Friday, April 29, 2011

Featured Artist

Seann Cram
Seann Cram is a photographer. He typically uses Canon EOS digital cameras, or black and white 35mm film in a few old analog cameras. He shoots his surroundings, which tend to change often. All of his digital work is straight from the camera with no editing or Photoshop. 
Modern Art, 8x10 digital photograph, 2006, Seann Cram
What attracts you to photography as a medium?
It is kind of an odd question for me, what attracts me to the medium of photography, ever since I have known what a camera is I have wanted to take pictures with it. I received my first camera a Minolta 7xi (35mm SLR) during an exchange trip to Japan when I was fourteen years old, which is where I mark the beginning of my artistic photography pursuits. I create photographs because I am drawn to the idea of documentation, that a moment can be captured as it occurs. It’s like stopping time.
On The Lake, 8x10 digital photography, 2007, Seann Cram
Are there particular photographers who inspire your work?
I grew up with a mother who admires art and Ansel Adams was always an influence on her. Because of that there were always photography books from various photographers, which she collected, strewn about the house. I am not able to remember specific photographer’s names very well, but a lot of the natural and landscape photography in those books really inspired me. I was also exposed to a lot of National Geographic magazines as a child. Those images had a profound impact on how I look at the world. They made me want to be there and see the world as those photographers did. To document the nature around me and to understand the ecosystem and human experience through photography.
Night’s Pond, 8x10 digital photograph, 2009, Seann Cramm
What themes or styles do you hope to explore through future work?
Well right now I am exploring time-lapse photography, where I end up making short movies showing the night sky or the making of a good stew for example. An ongoing project that I begin whenever I move to a new area is creating a series of images that defines the communities I live in. I am moving to the West coast within the next year or so, which will take this project to the next level, as I live on the east coast right now. Being able to use my own images to juxtapose East Coast communities with West Coast communities is my next endeavor. 
Vermont Life, 8x10 digital photograph, 2007, Seann Cramm
Many thanks to Seann for sharing his work.

What do you think of these photographs of Seann's dynamic surroundings?
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Going to the Chapel 
There is something incredibly charming about a small white clapboard wedding chapel.  The term wedding chapel may conjure an image of the chapels bathed in neon lights lining the strip of Las Vegas, but you know the kind I mean.  I'm thinking of tiny chapels tucked away on country lanes or nestled between the post office and general store in a small town.  Those buildings inspired this "going to the chapel" wedding invitation.  
I spend one evening last week last week searching through photographs of chapels and in the end painted this imagined version.   
In the words for the 1964 song by the Dixie Cups, “Gee, I really love you, and we’re gonna get married. Goin’ to the chapel of love.”
What chapels do you find to be most charming?
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 6: 82nd-74th Street
 This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.

This stretch of Western Avenue north of the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve felt rather desolate.  There was a Catholic school occupying a generous portion of property, an abandoned bowling alley, and a some industrial buildings.  The street is wide, there were few pedestrians, and it felt like a portion of the Avenue that feels a bit economically depressed.  There was a marked difference in the character of the street near the northern edge of the mile.  After passing under some train tracks, there were more businesses, including one of the approximately 70 car dealerships located along Western.

Have you ventured along this portion of Western?  What did you think?
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Other Projects

Exploring Detroit
Last weekend, I made my first ever visit to the Motor City.  It had been a place I had long wanted to visit and my curiosity about Detroit was piqued by a Dan Pitera, executive director at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, who lectured at the recent Structures for Inclusion conference.  My first visit, was a short one, just shy of 48 hours, but I feel as though I saw a great deal.  Our first stop in the city was to Detroit's Abandoned Train Station (Michigan Central Station), which saw its last train depart in 1988.  It's hard not to be fascinated by the decay of this massive and incredibly beautiful building.  The cost for renovation of the building has been estimated at $80 to $300 million.  
On our first evening in Detroit, we stumbled upon a street covered in painted shoes!  It was quite a sight!  The whole block, which included a series of abandoned mansions had been dedicated to the installation, which had been executed by Tyree Guyton of the Heidelburg Project.  We didn't get to see the rest of the work of the Heidelberg Project, which is "rooted in the need to improve the under-resourced and horribly blighted Detroit community where the project was founded."
I had the delight of spending a Saturday morning at the Detroit Institute Art.  The majority of my visit was spent in the Rivera Court, a grand hall, which houses the Detroit Industry mural on each of its four walls.  The frescos were completed by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera as a tribute to the city's manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s.  The composition of the twenty-seven panels is extraordinary, with great attention to the cultural context and history.  It is marvelous!

