Instructors inspire gallery

Community House exhibit features works from local art teachers

Clarendon Hills Middle School art teacher Michael Bale embraces opportunities to display his own work.

"Mostly because it motivates me to make stuff that otherwise I would put off," he said.

So when the request came to be part of the Faculty Art Exhibit at The Community House, Bale produced two charcoal drawings to turn up the creative energy level both for him and, hopefully, his students.

"I show my work as frequently as I can, and whenever I get an invitation I just say, 'Yep, I'll do it,' " he said. "It's important to show (students) that their teachers are still producing work."

The exhibit, which opened this month and runs through June, consists of dozens of pieces from some 14 different contributors to the show, representing art departments in Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 and Hinsdale High School District 86 as well as The Community House's LyArts instructional staff (see sidebar for list of exhibit artists).

Jimmy McDermott, LyArts director, said the idea for the exhibit seemed a natural extension of the student-focused "Inktoberfest" and District 181 art shows the facility had previously hosted.

"These were art educators that probably had a body of work, so I reached out to see if they wee interested in showing it," McDermott said. "Many were, and I was really pleased with the response and their cooperation."

He credited Hinsdale Central art teacher Aleksandra Zdun for helping get the word out to her colleagues. Zdun indicated it wasn't a tough sell for her.

"I was totally so excited for this chance to be able to show off our work," said Zdun, in her first year at Central. "We're normally so focused on doing shows for our own students. This reinvigorated my passion to create. I love having others be able to look at my work and enjoy my work."

She describes the six surrealistic paintings she submitted for the show as a "coming-of-age" story inspired by the concept of inner dialogue originating from Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way," which explores the relationships between three characters: the child, the wise and the critic.

"As a first-generation student, I always had this critic inside of me who was super strong," Zdun explained. "This concept opened me up to the idea that I have this wise part and child part inside of me that I could process my childhood through."

Zdun she was pleased to greet a number of her students at the opening reception March 1.

"They get so excited knowing that I'm in the community showing off my work," she said.

McDermott was also gratified by the young attendees.

"It was great to see the kids circle around their teachers. They excitement was palpable," he said.

He also appreciated the chance to expand his network of contacts within the local art community.

"A lot of faces have changed, so it was an opportunity for me to get to the know the faculty a little better," McDermott said.

And the caliber of the submissions was stunning.

"As the work started coming in and I started seeing the quality, I was like, 'This is crazy, this is great!' " he commented, noting that some pieces are decades old and some just completed.

Bale said his pair of brand new compositions depicting a ball of rope and a brain reflect his predilection for patterns.

"I like recursive shapes that repeat themselves," he said. "I like seeing these connections between these works that are presumably disparate objects that have similarities in either the way they look or the way they work - things you don't really notice."

Bale recalled the power of seeing his instructors' compositions as a student and wants those in his classes to recognize that an artist is always evolving.

"I find that it's a really important part of a creative class," he said. "It shows the students that you're learning at the same time that they're learning."

Zdun said she deliberately left the subjects in her paintings faceless.

"I want the viewers to see themselves inside of these works," she remarked.

And possibly draw them deeper into art, which she believes such exhibits can do.

"It's really important to lift up local artists and show people how much joy and humanity that happens from creating," said Zdun, whose pieces were part or her senior college capstone project last spring.

Bale, in his fifth year at CHMS and 23rd year as teacher, agrees that artful expression is a vital element in society.

"Art and music should be central to the community," he said. "It doesn't need to be a special trip to see art. It should be around all the time."

The exhibit is located on the upstairs level of The Community House, 415 W, Eighth St., and accessible during its hours of operation. For more information, visit or call (630) 323-7500.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean