Author Neil Gaiman is quoted as saying that “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” If he’s correct then Forest Park shone bright on Saturday during Garage Galleries, an annual showcase of local talent presented in garages around town. This year marked the sixth year of this creative event, known as “GarArt” for the first three and “Garage Galleries” for the next three years. Saturday was the biggest event yet, with 19 garages and 53 artists presenting their work, which included paintings, photography, jewelry and other creations.
But although the art itself was exceptional both in terms of variety and talent, it wasn’t merely a presentation of artwork. It was a chance for Forest Parkers and visitors to come together and socialize. To make new friends and catch up with old ones. To see the beauty, not just of the amazing creativity of local artists, but of the sense of friendship and community that is integral to Forest Park.
Garage Galleries began as GarArt in 2014. Started by then local artist Amy Turillo, it featured only three garages and about 10 artists. It grew in size and popularity over the next few years. When Turillo moved to California, she took the name “GarArt” with her, and the annual event has been known as Garage Galleries since 2017.
Garage Galleries is spearheaded and organized by Forest Parkers Lin Beribak, Susan Cross and Andrea DiFebo. Beribak, who is a watercolor painter and artist herself, loves promoting and supporting local artists. A member of the board of the Forest Park Arts Alliance (FPAA), she is heavily involved in creative endeavors in Forest Park, including Porch Sessions, which feature live music presented on the front porches of village residents. Although Garage Galleries is currently an independent project, she and other FPAA board members, including Monica Berns, hope to see the annual event become part of the FPAA in the future.
Garage Galleries showcased a variety of artists and types of expression. Forest Park artist Tom Van Dyke has lived in town for 28 years but has only been painting for nine. A musician, creativity has always been a big part of his life. He said he decided to take up painting, even though he hadn’t studied drawing or illustration. “But that’s life,” he said. “You wake up one day and give yourself permission to do something.” His house is heavily decorated with his colorful paintings because he wanted to “surround [himself] with beauty.” The paintings “take on their own life” once he begins work. “They all have a flow. Sometimes you have to meditate on the piece.” His work was presented in the garage of Pam Fontana and Drew Paul, who have been hosting Garage Gallery artists for three years.
Next door, in the garage of Ralph and Andrea DiFebo, one of the event organizers, a huge abstract illustration of a face rested on an easel. Black on white canvas, the piece is striking, and many visitors stopped to admire it. The artist, Oak Parker Alison Gill, attended St. Bernardine School in Forest Park. She studied biological illustration, but doesn’t plan to pursue art as a career. Rather, it’s something she enjoys doing while attending optometry school.
On the 800 block of Hannah potter Mary Dye works out of a backyard studio, complete with a woodburning kiln and potter’s wheels. A village resident for 15 years, she has a master’s degree in music but has been involved in the world of pottery for a long time. For 12 years she focused on traveling to juried shows in the Midwest to share her art. She has also taught extensively, including workshops and classes at Loyola, North Central College, Lillstreet Arts Center, the College of DuPage, Terra Incognito, the Children’s School of Oak Park and the Evanston Art Center.
Art has always been an important part of her life, and she is struck by how one of her favorite things “about both clay and music is the community you become part of.” Shoulder injuries a few years ago caused her to rethink the work she was doing. She decided to “get off the road” and teach classes in her own studio on Hannah.
“Creativity,” said Picasso, “takes courage.” But once art is created and shared, it has the power to change so much, including the community in which it’s made. That’s the case with Garage Galleries in Forest Park. One more is down in the books, but it doesn’t feel too soon to look forward to next summer and the sense of community and beauty this event brings.