As temperatures plummeted January 29 outside Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, a blast of color and creativity from the world of artist Frida Kahlo warmed up the interior.
Members of the public and local officials gathered inside the building to get a first look at the exhibition during a ribbon-cutting.
“This is an incredible exhibit,” said Channahon Village President Missey Moorman Schumacher. “And I thank everybody for coming out here today, and especially to the Forest Preserve District of Will County for bringing a little more culture to Channahon.”
Kahlo (1907-1954) is considered one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The exhibition – which runs through Saturday, March 16 – explores Kahlo’s connection to nature and how it inspired her art. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sundays noon-4 p.m.
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During the ribbon-cutting, Forest Preserve Board President Laurie Summers said the District was pleased to be able to host the exhibit, which runs through Saturday, March 16.
“'Frida Kahlo’s Garden’ is making its first stop in Illinois and only the second in the country here at Four Rivers, which makes this opening particularly special,” Summers said. “There’s no doubt that Frida Kahlo had a deep appreciation for nature as reflected in her rich collection of work, and it’s a similar appreciation that the Forest Preserve hopes to cultivate in all visitors to our preserves … .”
Forest Preserve Board Commissioner Joe VanDuyne said Kahlo’s connection to nature made the exhibition a perfect fit for the District.
“A large part of the exhibit focuses on the diversity and beauty of plants, which really underscores the value of conservation and connects with the very core of the Forest Preserve’s mission,” he said.
“'Frida Kahlo’s Garden” is a perfect example of the type of program The Nature Foundation of Will County supports through the generosity of its donors, said foundation Chairwoman Jamie Donovan.
“We are excited to be here today to participate in its opening ceremony and hope that many visitors will embrace and be inspired by Frida Kahlo’s creativity and her artistry,” Donovan said.
Members of the public who inspected the exhibit on opening day were pleased with all that it had to offer, including a respite from the wintry outdoor landscape.
“I needed a ray of sunshine during this cold, cold weather,” said Blythe Stahl of Minooka as she viewed exhibition panels that detail Kahlo’s career and the inspiration she derived from her garden and home, Casa Azul, in Mexico City.
Stahl said she has visited other exhibits at Four Rivers in the past few years and she always brings her son, Stellan, 3. “I like to expose him to art and culture and gardens,” she said.
The bilingual exhibition is sure to draw a diverse group of visitors throughout its run, said Veronica Mascote, multicultural success pathway coach at Joliet Junior College.
Xavier Colon, president of the Latinos Unidos student organization at JJC, said Kahlo was never afraid to explore her art and pursue her convictions.
“And I think that’s a valuable lesson, especially for young people,” he said. “The coming generations should be learning about her.”
Kahlo was never timid, agreed Mascote.
“She knew what she wanted, and she believed in what she believed in," she said. "It didn’t matter what anybody else thought of her.”
Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve's chief operating officer, urged all who are interested in Frida Kahlo to explore the many programs being offered in conjunction with the exhibition.
The exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Frida Kahlo’s Garden” is adapted from the exhibition, “FRIDA KAHLO: ART, GARDEN, LIFE,” organized by guest curator Adriana Zavala at The New York Botanical Garden. It was made possible with major funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Karen Katen Foundation, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, MetLife Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Gillian and Robert Steel. It was adapted and toured for NEH on the Road by the Mid-America Arts Alliance.
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