The Art and Culture Commission of Lemont evolved from Public Art Advocates of Lemont (P.A.A.L.).
P.A.A.L. was founded by local businesswoman Alice Chin in 2004. Alice invited local artists and art enthusiasts to be part of a group dedicated to bringing public art to the village of Lemont. Its first community based public art project was the completion of two mosaic planters that sit outside of village hall. A lead artist and many volunteers from the community saw this first art project as the beginning of art awareness in the village.
Before a year had gone by, in 2005, the group was invited by the mayor of Lemont to be a commission of the village. Seeing this as an opportunity too good to pass up, the group agreed, and the five original members applied for and became its first commissioners. It has since grown to seven commissioners with a village board member as liaison.
Changing its name to the Art & Culture Commission of Lemont (A&CC) the commission has accomplished many community-based art projects throughout the community. With a long term goal of establishing an art center, the A&CC has also organized fundraising events, the first of which was “Chairs for Art” a silent auction. Antique chairs from Tedens Opera House, a historical gathering place were painted, decorated and otherwise “artified” for auction.
Since that first exciting year A&CC has sponsored four or five Fall Art and Music Festivals in October, Illinois Arts Month, with artist markets and entertainment.
The A&CC is especially proud to have continued its public art mission with four more mosaic planters placed throughout the downtown area. Each one depicts a historical moment in the history of the village. The pilasters on the Stephen Street Bridge also have mosaic artwork. Many adults and children impressed into clay what they think is special about Lemont. These impressions were made into tiles and incorporated into the bridge mosaic design.
During the spring of 2008, the public was invited to participate in painting jams over four weekends in April and May. About 130 black and white paintings were created by people from age 4 to 94.
Spring of 2009 brought Matt Lamb and his international Umbrellas for Peace to our town. Over 200 umbrellas were painted by school children and adults. A peace parade with the umbrellas marched through Lemont.
Local history is an important aspect of our heritage and artistic renderings. In 2009 “The Pride of Lemont”, a 65’x20’ mural was completed depicting the story of Rudy Kling, an airplane racer and Lemont hero from the 1930s. This project had two lead artists and over 100 community volunteers.
Throughout every year the A&CC participates in village sponsored events bringing hands-on art projects to all interested individuals. These include Heritage Fest, Halloween Hoedown and Hometown Holidays. These activities are free of charge.
The A&CC was very lucky in 2010; with the hard work of its Village Board liaison, it acquired a facility to have a gallery, classes and a variety of fine art activities. An added bonus to the grand opening of the Lemont Center for the Arts was the honor of receiving the 2010 award for “Arts Friendly Community” by the Illinois Arts Council.
The Lemont Center for the Arts hosts 6 exhibits throughout the year, featuring art by local artists, Lemont High School, Old Quarry School, The Lemont Artists Guild, and other artists and arts organizations. The LCA collaborated with the Illinois State Poetry Society in several “SPARK” exhibits with artist and poets working together to spark ideas from one another. Holiday Artists Bazaars have been a regular Christmas time feature since the LCA opened.
A gift shop has been a staple over the years at the LCA where the community is encouraged to shop for unique gift items created by local artisans.
Artist of the Month was a featured exhibit for many years.
Art classes for youth and adults were provided for many years.
The Art & Culture Commission received a grant to bring art to local schools where no art teacher was on staff. When grant money was no longer available, the A&CC funded this valuable experience until the schools acquired a full-time art teacher.
In the summer of 2013, a grass roots mural project was launched by two local artists at the request of a local business. This was funded by said business and the A&CC. In the summer of 2014 “There Comes a Time…” mural depicting the quarry workers strike of 1885 was completed.
Fundraising efforts continue, three “GIFTED” galas were held in 2015, 2017 and 2019 at the Lithuanian World Center. Included in these galas were juried art exhibits, food, raffles, and music provided by the students of LHS and local musical theater performers.
During the summer of 2019, the A&CC assisted two girl scouts achieve their silver award by consulting on the “Quarryman’s Wings” mural project.
- Mona Parry