Don’t forget the farms
"Pioneer Scarecrow" by Georgia Cawley of Long Grove.
‘The Farm: Images from the Heartland’
Lake County Discovery Museum, Lakewood Forest Preserve, Route 176, west of Fairfield Road, near Wauconda
10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 14
$6; $3 for seniors; $2.50 for children ages 4-17; free for children 3 and younger
www.lchff.org; (847) 968-3400
Working the land for a living has a long and honorable history. But today, the American family farm is a dying institution.
“When we moved out here, it was all farms,” says Chris Geiselhart, who’s lived in an unicorporated area of Libertyville for some 40 years. “But they’re rapidly disappearing.”
To preserve what they can of the people, the lives, times and farms that shaped today’s Midwest, Geiselhart and her colleagues of the Lake County Heritage Farm Foundation have mounted an effort to collect the memories and memorabilia of farm life, focusing specially on the farms of Lake County.
The foundation’s website, lchff.org, encourages anyone with connections to local farm life to get in touch. The ultimate goal is to create a working farm, “a place where people can come to experience farm life,” says Geiselhart. But for now, there’s no money, and that dream remains “in the clouds.”
Meanwhile, to help keep the farm spirit alive, the foundation sponsors a juried, biennial art competition. The Lake County Discovery Museum hosts an exhibit of the 2012 competition winners through Nov. 4.
“The quality (of art entries) was just top notch,” said Geiselhart, the show’s curator.
More than 75 artists entered, and “it was very hard for our jurors to make their decisions” about which would be in the museum show, and which would receive prizes.
The only requirement for competition entries was that the works reflect some aspect of farm life, and that the artists live in the Midwest.
Among the paintings at the museum will be “Pioneer Scarecrow” by Georgia Cawley of Long Grove. A former art teacher, now a freelance artist, Cawley is a founder of the Long Grove Art Guild. Her fellow art guild members, Dona Blunt and Alice Morse, also submitted work to the competition.
Though a long-time resident of Long Grove, Cawley hails from downstate Eureka.
“I grew up surrounded by cornfields,” she says. “I know farm. There are farmers in my family.”
So it’s no surprise that her painting shows one of her favorite Long Grove places: the herb garden behind Village Hall that’s tended by Historical Society volunteers. Last year, one of those volunteers, Tina Mall, created a scarecrow wearing a pioneer-style dress and bonnet to stand guard over the plants.
Late in the season, says Cawley, “I noticed she was still there. What a tough cookie.”
When she noticed that the scarecrow’s dress was fading, Cawley knew she’d better paint her picture to preserve the charming scene. She sketched in the garden, took photos, then went to her home studio to render the scene in acrlyics.
Invoking an artistic license, Cawley tweaked the actual view somewhat to include Long Grove’s historic, one-room Archer School in the background, another nod to the local past.
Combining the scarecrow, the school and the herb garden, which recreates the “pharmacy” of an earlier era, in one frame gave Cawley the tribute to the past and celebration of the present she was after.
The elements of the painting all comes together, she says, to show, a little bit of “what it was like then, and how we’ve built on that.”