art. Other countries are more supportive of artists than the U.S.” In Logan Square, however, AnySquared plays an important and much needed role of filling in the gap and supporting visual artists who need it.
AnySquared Art Making Sessions take place every Wednesday from 3-8 p.m.
Photo: Andrea Kaspryk