New Lake County art exhibit empowers women, connects diverse community

Works are featured in the Lake County administration building in Waukegan

WAUKEGAN – A new “I Connect: Women Artists of Lake County” exhibit inside the Lake County administration building in Waukegan means many things to many people.

It’s about the strength and power of women, diversity, art, culture, connection, history.

Impactful in so many ways, the exhibit also has a simple purpose for those who see it.

“It makes them happy,” said Katrina Davis-Salazar of Gurnee, who co-curated the exhibit.

Along with a previously created piece, Davis-Salazar created three portraits of female artists to be featured among the large works of art on canvas of five other Lake County female artists.

Free and open to the public during regular business hours through April at the county’s main administration building at 18 N. County St. in Waukegan, the exhibit celebrates Women’s History Month.

It also represents the unveiling of Lake County’s Art in Public Places program, with future exhibits in the county building planned. Davis-Salazar is slated to curate a September exhibit honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.

Arin Thrower, Lake County chief communications officer, brought the idea to county leaders and community artists as a way to bring people together during a time of isolation.

“The visual arts have the power to inspire and heal us all, and we hope that everyone who enters our building will be able to enjoy this beautiful and unique exhibit,” she said.

Along with Davis-Salazar, artists featured in the exhibit include Kate Knutson, Aruna Sarode, Michelle Miscenic-Patch, Maricarmen Pizano and Lauren Marsh. The artists are different ages and from diverse backgrounds and cultures, including Croatian, Indian and Latinx.

The exhibit’s other co-curator, Miscenic-Patch of Beach Park, studied art in Italy, taught art at the Jack Benny Middle School in Waukegan and teaches at Deer Path Middle School in Lake Forest. She also is the curator of the Dandelion Gallery in Waukegan.

“When we see our own faces and our neighbors’ and friends’ faces represented in something as lofty and important as art, our importance in the community is validated,” said Davis-Salazar, who teaches at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. “And when we, as diverse artists, you know Caucasian women, young women, brown and Black humans, are asked to be part of a public exhibit, it validates our own worth as well.

“And when visitors see these diverse artists and art pieces in a public space, it sends a positive message about the face of our community,” she said. “Lake County is diverse, and all of our voices are vital.”

In co-curating the exhibit, Davis-Salazar sought large, bold work that would stand out against the textured marble walls of the county building. She turned to artists she knew and respected. She invited female artists throughout Lake County to be part of the exhibit, asking them to create or select works representing the general theme of connection to “your art, other humans, your families, yourself, nature.”

“That really opened it up so we could connect all the works together but be able to include diverse works,” she said.

Among the artists featured in the exhibit with a piece titled “Eternity is Now” is Marsh, a second-year student at the College of Lake County. She plans to transfer to a four-year college for a bachelor’s degree.

Of the other featured artists, Knutson teaches art at Warren Township High School in Gurnee and Sarode, of Round Lake, is a member of the Grayslake Art Alliance. Sarode was born in India. Born in Mexico, Pizano, of Waukegan, is a children’s book illustrator.

“People who visit the courthouse, they want to know how [the exhibit] came about,” Davis-Salazar said. “They thank us for having the work there.

“Anytime you put art in a public space, it makes people feel proud of the community they live in and connected to the community they live in.”