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Random Gallery Spotlight: Tall Grass Arts Association

Janet Muchnik, talking about the Illustrators of Children's Books exhibit to a school group

 

Heather Reitsma

Tall Grass Arts Association has an unexpected history within the outskirts of Chicago in Park Forest. Sharing a cultural arts complex with other organizations like the Illinois Theatre Center, Tall Grass has carried on a long-standing history of encouraging and preserving visual art within the local community, starting in 1956. In a city that boasts of over 300 art galleries, many art centers come and go, but Tall Grass has a legacy of over 55 years of service to residents of Park Forest. The institution was founded as a loosely banded art organization by Jim and Mary Marzuki, only 7 years after the town was established in response to World War II in 1949. In the 1990s the art organization named Park Forest Art Center changed their name to the institution now known as Tall Grass.

 

Today, Tall Grass is led by the President of the Board of Directors, Janet Muchnik, who first started gaining interest in the gallery after attending Tall Grass’ annual art fair back in 1971, and is determined to keep the gallery free and open to the public. The annual art fair is a fall event that locals await in great anticipation and, perhaps, is one of the gallery’s greatest promotional events as the second oldest juried art fair in the history of Chicago. Beyond hosting the largest art fair in the Park Forest area, Tall Grass pulls in international, national and regional artists to the gallery for 6 exhibitions a year. One third of these exhibitions are thematic and juried.  “Our goal is to present a variety of high quality art. We try to challenge ourselves and we want to represent artists of all backgrounds,” says Janet. “I read on a wall in Prague ‘If a nation’s culture survives, so, too, does the nation.’ That is what we try to do at Tall Grass: promote art and artists.”

Author/illustrator, Jan Spivey Gilchris, talking about her work at a Tall Grass exhibit

Tall Grass also has an extensive youth outreach program, providing off-site classes for underprivileged school children as well as group classes for homeschooled families. Scholarships are also offered for children whose families cannot pay out of pocket for art courses. Tall Grass’ focus on community and youth art education is rooted in the desire of its board to stimulate interest in the next generation of Park Forest’s inhabitants. Although the respectable selection of adult fine art classes is popular at the gallery, Tall Grass most aggressively extends its mission to present quality art to young families and children. “Our vision for the future of Tall Grass is to get young people more involved in the gallery,” explains Janet. After such a long history of bringing art to the forefront of Park Forest, it is the hope of those who volunteer at Tall Grass that the next generation will recognize the value of this rare jewel, folded so inconspicuously in the crux of Park Forest’s cultural art complex.

 

Tall Grass Art Association is located at 367 Artists Walk, Park Forest, IL