Oak Park artist Sabina Ott had a vision: artists exhibiting site-specific works in front yards and on porches. That was in 2011.

“Artworks were accessible 24 hours a day,” according to the Terrain website. “Visitors, neighbors, teachers, school children and their parents were exposed to challenging contemporary art, offering the experience of discovery and surprise to the community. [It] expanded the audience of an artwork and the function of the front yard.”

By 2013, the Terrain Biennial was created and grew over the years to include exhibitions across the globe. Ott died in 2018, and the legacy she left continues as a nonprofit.

With approximately 250 projects this year, nearly 50 installations are occupying residents’ lawns, porches and windows in Oak Park. Artists partner with homeowners who host the creatives on their properties. There are also Terrain installations at the Oak Park Art League, Gallery Pink and Compound Yellow, all established community art entities.

Some artists are notables like Alberto Aquilar, who has exhibited at both the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. His Terrain works can be found at Compound Yellow, as well as Havana, Cuba, and the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Oak Park artists are also participating and exhibiting in their own milieu, such as Elizabeth Burke-Dain, whose “Carnivals and Cotton Candy and You” is best viewed at night; and Bryan Northup, whose “Reflections on Rubble” nods to his typically environmental-themed works created with waste.

Retired Oak Park and River Forest High School art teacher Pennie Ebsen’s untitled ceramic works on an Oak Park lawn recall her influence on so may youth in the wheel-throwing room. Oak Park sculptor Margot McMahon’s “Hawk and Dove” at a Forest Park home “contrasts two species of birds that symbolize war and peace.”

To find locations, including others nearby, as well as in Berwyn, Cicero and LaGrange, go to terrainexhibitions.org/tb2019-mini-site. The exhibition ends Nov. 17.


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