A painting of dainty bluebells sprinkled on the forest floor won a Frankfort resident first place in the Forest Preserve’s inaugural juried art show.
Richard Schmidt’s “Bluebells with Footbridge” oil painting was chosen by a panel of judges as the winner from among 270 total entries and 53 finalists in the “Vernal Equinox: Spring Awakens” competition at Plum Creek Nature Center.
Schmidt has been painting for more than 45 years. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Schmidt moved to Illinois in 1987 and he has been involved in many juried art shows and won numerous awards.
"I was very surprised and very appreciative," Schmidt said of the win. "The quality of the artwork (in the competition) was very high."
Schmidt's painting of bluebells came from a scene at Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, which is known for its bluebell displays in the spring.
"We don't live far from the preserve and I always go there in the spring, especially when the bluebells start popping out," Schmidt said. "I just love nature and where we live in Will County. It's great to live near Chicago, but we can still get away to the preserves. It's like living in the country for me."
Suzy Lyttle, an interpretive naturalist at Plum Creek, said Schmidt's painting made Messenger Woods come alive for those who viewed the piece.
"I have been on that bridge and looked out on the creek," said Lyttle, who served as a judge for the competition. "You could step right into that painting."
Coming in second was Curtis Anthony Bozif of Chicago with his “Tide Pool" creation made with oil paint, enamel, charcoal and graphite. Third place went to Gerrit Bult of Steger for a wood carving titled “Oak Lived a Full Life." The first, second and third place winners received gift cards in the amounts of $500, $250 and $200, respectively. Competition awards were furnished by The Nature Foundation of Will County.
Romeoville resident Barbara D. Berney’s “Double Purple Daytura” digital collage won a Forest Preserve president’s honorable mention award. And the people’s choice award, voted on by visitors to the nature center, was awarded to Dyer, Ind., resident Haley Wigboldy for her “A Library’s Roots” mixed media creation.
The art competition was designed to celebrate spring and to introduce a wider audience to the nature center and all it has to offer with programming, live creatures, a bee hive and more, Lyttle said. The show also exposed Plum Creek visitors to opportunities to view nature in new and artistic ways.
“You don’t always need to get outside and muddy to really connect with the natural world,” Lyttle said.
Awards were announced March 30 at an artists’ reception at the nature center. In addition to Lyttle, the jury consisted of artists Cheryl Holz and Jessica Mattingly, nature foundation Vice Chairman Jim Flax, and Forest Preserve Board President Laurie Summers.