The Oak Park Visitors Center at 1010 Lake Street is excited to welcome a new line of locally made gifts, artwork, and other functional objects to its inventory as part of a new program called "Urban Local Made."
The program was launched by Visit Oak Park in fall 2017 following an open call for local artist submissions. Eleven Chicagoland artists were selected for the program, and their handmade creations ranging from colorful pottery to wearable metalwork are now for sale in the Downtown Oak Park retail space.
"The artistic community around Oak Park has historically been vibrant. We decided it was an excellent opportunity to encourage residents and visitors to seek out local businesses that support our area's makers," said Sara Barnett, President/CEO of Visit Oak Park.
The program's goal is to promote independent artists and businesses that contribute to the character of a community, while also catering to the distinct interests of visitors. By putting the spotlight on people and products that make our communities unique, visitors can bring home one-of-a-kind products that authentically reflect the region's entrepreneurial and artistic spirit.
One example of this artistic spirit is Jen McNulty, an Oak Park-based artist with experience in a range of creative mediums including photography and tiled mosaics. Her current artistic path focuses on 3D photo mosaics, using hundreds of small images that come together to tell a larger story. Two of these pieces, detailing the colorful lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway (two of Oak Park's most renowned residents), are what landed her in the "Urban Local Made" program.
"The notion of visually telling a story using small images relating to a specific person or subject piqued my interest," McNulty says about her work, "Ultimately, the practice emerged from my experience with the creative processes in both photography and illustration combined with my interest in history and pop culture, all leading to the 3D Photo Mosaics. Having complex, elusive figures like Wright and Hemingway at the center of these pieces was fitting. The small images speak to the many influences that affected them, both personally and professionally, rather than the individuals themselves."
Another innovative maker whose work is available in the "Urban Local Made" collection is Rafael Nieves, a Berwyn resident and graphic designer. While he sites Wright as an artistic inspiration, Nieves looks beyond Oak Park by featuring landmarks from neighboring communities including Berwyn, Riverside, River Forest, and Brookfield in his illustrations.
"My work has always been inspired by my admiration of art deco and vintage advertising," Nieves said. "Since I was born and raised in Chicago proper, sharing my love for these communities through these designs is a dream come true."
To learn more about local makers and their handcrafted works, go to the Oak Park Visitors Center or www.visitoakpark.com/urban-local-made. All purchases from the Visitors Center and its "Urban Local Made" collection are eligible toward a rebate certificate through Downtown Oak Park's Shopper's Rewards Program. Learn more at www.downtownoakpark.net/signature-event/shoppers-reward/.
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