Brookfield may be known as a friendly Chicago suburb with a nationally renowned zoo, but for the past decade, several residents have made it their mission to ensure their town becomes known as a local destination that embraces art.
Since 2009, the Brookfield Fine Arts Festival has showcased the work of dozens of local artists and has provided a way for Brookfield residents to connect with local artists while enjoying the season’s transition to fall.
And on Saturday, Sept. 17, the fest returns in full swing after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kiwanis Park, 8820 Brookfield Ave., the event will feature more than 30 local artists selling their work, with media ranging from jewelry and fiber arts to pottery, printmaking and art from repurposed objects.
For Brookfield residents and program organizers Shannon Roman Gosciejew and Terri Angalone, the return of the fest is a big deal. After all, it’s the small-town feel and the emphasis on local art which encouraged them to move to Brookfield in the first place.
“It’s nice that there’s this cultural, artistic element to the neighborhood,” Gosciejew said.
Prior to COVID, the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce worked alongside Abby Brennan, Brookfield resident and owner of Brookfield’s Brennan Massage & Spa, for 10 years to bring the yearly festival and shopping opportunity to life.
Though Brennan remains involved with the fest, this March she turned the planning reins over to Gosciejew and Angalone, both of whom were eager to sign on.
For Angalone, what motivated her to step up to an organizing role was her belief the fest has the potential to make Brookfield a destination for art.
“I believe that art speaks to everybody,” Angalone said. “There’s a lot of artists in Brookfield and the surrounding area who, especially after COVID, are chomping at the bit to show more of their stuff. The fest is a great way to bring people together and to have some sort of voice in art.”
Gosciejew agrees, saying that while there are many opportunities to see and experience art across Chicagoland, it’s nice when the chance exists in your own backyard.
“You don’t have to go far, you don’t have to pay an entry fee and feel intimidated walking into a gallery knowing nothing about art — you can just walk up and meet your neighbors who are also artists,” she said. “There’s no pretentiousness.”
Two artists showcasing their work this September include Kate Wolicki, a Brookfield resident who focuses on repurposed textile art and clothing, and Chicago resident Kent Smith, a pop art and abstract painter.
Wolicki, who has synesthesia, says colors and patterns, for her, have tastes and smells which drive the combinations she uses in her work. Artwork she’ll be selling includes trivets made from old silk ties, dresses made from reclaimed T-shirts and colorful tote bags.
“Using reclaimed materials is a form of sustainable sewing that recognizes the amount of resources and labor that go into producing fiber, cloth and garments and tries to avoid waste,” she said. “I like to help people fill their lives with textile art that can be used every day.”
The Brookfield resident is also looking forward to chatting with both friends and new faces at the fest.
“People in this area are fabulous,” Wolicki said. “They are always looking for art and looking to support local artists and local businesses. I’ve met many brilliant artists and community builders just by being part of the fest.”
Smith, whose paintings and mixed-media projects reflect his love of music and mid-20th century advertising, says that a positive response to his art at this summer’s Brookfield Art Walk is what drew him to participate in the fest for the first time.
“My artwork really resonated with the people of Brookfield — I was overwhelmed at the response,” he said. “I think the brightness and fun of my paintings were much needed in these times. I really want to hopefully bring some joy to as many people as possible.”
As in years past, the fest will not only offer patrons the chance to mingle with local artists, but also enjoy craft beer and wine with Brookfield’s Imperial Oak Brewing, a variety of food trucks sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and music.
Kicking off the morning, Yoga on the Block hosts an 8 a.m. sunrise yoga session at the band shell. Following will be music and entertainment for the day, starting with the students from Riverside-Brookfield High School’s jazz ensemble at 9:30 a.m., an improv session from LaGrange’s LATTE Theater at 11 a.m., young musicians from A Sound Education playing at 1 p.m., and sounds from Chicago-area jazz band Stirred Not Shaken at 2:30 p.m.
Also back this year will be the Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest from noon to 2 p.m. Cash prizes will be awarded for first-, second- and third-place winners. Adults 18 and older who are eager to showcase their drawing skills can pre-register at bit.ly/3QhsFh7.
“We have beautiful Kiwanis Park that has the oak savanna that is inspiring and peaceful, and I really want people to see Brookfield as a destination — the same way they see LaGrange, Elmhurst or Oak Park,” Gosciejew said. “I hope people see the richness and the vibrancy of the neighborhood — and the diversity of it.”