Art-based institutions remain closed for now, but that has not stopped Riverside Arts Center (RAC) from bringing what they do to the community. From gallery installations seen from outside to crafters being able to work at home, the door has not been shut on creating and enjoying art or experiencing thought-provoking work. 

Come by RAC, 32 E. Quincy St., and look at their FlexSpace window. Currently a citizen’s statement is displayed, “Black Lives Matter.” What was going to be the second installment of a two-part art exhibit addressing healing and repair during COVID-19, changed for both artist Stacia Yeapanis and curator, FlexSpace Director Liz Chilsen, when current events made both think differently about what was planned. 

“The scheduled exhibit was organized as a response to the isolation of the stay-at-home order, but after the murder of George Floyd, the work seemed not only irrelevant, but also potentially harmful,” said Yeapanis. “‘Solace Supercut,’ made in a very different collective moment, could have been interpreted as a pollyannaish response to the protests, sadness and rage, which would have downplayed the suffering of millions of Black people.”

Yeapanis did not put up “Black Lives Matter” as an artist, but as a citizen. Her name does not appear. She stressed it is a sign like any other sign, but she chose to use the space available to her to amplify the message.

“As an artist, I operate as an individual,” she said. “My work is about how internal, intangible experiences manifest in the tangible world. But as a citizen, I have to think of myself in relation to those around me. I have to consider my responsibility to those with whom I share space. That is what is called for now.”

Yeapanis and Chilsen are having a community conversation on Saturday, June 27. 

The previous work viewable through the window, “Unison (Radiant Frisson)/Unison (Typecasting)” by Mayumi Lake, was inspired in part by mythical Japanese flowers and it projected colored lights, “type-casting” written on one side of the rotating work.

According to Chilsen, “”This is a reference to anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia that saw an increase at the start of the pandemic.”

Quarantine quilt

RAC is also coordinating a Community Quarantine Quilt organized by Bridget Juister, RAC board member. Interested stitchers can text her or respond on Instagram and they will receive supplies to create a quilt square. Silver linings, a tribute to a lost loved one or a written message are suggested themes.

“I feel like this is a time capsule piece,” Juister said. “I find it interesting that Coronavirus, a force of nature, came through and gave us perspective. … Change and transition are daunting; healing is uncomfortable; a quilt in itself demonstrates how we’re better together, and of course, it’s a symbol of comfort. We’ll get through this together, and in the end, life can be better than before.”

While most requests have come from Riverside, squares have been delivered around Chicagoland and even Milwaukee. Oak Park and River Forest residents can also participate. 

The squares are being distributed through the end of June and finished squares will be collected during July and August. If all 100 squares are distributed and returned, the finished quilt will be 8-by-8 feet. Its destination has not been determined, but the quilt may end up in Riverside’s township hall, RAC’s Freeark Gallery or could become an auction item in November.

Another opportunity to create art are Boredom Buster Boxes. Clay sculpture boxes include six pounds of clay, enough to make “several ceramic masterpieces,” according to the RAC website. 

The box arrives by contactless delivery and is picked up by RAC staff for kiln firing. The delivery zone includes Riverside, North Riverside, Lyons, Brookfield, Berwyn, LaGrange, Oak Park, Austin and Belmont Cragin. Boxes can also be purchased for donation in an underserved community.  

Summer Camp boxes for kids will kick off soon and contain five different art projects. 

“We feel a deep commitment to continue sharing the vitality of art despite any challenges,” Chilsen said. “We expect many of the innovations we’ve been engaged in now will continue to be a part of what we offer into the future, maintaining new avenues of communication and engagement.” 

For more information, visit the Riverside Arts Center website.

Riverside Arts Center to reopen on a limited basis

With the state of Illinois moving into Phase 4 of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Riverside Arts Center, 32 E. Quincy St., has announced it is reopening its doors to visitors on a limited basis beginning June 26.


The Freeark Gallery and outdoor sculpture garden will open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Oli Watt’s exhibition, “What?” which was up in the Freeark Gallery when the pandemic forced businesses and cultural centers to shut down, remains on display.


Anyone wishing to visit the Riverside Arts Center is encouraged to schedule an appointment by calling 708-442-6400. The gallery is allowing just one or two visitors at a time.


Visitors and staff will be required to wear face coverings and maintain physical distances of at least six feet. Gallery staff will wipe down all surfaces after each visit and hand sanitizer will be available to all who visit.

Bob Uphues