Open studio welcomes expressions

Artbeat

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By Michelle Dybal

Contributing Reporter

Peering through the window, Expressions Graphics is a studio and gallery in the Oak Park Arts District. Anyone is welcome to come in and view ongoing art shows, such as the current "Her Voice" with works by female artists, or take classes in the print and paper arts. For more serious artist members, the space transforms into a working studio and a place to exchange ideas and interact with one another.

"You get a rich experience here, having the community of artists at different levels and ages," said studio member Marcia Palazzolo, of Oak Park, who taught color print photography for 34 years at Dominican University and Elmhurst College until she retired in 2014. "There are as many ways of doing printmaking as there are people. It's nurturing of new artists and supportive of older artists like myself."

Expressions Graphics was founded in 1981 by current board vice president Carol Friedle, 86, and two other women to offer a space to do printmaking and teach the art. The cooperative has had six Oak Park locations, with three printing presses in its current Harrison Street space for more than 10 years. It is designated as a nonprofit and run by volunteers.

Heading it up is Janet Schill, executive director and board president. Along with five summer interns ("They give me an hour; I give them an hour"), she teaches classes, tidies the studio and is an artist. She organizes Expressions Graphics community outreach, too, bringing printmaking to Accolade Adult Day Care Services, A Day in Our Village and Third Fridays in the Arts District. With Friedle's involvement limited due to health issues, Schill has taken on much more.

"I do this out of love," she said. "Carol's vision was to have a place to go and everyone's welcome. We've done a good job with that."

Classes for adults, children and teens range from papermaking and screen printing to jewelry and fish printing. Gyotaku is a technique "once used to record fishermen's daily catch but now is an art form," according to the Expressions Graphics website.

Anne Kelly, who is board secretary and advises on strategic direction, began taking classes 20 years ago with her daughter.

"This is an affordable and approachable place for kids and family events," Kelly said. "Non-members like the casual feel."

The studio also has guest printmakers. Finishing his residency is Jim Homes who taught collagraphy, a process where different textures are glued down to form a composition and prints are created from that inked composition. Holmes created small hearts of differing textures, a large-scale multicolored landscape, and monochromatic Chicago skylines.

Palazzolo, a member on and off since 1990, feels she is still learning at the studio.

"Expressions offers new techniques, like the solar plates we are working on with no acid required; we just use water," she said. "And we learned monoprints with interesting textures [with the guest artist]."

They have approximately 30 members, but being a nonprofit has its challenges. Schill said their landlord has been understanding with rent during difficult years and Community Bank of Oak Park-River Forest has stepped in to help, such as providing $500 in funds for supplies for the summer interns.

The gallery portion of Expressions Graphics, which consists of the walls surrounding the working studio space, is currently exhibiting "Her Voice," an all-female art show. While many of the works are prints, member's friends also exhibited, so there are collages, paintings and drawings too.

Kelly won first place in the juried show for her pair of caustic rust prints. Harrison Street neighbor artist Tia Etu won second place and has two non-print pieces in the show. Both Schilll and Palazzolo have works in this second annual show, which runs through July 28.

"It's an opportunity for women to have a forum," Schill said. "Even today, we are still not shown equally and since so many of our members are women, it seemed appropriate."

Expressions Graphics gallery hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7 to 8:30 p.m., Fridays, noon to 3 p.m., Saturdays 1 to 4 p.m., 29 Harrison St., Oak Park. $25, Supporting Membership; $65, Studio Membership. More/Classes: 708-447-9262, expressionsgraphics.org.

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