Alt Walk and Pandemograms: How The Alliance is Transforming Art Appreciation in a Pandemic 

By Kristin Boza 

Everyone is feeling the pinch in this pandemic, but artists, musicians, and service industry workers have seen every avenue to promote their livelihood eliminated in recent months. Festivals are cancelled, music venues and art galleries are closed, and restaurants and bars — the ‘day job’ of many professionals in the arts community — have limited operations or reduced hours.  

The Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance) is using their creative power to provide artists and musicians with opportunities to showcase their work outside of the now-cancelled Beverly Art Walk and Uprising Market events to ensure they can continue to earn a living.  

“So many things have been cancelled for artists and musicians; it’s been devastating for them to lose opportunities to exhibit and sell work,” said Monica Wilczak, co-creator of The Alliance. “When we first started the Art Walk, it was all about how to use art as a means of economic development in the neighborhood. Many businesses who participated noted that the Art Walk day was often their best sales day of the year. We are proud of that, and are seeking alternative ways to ensure both the arts community and our neighborhood businesses, both of which are struggling, can be supported.” 

The Alliance launched a backyard concert series, selling a very limited number of tickets to ensure they remain at the 50-person cap outlined by the State of Illinois in this stage of pandemic reopening. “We are planning a couple more in September, and we’re thinking through the process of what Art Walk can look like since we can’t have groups of people coming together or have businesses at full capacity,” Wilczak said.  

Hence, the birth of Pandemograms in partnership with the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association. This public art project fosters connection between artists and community members, and activates small business hubs to support the local economy. The Alliance commissions local artists to create displays for select business windows and create sites where artists and community members can creatively bridge separation. Window Walks to see the Pandemograms are encouraged.  

Four Pandemograms installations can already be found, including: 

Dorothy Straughter’s “Homage To Humanity” quilt at Southtown Health Foods, 2100 W. 95th St. (Dorothy creates extraordinary quilts that delve into history; as she says, it’s not just African American history, it’s American History,” said Sal Campbell,  Alliance co-creator); Tim Anderson’s paintings at Two Mile Coffee Bar, 9907 S. Walden Pkwy.TC English-Dumont’s paintings and Robin Power’s ceramics at The Blossom Boys, 1810 W. 103rd St.; and patio murals by Katherine Kampf, Phil Cotton, Matthew Dicks, Brendan McAlinden, Jay Williams, and Jeremy Craig Michael at Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave. 

Numerous other local businesses will have installations in the coming weeks. In place of the Beverly Art Walk, the Alt Walk will be a Pandemograms explosion throughout the neighborhood. “We will put out a map of all locations so people can go on self-guided tours,” Wilczak said. “We also hope to have a dedicated space curated by The Alliance that works with local artists to showcase their work. This would be a space where the community is invited to be interactive and share their feelings about what’s gong on. It will be a safe space to use arts and music to deal with all that we’re dealing with and reflect and respond to it in a creative way.” 

Since the Alt Walk won’t be limited to one day, Campbell said there will be QR codes for the installations so people can learn more, connect with the artist, and purchase the art. “This way, people can access art on their own time; it really opens it up and makes Art Walk a 24/7 event,” Campbell said. “We hope people will set aside an evening when everything will be lit up and they can bike, walk, or scooter around the neighborhood and check it all out. We’re adapting and doing the best we can to support local businesses, artists, and each other.”  

Stay connected to The Alliance, Pandemograms,  and the Alt Walk by following them on Facebook, Instagram @bev_artalliance, and BeverlyArts.org. Donate to the Arts for Illinois relief fund through ArtsForIllinois.org/Donate.