Arts and Culture in Waukegan

ArtWauk: Art cooperative entices visitors

ArtWauk, a monthly explosion of the tactical application of the arts, contributes to the artistic appreciation and cultural education in Waukegan, while helping the economic development of the downtown. Every month, different artwork, artists and spaces challenge the surrounding community to understand art in all its forms.

This grassroots event transforms from one month to the next, sometimes following a theme but more often being as individualistic as the artists themselves. Galleries host internationally, nationally and locally known artists and collections. Two recent internationally significant exhibits include the Richard Harris Art Collection and the Migrant Quilt Project.

The Richard Harris Art Collection attracted first time visitors with original works by Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Albrecht Dürer, Jasper Johns and Robert Mapplethorpe with a Memento Mori theme.  The Migrant Quilt Project attracted a varied audience, too, from quilt makers to activists for social change to families. The project is a collaborative effort expressing compassion for migrants who died in Arizona deserts on their way to create better lives. Materials used in the quilts were collected in the Sonoran Desert. Because of the importance of these exhibits, the hosting gallery opened additional hours beyond ArtWauk.

The arts have long had a solid foundation in Waukegan and continue to expand. Locally revered artists, such as Maggie Schwarz Kraus and Skip Wiese, were at the start of the Art Evolution in Waukegan decades ago and are still active in the Art Revolution. Dandelion Gallery, an eight-year-old nonprofit cooperative, partnered with both Swingline and Waukegan Tire on separate exhibits that used materials from those corporations. The gallery supports young artists through a high school show and a scholarship program.  Dandelion also features new artists, such as Michael Bellefeuille, whose reclaimed metals works are best sellers.

Live performances and pop-up galleries round out the offerings. On any given ArtWauk, Paul Rodriguez has audiences laughing at the Genesee Theatre, Three Brothers Theatre showcases the world premiere of a new playwright and punk bands rock The Burgundy Room – within blocks of each other. Outdoor pop-up venues featuring photographs of lost architectural wonders or an artist creating intricate henna tattoos add to the diverse flavor of the exhibits.

Over the years, ArtWauk has energized and positively changed Waukegan’s downtown. Property owners enjoy renewed interest in their buildings; business owners reap the rewards of more foot traffic; artists delight in additional exhibit spaces; and the overall perception of downtown has dramatically improved.

Genesee Theatre

The Genesee Theatre is a cornerstone of the Waukegan community, hosting plays, concerts and movies with old glamour and new technology. While the appearance preserves its 1920s opulence, updates have been made to accommodate modern audiences and acts, which continue to include top quality entertainers, Grammy-winning musical artists and headlining comedians. With over 60 shows per year, there is something for everyone!

Three Brothers Theatre

At the heart of Three Brothers is the belief that theaters should be driven by artists. Three Brothers strives to be a place of opportunity, a place where artists can experiment with their craft and a place that serves as an artistic home for many artists under our roof. The theater is driven by an incredible ensemble of actors, directors and designers.

Three Brothers Theatre operates two black box theaters: Stage 115 and Stage 221. At Stage 221, you’ll see musicals and modern classics. At Stage 115, you’ll see new plays written by Three Brothers’ 13 playwrights in residence.