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Art Fest draws plenty of enthusiasts to Grayslake

Ernest Schweit stepped to the side as a couple entered the white tent to admire the framed photographs on their temporary stands.

“These are amazing,” the woman said, pointing to a close-up of an allium bud Schweit had found in the garden of his home in Wheeling. “This one? That you caught one little strand of a spider web with dew drops on it?”

Schweit leaned in beside her to study his work before stepping back.

“Planned it that way,” he replied with a self-deprecating laugh.

“It’s very neat,” the woman said before they moved on to the next booth.

“That’s the reaction I like,” Schweit said. “I’ll never forget the first show I ever did I had a bunch of my flowers up and someone, actually the first person who walked into my tent, said, ‘Wow, it’s like being there.’ I could have sold a million pieces that day and that was – yes, that’s what I want.”

Schweit stepped out of his tent and back into the sunshine beating down on Whitney Street. He was one of 25 artists whose tents were set up June 24 for the 22nd annual Art Fest in downtown Grayslake.

While he has been doing shows and attending arts festivals since the early 2000s, Schweit said photography always has been a passion – ever since his father gave him his first camera when he was 7 years old. Throughout college, he seesawed between pursuing photography and writing, which ultimately led to a career as a newspaper writer and editor spanning more than 30 years.

All that time, however, Schweit nurtured his love of photography.

In a continued effort to support artists such as Schweit, Grayslake Chamber of Commerce President Philip Bruno added a wine tasting tent to the festival for the first time this year.

“[The wine fest is] something new we’re trying to get people down and get more involvement in the community,” Bruno said. “That’s my goal – to get more people to make it worthwhile for the artists.”

Like the community’s beer fest in May, Bruno said all funds raised from the wine fest will go toward scholarships that will be awarded to students from both high schools in Grayslake.

“So it all goes back into the community,” Bruno said.

Grayslake resident Marie Hines sat at a tent promoting the Grayslake Arts Alliance, an organization launched last year “dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts through education, participation and development.”

Membership in the arts alliance has grown to more than 90 people since its inception in summer 2016.

“We’ve got artists of all genres,” Hines said. “We have water colorists. We have photographers. We have a wonderful woman who has come into our group who is also affiliated with performance arts, so we have musicians. … And this is the most important thing, like [owner] Janet [Elliott] at [This Old Book] used bookstore, we have business partners that are part of the community that are instrumental [to our group].”

Hines said the alliance’s ultimate goal is “a synergy of community involvement.”

“I think our pie-in-the-sky goal would be to have a place that would have a little theater space for musicians and any kind of other performers to have a stage to work from and other galleries/education centers where we can have activities much like this that are designed to engage and train the future to be art appreciators and understand the value of art education,” she said.

Hines is a mixed medium artist “with found objects and vintage objects.”

Pausing from his obligations as festival chairman, Bruno walked up and down the rows of booths to admire the artwork on display. Festivals are wonderful ways to support local artists and businesses while encouraging community involvement with the public, he said.

“It’s a great time for the community,” he said. “It’s an activity that’s free. They can come and look and listen to music. We have the Heritage Center there, and they have the Jenga and the big checkerboard. … The Arts Alliance is doing art projects. We’re all working together to better the community.”

The opportunity to find unique artwork for his home, Bruno said, is just an added bonus.

“I like different things,” he said. “My house is full of odd things I’ve picked up at art fairs or my travels around the world and stuff. I don’t like the cookie cutter art that everyone else has.”

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