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Opening an Andersonville Art Space a Dream for Art School Grads

By Mina Bloom | March 11, 2015 5:48am | Updated on March 11, 2015 10:46am
 Stephanie Preston (from l.) and Jean Cate recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help open their art space, Vignette Vignette.
Stephanie Preston (from l.) and Jean Cate recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help open their art space, Vignette Vignette.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

ANDERSONVILLE — As more retailers and restaurants sprout up in Andersonville, a pair of art school graduates yearn for a place where they can get together with their neighbors and do something creative.

Stephanie Preston, 25, and Jean Cate, 24, want to open their own community art space in Andersonville — but they need help. By launching a Kickstarter campaign, they hope to raise a total of $15,000 to help open Vignette Vignette, a space where community members can learn how to paint using watercolors, make ceramics and draw through both drop-in and month-long art workshops and classes. A paper-making studio is also in the works.

"We need something to do together," said Preston, who has lived in Andersonville for four years but grew up in Greenville, Ohio.

Cate mirrored Preston's sentiment: "We all need something to do," she said. "Where's the movie theater? Where's the bowling alley?"

Mina Bloom talks about the budding entrepreneurs who want to open an art education center:

They both studied fine arts at the School of the Art Institute. But they originally met through a semester program at The OxBow School in Michigan. Cate, who is originally from southern California, makes scientific illustrations, prints and paintings using watercolors, while Preston focuses on ceramics and sculpture-making. 

Preston came up with the idea for an art space a little over a year ago. Since then, the concept has been "refined," Cate said. Now, "it's more about the community and bringing people into the art," she added.

"Our approach is really process-based," Cate said. "It's less about what they're going to make and more about them having the experience of making."

They both plan to teach classes at Vignette Vignette while also bringing on some friends to help out.

Above all else, the pair want to bring community members together.

"We both really care about people in this really deep way," said Preston.

Donations through Kickstarter will go toward furnishings and art materials, among other things. The funds won't be used toward rent or even securing a physical location, which is yet to be determined.

A storefront at 1212 W. Thorndale Ave. had seemed promising, but the space didn't pan out as they had hoped.

"It got dragged out for such a long time, and it wasn't what we wanted," Preston said, adding that they they've got their eye on a few different potential spaces, including one in particular.

For months, they've been working morning until evening on creating the types of classes they'll offer and ways to implement programing. They envision a given class or workshop will cost anywhere from $30-$45, depending on the subject. One important workshop they'd like to include: visiting local retirement homes and teaching art to seniors.

If they don't meet their fundraising goal, there is no possible way for them to open Vignette Vignette, they both emphasized. That's because not only did they pour all of their personal savings into three free events to help promote their campaign — including two more later this month — but they also need to prove to small business lenders that they're worthy of a loan.

"Even if you have a killer business plan, you have to have assets or collateral or be in business for a year," Preston said. "And we can't operate out of our little, tiny apartments."

Cate added: "It's not an option to fail."

Both said they would go back to school if Vignette Vignette doesn't get financial backing. Preston would go to nursing school and work in hospice care, while Cate would study art therapy and work with seniors.

On the flip side, Preston said it shouldn't take them long to secure a space and open in the summer if the fundraising goal is met. 

"If it fails, I know it's on me," Preston said. "But if it's successful, I know it's on me too."

To help promote their campaign, they organized "Build a Bowl" at George's Ice Cream, 5306 N. Clark St., Saturday, in which people could learn how to use a pottery wheel and make a bowl. 

They have two more free upcoming events:

• On March 19, they're throwing a "Puppy Painting Party" from 6-8 p.m. at Jameson Loves Danger, 5208 N. Clark St. People will be encouraged to bring their pets and paint their portraits.

• On March 28, "Share a Scoop" will take place from 1-5 p.m. at George's Ice Cream. You can go and meet the organizers and ask questions, while those who built a bowl can pick them up. Everyone can enjoy a free scoop of ice cream.

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