Rows of canvas, layers of charcoal drawings, a velvet chaise lounge, and a Fender Jaguar guitar brim the intimate studio where Julie Jilek creates.
Since signing the lease last July, Julie Jilek‘s cradling studio space at the Edison Center in Appleton’s river flats has helped her transition from something that felt like a side hustle into something much more tangible.
“I haven’t had an art space outside of my living space since college,” says the Appleton native. “It made me think differently about what I do for a living – having a separation between work and home. I have felt every area of my life excel because of it.”
With something resembling a renaissance happening in Appleton over the past few years through the linking of local artists and creatives, the support and enthusiasm from the community has been boundless. It may be attributed to Cory Chisel and his pioneering of Mile of Music, Julie notes, allowing herself to get emotional thinking about the different degrees of talent coming out of the woodwork.
I’ve lived in larger cities, but something always draws me back here. There’s a magnet. It can be hard to make a living in a small town when you work in this field, but something has fundamentally changed here. It makes me feel embraced.
Something alluring happens when two art forms merge, like when David Aragon came to photograph Julie in her element for this feature – an exciting exchange, considering she usually works in quiet solitude.
I am not used to bringing people into my creative personal space, it feels vulnerable. It sounds cliche to say inspiring, but it really was. It was a gift for me to work with another artist in my studio.
As a painter, I’m very introverted. It’s a solitary thing, but being in this building has forced me to be more social.
No one tells you that you have be in charge of everything as an artist – marketing, the website, creating… and just breathing too. But I love it.
I can’t stand in front of a painting for too long. I have to walk away and come back with fresh eyes.
I’ve let go and been more whimsical with what I’m making. The last couple years have been a big transition. There are opportunities here.
I’ve been spending 12-14 hours a day in my studio, which may be a little crazy. And I’m probably neglecting other parts of my life, but I am so excited to be creating here.
Growing up in Appleton, I wanted to get out but something kept bringing me back. There are so many creative people in this town doing amazing things and it makes me feel really proud to live here. I get emotional just talking about it.
Check out Julie’s work on her website: juliejilek.com
Text: Hannah Fenn
Photos: David Aragon