KC Magazine sat down with Taylor Egan, who started in June as the executive director of Water Street Studios in Batavia. This interview was edited lightly for length. It ran in the August issue of Kane County Magazine. To read the whole August issue, click here.
KC Magazine: Tell us a little about yourself — kids, hobbies, what should we know?
Taylor Egan: I have two kids: one son who is now 11, and one daughter who is now 14. We’ve been in the Fox Valley area for 15 years. As far as hobbies go, we do a lot of bike riding. We have a fire pit at home, and that tends to be what we do: sit around the fire pit and have some good family time. That’s probably our happy place. In terms of travel, we do love a long road trip. We went to Silver Gate, Montana, a mile outside of Yellowstone, a population of 75 — it was the most quintessential mountain town!
KC: What are your earliest memories of being interested in art?
TE: I stumbled upon an art history class (at DePaul University). And it was the art history professor who just spoke with such passion about the subject that it made me fall in love with it. The fact that art is so tied to history, to culture, to politics — it really encapsulates everything that’s going on in that particular time. It’s very much a snapshot of the world around it, and so I loved that aspect of art history.
KC: What do you love about Water Street Studios?
TE: I love the community aspect of this, the fact that you have artists in the studios creating, and then you have the product in the front that is available for everyone to experience. It’s a very unique, creative environment. I think that’s what Water Street offers people in the community is this time to take a breath and hit the reset the button and get in touch with their creative side.
KC: When we talked last, you talked about some upcoming events. Can you tell me more about those?
TE: We are still hoping at some point to do an outdoor art market with live music, artist demos, art sales. We are trying to see if that’s going to be possible, but the way we had envisioned it was over a three-day period in the fall, but we’ll see how that pans out. Our anniversary show is actually centered around art that’s been created during COVID. It’s called “CREATE-IN-PLACE,” so it’s artists who have created during the shelter-in-place and how it’s shaped their work and how maybe it differs from what they’ve created before. (Editor's note: Click here to learn more about this anniversary show.)
KC: Tell me more about Activate the Alley.
TE: I would like to see this become the art district of Batavia. Activate the Alley was the first step of trying to create a space of public art to increase that foot traffic. It paired nonprofits with artists, and what’s really been cool to see is these nonprofits have been matched with artists who have a really personal connection to their mission. And I think you can definitely tell that connection in the murals.
KC: Why do you think it’s important for people to support or engage with art during this time?
TE: Art, at its core, speaks to what’s going on around us. It allows for artists to be expressive, and it allows those who maybe are not artists themselves to experience it. We have a lot going on in our world, and I think art right now is an outlet for so many to say so many important things that need to be said, whether it’s about COVID, about politics, about religion — it can all be said through art.
Even for those who may not create art, it introduces the opportunity to have important discussions. So when you’re in the moment in the gallery, it’s going to introduce the possibility of conversation that you would not maybe have if you hadn’t experienced that moment. I think we learn a lot from those moments.
I think art also can sometimes be challenging. You may walk in and see a piece that maybe your own worldview doesn’t quite align with what that piece is saying. And it might make you uncomfortable, because art has this way of initiating an emotional response. That discomfort is so important because from that discomfort comes really important conversation between people who have different worldviews. I think that’s really the key right now, that people with different worldviews have conversations together. We’re a very divided society, and I think art is one common denominator — not that we all experience it the same way, but it’s available for all of us to experience.
KC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
TE: These organizations are so important, so I would really encourage people to reach out to organizations like ours and really support them at this time. When we do come out of this, we need to make sure that these places are still around because they serve an important purpose.