The Artists Book House (ABH) opened its third stunning Halloween exhibition, “A House, Haunted,” at Harley Clarke Mansion on October 1. Note that it is not called “A Haunted House”. This is because this is not your usual haunted house experience – with the sounds of saws, screaming and people jumping to scare you.
This haunted house is meant to be “fun, fun, and inviting all season long. It’s Halloween.” “Destination, like Zoo Lights and Botanical Gardens,” said Jamie Tom, an artist and writer from Evanston and a member of the ABH Board of Directors. October 1 was a “small launch” with others “Haunted House” The events are broadcast live on ABH’s website at the same time.
Halloween has quickly become Americans’ favorite holiday for decorations, second only to Christmas, according to national surveys. It’s a not-so-dangerous holiday that gives kids, and even adults, a chance to dress up in fancy costumes and take part in silly games and prank behaviors. A tradition and an opportunity to tell scary stories.
The home at 2603 Sheridan Street will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in October. There is no entrance fee, although donations are welcome. Visitors can tour designated areas (except in the basement) for a self-guided tour of fixtures and vignettes throughout the house. There may be projections and soft sound effects in some rooms.
A pop-up gift shop is already open, with founder Audrey Niffenegger’s books and other quirky offerings. The windows will be decorated by artists and backlit, making the evening walk a pleasant one.
Spiritualism was very popular in the 19th century – the belief that the souls of the dead could communicate with the living, especially through a human medium in a seated session. At home this Halloween is an interactive “spirit locker,” complete with spirit “horns” by artist Margot McMahon and artist/writer Ken Gerleaf.
Gerleve, Treasurer on the ABH Board of Directors, has created another interactive installation, “The Wheel of Misfortune,” with artist Linda Scholly. It is based on a short story he wrote, Available on ABH.
Evanston artists Jimmy Thomey and Vanessa Fili work together to install a “secret” wardrobe. Short reliefs are seen throughout the palace, especially on the second and third floors. Melissa Jay Craig has an entire room. There is even an animated wallpaper.
In addition to guided tours on weekends, guided tours are offered during October, by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There are no fees, but donations are welcome. No visits are accepted; Appointments must be scheduled at least 12 hours in advance using Calendar on ABH.
To request a private tour – eg, a night tour – email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org make arrangements. The expected minimum donation for a private tour is $100.
On Halloween itself, consistent with the town’s published trick-or-treat hours, there will be presents for children at the heavy carved front door—if they are brave enough to climb the stairs and ring the bell.
“Dressing festivities are encouraged … and candy will be distributed until we run out,” said Gerleaf.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made fundraising meetings impossible, but ABH has learned the power of online collaborations between artists and writers. Thome, who is now ABH’s head of programming, said free collaborative workshops are available at the Evanston Public Library in October.
Megan Stillstra, a writer from Evanston, shows “Writing in the Face of Fear” at 6 p.m. October 20. She is composed of three collections, including The wrong way to save your life, He was honored with the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Award for Best Creative Novels.
Novelist Toya Wolff will present “Write What Scares You: Starting Your Novel” at 6pm on October 24. Wolf is the author of a book Last summer on State Street, Her first novel is about her upbringing at Robert Taylor Homes and her eventual destruction. “Her book is really about families and society,” said Gerleaf.
Writing workshops are located in the main library. registration Via the EPL website.
Other free seasonal ABH workshops are “Scary Halloween Pop-up Cards and Fun” as well as “Treewhispers – Paper Making”, “Paper Mask Making” and “Bookmaking”. check EPL . site For details, dates and times, and to register if necessary. (No registration is required for “Treewhispers”, which is a no-reservation program.)
ABH is all volunteers and has no employees yet, but Thome said ABH always pays artists for their artwork in and around the home and for the programs they provide for the foundation. “It’s very important,” she said. “Artists should not be expected to do their work for nothing!”
The mansion’s dining room and living room are available for small private events and small group tours led by lecturers are always permitted, but in accordance with the lease with the City of Evanston, ABH is not permitted to hold classes in the home or open the mansion to large groups. There is no elevator yet and the three storey fire escape needs replacing.
“When we open, we want the house to be safe, welcoming, and easy to access,” Tom said.
ABH recently asked Evanston City Council Amendments to the lease. In a city council summary, deputy city manager Dave Stonebeck said the ongoing effects of the pandemic have slowed fundraising and caused “difficulties in meeting fundraising standards and construction phases specified in the original lease.” The request is up for a vote at the October 10 Board meeting.
The estimated cost of the mansion’s renovations, required for the mansion’s public opening, has been raised from $8.5 million to $10 million. The promised public opening is now expected in 2027.
We welcome donations to the Artists’ Book House – for tours, visits or just for love. A very successful second-hand book sale took place on the floor last month, on a beautiful fall Saturday. ABH also recently received a $2,000 gift from the Jackie Mack Commission Mission 2022, an Evanston real estate group that distributes $10,000 among several nonprofits each year. The winners were selected by online voting.
Along with a contribution from the Evanston Council on the Arts, the month-long “House, Haunted” event is sponsored by ABH through a donation from Alison Aldrich and John Farones of Highland Park.
ABH does seem to be attracting interest from outside the vicinity. Its predecessor, Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts (Chicago), was internationally recognized and ABH hopes to follow suit.