Urban Edge in downtown Waukegan began as a pop up gallery in November of 2011, and will be proudly celebrating their 2nd Anniversary in 2013. The concept of making the 5,000 square foot vacant space at street level of a parking structure into a visual art experience for ArtWauk was a collaboration of David Motley and the then mayor Robert Sabonjian. Bringing art to the north end of Genesee Street was meant to tie the length of 3 blocks of many other vacant store fronts with the excitement that the arts were generating on the south end. Several art showings anchored by Dandelion Gallery were already taking place and beginning to represent Waukegan as an arts community and an arts destination. The hope was to bring the pulse of excitement all the way up this historic street to the Genesee Theater, Public Library and other arts happenings on the north end and eventually to fill in the gaps along the way. Over the course of the past two years, Urban Edge, has grown to be a fixture of Waukegan’s art community and has helped to transform the landscape of what is possible in downtown.
Born in a whirlwind of opportunity, local artist David Dallison connected his friend and curator Vickie Marasco in a meeting with David Motley, Waukegan’s Public Relations Director and Mayor Sabonjian in early November of 2011 to see if a collective brainstorming session would make it possible to create the space into something of a visual arts experience for November’s ArtWauk while working with extremely limited resources. Ideas were quickly formulated and Vickie was instantly inspired by the local enthusiasm and the rawness of the space. Working together and given the green light by the Mayor, David, Vickie and David worked around the clock for two weeks cleaning up the space, installing industrial lighting and making walls to hang art out of chain link and keeping with the contemporary concept, came up with the name Urban Edge. The resulting collaboration was able to metamorphacize storefronts at 220 West Clayton into a very useable, yet still gritty space that many a visitor have been heard to compare to the top arts facilities in urban markets like New York and Chicago.
In order to kick off this arts experience in the right direction, Vickie was able to recruit four incredibly talented artists to deliver their work for this pop up exhibit. The challenge was to secure high quality contemporary work on short notice, and to be able to fill in an interestingly visual way such a large, open space. The work needed to be large scale and to make an impact. Photographer Xavier Nuez, Painter David Dallison, Wood Artist, Jay McDougal, and Sculptor Bruce Niemi comprised the first exhibit to open Urban Edge. The opening of this show was nothing short of spectacular with more than 300 attendees eager to experience Waukegan’s newest gallery.
The excitement of Urban Edge’s debut certainly sparked new interest on the north end as was hoped. The realization of the success of this new venue and the possibilities to partner with other arts groups in the community, Urban Edge was asked to continue with monthly ArtWauk events. David and Vickie decided to move forward with this opportunity by planning and hosting monthly exhibits, shows and openings and Vickie began securing artists for future shows.
What was begun as an art-experience based in the four walls of the space, has now blossomed into Urban Edge programming events and attractions that happen within their block. Regular pop up concerts and performances sprout up along the route to and from the gallery mostly centered around the Jack Benny Plaza and the sidewalks near them and also the parking garage behind them. Partners like the Waukegan Band’s Saxaphone Ensemble, spoken word artist Scott Crain and local band, The Whales? have been known to set up and play free shows for the passers by on their walk from place to place during ArtWauk. In addition, you often spot decorations and other seasonal sites and sounds in the windows, external speakers and streetscape in front of the gallery.
- Trevor Bell exhibit – well known British artist who’s work has been in the Tate, London
- Mexican Montage – partnering with the National Museum of Mexican Art, 9 museum qualified artists also in conjunction with the Lyric Opera and their promotion of a Mariachi Opera in Waukegan.
- WAM – Women’s Art Movement – all female show
- Zen – partnered with Arzu Studio Hope to display rugs woven by women in Afghanistan as part of the art with 5 other artists and their mediums
- Street Art Show – involved the community to create live aerosol canvases, while breakdancers and Dj’s added an authentic character to the evening.
- Chicago Urban Images
Events have been as far ranging as poetry readings, a book signing, live music, DJ talent, street dance performances by students from Rhythm Dance Academy, a one woman Joan Didion play, artist talks, student mentoring and visits as well as participating in Waukegan’s Wine Strolls, Holiday Wauks and ZombieWAUKS.
About Urban Edge:
The Urban Edge space in downtown Waukegan in the Waukegan Arts District is a place where the performing arts and visual arts meet. Artists and non-artists alike are free to mingle in this newly-converted gallery space in an intentionally industrial setting. Professional artists that have a critical eye and an overt urban edge are recruited by our team to provide a month-long art show to take advantage of this unique space. We are open during the major special events in Waukegan’s downtown including ArtWauk and the shows at the Genesee Theatre. Otherwise, please feel free to connect with us to see if we can arrange a time to give you and your group a VIP tour.