Sister city sibling revelry
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:42AM
They have their differences, but they also have a common bond—and the butterfly connection is turning the art communities of Oak Park and Highland Park into virtual sister cities.
“It just happened, unexpectedly, but now it seems this could turn into a relationship that lasts,” said What’s Blooming on Harrison Street chairperson Olya Dailey, about the public-sculpture exchange linking Oak Park artists to Highland Park, and vice-versa.
“Highland Park’s art district is different from Oak Park’s, though they both have their charm and they both have many things to offer.
“That’s why it’s extremely important and exciting for both sides that this is happening,” Dailey said.
Chicago artist Bernadette Joyce, director of this year’s Magic Garden artist-embellished outdoor-sculpture exhibit in Highland Park, has always been aware of the vital art community in Oak Park.
But “there’s somehow been a disconnection between our two communities,” Joyce said.
“That’s why this is a huge development. It’s a really big deal, not just for the art communities but for both cities.”
“Sometimes when you’re within your own community, it’s like you have blinders on,” said Joyce, who was the first to refer to this hands-across-the-suburbs art exchange as an informal sister-cities arrangement.
“This is a big, positive step for both communities. The more art, the better, for everyone,” she said.
Anyone familiar with both art districts knows that neither is likely to be mistaken for the other.
“Oak Park’s isn’t made up of a lot of fancy galleries,” said Dailey. “In fact, it’s almost hidden. Some of the galleries are really more working studios, with paint everywhere and half-finished canvases on the floor. It’s a community of working artists.”
“There are a lot of artists in Oak Park who make art their occupation,” agreed Gabrielle Rousso, executive director of the Art Center of Highland Park. “And Highland Park has a lot of art supporters.”
“Highland Park is known as a community that highly supports the arts. Oak Park is known as a community where many artists reside,” Rousso said.
“That’s what makes this such an interesting opportunity. If we plan and organize this exchange of talent and resources and it becomes known in Chicago that the Highland Park and Oak Park art communities are collaborating, that could be fabulous for everyone.”
For Oak Park’s Dailey, the situation looks almost like kismet.
“Looking back, it seems almost that it had to happen,” she said. “The ways that we are different don’t really matter because we have something more important in common and that is love of art.”