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While some businesses are closing their doors for good, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, others are opening. At 7502 ½ Madison St., a brand-new art gallery has set up shop. Owned by Sarah O’Neill, it’s called Sarah O Gallery, and it features O’Neill’s own artwork and that of local artists.

In fact, when O’Neill was moving into the gallery one day, Demar Brown, a Forest Park resident, walked by and they started talking. He said he was an artist. When he showed O’Neill some of his works, she agreed to hang them up in her gallery. She’s currently also featuring work by an Elmhurst artist, Maureen McCormick. And she’s open to meeting more artists from the community.

“My vision is to use this space to represent artists from the area,” O’Neill said. “This gallery is unfolding. It’s a work in progress.”

Holding evening classes is another plan O’Neill has for the space. “I’d like to do them in the dead of winter, when there’s nothing else to do,” she said, and she’s thinking of possibly holding classes or workshops for teenagers, who might not have the same artistic outlet they did prior to COVID-19 shutdowns of schools.

She’s also considering hosting Friday night open houses for the community.

Sarah’s own artistic endeavors originally focused on photography, which she has printed in calendars and on glass, creating vibrant works of art. A few years ago, she began delving into mixed media “in earnest,” she said. A self-taught artist, her work tends to end up being nature oriented. “You’ll see a lot of sunsets and water,” O’Neill said. She has a piece in the gallery called “Ice.”

O’Neill acknowledged that opening an art gallery in the midst of a pandemic perhaps isn’t the normal course of business, but she “wanted to get out of the basement” where she’d been doing most of her work.

“I wanted an opportunity to connect with a community; art makes connection possible,” said O’Neill. “And I wanted to create an interesting space people can go to. I have a lot of ideas and I’m open to how things will evolve naturally. Maybe that sounds naïve. But it feels right.” With a year lease, she said there will be enough time to see how things go.

“Right now, I’m having a good time,” she said. “This is a project of joy.”

O’Neill is hosting a grand opening celebration on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. The gallery will be open from Oct. 22 through Oct. 25 from 4 to 7 p.m., and after that from 12 to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.