Local groups look to keep you from going stir crazy

Libraries, rec departments, zoo offer virtual options to learn, be creative

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Normally, the first days of spring bring an air of excitement to our local communities.

Kids get the thrill of hunting for Easter eggs, spring break means it's time to catch up on that art project or book you've been putting off, and parks and community spaces are buzzing with crowds enjoying warmer temperatures and blossoming plants.

But these are not normal times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, making social distancing, indefinite school and business closures and a continued state of anxiety are more the norm these days.

Check out these local agencies and organizations who are doing their part to ensure that being cooped up in the house doesn't leave you feeling stir crazy.


Brookfield Zoo

Area animal lovers were surely disappointed to hear that the zoo is officially closed to the public through April 30 -- the longest amount of time the zoo has ever closed its doors in its nearly century-long existence.

But through its "Bring the Zoo to You" initiative, the zoo is bringing its exhibits and animals live to your computer screen with zookeeper chats livestreamed every weekday at 11 a.m. on Facebook.

The chats feature the zoo's animal care specialists sharing educational facts about animals, along with close-up shots of the animals in action in their habitats.

See more at Facebook.com/BrookfieldZoo


Compassion Factory Art Gallery & Studio

The Brookfield art center, which offers programs for adults and children, is trying to make the newfound daily concept of social distancing a little less boring with its offering of "social distancing art kits."

With packages available for $20, $50 or $100, you can contact the gallery, tell them what types of art media you're interested in, and staff will work with you to create a custom art kit.

Email them at compassionfactory@gmail.com or call 708-303-8231.


Riverside Parks and Recreation

For as long as the coronavirus quarantine lasts, Riverside Parks and Recreation Department will be offering up ideas for at-home arts and craft projects on its Facebook page so that your little ones can stay occupied after catching up on their favorite Netflix shows (and eLearning assignments). 

Showcasing crafts with directions and photos, a few examples from recent days have included frog fly catchers and leprechaun traps.

And, although the highly anticipated egg hunt has been postponed, the department is encouraging the community to stay engaged with a social distancing egg hunt. They are encouraging residents to cut out a piece of paper into the shape of an egg, color and decorate it with your unique style, and display it in the front window of your home for passersby to find.

Check them out at Facebook.com/RiversideRec


North Riverside Parks and Recreation

Looking for a laugh? Head on over to the North Riverside Parks and Recreation's Facebook page for funny video updates featuring activities you can do at home.

One video features department staff laughing along to a DIY Zumba session, while another has been a video series "leprechaun update" for the department's preschool program.

Additionally, the department is continually sharing external links to activity resources, such as stepping out for some fresh air at one of the village's parks (socially distancing yourself, of course), and online resources for kids and adults from the department's magic class instructor, Gary Kantor.

Find more at Facebook.com/NRRecreation


Brookfield Public Library

The Brookfield Public Library has shifted its focus from serving the community physically to digitally, and residents are encouraged to take advantage of the library's 24/7 online resources and downloads, including audio books, music, movies and research resources.

Have questions? Remote assistance is available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult and youth librarians are providing reference services, ready to help you navigate their databases, downloads and more. Email them at reference@brookfieldlibrary.info, chat with them at brookfieldlibrary.info and click "Help Now" at the bottom of the home page, or text them at 708-248-8433.

No library card? No problem. Get a temporary card by sending an email to reference@brookfieldlibrary.info with your name, address and phone number, and a library staffer will help you set up a temporary access card.

Library Director Kimberly Coughran says that the last days the library was open (weekend of March 14-15), the library checked out 4,540 items -- seven times the usual amount for a typical weekend.

"With many community members at home, it's an ideal time to take advantage of the wide variety of downloadable books, movies and music the library offers," she said. "The library will continue to serve Brookfield residents of all ages as we navigate these unprecedented times together."

For more, visit brookfieldlibrary.info/covid-19-information


Riverside Public Library

The library reminds residents that they're always open online for patrons to access free online resources, including e-books, movies, music, audiobooks and other databases.

And, right now, the library is offering easy sign-up for eCards so that you can begin reaping the benefits of the library digitally. All you have to do is send an email to patronservices@riversidelibrary.org with your phone number and a selfie with your photo ID, and they'll set up the rest. Children looking for library access should have a parent contact the library.

Fulfill your library fix by visiting riversidelibrary.org


North Riverside Public Library

Like Brookfield and Riverside, the North Riverside Public Library is encouraging residents to check out the various online resources available on their website.

Additionally, the library has compiled a list of recommended public resources that are free to use during the coronavirus situation.

The list, titled COVID-19 Resources Page, can be found at Facebook.com/NRPL2400 and will continually be updated. Resources include links about low-cost internet, up-to-date COVID-19 information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, learning resources for children, and exercise programs.

Temporary library cards can be issued by emailing reference@northriversidelibrary.org. All you have to do is attach a picture of a photo ID showing your North Riverside address, or send a picture of a piece of mail showing your current address along with a photo of yourself.

For more information, visit northriversidelibrary.org


Riverside Arts Center

Though closed, the Riverside Arts Center remains dedicated to serving as a pillar for creative expression — and hope — in the community.

"We are focused on offering support to this community which has supported us so much for 27 years," says Liz Chilsen, director of the center's FlexSpace Gallery. "It's a time of challenge and also intensive, creative problem solving -- something artists are particularly good at."

The center is offering two virtual gallery talks featuring artists with work currently on display. Artist Deirdre Fox's installation, using recycled materials and inventive lighting, will be featured in a conversation with her curator, Yoonshin Park, and exhibit curator and Gallery Director Stephanie Brooks will join sculptor and printmaker Oli Watt for a showcase of humorous pieces that create awareness of and interrupt our assumptions.

The center is also working on a virtual exhibit of work from Riverside-Brookfield High School's Advanced Placement Art students. Students will be submitting images of their work to their teacher, who will then work with the center to create a slideshow to project on the gallery's window. The slideshow will also be shared on the center's website.

Finally, the center is working to set up interactions with artists on their social media channels, inviting people to share the work they are making and tag the center with the hashtag #artduringcorona.

"The arts are an important way that people navigate the unknown," Chilsen said. "Right now, many of us are anxious and afraid. Art can offer ways to deal with the stresses we are facing in this climate and an uncertain future."

For more, visit riversideartscenter.com and Facebook.com/RACFreearkGallery

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