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Fresh Air Virtual Art Exhibition Highlights Chicagoland Nature

Fresh Air, a collaboration between Project Onward, Forest Preserves of Cook County, and Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, is a virtual exhibition at through August 9, featuring Chicagoland natural treasures, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods and sites within the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Fresh Air captures the human yearning for connection to the outside after months of sheltering-in-place in Illinois. All of the artwork is for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Project Onward.

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, the artists of the nonprofit Project Onward studio and gallery for professional artists with mental and developmental disabilities, visited Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods and the Trailside Museum of Natural History in Thatcher Woods to find inspiration in nature. This collaboration gave them an exciting opportunity to bask in the natural surroundings, learn about local wildlife and experience close-up encounters with the animals on site. It was a memorable experience that fueled the creation of Fresh Air, a collection of artistic interpretations of Chicago’s habitats. “I enjoyed painting a natural landscape. The piece I made captures the serene peace of an early morning,” says participating artist Fernando Ramirez.

Brushwood Center, host of the online exhibition, hopes that the artwork will encourage viewers to consider the importance of local nature for both human health and ecological health. “Research shows that time outside is essential for human health, particularly in the midst of this pandemic. Visiting forest preserves and parks actually increases our immune system strength and emotional resilience, in addition to providing critical habitat for plants and wildlife,” says Executive Director Catherine Game.

Featured artists include Steven Albecher, Franklin Armstrong, Alfred Banks, Dijon Barrett, John Behnke, Cherylle Booker, Ken Bortman, Louis Demarco, William Douglas, Safiya Hameed, Jason Harris, David Hence, Adam Hines, David A. Holt, Michael Hopkins, Janno Juguilon, R.J. Juguilon, Coral Kappel, Blake Lenoir, Molly McGrath, Allen McNair, Jack Moore, Jacqueline Cousins Oliva, Fernando Ramirez, Luke Shemroske, Ryan Tepich, Ricky Willis and Sereno Wilson.