The influx of art galleries to Forest Park’s downtown began a little more than three years ago when David Manola brought Boulevard Fine Art to Madison St. from Oak Park.

Since then, Manola has bought the building which houses his gallery and Camille. He has also remained the primary sponsor of the Fall Arts Fest since its inception and sits on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and Development.

Then a month ago, American Artworks Gallery moved into a vacant store a few blocks east of Boulevard Fine Art, and this month, two more art merchants have set up shop on Forest Park’s main street – at least temporarily.

At the Gallery will open its doors at 7507 Madison St. on Nov. 11 and Out of the Box Artist’s Boutique will have its grand opening the day after Thanksgiving. Both will be in business for just one month.

Out of the Box Artist’s Boutique is owned by Jamie McClellen, Denise Handwerker, Stacy Rauba and Yutaka Fujita. These four art loving entrepreneurs took over the business from local artists whose gallery was on Harrison St. in Oak Park and who came up with the concept as a way of showcasing and selling their work.

McClellen said that Art Sundry, who owns the building at 7423 Madison St. where the Boutique will be located until Christmas Eve, felt that the month long lease was a win/win opportunity. Although he would rather have a permanent tenant, it does fill an empty store for a month and hopefully will bring more traffic to the street.

“We anticipate lots of first-time visitors to Forest Park … as a result of the substantial fan base of our 35 artists,” McClellen said. “By directing our customers to all of the galleries, shops and restaurants in town, we want to do our part to help everyone benefit.”

Out of the Box will be selling items created exclusively by local Chicago artists – everything from paintings to pottery to soaps to Japanese kimonos. Prices will range from $6 for a candle to $250 for a piece of pottery to $600 for a large painting.

Joyce Smoler, the owner of At the Gallery, said that Forest Park really chose her. She had built up a loyal client base at her former location in the Scoville Square Building in Oak Park but had to close “due to the challenging economic times.” Then, when a one month show held last year in her old location went well, she decided to do it again this year. Because her previous gallery location had by that time been rented, “this beautiful store front in an exciting business environment” became the place to do business.

Smoler streamlined her inventory, featuring two lines of jewelry made by a pair of American artists whose work is made in Bali: Tabra and Zealandia’s Designs by Jenny Byrne. She will also offer raw silk purses, handcrafted sweaters and jackets, hand made Christmas ornaments and stuffed animals. Items will be priced between $5 and $500.

Smoler’s store isn’t the only business in town that sells hand crafted jewelry. Accents by Fred and Team Blonde were joined by Briolette a few years ago. Two Fish Art Glass specializes in stained glass lamps and windows, both as a retail business and as a place for students to learn.

And, if you broaden the definition of what constitutes creative art, Flavour Cooking School and Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore certainly provide access to culinary and literary artists, as does House Red when the owners stage intimate chamber concerts in their store.

If you think original art is a luxury you can’t afford in these tough economic times, Lisa Dodge from American Artworks Gallery said a purchase could increase in value over time.

“Original art is actually a good investment,” she said. “People with good eyes can create collections that preserve wealth and appreciate in value over time. Real estate and precious metals are no longer the rock-solid investments they used to be. Why not invest in art as an alternative?”

For more information on Forest Park’s pre-Holiday art district call Boulevard Fine Art at 708-771-6600, American Artworks Gallery at 708-557-1761, Out of the Box Artist’s Boutique at 773-533-1787 and At the Gallery at 708-446-7102.