In the afternoon, I had the delight of visiting Youthville Detroit.  My pal's Dad serves as the CFO at Youthville and it was extraordinary to see the amazing programming available at their facility.  Youthville Detroit was conceived of as a youth development center with a focus on providing a safe space, exposure to responsible, caring adults, intentional youth involvement in their own development, and provision of broad supports and opportunities.  It's a great facility in an rehabbed building, with fantastic programming including web radio & broadcast journalism,  anime/manga, television show production, archery, acting, ceramics, fashion, and spoken word! 
Youthville Great Hall, with garage doors to classrooms
After a quick visit to Belle Isle, an incredible 982-acre island park in the Detroit River, we were off to the weekend's main event: The Motor City Beard and Mustache Championships!   This inaugural event was planned by the Great American Fierce Beard Organization (GAFBO).  GAFBO operates as "a group dedicated to making our world a better place by promoting camaraderie, fighting beard discrimination, and providing to those in need to whom we are in a position to help."  The mustaches and beards were extraordinary, be sure to check out the photos on the GAFBO website.  Kudos to John Buckler, GAFBO co-founder and the event's MC for a great event!  The event raised about $2000 for Youthville.
Photo by Shaun Pezdfseshki, Metromix Detroit 
Photo by Shaun Pezdfseshki, Metromix Detroit
Photo by Shaun Pezdfseshki, Metromix Detroit
 What do you love about Detroit?
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Featured Artist

Julie Anna 
Julie Anna is a 26 year old art kid from Detroit, who currently lives in Orange County, CA. She is a greeting card designer, photo editor, vintage turquoise obsessor, and the owner of Julie Ann Art!
What first inspired you to design a line of greeting cards?
My Etsy shop originally started out with original paintings and prints. But I really wanted to make something that could be shared between two people. I love greeting cards because they're kind of old school, and not every one uses "snail mail" anymore. I really hope people will hold on to that. In my opinion, it's so much more special than writing on a Facebook wall.
What future design projects are you excited about?
I have been putting a LOT of effort into my blog lately. I regrettably fell off that wagon and it feels so good to be inpsired to work on it again. Other than that, I am really excited to start experimenting with screen printing! I love making cards, but I'm looking to expand my designs to other mediums.
Since I just got back yesterday from my first-ever visit to Detroit, what do you think are one or two of the best places for creative types to visit in Detroit?
I love the DIA (Detroit Institute of Art). It is such a grand, gorgeous building inside and out. The last time I went there they were having an Annie Leibovitz exhibit, she's my favorite photographer.

Many thanks to Julie for sharing her work!

What do you think of Julie's creative greeting card designs designs?
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Antique Car Just Married
This invitation features the elegant curves of an Morris Minor "1000."  The Morris Minor is an British made car manufactured from 1948 to 1971.  This invitation is a continuation of a series of "Just Married" invitations, featuring bride and groom "getaway cars."  

What do you think to be the best antique cars for the bride and groom?  
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 5: 90th-82nd Street
This painting is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see a post about the next mile of Western.
When I first walked this stretch of Western, I was entirely surprised.  I had no idea to expect 60 acres of closed-canopy oak woodland with nature paths, two miles of paved bike paths, and picnic areas to bound Western for a full mile. The Dan Ryan Forest Preserve is also great for sledding in the winter or taking a scenic hike in the summer. Part of it sits above Chicago's prehistoric glacial lake water levels, and referred to by geologists as "Blue Island," is one of the highest natural points in the city.

I found it charming and a bit disorientating to walk along this stretch with a tree canopy on one side and four lanes of traffic on the other.  The image depicted in this painting seemed a fair representation of this mile, because in reality the forest is not pristine, in runs along with an understanding that it is bounded by asphalt, automobiles, and the human desire for development.

Click here to purchase this painting.

Have you visited the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve?  What did you think? 

