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Meet Evan La Ruffa of IPaintMyMind in Logan Square

Today we’d like to introduce you to Evan La Ruffa.

Evan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It’s definitely a passion project story. I started IPaintMyMind as an art and music blog in 2009, where I would feature creative things I was finding and enjoying. Soon thereafter, myself and a few friends began hosting art shows, live music, and film screenings in spaces around the city, then opened a gallery space in 2013.

Just prior to that we had received roughly 20 pieces of art from various artists as Thanks You’s for having featured them on the website. Then I saw the film ‘Herb & Dorothy’, which is about a couple that lived in Manhattan and spent one of their salaries on art and the other one on living expenses. Once they were older, their collection began to tour the world to be shared with people everywhere.

It was a bit of a lightbulb moment, and we started thinking about the incredible impact and constantly growing, rotating art collection could have, especially if it was displayed in a unique way, broke down barriers to stodgy art, and created more opportunities for Chicagoans from every neighborhood to be inspired by art.

That birthed the Shared Walls Program, which leases art to businesses then uses that revenue to provide FREE art exhibitions, curriculum, and programs to public schools, libraries, parks and youth centers.

The model for IPaintMyMind’s Shared Walls Program works as follows: IPMM purchases bundles of art from local artists, constantly growing a beautiful collection. They, then lease art to private businesses to enhance their space at a fee and use that revenue to help fund the FREE art exhibitions in community spaces citywide. This way the artists earn real dollars on the front end, while IPMM accumulates an asset that not only increases in value but also perpetuates the program and the mission.

Shared Walls rotating is a core expression of our mission to make art accessible to all communities and has made 2017 our most productive year, so far. We installed 25+ exhibitions and over 400 pieces of art in community spaces all over the city, including 9 exhibitions installed over 4 days in late August.

Since 2013, we’ve worked with partners like Adidas & DocuSign, and have been able to bring our programs to neighborhoods in every corner of our city. We’re working hard to expand the program, work with new partners, and really tell this incredible story about how we’ve built a nonprofit arts organization with a sustainable model.

We love being able to work with artists, community leaders and businesses in a way, that is impactful and valuable for everyone.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’d be lying if I said it was! One thing I’m proud of, is our ability to launch, get feedback, test, optimize and do our work more and more efficiently all the time. You don’t know what you don’t know but as long as we’re pushing ourselves to serve our communities and clients to the best of our ability, we’ll feel good about the work.

Whether it’s learning how to automate emails, improving SEO, developing copywriting chops, or figuring out the best way to navigate to 3 schools to install 60+ pieces of art in one day, it’s all about working smarter.

There are definitely days where you wonder if you can do it and other days where you feel unstoppable but that’s life. At IPaintMyMind, we try to roll with things and stay positive.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with IPaintMyMind – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Our Shared Walls Program is one-of-a-kind. It’s the only loaned art program for businesses that is offered by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as a means of funding social programs. There are various places you can lease art from, but IPaintMyMind is the only organization that turns that revenue from businesses into art programs for underserved communities.

At IPaintMyMind, we take pride in supporting artists, communities, and businesses in their efforts to make art a viable avenue for engagement & collaboration. We specialize in affordable & emerging visual art, with a focus on illustration, collage, mixed media, & photography screen prints & giclees.

Because art programs in public schools are being slashed, cultural experiences are cloistered in high rent areas, expensive art prices people out of participation, and artists are always asked for FREE art in return for “exposure”.

By providing artwork and programs to vital public spaces that are being divested of resources, we aim to support diverse communities by paying working artists, curating creative experiences, and encouraging the budding artists of tomorrow.

Our Shared Walls rotating art program offers an experience that broadens horizons through a mutually beneficial model. The fact that IPMM isn’t reliant on grants, but rather income from services we provide, has ensured our success. Without that, the organization wouldn’t exist.

We’re just lucky to have great partners and supporters, and love being a way to connect people from all walks of life with art that makes their everyday brighter.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Best: The way we hustle. Chicago isn’t afraid to work, and I’m proud of that.

Least: I could say something about the winters, but I tend to head south at some point. The thing that I like least about Chicago is it’s history of systematically keeping us separate. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities you’ll find. Sociologists even coined a term “hyper segregation” to describe what has gone on here. We have a fairly nasty history to reconcile and plenty of current needs to work on. I just hope we come togethe… we have more power than we think.


  • Art rental packages for businesses starting at $750 per month

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Steve Ewert

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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