Lisa Dodge, proprietor of American Artworks Gallery, takes shopping local to another level. Her gallery features the creations of seven Forest Park artists, working in various media: textiles, jewelry and ceramics, for starters.

As for paintings, Forest Park artist Tim Curren produced them for decades before summoning the courage to display his work. It took a year for Tim to overcome his fear and walk into Lisa’s gallery to pitch the idea. She was enthusiastic and there are now nine Curren originals gracing her walls.

Curren spent decades learning traditional painting techniques but found it very tedious. He finally disregarded the hundreds of “rules” he had been taught and developed his own unique method of applying paint to the canvas by squeezing it from plastic containers. His abstract paintings capture his vision of the world of subatomic particles. He knows his canvasses are “pretty out-there” but believes they would be “stimulative” in an office setting.

Bob Snyder is a potter whose creations are anything but abstract. A retired art and special ed teacher, Bob has been making plates, bowls and mugs for over 50 years. He has a studio in his Forest Park home but studies advanced ceramics at Triton to take advantage of their well-equipped facility, complete with kiln.

All of Bob’s high-fired stoneware is functional, food safe and oven ready. He decorates them with his personal color palette and personalized handles. He didn’t know he could market them in Forest Park until he wandered into Lisa’s gallery during the Holiday Walk. Now he has several items on display. His casserole dish just sold.

Lisa is thrilled with the creativity flourishing in our community. In fact, it took a creative deal to bring her to town. A Forest Park realtor hooked her up with a building owner, who agreed to give her a three-month trial lease on the shop at 7314 Madison. She opened on Oct. 30, 2010, with the works of 23 local artists. She now has 59, all from the Chicago area.

This local flavor is reflected by some of her merchandise. There are canvasses, for example, containing images of iconic landmarks, like U.S. Cellular Field and Unity Temple. Lisa loves her location and the opportunity it offers homegrown artists.

She’s also an enthusiastic promoter of the village’s new BEST Program. She sees it as a way to forge ties between Forest Parkers and their neighborhood businesses. The card offers discounts to encourage residents to eat, shop and buy in Forest Park.

I couldn’t wait to register. It was simple and I was impressed by how many Forest Park businesses were already on board. BEST also offers local merchants chances to launch cross-promotions. If I had bought Bob’s casserole dish, for instance, Flavour Cooking School could offer a price cut on teaching me how to use it.