Exploration | The Scene

Discover the ‘strange and unusual’ at Joliet art gallery

The Strange and Unusual Gallery in downtown Joliet hosts four or five solo artist shows every year.

The Strange and Unusual Gallery is definitely not your typical art museum.

Guests who venture into the downtown Joliet gallery will become immersed in art that is a little unusual, off-beat and dark.

“It’s a strange and unusual place for all things fun. We don’t offer paintings of beautiful landscapes. We like to do anything we can to make your imagination soar, and bring you into a world of art,” said Joliet resident Christine Nordstrom, who owns the gallery with her husband, Terry Eastham.

The gallery, which highlights artwork that is “on the darker side,” hosts several immersive shows, primarily from local artists, throughout the year. Nordstrom said what makes her gallery different is that the solo shows allow guests to become a part of the artists’ worlds and take them into the artists’ minds. The gallery does about five solo shows a year, with each running three to four weeks, and several smaller shows in between.

The Strange and Unusual Gallery in downtown Joliet hosts four or five solo artist shows every year.

“Life is really dark, and there’s so much beauty in that,” she said of the type of art and artists her gallery showcases. “We choose to look away and not find beauty, but I’ve always found the beautiful in something dark, because it’s the truth. By capturing dark moments, you’re capturing the truth, and if you choose to, you’ll see the beauty.”

Nordstrom and Eastham opened the gallery just before the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. She said they had to “get creative” when it came to holding shows during the shutdowns. Fast-forward to 2023, and the gallery is thriving, with many shows selling out.

“We’re fully booked for 2024,” Nordstrom said of the gallery’s upcoming shows. “We’ve had a tremendous response. People see what our shows are like and they want to keep coming back. There’s always something new and ever-changing.”

Art shows aren’t the only thing guests can find at The Strange and Unusual Gallery. On Nov. 18 and 19, the gallery will host “Kristmas with Krampus” photo shoots. Nordstrom said people can book a photo shoot with a 6-foot animatronic Krampus figure. She described Krampus as an “evil Santa” from German folklore who comes to take away misbehaving children.

The Strange and Unusual Gallery in downtown Joliet will host "Kristmas with Krampus" photo shoots Nov. 18-19, 2023.

In addition to the Krampus figure, the photo shoots will have a green screen with traditional holiday backgrounds, as well as a fake fireplace.

“[Krampus] is not a nice guy, but people seem to love him,” Nordstrom said. “We had the Krampus in our Christmas window last year, and everyone wanted to take photos with it. So we decided to add [the photo shoots].”

After the Krampus photo shoot, the gallery once again will have a spooky Christmas window, and host several pop-up shows through the end of December before “going dark” in January. The December pop-up art shows will include oil paintings, acrylics, fiber, mixed media, sculpture and other creations by several artists.

The gallery will reopen in February with an all-new solo show, but Nordstrom isn’t ready to reveal more.

“We are keeping that a big surprise. It’ll be our normal immersive show by a new artist. People should look forward to it,” she said.

More information about The Strange and Unusual Gallery can be found on its website at strangeandunusual.hopestreetwoodworks.com or social media pages. The gallery is located at 34 Clinton St., Joliet. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Hours may vary for special events.

Reservations are required for the “Kristmas with Krampus” photo shoots, which can be made on the website.

Aimee Barrows

Aimee Barrows

Aimee Barrows is the editor of The Scene, Shaw Local News Network's entertainment section. The Scene is your go-to destination for all things fun in Northern Illinois. Prior to The Scene, Aimee was the editor of the Kane County Chronicle for five years, and a freelance reporter for Shaw Media for four years.