After more than 80 hours designing and building, most of it done on her Saturdays, Grace Evans said she’s finally learned to seize opportunities by the horn. In this case, the buckthorn.

“I never considered myself an art student,” said Evans, a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, as she looked on at “Rose,” a curving new sculpture at the Cook County Forest Preserve headquarters. 

“Anytime the classroom can go outside in the community strengthens learning, makes it applicable, builds collaboration,” said Tracy Van Duinen, visual arts teacher at OPRF and Evans’ teacher.

Van Duinen said Evans is being modest. “She’s taken probably as many art classes as she could at the school; the arts will always be a part of what she does,” he said.

Evans and the 14 other OPRF students received design support from Chicago-based Transit Studio artists, the Chicago Public Art Group, and a $50,000 grant from the Forest Preserve Foundation and CSX railroad. The first of three installations, “Rose” was unveiled at 536 N. Harlem Ave. in River Forest on Nov. 3. Students used materials from the area — buckthorn, cordwood and a fallen oak tree — that help cancel the noise from busy Harlem Avenue. Climbing on Rose is encouraged, said Arnold Randall, general superintendent for the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

“For us, it’s getting people to think about the wood, the pieces they find, and nature play. I hope it draws more people in to get more information and check out the forest preserve,” Randall said.

Nona Tepper

This story has been changed to correct the name of the organization that gave the grant and the amount of the grant. 

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