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By Anna Lothson
The collaborative spirit of the Oak Park Arts District isn't restricted to its nine-block radius.
With the leadership of Jenny Tiner, owner of Bright Olive Art Lab, a Texas family suffering from the recent death of its 4-year-old son is gaining support from across the country.
Xander Vento, in a courageous and selfless act, lost his life saving another. Last month while swimming at a community pool, Xander saw a 3-year-old friend struggling. He went to her aid and managed to hold her above water, but ingested a large amount himself. After four days, his family took him off life support.
Xander's mother is an old friend of Tiner, and when news of the accident spread, she joined in.
Tiner said the young boy loved art and especially the color green. This provided the inspiration for the newly transformed gallery at 27 Harrison St., which for the next month will be known as Xander Gallery.
The Oak Park artist shared his story with others in the district and artists she knew from across the country. She explained her goal of transforming her gallery for a fundraiser, and it didn't take long before art arrived from across the Arts District and the rest of the country.
"I could not believe it spread so far," Tiner said. More than 200 pieces from 15 artists have become part of the collection to help the cause.
Many of the pieces have a green color scheme, in honor of Xander. Some of the artists donated the pieces without asking for anything in return. The proceeds will go to the Vento family to help offset the high medical costs.
"It's focused on family and loving family," Tiner said. "That's what it's all about."
Speaking about the heroic actions of Xander isn't easy for Tiner, but reminding people to help others is a message she wants to spread. The benefit will also have literature about organ donation since Xander's organs are going to help save more lives.
The celebration of Xander's life and artists coming together will take place this weekend, Sept. 21-22, during Art on Harrison. The gallery will host an artist's reception and be filled with green balloons that people can write messages on to release into the air.
"He made just a huge impact to remember what we all can be," Tiner said. "He didn't hesitate to save a life, so we shouldn't hesitate to save a family."