Bryn Mawr: Artists In Motion Beautifies Edgewater Community
Slideshow showcasing some of the artwork featured in the Edgewater Artists In Motion storefronts. (Photos by Katie Karpowicz)
By Katie Karpowicz
The Red Line Project
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011
During a tough economic stretch, Edgewater Artists In Motion co-founders Tracy Poyser and Rae Ann Cecrle have found a way to take advantage of the growing number of vacant storefronts in their community
Edgewater Artists in Motion — run by Poyser, Cecrle and a group of 15-20 volunteers — receives permission to display work by local artists and photographers in vacant properties throughout the Edgewater community. The mission of the organization is to improve both the exposure of these artists and the curb appeal of the community.
Local artists and volunteers are welcomed to become a part of the program through an application process on the organization’s website. Once EAIM gains permission to display artwork has been obtained from the property owner, the artist assigned to the window space has complete control over his or her display. The artist is encouraged to rotate the artwork that is showcased. Artists can post bios, contact information and even prices for the artwork in their windows.
Artists in Motion has been a part of the Edgewater community for nearly two years. The idea came to Cecrle in 2009 after noticing the increasing number of vacant storefronts in her neighborhood. She contacted one such storefront owner and asked if she could display her artwork in the windows.
Soon after Cecrle contacted Poyser—whom she had met during Poyser’s time doing pro-bono work for the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce—and proposed the idea for EAIM.
“It was a new thing,” Cecrle said. “We didn’t really know what we were doing so we tried different display techniques and writing techniques and it turned out to be very, very helpful for the community.”
The organization grew quickly. Currently, the organization showcases 67 local artists in 32 vacant storefronts. The appeal of working with EAIM is not surprising, according to the co-founders.
“When you have a vacant storefront with just a ‘For Rent’ sign and nothing but empty, sometimes crummy-looking stuff behind it,” Poyser said, “the idea of placing art in it is generally very attractive.”
However, the appeal exists not only for the property owners, but also for the artists involved with the organization.
“As it turned out [EAIM] did a lot for the artists, too,” said Cecrle. “So many of the artists at that time [EAIM’s inception in 2009] were saying that the galleries were closing. They would say, ‘My art is just sitting around my house or under my bed.’ So, I’d much rather share it with the community.”
Artist and graphic designer Dorothy Mason has been involved with EAIM for nearly a year and a half and has two different window displays in the Edgewater area.
“To me it’s just really great to have your artwork out there as a talking point and because this is such a great community project it’s a great talking point,” said Mason. “It’s about helping the community and also my artwork is out there and I can refer to it every once in awhile.”
Artists in Motion strives to serve as an aid to the Edgewater community. The organization has remained self-sufficient since its creation and maintains a community-mindedness.
“We never asked for funding from any of the businesses,” Cecrle said. “We cleaned up the stores. We cleaned up the windows. Not only do we put the art in [the window displays], but we maintain [them] too.”
Last summer, the organization worked with Illinois State Representative Harry Osterman to provide six-week art classes to children living in the Thorndale Avenue area.
Edgewater Artists In Motion showcases local artists in vacant
storefronts throughout the Edgewater community. (Photo by Katie Karpowicz)
This summer, EAIM’s events include an art walk on May 20 that will visit each of the window displays and an Edgewater Arts Fair on July 16. The arts fair—co-sponsored by the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce—will feature more than 50 locals artists and a performing arts stage. Again, EAIM’s first thoughts are with its community.
“We’re hoping that by attracting people to this fair that they will spend part of the day there and then stop and use the businesses [in the area],” Cecrle said.
Artists in Motion has received overwhelming support and praise from community members, organizations and businesses.
“The only negative thing I’ve really heard is that some of the people who have empty buildings are afraid that if there’s artwork in the windows that people will think that it’s not for rent,” said Mason. “But I think the reverse is true: Instead of being an ugly thing, people are drawn to [the artwork] and then they see the building and maybe develop some interest.”
Many of the group's featured artists, including Poyser, have grown their artistic careers from the experience.
“A number of our artists have sold out of their windows,” Poyser said. “In my case, I have been discovered by a guy who organizes gallery shows and I really got my gallery show start with EAIM.”
Edgewater Artists In Motion continues to grow and serve its community in the face of a stumbling economy. Should the availability of vacant storefronts begin to wane in years to come, however, Poyser keeps an optimistic outlook on the future of EAIM.
“If the economy improves and those spaces are rented we’ll have to regroup and try to do something else in the community,” she said.
View Edgewater Artists in Motion Window Display Locations in a larger map