John McDevitt, mixed-media artist


John McDevitt | ART/BTS

Sullivan-based mixed-media artist John McDevitt shares his passion for woodworking, reclaimed materials, and collaboration.

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Photos courtesy of:

Kevin Sesko, KLS Photography, Sullivan, Illinois (Website, Facebook)

My father was a craftsman, he was a shoemaker an upholsterer. The one thing he taught me was simply to be fearless. Don’t be afraid to do something. You lose that along the way, life gets in the way and you might have a parent saying you’re not going to make any money as an artist, this is not the path. That was cloudy, it wasn’t a continuous path for me. In 2008, I was actually working as a finish contractor and I saw so much waste being who I am that bothered me. Then I opened up Yellow Dog Studio in an old shoe factory in Sullivan and then I was able to reintroduce art into my life and into my work and not just build traditional furniture but think as an artist would think, put projects together as an artist would do. One of the influences in that process was an artist friend of mine. He took a section of the studio and painted and in conversation one day we said, let’s just do a show, together, it will be fun. We had hundreds of people show up for an exhibit and we knew right away that that had to happen again. Organically we grew. We reached a point in just two short years where we had over a dozen artists sharing ideas, sharing space and that was when we formed the collective. Turn the clock, we moved to Tuscola to the Vault building, we did have to change the way we did things, it was a different feel altogether. The branding didn’t fit so the simplest branding idea, the simplest name was gonna be The Vault. One of the reasons why I fell in love with this building is because it had this large workshop space in it. My studio is a somewhat of a reflection of who I am and you can see cow’s head on the wall, you’ll see old signage on the wall, you’ll see mannequin parts laying around. It’s very interesting and eclectic shop and that’s sort of the way my mind works, the ideas keep coming up and I keep writing and sketching and drawing and I can’t wait to get those out and get back into the studio. Maybe the biggest influence on my work now is the fact that we’re in a location sharing a collective with almost 80 artists. I love the collaboration, how can we create something really interesting together. We are influenced by everyone, we are bits and pieces of everyone. I’m John McDevitt, owner, co-founder of The Vault Arts Collective in Tuscola, and artist at Yellow Dog Studio.