Barrington’s Diane Morino and the late Gertrude Stein have a lot in common. They were both raised in California and left their native state, never to return as residents again. They also had a knack—a need, really—to bring artistic people together for the purpose of promoting art and community. Stein in Paris; Morino in Barrington. While the similarities might end there, it’s clear that Morino feels passionate about her role in making art happen in the greater Barrington area.
“The Barrington Cultural Arts Center was founded in 1999 by four or five members with a vision to make art happen,” Morino says. ”It was an eclectic group, with the founder—a stained glass artist—along with an artist doing oils, a cartoonist, a writers group, and a theater group that did radio productions. They all got together and said they were going to bring it all together and make something happen in Barrington.”
Happen it did. BCAC became a hub for the Barrington arts community, and has evolved and thrived for two decades. Morino became president of the organization in 2014 and served for 3 ½ years, during which time she put her efforts into advancing BCAC’s mission.
But prior to this, and before Morino even started exploring her own artistic talents, she grew up in Los Angeles and attended Santa Monica City College and then UCLA to study teaching. She married her husband of 52 years, Richard. They lived in San Francisco for a while, moved to the
Barrington area for a bit, then Sandy Hook, Connecticut where she was a teachers aide. Along the way, her career evolved to include jobs at Veriphone and Alliance Data Systems. She and Richard had two children, and eventually six grandchildren. They’d moved back to the Midwest and settled in Barrington.
Until about 24 years ago, in fact, art was not a big part of Morino’s life.
“I decided during that time to dabble in art, to see what my creative area might be,” Morino recalls. “I went to Main Street Art School and took classes with Frankie Johnson, who I consider a mentor, and many other wonderful teachers.” She tried different mediums, studying mixed media with Karen Sako, portraits with Susan Ploughe, Impressionism with Ann Feldman. “They each inspired me in many ways.”
“I started with watercolors and dabbled in almost every medium,” she says. Morino did oils for a long time, then went into acrylics, and eventually fell in love with mixed media.”
“It is a different way to express myself, using paper and nuts and bolts,” she explains. “I then started abstract art with Albert Feldman.”
A glance at her body of work reflects the diverse interests that chart her evolution as an artist. In fact, Morino believes that, “My art reflects the journey of telling my own story, and it is also about me telling a story for the viewer,” she says. “Still, I want it remain a bit of a mystery, for someone to look at a painting and wonder and relate in a personal way.”
One of Morino’s pieces won second place in an art show in Elk Grove Village a while back.
Over the years, Morino has found inspiration for her pieces from various places, people, places, and things. She and her husband have traveled to Europe, where she took a lot of pictures for later work. And, she finds many of her subjects close to home in the Barrington area. Along the way, she also fell in love with plein air painting.
“I’ll often find myself driving in the car when I’ll see a pond, a farm, a horse out there … and the light will be perfect.” So, she’ll pull over and paint. “Plein air has taught me to look at light differently.”
And the light in Barrington is perfect. “Home is here,” she says. “We always thought we’d move back to California, but our children and grandchildren are here.” Morino loves the rolling hills and trees, the quaint town center, and the strong community she has found in Barrington.
As for the art community and BCAC, Morino is proud of her accomplishments with the arts organization. “For my part in promoting BCAC’s vision to make art happen, we grew memberships, extended our reach to all artists in the Barrington area, put on receptions and exhibits, and grew our galleries.”
She is particularly proud of “Faces and Places of Barrington” initiative that showcased the community members of Barrington—the village president, local pastors, policemen, firemen, students, teachers, and even the local police dog. “It was fun to get to know the different people and to see how each artist portrayed each of the subjects differently.”
“Life on the Back 9” is another special project she is glad to have helped initiate. “We showcased our seniors, who are often dismissed as no longer vibrant,” she explains. “Our subjects included a farmer in his late 80s who is still farming; he came in for his sitting wearing overalls and carrying a pitchfork. And a 94-year old woman who had made her own jewelry that was sold at Saks, Bendel’s, and Nordstrom. She is now blind.”
While BCAC recently vacated its space at the Ice House Mall (where it called home for many years), the group is still thriving. Morino now stays involved as president emeritus and an advisor.
“We are looking for a different home, but finding new opportunities like pop up galleries that run for a couple of weeks or a month,” Morino says. BCAC also participates as a group annually in the Amy Amdur Art Fair every Memorial Day—something Morino helped establish.
And, while Morino needs to put art aside for a while to deal with a personal challenge, she remains optimistic and determined to keep the arts alive and well in the Barrington area. “I’m in the middle of trying to figure out where to go next,” she says. “I’m adapting and rearranging, and figuring out what my next story will be.”
No doubt, Morino’s story will continue to be about making things happen.