Walking down Marwen memory lane with Regin Igloria
Regin Igloria is a multidisciplinary artist and educator based in Chicago and is also a Marwen alum and board member. He founded North Branch Projects, an organization that builds connections through the book arts. Igloria has taught at places such as Marwen, RISD, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Snow City Arts, and Carthage College. He received a 3Arts Individual Artist Award as well as local, national, and international grants, support through artist residencies, and has exhibited internationally. He received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design.
Regin shared his personal memories of Marwen and Paintbrush Ball over the years. He is currently a Marwen trustee and co-chair of Paintbrush Ball 2022, celebrating Marwen's 35th Anniversary.
Some of my earliest experiences in art was painting murals for construction barricades with fellow high school students at Marwen. We spent so many hours after school, even Sundays and holidays, painting and designing with others who became life-long friends. I used to ask myself if I would ever have a day off from making art as it seemed to occupy all of my free time. What an odd feeling for a fifteen-year-old! But along with a work ethic, I learned about the city and its people, how to navigate the train, how (not) to paint with the teacher’s personal paint brush (lol), and how to appreciate other peoples’ taste in music, amongst other things.
I met some of my dearest friends and teachers here. In 1991, the late Debbie Cole, one of my first Marwen teachers, spoke at a mural unveiling next to Wendy Sheridan, whose daughter would enroll in a workshop I would teach 27 years later. History is quite remarkable! If you are interested in seeing it, this was one of the rare murals that survived—it’s been safely tucked inside a Chase bank drive-thru since that day—formerly First Chicago Bank of Lincoln Park, 2170 N. Clybourn.
2022 marks Marwen’s 35th Anniversary—I can hardly wrap my head around that number! This organization is very near and dear to my heart and to so many others. I hope you might consider supporting a place where young people gain so much more than art skills and access free art classes.
1991—my first PBB (maybe the first for all of us?): Guests were invited to put on Tyvek paint suits over their formal wear and paint on the black and white mural template we had prepared in advance. There was novelty in this approach to fundraising—though I probably wouldn’t call it that as a teenager—allowing strangers to paint onto all our hard work! I recall another student muralist noting how this technique reminded him of how Ed Paschke layered his paintings. “It’s exactly how he does it” we were told by our teacher. Maybe. What we all anticipated was him being there that evening and having the chance to meet him. I snuck a photo of my friend Joe standing next to him in the crowd.
Years later I was fortunate to visit his studio on Howard St. for a new PBB-related project, the first taking place at the new (and current) space on Orleans. His studio was an awesome mess of magazines, paintings, and miscellanea—a site for the senses. He walked me around and generously talked about these new hologram pieces he’d recently produced. To this day I’ve appreciated that kind of generosity from other artists.
Paintbrush Ball would change over the years, but I always loved the inventiveness it brought forth from everyone involved. I was honored to be invited to co-teach a couple PBB “Entrepreneurial Initiatives” early on when students took on new approaches to sharing their work. Projects like these were intense, and we learned intimately about the pressures of producing for an audience and a market, and the pros and cons of our creativity as a business. Who remembers painting Radio Flyer Wagons? Or the paper lanterns? I still have fond recollections of receiving a $100 donation of fine Japanese papers from Chuck at Aiko’s, someone who genuinely loved what we were doing for the students.
When Marwen moved to the Orleans building, PBB took on an exciting change: hosting the event at home. Students collaborated with professional artists on limited edition prints that would be auctioned off at the event—and I was given the opportunity to teach printmaking for the first time. This was also my first foray into asking professional artists to participate, and I had the task of making several anxiety-ridden phone calls to printmaker artists I didn’t know (we didn’t do emails then). “Make it quick,” said Tony Fitzpatrick, who declined but invited his printer, Teresa Mucha, to participate (she went on to introduce her student-partner, Alfredo, to Tony, resulting in an internship at his print studio and a letter of rec to Cooper Union). The ever-gracious Audrey Niffenegger said, “Why not?” and even suggested Riva Lehrer, who agreed as well. I summoned skills acquired from my first Marwen printmaking class at Anchor Graphics, and David Jones’ sage wisdom. It turned out to be a truly amazing cohort. How lucky were those students—and how lucky am I to still get to work with some of those artists today?
My first PBB “After Party” in 1992 almost didn’t happen as I could barely make it out of bed with a fever. I couldn’t miss the event after all the work we’d done to prepare, and the rare opportunity to be in the old National Guard Armory where the current MCA sits. I decided I had to go (even if it meant throwing up on a Tyvek suit). I willed myself to feel better—so much so that by the end of the evening, I was playing basketball (yes, there was a basketball hoop) with the other students, running and dancing up and down the second floor rafters Breakfast Club-style, and genuinely feeling good about what we’d accomplished.
As they say, it’s always worth showing up.