I dabbled in many forms of art as a kid, taking classes in ceramics and origami, trying my hand at both drawing and painting. With the exception of swimming and gymnastics, I was not athletically inclined. And I was the funky girl who wore big earrings and berets, or oversized sweaters and striped tights in loud colors despite the mockery of most of her peers. Obviously artist material, right?


At each art I tried, I was mediocre at best. But I had fun trying. Unlike when I failed at a sport in gym class, I didn’t feel humiliated by my lack of artistic talent.

I don’t have an eye for art the way I have an ear for music or well-written prose, but I know when I think something looks cool and I found plenty of that at last weekend’s Arts Fest.

This was the first year I was able to go. I’d been told by one of my customers at the Beacon, “It doesn’t get a huge draw because there’s no beer tent.” As much as I love Forest Park for its bars, I truly hoped he’d be wrong. Why should Harrison Street in Oak Park get all the art and culture?

Having fun at a festival is all about choosing the right companion, so I brought my friend’s 12-year-old daughter, Tessa, along with me on Saturday. I’d taken her to Rib Fest, which, yes, was much more crowded than Arts Fest (more to do with the weather and the food, not the beer tent, in my opinion), but the two of us definitely had a better time at Arts Fest. We carefully explored all the booths, oohing and ahhing and bemoaning our empty pocketbooks. Tessa’s favorite booth was Art Gecko, a Harrison Street gallery specializing in crafts from reworked vintage materials, the kind of stuff I’ve loved since I was her age. But my two favorite booths featured art by Forest Parkers.

Potter Mary Dye was selling Rosie Bowls, ceramic dishes designed to arrange flowers in a unique fashion. Fortunately for me she’s having an open studio event the weekend of Oct. 23 at Stillpoint Pottery in Forest Park. Hopefully by then I will have financially recovered from my wedding and can purchase a piece.

Forest Parker Leslie Trebotich, co-owner of 3 Amis Designs had an incredible form of paper art on display that I can only describe as two-dimensional origami. I’m already thinking of getting one as a Christmas gift for someone.

Tessa and I also got to see glassblowers in action, but the highlight of the afternoon was the Plush Workshop with Luisa Castellanos, teenage creator of Pock-it Palz. Already in Halloween spirit, Tessa and I made monsters.

I wanted to contribute to Arts Fest in my own way, so I set up a Sunday reading with fellow Forest Park author Billy Lombardo and Oak Park author Don Evans at The Old School Records. The folks from Centuries and Sleuths came over to sell books and they also introduced us to Tim Broderick, a local graphic novelist who did artwork outside of the store. The turnout at our event might have been limited by the Bears game, but it was a blast to work with and read to the people in my community. Paying homage to my artsy childhood years, I even wore striped tights.

Even without a beer tent, the Arts Fest has lots to offer Forest Parkers of all ages, so I hope to see you out there next year, making the crowd even bigger.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.