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Other Projects

Showing Work at The Beetle
For a the last week, I've been showing a collection of ten paintings at The Beetle Bar & Grill, in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.  The paintings are all Chicago-inspired works, including paintings of Logan Square, the Finkel Steel Factory, and the Chicago river
I'm delighted to be showing my work at The Beetle--the centrally located original brick columns make a great background for art.  The Beetle is located at 2532 W. Chicago.  They have fantastic waffle fries and a great selection of beers on tap.  I'm having an opening on Tuesday, April 19th at 7PM, stop by!  Not only can you see watercolor paintings, you can also get $2 fish, chicken, veggie, or pork tacos
Have you since interesting displays of art in local coffee shops, bars, or restaurants?
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Featured Artist

Gretchen Hancock
Gretchen Hancock has been painting in oils and acrylics and watercolors for over thirty years. She taught watercolor and drawing at the college level and has exhibited in and won awards in local and national juried shows. She has been selling her work in galleries in Washington and Alaska. Gretchen paints still lifes, landscapes and sometimes portraits.
Fluffy White Things, oil on Panel, 6" x 6", Gretchen Hancock 2011
What inspires you in painting everyday objects like salt shakers and egg shells?
I look for interesting lighting effects- I like shiny, transparent, or translucent items. Metal and glass give lots of sparkly highlights and reflections when lit with a bright light. And eggshells are translucent; you get a pink glow where the light comes through.
As for why I paint what I paint --I like painting from life. In comparison to painting out of doors or painting a model, you can control a still life - the lighting is fixed, the items don't move. I want subjects that would fit naturally within the size of a 6" x 6" rectangle and usually try to paint a still life "life size" or smaller. So I wind up looking around the house for subject material. I choose fruits and vegetables because they give lots of color to my painting, and glossy cups and glass jars and shiny metal bowls because they add drama.
Red Cherries on Gray, oil on Panel, 6" x 6", Gretchen Hancock, 2010
Is there particular subject matter or mediums you hope to explore through future work?
I have been painting lots of still life lately and hope to do more plein air paintings locally (Puget Sound area) this summer, weather permitting.
Single Eglantine Rose, oil on Panel, 6" x 6", Gretchen Hancock, 2010
It seems as though a number of your landscapes have been inspired by travel. Do you have any particular destinations to which you hope to travel for future artistic inspiration?
Actually, just the opposite. I plan to paint more local landscapes. I have been looking at the view from my house at night and would like to figure out a way to paint nighttime scenes! You have to have enough light to see the palette and canvas, but not so much light that you can't see the subject. 
Artichoke, oil on Panel 6" x 6", Gretchen Hancock, 2009
Sincere thanks to Gretchen for sharing her delightful oil paintings.  I'm looking forward to continuing to follow her work and hope that she has lots of warm, sunny days for plein air painting this summer!  

What do you think of these landscape and still life paintings?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Flowers in a Mason Jar
This new invitation design is a revision to my recently completed "Wildflowers in Mason Jar" design.  The invitation was revisited for a couple who will wed this fall in Missouri.  They asked me to customize this design with the flowers the have selected for their wedding, including peonies, dahlia, and yellow billy balls.
I'm totally delighted by the aesthetic of flowers in a Mason Jar.  Flowers inevitably portray a certain elegance, which combined with the relaxed, practical nature of a mason jars strikes just the right tone.  It was an interesting exercise to paint flowers.  I don't paint a lot of still lifes and it is certainly a different sort of challenge to paint something at close to full scale.
What flowers do you like to arrange in a mason jar?
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 5: 90th-82nd Street
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.
This stretch of Western was perhaps the most surprising of the whole journey.  I had at least a vague concept of what to expect from the southern-half of Western, sensing that I would pass through Beverly to portions of the city which were almost entirely African American, followed by heavily Latino neighborhoods.  What I didn't anticipate was that there is a full mile of the Avenue, which is almost entirely wooded on both the west and east sides of the Avenue.
The eastern boundary of Western, for this mile, is occupied by the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve, which includes represents 60 acres of closed-canopy oak woodland.  The western boundary is more manicured, with the golf course of the Beverly Country Club taking up this piece of land.  The stretch feels remarkably undeveloped and thus rather surprising as I had made my way 5 miles into the city from its southern boundary.

