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Creative Caretakers

Meet the artists behind the #OFCareChallenge

Over the course of the year, we’ve been continually inspired by leaders here in Chicago and around the world who have stepped up to care for their communities when they need it most. As we saw acts of kindness and selflessness ease the burdens the pandemic has created for so many, we didn’t just want to celebrate the leaders who are doing this incredible work—we wanted even more people to channel their passion for change into action.

Artists Jacqueline Alcántara, Liz Montague, Martha A. Wade, and Simone Noronha illustrated the simple, tangible steps anyone can take to lead in their communities and captured the social connections being built in communities everywhere—even during a time of social distancing.

We asked each of these talented artists a series of questions about themselves and their work, from how they got started creating art to what advice they have for artists who are just getting started. Check out their responses below, then take the #OFCareChallenge.

Jackie Alcantara smiles off camera.

Jacqueline Alcántara | Freelance Illustrator and Artist | Chicago, IL

Jacqueline kicked off our #OFCareChallenge with a beautiful piece depicting neighbors checking in on neighbors. The Chicago-based illustrator values diversity and representation in her work and creates luminous art for children, educators, and nonprofits.

Check in on your Neighbors

Describe your art in three words: Whimsical, colorful, and ever-evolving.

An illustrated girl looks into a microscope.

How did you first get started creating art? We all make art! Some just stop, and others realize it’s something we have to do to feel whole.

After I was laid off from teaching at a high school, I decided it was the universe forcing me to practice what I had been preaching and start making more artwork—but I didn’t know what I wanted to “say” at that point and that was blocking me from creating things. So I luckily discovered this thing called illustration, where I felt like my personality, my interests, my need for a deadline, my love of creating stories, and my love of other people all melted together. I trust my inner illustrator a lot now, but I’m still discovering my inner artist.

An illustrated girl throws a soccer ball at sunset.

How did you share your art with your community this year? I started off the year with the book  “Freedom Soup” (Opens in a new tab) being released, so I did a lot of events for kids around that through school visits, cooking classes, and more! Of course, that was pre-pandemic. A lot of the work I do is geared towards kids and educators. I want kids of all backgrounds to be exposed to positive images and stories that they can relate to. Seeing yourself in artwork or a book can be so empowering. A lot of the time, books are among the first ways we see and interact with artwork, so it’s critical we get more diverse books into schools, stores, and homes.

An illustrated woman and girl dance together.

What advice can you share for the next generation of artists? There’s no better time to pursue your dreams than right now! There are so many ways to make a career out of what you love. Don’t settle and don’t wait until you feel like you’ve found your “style” or “inspiration.” It’s all inside you, you just need to live, experience, and start making it.

A Women's March on Washington poster.

You can see more of Jackie’s art in her mini show at  The Silver Room (Opens in a new tab) in Hyde Park in Chicago or on Instagram  @_jacqueline_alcantara (Opens in a new tab).

Liz Montague smiles to camera.

Liz Montague | Cartoonist/Illustrator/Human | Washington, DC

Liz created the artwork for our second challenge, encouraging us all to support local Black-owned businesses during the holiday season. A recent DC transplant, Liz uses bold and humorous illustration to express salient and timely commentary.

Support Black Owned Businesses

Describe your art in three words: Draw your feelings!

How did you first get started creating art? I started drawing when I was in kindergarten and just stuck with it.

How did you share your art with your community this year? On Instagram, in The New Yorker, and on the Google homepage when I did the Google Doodle back in September!

Google doodle featuring art by Liz Montague.
Political cartoon by Liz Montague.

What advice can you share for the next generation of artists? Have deep self-compassion and make work you’re proud of.

Illustration by Liz Montague.
Martha A Wade looks to camera.

Martha A. Wade | Visual Artist | Chicago, IL

Martha A. Wade brought the concept of a mutual aid network to life in a stunning painting. Martha drew on her unique style to show the value in caring for your community, whether that means tapping into an existing mutual aid network or starting one from scratch.

Join or start a mutual aid network

Describe your art in three words: Bold. Vibrant. Original.

A painting of a woman with angel wings.

How did you first get started creating art? I started at a very young age, when I would pause cartoon movies and draw the characters. I also learned to create at the foot of my artist father, Eugene “Eda” Wade, who is among the artists responsible for starting the Chicago mural movement in the late 1960s. I would watch him paint, and long for a canvas of my own.

A painting of Barack and Michelle Obama.

How did you share your art with your community this year? I curate spaces around the city of Chicago, like The Woodlawn and Persona Lounge, with art from my favorite artists, including my own. I also teamed with an organization called Paint the City to paint murals on the boarded up businesses following the Black Lives Matter protests.

A painting of a girl with curly hair in a curled up position.

What advice can you share for the next generation of artists? Create from your heart to find your own artistic style and voice. Then don’t be afraid to share your creations online. That’s how I first gained the confidence to be a visual artist, by sharing paintings on Twitter. It is also very important to connect with like-minded creatives in your community. They can help you learn about exhibitions, make introductions to gallery owners, and provide a safe place to be weird and unique together!

A painting of a girl riding a bear in a cityscape.

You can see more of Martha’s work on Instagram  @wadecreate (Opens in a new tab) or her site,  wadecreate.com (Opens in a new tab).

Simone Noronha looks to camera.

Simone Noronha | Illustrator & Art Director | New York, NY

For our fourth challenge, encouraging people to volunteer locally, illustrator and art director Simone Noronha created a piece bursting with color to show all the different ways we can show up for our communities, in person or virtually.

Volunteer in Your Community

Describe your art in three words: Playful, intricate, and colorful.

An abstract depiction of people.

How did you first get started creating art? From an early age I’ve been drawing and loved doing so. It helped that my parents were always really supportive. At the time I didn’t know this could be a career, but my mum used to enter me into art competitions as a kid. Through those contests I made greeting cards, posters, and logos. Playing video games, especially in the early 2000s (think Diablo II, The Sims, Sim City) opened me up to the world of concept art, asset creation, and building websites. That was a sort of spark that made it click for me, like Oh, here’s other ways you can apply that thing you like doing.

An abstract face made of food ingredients.

How did you share your art with your community this year? Mainly through social media. For so many of us, especially right now, that’s our connection to other people and the outside world.

An illustration of a man and woman embracing.

What advice can you share for the next generation of artists? Keep making the work, even when you don’t feel like it’s good enough, keep going, and find peers to collaborate with and learn from.

Sunday Review cover with bright illustration.

See more of Simone’s work on Instagram  @simonenoronha (Opens in a new tab) or on her site,  simonenoronha.com. (Opens in a new tab)

Volunteer in Your Community

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