Masks that reveal while covering up


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By Michelle Dybal

Arts Editor

The small gallery and print studio sits quietly, for now, at 29 Harrison St., in the Oak Park Arts District. With Expressions Graphics classes canceled and group studio print work on hold, not only have the print cooperative's creative activities been impacted, the nonprofit's bottom line has too.

"We have been struggling with ideas to reopen our small studio/gallery," said Janet Schill, executive director of Expressions Graphics, "so I started thinking: People walk by all the time and look in the window. Why don't we make our window more of a gallery?"

The idea to feature artful masks was born. Multiples for Masks will be exhibited in the window gallery for anyone to view safely outside through August. Each mask submission brings in a $10 donation for the gallery. And, said Schill, commenting on the unexpected generosity of the artists, "some of the masks are being sold and the money given to our studio."

After the exhibition, the masks that are wearable will be distributed to homeless people in Chicago. 

More than two dozen masks have come in and more are on their way, Schill said. 

"They are mainly from our members who also reached out and brought in masks from friends and relatives," she said. "One came from Florida and one is coming from Texas."

Expressions Graphics continues to look for ways to earn income as the pandemic goes on.

"We have been struggling," Schill said. "Our studio functions on income from our membership program, our studio use fees and class fees. All of that is stalled at the moment."

To bring in some funds, there is a gallery show of screen prints by board member Jess Christy with proceeds of the works — collected on a pay-what-you-want donation basis — going to Expressions Graphics to pay the bills.

Expressions Graphics has also received relief funding from the Oak Park Area Arts Council through the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation's Rapid Response and Recovery Fund, the Illinois Arts Council, and ResCorp.

The next exhibit is "Her Voice," which features female printmakers and guest artists. "The event brings women from different art backgrounds together to interact in a shared studio space," according to the website. The show is scheduled to run Aug. 26 through Oct. 17.

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