Have you visited the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve? 
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Other Projects

I know a man whose Lebanese mother makes the the most amazing Baklava.  I only tasted it once, but the melt-in-your-mouth delicious sweetness has stuck with me for many years.  Recently, my I developed a strong craving for Baklava and tried this recipe from June 2004 issue of Gourmet.  It was successful attempt, though I find it so very sweet and buttery that one can only consume one small piece at a time. 
For syrup
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 1/2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup honey
For baklava
3 1/4 cups whole almonds with skins (1 lb), finely chopped
2 1/3 cups walnuts (1/2 lb), finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 (1-lb) package phyllo dough (17 by 12 inches; about 28 sheets), thawed if frozen
Make syrup:
 Combine sugar and water in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart saucepan. Squeeze juice from lemon and orange into sugar mixture. Add fruit halves and cinnamon sticks. Bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, then simmer 10 minutes. Stir in honey and return to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Pour through a sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl, pressing hard on, then discarding, solids. Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1 hour.
Assemble and bake baklava:  
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together almonds, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt until combined well.  Generously brush a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish with melted butter. Halve phyllo sheets crosswise and stack sheets. Keep stack covered with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and then a dampened clean kitchen towel. Lay 2 sheets of phyllo in bottom of baking dish and brush top sheet generously with butter. Continue to layer 2 sheets at a time, staggering sheets in each double layer slightly to cover bottom of dish, then brushing every second sheet generously with butter, until you have used 10 sheets of phyllo total. After brushing top layer of phyllo with butter, spread a rounded 1 1/2 cups of nut mixture over it. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter.  Repeat layering 3 more times. Top with 10 more sheets of phyllo. (You will use 50 sheets of phyllo total.) Butter top and let baklava stand at room temperature to harden slightly (to facilitate cutting), 10 to 15 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut baklava into 16 equal rectangles, then cut each piece in half diagonally. (Be sure to cut all the way through.)
Bake baklava until golden, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer dish to a rack to cool, then slowly pour cold syrup around edges of hot baklava, in between all cuts, and over top. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours. (Cover once baklava is at room temperature.) Do not chill.  

What are your favorite middle eastern sweets?
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Featured Artist

Heather Snider
Heather Snider has a BFA from NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) and has worked as an artist, as well as, a scenic artist for the film industry for several years. Currently, she is working towards a degree in art education.

The work featured here are "Art Cards, Editions and Originals" ACEOs, which are an offshoot of Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs).  ATCs are miniature works of art about the same size as modern baseball cards (2 ½ X 3 ½ inches).  The ATC movement developed out of the mail art movement and has its origins in Switzerland.  The cards are usually traded or exchanged rather than sold.  ACEOs originated when some artists began to create cards to sell, in addition to trading among themselves.
"Birds of America No. 8", mini original art collage, Heather Snider
Is there something you’ve found particularly appealing or challenging about the small size of art cards (2.5”x3.5” format)?
    I have been making art cards since 2007; actually since I first joined Etsy.  At first, I found the size challenging, but now I am accustomed to the format.  I use the art card as my daily art making activity or my “sketchbook”.  I like that compared to an actual book, I can work on each card independently and not think about the page before or after, or have the pressure of completing a whole “sketchbook”. 
     Also, I like that every card has its own personality and that each one develops a relationship with my other cards. In the creative process, rather than dictating what the card is going to be, I allow each card to reveal its own personality as much as possible. 
"For Defense", mini original art collage, Heather Snider
Where have you found the best materials to use in your art collages?
    I have found materials in a whole range of places: the internet, my daily travels, etc. I am always on the look out.  Also, I have my closest friends on the look out for me, as well! 
     I am drawn to vintage paper materials.  I like the textures, surfaces, and patterns they create.  Additionally, I like that the vintage materials give the finished pieces a sense of nostalgia because I work associatively (meaning that I make random connections) and I often draw from my memory of events, places, times, people and things. 
"After the Fiesta", mini original art collage, Heather Snider
Are there particular mediums or themes that you hope to explore in your upcoming projects?
    I am always developing ideas for new works.  Unfortunately, there is only 24 hours in a day!  Right now, I have started oil painting again and I am working on developing a series of “mini portraits”.  I hope to create a new Etsy store for the series in the upcoming months.
     Also, I plan to continue my current art card practice.  I look forward to seeing where the art cards lead, and how the forms, shapes, and patterns I use change and develop overtime.
"Over Pass", mini original art collage, Heather Snider
Many thanks to Heather for sharing her work!  These fantastic art cards are only $12, check out her Etsy shop!

