An Evanston-based artist is using his paintbrush to find creative ways to attract customers and support small businesses during the pandemic.
Chris Froeter says that for over 25 years, art has been therapeutic to him, and that solace is needed now more than ever.
“Everybody’s looking for a positive in all of this,” Froeter said.
For Froeter, that positive came around St. Patrick’s Day, when he got the idea to create portraits of small business owners in Evanston. Fortunate to still be working his regular full-time job, he said he wanted to volunteer his talents to help people in need of immediate financial assistance.
“One of them is Aydin who owns Prairie Joe’s,” Froeter said.
“I went to pick up food from Aydin and thought he’d be a great subject for a portrait. So I took his photo, went home did the portrait. And I was going to give it to him and thought, why not try to sell it to someone? Or have someone essentially pay for me doing a portrait? The portrait could go to Aydin or whoever, and all that money for the work that I do goes to these business owners. It’s a win-win right? I get to paint as much as I possibly can and get to get better at something throughout all this craziness, and someone gets a piece of artwork and a business gets help in some way.”
Froeter has commissioned 10 portraits since then. He’s been taking requests on his Instagram page, selling them for $200 each. With the stay-at-home order in place, he’s asking people to send selfies instead of taking their photos himself.
“I have to direct them on how to take their own photo and sending it to me,” Froeter said.
“I have a little bit of a guideline, but also want their input. I want them to at the end be happy with this portrait,” he said.
Using oil paint, Froeter says each piece takes between four and seven hours to create.
“There’s the drawing out phase which takes about an hour and a half. Then that sits to dry a little bit, then I start painting. And I try to do two to three of those at one time and try to work this through as a process,” he said.
Froeter plans to paint for the duration of the pandemic.
“It’s just an opportunity to share something positive,” he said, “and for me it’s a way to keep my mind focused on the positive things.”
An update on this story
Since we first brought you this story on April 1, Froeter has painted a total of 13 portraits in about three months — one of them being our very own Jay Shefsky! His efforts have raised just over $3,000 for small businesses in Evanston, including restaurants, retail stores, salons and even a framing and art shop.
Froeter has decided to wrap up his pandemic project as the city begins to slowly reopen. You can check out more of his work here.
This story was originally published April 1. It has been updated.
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Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.