Rose Mattax, left, the host at 540 Ferdinand Avenue, talks with artist Dana Bloede on Aug. 24, 2019, during the annual Garage Galleries throughout Forest Park. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Art lovers, and those with an itch to visit with interesting people, have been happy to hear that Garage Galleries will be back in Forest Park on Saturday, Aug. 28 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In 23 garages from the 300 block of Elgin to the 1300 block of Marengo, rain or shine, the work of 52 artist will be featured. Paintings in watercolor and oil, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, photography, functional art, and ceramics.

Lin Beribak, who coordinates all of the artists exhibiting and is herself a watercolorist, said prices of the art tend to range between $10 and $400 although one piece sold for five figures a few years ago.  She said that some of the artists are professionals — one of whom has work in the permanent collection of the Art Institute — while many others are hobbyists just getting started.

Attendees look through artwork hung on the walls at 519 Beloit Avenue on Aug. 24, 2019, during the annual Garage Galleries. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Regarding artists just getting into the game, Beribak said, “It’s a great place for people to start showing their art because of the low cost to the artist.  Many art sales events require a payment to be able to exhibit art, but no payment is required by the Garage Galleries nor do we take a percentage of the sales.  What’s more, ours is a non-juried event meaning that there is not a committee deciding who gets to exhibit and who does not.”

Not only is Garage Galleries good for “starving artists” but it’s also a blessing for “starving art patrons.”  “It’s a way,” said Susan Cross, who is the webmaster for the annual event and coordinates the marketing, “to bring art to people who are never going to go to the Art Institute or to an art gallery.  I also think it’s a great way to introduce kids to art, and a way to do something that’s just fun.”

Beribak added, “Most of the prices are in the very affordable range.  It’s a great way for people who don’t have the money to pay high prices to bring art into their homes.  If art speaks to you, it’s great to have it in your home as an expression of who you are and what’s important to you.” 

One of the reasons that the Garage Galleries is a low-cost event for both artists and patrons is that the whole event is run on a shoestring budget — $1,000.  Andrea DiFebo, who coordinates the art walk with Cross and Beribak, said almost everything is done by volunteers.  One year, she said, they even handmade yard signs.  

Another reason is that a few years ago Garage Galleries was “adopted” by the Forest Park Arts Alliance.  For many, said DiFebo, who has been a garage host for 8 years, all of the funding for the event came out of the pockets of volunteers, namely the trio of women running the show.

“It’s been a great partnership with the Forest Park Arts Alliance,” she said.  “They are a 501(c)3 nonprofit so we can accept donations.   The FPAA is a really nice umbrella.”

DiFebo recalled how Garage Galleries got started.  In 2014 a woman named Amy Turilli was living in Forest Park, saw the many garages along the town’s alleys and was reminded of how back in California where she had been living, warehouses would open their doors and become pop up art galleries.

She translated the concept to the Village with Small Town Charm, and with assistance of two neighbors opened her own garage as an art gallery.  The next year she asked DiFebo and her husband Ralph to open their garage and the number of sites was doubled.

After a few years, Turilli left town, Gerald Lordan took over the experiment but after one year he handed it off to DiFebo, Cross and Beribak who have been running it ever since.  Last year the art event was canceled because of the pandemic.

Because garage doors open to the alley, the coordinating trio have worked hard on the challenge of logistics.  They created a map locating all 23 garages, a hard copy of which is available at Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore and a digital version of which is printable at the Garage Galleries website.  Contact can be made with GarageGalleries17@gmail.com or on their website garagegalleries17.wixsite.com or on their Facebook page, Facebook: Garage Galleries Forest Park.

Cross created the website in 2018 and does a lot of marketing on social media.  The exposure artists get, she said, will not end on Aug. 28.  The website contains the name of each artist, samples of their art and links to their websites and/or Facebook pages.  It’s a way, she said, of supporting the arts community in town year-round.

Regarding COVID, and now the Delta variant, DiFebo said they are leaving how to handle masking and social distancing up to each of the 23 garage owners.  “My friends and neighbors,” she said, “are all pretty sensible about it no matter what their political views are.  The garage doors will be open which will greatly enhance ventilation and we are encouraging owners to open back doors as well and advise visitors to step into the alley if they want to chat.”

Garage Galleries, the three coordinators agreed, is another example of “it takes a village.” A village, one of them said, full of “darn good people.”