When Highland Park resident James Lynch took over the reins at The Art Center Highland Park (TAC HP) last year, one of his first priorities was to address some inconsistencies in the gallery process.
“We were a full-time gallery with a contract curator,” Lynch says. “Caren Helene Rudman had a long history with TAC HP, including creating and curating the important “Voices and Visions/Women of Courage” exhibits, but we had no real commitment to her long-term. One of my first decisions was to find a way to include Caren on a more permanent basis as part of our team and to honor her finely tuned artistic vision for all of our events, not just use her here and there.”
Lynch asked Rudman to make sure all of the center’s planned exhibits in 2018-19 had a conscience. “We agreed right away, because it was my inten- tion all along,” says Rudman. “It’s my community, and the team at TAC HP right now is the best it’s ever been.”
Starting with the exhibit “Musicality and Food, Glorious Food,” the new team added an entry fee for the opening night event for the first time ever. It asked people to bring non-perishable food items that were then distributed to the Moraine Township Food Pantry, where TAC HP also donated art from the annual Recycled Art event. Rudman saw to it that the center fulfilled part of its commitment to an outreach program, inviting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lake County in for a tour, discussion and art class.
In the ensuing months, gallery attendance increased and art sales improved, but the most recent gallery event was where the concept really took hold.
Enter Wendy Abrams — Highland Park resident, environmentalist and arts activist. When Wendy shared a project that she’d been working on with Rudman, it was clear that this could be the best example of the kind of work TAC HP was looking to showcase. The result is the current show, “Invisible Words,” on display now through January 7.
To create “Invisible Words,” Abrams collected placards from homeless individuals around the world. She had stopped to engage with them and find out more about them.
“What struck me about some of their signs,” says Abrams,“was the amount of care, design and thought that went into some of them. Not only that, these were people in the direst of circumstances in most cases, and yet their messages were so hopeful and positive.”
This gallery exhibit celebrates the spirit of humanity and hopes to also make those who live on the street less invisible to those more fortunate.
To complement “Invisible Words,” Rudman also invited artists to submit works on the theme of “The Art of Giving Back.”
Kelly Mathews, whose “Project Resist Fear” piece calls attention to common fears we all have as human beings, was asked to be the guest juror.
TACHP also invited artists from Keshet, a Jewish support program for individuals with special needs.
“We’re hoping to do more with Wendy in the future,”says Rudman,“and the season we’ve planned for the next 12 months can be one of the strongest efforts we’ve ever had here. There has been interest in adding panel discussions and events. The com- munity needs to know that the gallery is open six days a week — soon to be seven — and groups can request tours and docent-led discussions in advance.”
For more information about The Art Center Highland Park, visit theartcenterhp.org.