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Vignette Vignette Artist Studio Opens In Andersonville, Brings Fresh Concept To The Strip

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Owners Jean Marie Cate and Stephanie Preston

In literature, a vignette is a short scene that gives you an incisive, clear view of a concept, setting, character or object. In art, the meaning is the same, but it’s more tactile. Starting today, Jean Marie Cate and Stephanie Preston will offer two vignettes right here in Andersonville.

Their new storefront artist studio, called, aptly, Vignette Vignette, will open its doors tonight from 5 to 11 p.m., with art demonstrations and music, at 5407 N. Clark St. The studio will offer one-night workshops, month-long classes and special programming to benefit a community of adults and children.

Preston and Cate both graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and both live in Andersonville. While it was Preston’s idea to open the studio, both co-owners and business partners worked to generate the $15,727 in Kickstarter funding that brought it to Clark Street.

With the help of an encouraging landlord, and a lot of hard work on the part of Preston and Cate, the airy and cheerful space with pale green walls, potter’s wheels, kilns and other workspace has been transformed from a long-time former children’s clothing store (the Red Balloon moved to another location in June) into an area dedicated to community art and conversation.

“I like the idea of, this is a vignette of people working,” Preston said on Thursday, after taking a break from cleaning the exterior windows of the 800-square-foot store. “I feel like a lot of artworking goes on in these lofty studios that are way away from Main Street, and we wanted to bring it to the art viewer, because art making is fun and it’s going to benefit our business for people to see all the artworking going on.”

“I would like to create an environment that will nurture the creative impulse, a place where people can realize and embrace their power of creation, communication and expression, to create a world of my own design,” Cate said. “(I would like) a place in which I can curate and share that which has inspired, enriched, and excited me, to fashion a workplace in which I can spend my days in the company of my wonderful dog (Martha Mae.)”
Cate and Preston both obtained bachelor of fine arts degrees from the Art Institute, which promotes interdisciplinary learning. Preston spent a lot of time in the ceramics department, and Cate focused more on print-making. Cate studied printmaking, drawing, scientific illustration, natural history illustration, papermaking, and plein air painting. Christie Chapin, another graduate of the Art Institute, will also work at Vignette Vignette. She is knowledgeable about print-making and will lead after-school workshops for children, among other things.

Vignette1Classes are already scheduled on the studio’s website at www.vignettevignette.com. They include, on Saturday, Cate’s class “The Fruiting Body: Watercolor Studies,” and a pottery wheel throwing class taught by Chapin. Other classes are scattered throughout the month and include figure drawing and pumpkin carving. Meanwhile, Preston said one of the numerous goals for the new space is to bring in visiting artists to teach other skills.

“So every month, we will have a new artist that is teaching something that is different than we normally offer,” she said. “It will be a learning experience for Jean and I, and it will be something new for the community to try.”

Preston said she and Cate have also worked out an arrangement with Cescas Margarita Bar & Grill, 5403 N. Clark St., to provide free meals for the community on Sundays. Anyone is welcome to attend these meals, including the homeless and others who may just need companionship.

“In Andersonville, too, we know the people that we see in the street on the day, and it’s hard to walk by and not acknowledge them and think ‘I’m not doing anything about it,’” she said. With these Sunday dinners, Cate and Preston seek to do their part.

The pair have already received support from other small business owners in Andersonville. The local Chamber of Commerce provided assistance, as did 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman and his staff. The Womens Business Development Center on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago also offered workshops, and the women received guidance from a business development counselor.

“We did social media,” Preston said. “But the most valuable interactions were the person to person, or a phone call or email, any time we were talking with one person and communicating our idea. That’s when we really saw people understand what we were and pledge” money to help us open the studio.

“It’s really intimidating to walk into this business and introduce myself and give them a pitch, but this neighborhood is full of great people and they listened to us, and at the end of the day to see these people go online and make a pledge, that was just the best feeling in the world,” she added.


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