Harrison Works founder celebrates 10th
Harrison Works owner Liz Gaylord has a passion for art, teaching and the ukelele. | Meredith Morris~for Sun-Times Media
What About the Ukuleles?
Painter and Harrison Works founder Liz Gaylord also established the Ukulele Club of Oak Park, which meets at her studio on the second Wednesday of each month from 6:30-9 p.m. and is open to all skill levels.
About a dozen strummers come out to each meeting and jam on tunes that range from classic American blues to Warren Zevon, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
“We’ve found that there’s really nothing that can’t be played on the ukulele,” Gaylord said.
She owns a variety of ukuleles and has created art that incorporates the petite Hawaiian instrument.
“It just got to be a little of an obsession,” Gaylord said of her fondness for the ukulele, which has ebbed and flowed in popularity in the United States for more than a century. “I would not have expected it to be as huge as it is today.”
Updated: September 6, 2012 4:00PM
OAK PARK — The passion in Liz Gaylord’s relationship is growing stronger with the years.
Recognizing her 10th anniversary with the art studio she founded, Harrison Works, 17 Harrison St., Gaylord’s love for her vocation has deepened from the honeymoon phase into a more complex enjoyment that now includes painting, teaching, promoting other artists and advocating for the Oak Part Arts District.
“I don’t know if I can put into words how much I love painting. It’s like my natural language,” Gaylord said. “I pay attention to how I think and it’s not in words; it’s in line, color and form.”
Gaylord, a Berwyn resident, studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in 1992. She opened Harrison Works initially “to paint in a space that wasn’t the basement bathroom of my house and that had more light,” she said, as well as to display her work and that of fellow painters.
“I was hoping to promote other artists, especially those who are young, because it’s very difficult to get a foot in the door,” she said.
Teaching followed, an extension of Gaylord’s effort.
“Teaching is something that morphed from people asking questions and saying, ‘Hey, can you show me how to do something?’” she said. “I originally wasn’t that confident with teaching, but it’s the bulk of my income now. It’s rewarding to share a communal joy with others. I figure, that’s what we’re on this planet for.”
Harrison Works offers individual painting, drawing and collage lessons, along with nearly 20 other Arts District galleries and businesses, offering educational activities as summer Children’s Art Camp Programs.
A diverse range of people seek out art instruction, Gaylord said.
“I have students who are very serious about making their art and promoting it, and others for whom it’s all about the process. If they never complete a piece, that’s OK with them,” she said.
Recently, younger adults, in their 20s, are learning to paint.
“Instead of coming home and sitting in front of the TV, they want to sit in front of an easel and play with paint,” she said.
In her own paintings, Gaylord stresses fun and whimsy. Some favorite subjects include her Siamese cat, polar bears, snow scenes and baseball.
To celebrate Harrison Works’ 10th, Gaylord plans a retrospective exhibit that will feature art by some of the first artists she showed, as well as by others she’s met more recently.
The Harrison Works 10th Anniversary Retrospective will open with a reception held from 6-10 p.m. on Sept. 21, in conjunction with the Arts District’s regular Third Friday Gallery Walk. It closes in early November.
Looking forward, Gaylord expects Harrison Works’ emphasis on teaching to grow, especially children’s classes, as parents try to replace the arts experience that’s no longer part of some public schools.
She also expects the Arts District to grow.
“In this community we tend to underestimate ourselves. Here on Harrison Street, we have top-notch, world-class art. We’re lacking in quantity but not in quality. I look forward to a greater realization of that and think it will happen,” she said.