State of the Art

September 2017 View more

For centuries people have restored works of art, but Linda VanderKolk believes that art restores people. The president of the Naperville Art League (NAL) thinks that art not only renews them, but builds them up, too.

“The kids who take classes here in the summer—you can see the pride in what they make,” VanderKolk says. “It helps them with problem solving and creativity. There’s no right or wrong. In school, they have limited time. Here they learn new techniques while interacting with each other in a different way. It’s true for adults, too. They may be hesitant, but they are in there with a bunch of beginners so they go for it and they’re also proud of what they can do.”

VanderKolk, who has been the art league president for three years, has had a passion for art all her life. “My mother had an artistic knack and so did her mother,” she says. “As a child my favorite Christmas presents were always crafts.”

After college, VanderKolk worked in the marketing department of Nalco Company. Now retired, she oversees the board, volunteers and 200 members of all ages as president of NAL. “My role is to facilitate. ‘President’ to me is another word for servant,” she says.

Although VanderKolk is a keen quilter, her preferred mediums now are fiber art and water color. “It’s quite common to drive by our building on North Center Street and not know we are here. In fact, for years I was one of those people,” she says. “About eight years ago I saw a class advertised in the paper and decided to sign up. After the first class, I was hooked, so I joined the art league and was soon asked to bring my marketing background to the board.”

The art league, which started in 1961, offers classes, art exhibits, artist receptions and the opportunity to share a passion for art with like-minded people. In Naperville they are probably best known for hosting the highly anticipated annual Riverwalk Fine Art Fair, which has taken place every September since 1984.

“For me it’s all about the excitement,” says VanderKolk. “If you love art and there’s a whole streetful of art, it’s so exciting.”

Each year more than 500 artists from all over the country apply to share their works with the people of Naperville and beyond. Artists vie for spots in April and are judged in May before 135 are accepted.

“Works must be original,” VanderKolk says. “We make sure we have a large variety of styles. The thing the exhibitors tell us they like is the care they receive from the art league. We provide them water bottles, sitters for their booths if they need to take a break and a dinner. We’re always there to answer questions. It’s a wonderful local event in a great location.”

2017 Riverwalk Fine Art Fair
The thirty-second annual NAL fair will be held from Saturday, September 16 to Sunday, September 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Each year about sixty percent of the 135 artists return; the rest are new. The event features live demonstrations by NAL teachers, DuPage Children’s Museum children’s activities at Main Street and Jackson Avenue and live music at the Riverwalk Amphitheater from the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Sinfonietta.

One of the exhibitors, Debora Duran-Geiger, was chosen two years ago to provide the tile murals for the Water Street development, which were dedicated in June as part of the Century Art Walk. Art Fair President and Executive Director of Arts DuPage Deborah Venezia says: “It is a nice complement to the art fair. We are really excited when people come and take advantage of what we have to offer.”

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