The Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St., recently leveraged the cinematic talents of Oak Park and River Forest High School students to announce that they’re back and open to the public. 

In February, a crew of three OPRF video production students, under the guidance of film teacher John Condne, shot and edited a three-minute video that the Conservatory uploaded to its website last month. 

Twin brothers Joey and Jake DiMaso, 16, teamed up with student Louise Calkins to make the video, titled, “Adventure at the Oak Park Conservatory.” The three budding filmmakers, all sophomores, created a short but immersive experience, particularly for viewers who have never been inside of the Conservatory. 

“I used to go the Conservatory as a child and going back there to shoot was very nostalgic,” said Jake. 

“Mr. Condne was able to bring a lot of really great equipment to the set,” said Joey, “and having the Conservatory as a venue was really great.” 

Patti Staley, the director of Horticulture/Conservatory Operations, said the video was made possible by a grant that the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory (FPP) received from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation Future Philanthropists Program.

“In meeting with our FPP team in the winter, the OPRF student leaders suggested we create a video to help promote tours to schools/students for when we can offer the program again,” Staley said. “They suggested we work with students to continue the mission of engaging youth.” 

Judy Klem, FPP’s executive director, said she hopes the film can also attract visitors from communities beyond Oak Park. 

“We are hoping to reach out to underserved communities and offer a grant to cover the cost of busing to bring students in for a tour of the conservatory,” she said. Those target communities include Austin, Maywood and Berwyn. 

During the pandemic, all school tours, along with a lot of other programming, were put on hold, Staley said. 

“The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory saw a need and desire to expand the opportunity for school tours to students outside of Oak Park, but the cost of renting a bus was prohibitive,” she added. “We wanted to overcome this barrier by offering a grant to cover the cost of the bus and invite students from surrounding communities to experience the Oak Park Conservatory and this enriching tour.”

Klem said FPP and Conservatory members are building the structure of the bus grant program and hope to launch it in the coming months. Anyone interested in contributing to the grant program can contact Klem at director@fopcon.org

Twins Joey and Jake DiMaso said the experience provided them with a platform to showcase their skills and to engage their growing passion for filmmaking. The brothers have a YouTube channel called DiMaso Studios, which includes some of their work and they also wanted to stress that they’re in the market for more. 

“If any local businesses or individual people need any videography work, they can contact our work email at dimasostudios@gmail.com,” Joey said.

For more information on the Conservatory, visit: pdop.org/parks-facilities/oak-park-conservatory or call 708-725-2400.

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