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Business Tue Oct 21 2008
Can chocolate and art create hope and generate inspiration? That was the unlikely question posed on the young artists who participated in the Create Chocolate, Create Hope contest. Held by ethel's Chocolate Lounge, the contest asked the participants 1) to create a graphic design to appear on the surface of ethel's limited edition chocolate collection and 2) to write an essay on the possibility of chocolate and art creating hope.
Last Thursday, four winners of the contest--Emily Poniatowski, Kate Riley, Miguel Delgado and Dennise Isidoro--were at ethel's location at 871 W. Armitage to present their designs to all gathered--family, friends, and the media (which is what I fall under). All four of the winners are aspiring artists--either in school or working on their own. As such, they were visibly excited to see their own designs neatly printed on little square pieces of chocolate, as an employee of ethel's marched around the room with a tray of chocolates with winning designs.
"This is the first time I see my design on a real product," said Miguel, a graphic art student at the Art Institute of Chicago. "I'm showing the world that I can do it. This is very cool."
The evening's event had two loosely related parts. One was the presentation of the contest winners, and the other was a ceremonial donation of $10,000 to a Chicago-based non-profit that provides extensive visual art programs to students without access to decent art education--for free. Marwen, the beneficiary of this donation, has a large facility in the River North area, where working artists teach courses, ranging from drawing to ceramics, photography and graphic design.
Marwen even offers college-prep courses and career planning seminars, making it more than just an after-school art program. Dennise, who is an alumna of Marwen, was something of a poster child of the night, having gained exposure to visual arts at Marwen at an early age, then moving on to a graphic art program at Loyola University, and now having her design placed on a commercial product.
Although I have to say that the theme of the contest did have the sound of an undisguised corporate PR, the contest and the donation did seem inspiring. Two contest winners I had a chance to talk to unanimously said that being given a theme to create a design around was an exciting challenge, and I imagine that it's a good practice run for those who are pursuing a career in graphic or product design. Marwen also seems to be a valuable local organization, with well-designed programs, to support (10% of the sale of the limited edition chocolate also goes to Marwen). I have serious doubts about chocolate in general creating any hope in the world, but this limited edition chocolate just might.
Create Chocolate, Create Hope collection is available at ethel's Chocolate Lounge locations throughout Chicago, while supplies last. It includes dark chocolate raspberry, white chocolate lemon, double milk chocolate truffle and double dark chocolate truffle, each stenciled with the designs by the local contest winners. As far as the chocolate goes, don't expect anything stunning; the ones I tried (I think white chocolate lemon and maybe one of the double chocolate truffles) were nowhere near the stuff from real chocolatier (like Bernard Callebaut up in Glenview). Don't get me wrong; they aren't bad, just not as good as they could be. If you are the type who feels good knowing that a part of your money is going to a local organization for art education, though, this box of chocolate is for you. Or if you know someone who would appreciate something along the line, this might be an option for the gifting season.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I and my husband partook of appetizers and drinks provided by ethel's during the ceremony, and were given gifts of chocolate and mugcups with ethel's logo on them as we headed out the door. If I was a newspaper reporter, I'd be in deep trouble...