The large moths flutter above snow-covered roof tops in the evening, or perhaps the rooftops peek up into the clouds. The interpretation is up to viewers, who can conjure their own tales as they drink in the scene now occupying an otherwise empty storefront on Lake Street near Humphrey in Oak Park. The Moon Bright, Starry Night installation has come together for all to enjoy as they walk past from through April 10.
What looks like a scene from a dream is the community art installation envisioned by Jocelyne Adkins and her art team at By Discovery to bring people together to create art while apart. The moths, designed from kits assembled by the By Discovery team, were painted and pasted by individuals, families, third graders in Oak Park Girl Scout Troop 47187, and Oak Park and River Forest High School TEAM/CITES (Transitional with Access to the Mainstream/Community-Integrated Transition Education) students.
By Discovery needed a project, Adkins said. The group provided in-person support during remote learning at Beye and Lincoln Elementary Schools in the fall of 2020, only to pause to take a cautious approach toward COVID due to community spread. They were not able to operate at the schools when classes resumed in January, but they have been holding small e-learning pods at Magical Minds Studio in Oak Park. By Discovery’s roots are in an after-school art program offered at Beye through the PTO since 2011. Its original name was Beye Discovery.
With the community art project, By Discovery wanted to “boost the emotional health of our community and to spark joy during the pandemic.”
Adkins turned to her artist partners and teachers to collaborate. Pamela Penney, a fiber artist, brought an eco-conscious spin to the project, repurposing cards to make punched “glitter” and confetti, and re-spinning yarn scraps. Penney also created the first moth on which the other two moth kits were based. Kim Becker, a photographer, designed the lighting for the scene. She also created the rooftops with shingles and windows all fashioned from cardboard. Stacey Grieff also contributed to lighting and moth design.
Adkins collected sticks while walking her dog and her teenager painted them. She also created paint dots to include in the kits – hand mixed temperas with a pearlescent finish. The paint, left to dry, could be used by the creators by activating the dots with a wet brush. She made enough for 75 kits.
Adkins took this painstaking measure of creating paint dots so the colors would coordinate with the cool, ethereal, moonlit feel of the assembled scene.
The kits were designed for all ages. Groups and individuals could work on their own or get a live Zoom lesson with a member of the By Discovery team, who are all Oak Parkers.
While there are three kits for creators to choose from, each moth that is created is unique because a choice can be made in how the materials are used. Moon Bright, Starry Night is meant to be interactive; each kit includes a journal so participants can visit the installation and use the scene for “imaginative storytelling.” Kits are delivered, moths are picked up upon completion and they will each be returned to their creators at the end of the installment.
The space for the installment was secured at 40 W. Lake St. from Theresa Jurgus, a commercial real estate broker for Baird and Warner. Jurgus’ client, Oak Park Apartments, donated the empty storefront space for the month.
Adkins is already thinking about a new display for spring after this one comes down and hopes to work with Jurgus on a space.
“What I love is families were doing this together,” Adkins said. She’s heard that it has been a special time to spend between a mom and daughter, a way to connect. Another family stopped by after reading about it in MomMail and then decided to purchase their own kits. And, as Adkins adds new moths to the space, she gets reactions too. “When I’m in there, there are people walking by, and they’ll give me thumbs up, and I love that!” she said with a laugh.