Harrison Street became known as the Oak Park Arts District in no small part due to artist Janice Elkins’ decision to open Gallery Pink there almost three decades ago. The neighborhood has since turned into a bustling enclave with several art shops and studios, but Gallery Pink remained an anchor of the arts district.
But now its time is coming to an end. Gallery Pink will be closing its doors permanently this month to allow Elkins to pursue a new adventure. The 84-year-old painter and gallerist is moving into a senior retirement community, where she will continue to pursue her art.
“I didn’t do it to be a legacy,” Elkins said of opening Gallery Pink. “I did what I wanted to do.”
To Elkins, Gallery Pink was more than a place to exhibit and sell her work; it was a place of inspiration as her studio, but also as a space to showcase the work of other artists. Filling her walls with art made by different creative hands is Elkins’ proudest remembrance of the gallery.
“They were all wonderful,” Elkins said. “That has been very stimulating for me.”
She developed a particularly close bond with one of the gallery’s featured artists, Gina Lee Robbins, sculptor and ceramics artist. Elkins discovered her just over a decade ago when the two women were featured in an Oak Park Art League exhibition. Lee Robbins, who currently lives in Forest Park, has been showing her work in Gallery Pink ever since.
“While I have loved discovering and exhibiting many talented artists from Oak Park and the city over the last 27 years, my peak experience has been the last 12 years working and exhibiting with Gina Lee Robbins,” said Elkins.
“Not only has our individual work deeply resonated with each other’s vision, we have developed a wonderful, collaborative, supportive and loving friendship.”
Robbins is equally fond of Elkins, whom she called a “creative force.” The two had the opportunity to showcase their work at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art this past year in a joint exhibition called, “Not Afraid,” referring to their desire to break boundaries.
“This was the pinnacle for me,” Elkins said.
Both have bittersweet feelings about leaving the western suburbs. Robbins is heading to Indianapolis for her husband’s work, while Elkins is moving into a one-bedroom apartment in Admiral at the Lake, a senior retirement community in Chicago. Her living room will serve as her new studio.
“Anytime you’re thrown into a brand-new situation, something new and unexpected comes out of it, so both of us are looking forward to that,” said Robbins. “At the same time, it’s devastating to have to say goodbye to this community, for us both.”
Gallery Pink fans still have the opportunity to wish Elkins and Robbins farewell and pick up some special pieces of art. Elkins is selling the gallery’s paintings and sculptures at final mark down prices from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 18 and 19. The store’s fixtures will also be available for cash purchase on Sept. 23 and 24, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Elkins’ drafting and utility tables are among the fixtures up for sale — an opportunity for anyone looking to make art themselves. The key to making great art, according to Eklins, is to enjoy the process without measuring your work against others.
“Don’t start judging yourself,” she said. “It doesn’t make any difference how good someone is as long as they love it.”
The work of Elkins and Robbins can be viewed on their respective Instagram accounts: