The concept of the ArtWauk (pronounced "art walk" and short for Waukegan) was developed by Waukegan artists to fill vacant properties with art and improve the perception of our downtown neighborhood. On February 23rd (Waukegan's birthday) in 2002, Mayor Dan Drew (pictured here) and other visionary artists supported the first ArtWauks.
When the historic Genesee Theatre re-opened in 2005, focus shifted to programming the City's new investment and away from the organic grassroots artist model. Several ArtWauks took place over the years, but it wasn't until 2011 that the events became monthly.
In February 2011, nine years after the first ArtWauk, a team of artists, volunteers, City staff and Waukegan Main Street staff coordinated a grand-opening for Dinosaur Studio Tattoo and the new office for State Representative Rita Mayfield. On the same block. On the same day. Organizers and business owners alike were thrilled to see people from every walk of life come downtown for the free event and celebrate new doors opening.
The success of this model has been remarkable. Thanks to cooperation with visionary property owners, in 2011 the team renovated space for six new businesses to open on one block of South Genesee Street. The basic model is this: a property owner gives keys to a small retail space to one of our ArtWauk artists. The artist rallies the troops to re-paint walls, scrub the windows and floors, replace lighting, and turn the space into a professional gallery, recruiting more artists and hanging a show. The whole volunteer force then turns into a marketing machine, distributing thousands of fliers by hand and utilizing social media to draw crowds downtown. The ROI for the property owners is hundreds of people walking through their spaces, looking at our signs reminding them that the property is available for rent. Every single one of the spaces we worked on has now been rented to a paying tenant.
Property owners have been thrilled, business owners are making money, and the overall perception of downtown has dramatically improved. ArtWauk continues to grow and change with the times because it's the artists who make it happen.
To get involved, email us at email@example.com or come downtown any 3rd Saturday of the month.