Were you familiar with ACEOs?  What do you think of Heather's "sketchbook" of art cards?
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wedding Invitation

Chicago Skyline
There is something so wonderful about the familiarity of the skyline in the city where you live.  When you drive into the Chicago from the south, you often find yourself winding through the industrial territory of Northwest Indiana.  There is a certain magic in that first glimpse of the Chicago skyline.  
Last fall, I rode my bike to Hyde Park (which is a neighborhood about 50 blocks south of downtown) for a meeting.  It's a nice ride because I can ride virtually all the way to Hyde Park on the lake path, which runs along Lake Michigan.  On my return trip, riding north, I was reminded of the beauty of the view of the skyline from the south side (the shoreline is on the whole a bit less developed than on the north side).  
On that day, I was particularly struck by the beauty of the Chicago skyline, which inspired me to design this invitation.  I thought this would be a lovely image for couple who plan to wed in Chicago, particularly those who will wed in the loop among the extraordinary buildings, which form our skyline.
What city do you think has the most beautiful skyline?
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 4: 98th-90th Street
This painting is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see a post about the next mile of Western.
I couldn't resist making a painting of Original Rainbow Cone to represent this stretch of Western--pink stucco building, giant ice cream cone on the roof, what more could I ask for?  A TimeOut Article described Original Rainbow Cone in this way:
"For 81 years, a giant neon cone light has beckoned multiple generations of kids, teens and other ice-cream fiends to Original Rainbow Cone, an old-fashioned, peach-stucco parlor in Beverly. It offers a few dozen flavors (from cookie dough to chocolate–peanut butter), but the real draw is the namesake Rainbow Cone, a monster five-layer treat piled high with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (that’s cherry), pistachio and orange sherbet."

The full history as described on the Original Rainbow Cone website is also pretty fantastic:
Growing up as a kid in Ohio, Joseph Sapp, founder of the Original Rainbow Cone, was an orphan on a work farm. One of his few luxuries was buying ice cream for the pennies he earned, but his only choices were vanilla or chocolate. Sapp actually wanted all those and more flavors on his ice cream cone. As an adult he worked as a Buick mechanic by day, but started Original Rainbow in 1926 with wife Katherine. The Rainbow Cone went through many variations, but trial and error revealed the winning combination of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and orange sherbet.
     Sapp chose the location on 92nd and Western because he could see Western would soon become a major thoroughfare. At the time, Chicago really only extended as far south as the Bridgeport area. Beyond 95th street, however, were the centuries old cemeteries that Chicagoans visited every Sunday. On their way back home, patrons would stop in for a cone. It didn’t take long for Rainbow to become it’s own attraction. After about four years, the Sapps had saved up enough money to build the current Rainbow store, which was only one story at the time. Since the spread of information was limited during the war years, Sapp designed a short-wave radio that people in the neighborhood would listen to while munching on their cones. Rainbow become a place for gatherings, family outings and dates.
     Robert Sapp, Joseph’s son, slowly began taking over the business through the ‘60s and ‘70s, taking it through more innovations to meet customer demand, such as having take-home containers for customers to share with people who couldn’t travel to the Southside.
     Robert’s daughter Lynn Sapp bought the business in 1986. Her biggest challenge at the time was bringing Rainbow into the modern age, and spreading the word beyond the Southside of Chicago. One way she did this was by participating in the Taste of Chicago for more than 20 years, and placing in the top five vendors for several years in a row. She also developed Rainbow cakes, which dedicated Rainbow fans use to celebrate all occasions, even weddings. 

An orphan on a work farm who used his pennies to buy ice cream and eventually opened an ice cream shop of his own--pretty amazing, eh?

Click here to purchase this painting.

What is your favorite ice cream shop in Chicago? 
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