Elaine Luther, an artist from Forest Park, will be the first whose work will be on display inside Compassion Factory in Brookfield since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The show runs through June 4. | Photo by Deb Garman

In January 2018, The Compassion Factory opened its doors in Brookfield, promoting community art and hoping to serving as a tipping point for creating an arts district at Eight Corners. 

The Rev. Karl Sokol, the gallery’s founder and pastor of Brookfield’s Compassion United Methodist Church, said the mission of Compassion Factory was simple — “the belief that everyone can do with more art in their life.”

Two years later, Compassion Factory, 9210 Broadway Ave., confronted the COVID-19 pandemic, closing its doors, uncertain of what the future would hold. 

While the gallery never shut down completely, its business model changed drastically, moving most exhibitions to outdoor, pop-up style, socially distanced affairs, along with small, private indoor showings during the winter months. 

As vaccines and boosters proliferated and health mitigations eased, the folks at Compassion Factory were itching to creep back into business as usual. 

Now, the gallery is ready to spring back into life, reopening its doors to the public for its first regular exhibit of the year on Thursday, May 12. 

“We wanted people to feel comfortable coming back into the gallery setting,” said Ann Sokol, wife of Rev. Karl Sokol. “It’s one thing to show the artist’s work, but ideally, as a gallery, we would like people to also purchase items. If we don’t get people to come in for shows, it’s not as effective for the artist — or gallery.”

“Ghost Print, Doily, Pressed Leaves and Flowers” by Elaine Luther, features a cotton napkin, printed with a photogram of a handmade doily using SolarFast dye.

This spring’s exhibit will feature the work of Elaine Luther, a Forest Park resident who heard about the opportunity through a call for exhibits through the Chicago Artists Coalition.

Free for all visitors, the exhibit will focus on the themes of all forms of labor — domestic labor, emotional labor, invisible labor and shadow work.

“It’s a topic that I think everyone can connect to on some level, and I hope to get people thinking about work that’s happening in their lives — either things that they’re doing themselves or things that are being done for them that they’re maybe not thinking about too much,” Luther said.

All of the art in Luther’s show is directly printed as a photogram on objects including vintage doilies, vintage napkins, table runners and placemats and fragments made by others. 

All but one piece of Luther’s artwork will be available for sale. In addition to Luther’s art installation, Compassion Factory will also feature interactive pieces for visitors to engage with.

Luther’s show runs May 12 through June 4, and includes an artist talk and reception on May 13 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Along with the spring art exhibit, also returning to Compassion Factory will be its child and adult art classes over the summer. 

Art instructor Terri Angarone is looking forward to teaching art courses for children, intertwining technique with social events. Examples of her engagement include focusing on Mexican cultural art with Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall, highlighting all-Black artists for Black History Month in February and all female artists for Women’s History Month in March. 

“I like to host art classes that tie in art with what’s going on now with current events,” Angarone said. “I kind of push [the children] to then talk about it with their families, so there’s conversation.”

To the Sokols, it means a lot that they’re able to once again have a fully functioning arts center available for locals to not just enjoy art, but meaningful fellowship with one another. 

“As a multiuse community space, I think it’s great that people are ready to gather and ready to come back,” Anne Sokol said. “I love to see this way of engaging the creativity within our community.

For more information, call 708-303-8231 or visit lovelived.com.