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An Artists’ Playground

1stfridayLocal history and the arts meet to celebrate community at Lakeside Legacy Arts Park.

Overlooking the sparkling shores of Crystal Lake is Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, featuring a repurposed architectural gem from our past. In 2002, it became a workspace for local artists and their students with galleries where the community gathers to enjoy – and in many cases purchase – work by local talent.

This majestic 12-acre property – anchored by the Dole Mansion – is inarguably a perfect setting for the county’s creative scene. From history and architecture to fine art and music, there is something for everyone within its confines.

The Dazzling Dole

You could not ask for a more dynamic space to foster the local arts community than the historic Dole Mansion and its lavish estate, built in the 1860s by storied businessman Charles Dole.

“Its design and elegance create a beautiful setting for any art event, whether it is an art exhibition or a musical presentation,” added Johanna Gullick, resident partner artist who teaches painting classes and workshops in oil, acrylic and watercolor.

Lakeside, located at 401 Country Club Road, hosts First Friday events on the first Friday of most months where more than 400 people gather to view fine art (which is also available for sale). The “First Fridays are always eagerly anticipated and give the residents artists a chance to meet visitors and enjoy the art by visiting artists and share in the wonderful community spirit of the Lakeside,” said Jeanine Hill-Soldner, a resident artist who teaches drawing, oils, acrylics and mixed media.

First Fridays are a great opportunity for artists and the community to meet and enjoy not only art, but concerts by resident musicians, and food and beverages. Throughout the month, hundreds of people visit the Sage and Dole galleries to view the month’s exhibit.

“I enjoy having the gallery spaces that give us an opportunity to exhibit our work and the work of other artists outside of the Lakeside community,” said Pat Brutchin, resident artist and instructor of drawing, clay and sculpture. “I love the feeling of having a gathering place to celebrate all our accomplishments.”

Creative Arts Center

Today, 24 diverse resident partner artists and musicians utilize the 50,000-square-foot campus and welcome visitors to tour their studios.

“Studio space ranges from single studio space to double studios with some open studios facing the beautiful lake and Lakeside’s lavish grounds,” according to Erin McElroy, advancement coordinator. “The space is like a blank canvas for our resident partners to create.”

Artists enjoy the beauty of the buildings and setting, according to Gullick. “It is inspirational to come to such a historic, unique place to create our art,” she said. “The community of artists is also very comfortable and enjoyable to be in.”

Another unique aspect of this space is the blending of visual arts with music. “It is a wonderful thing to work in a building like Lakeside,” said Lori Kiergaard, oil painter/instructor. “I walk down the hall and hear all kinds of music and singing, with sculptors and painters and people teaching art. It makes you want to get to work.”

In addition to resident artists, Lakeside is home to the McHenry County Music Center, McHenry County Youth Orchestras Roger Adler Music, Healing Arts: Massage Therapy and Reflexology and the Crystal Lake Rowing Club.

Learning at Lakeside

The public is welcome to take classes in the many disciplines offered at Lakeside.

Classes and workshops are available in painting, drawing, sculpture and a variety of performing arts: voice, piano, cello, trumpet, saxophone and guitar. “Students enjoy having a place to develop their skills and pursue their dreams,” Brutchin said. “I encourage anyone who is interested in taking an art class to explore Lakeside.”

Students range in age, level of knowledge and medium – there is virtually something for all. “Many of my students are retired adults [and I] also have students who have children in school and live in the neighborhood,” Gullick said. “I also teach faculty development art courses for District 47 art teachers in my studio, and they in turn teach kindergarten through eighth-grade children.”

Engaging Budding Artists

Last year, the space served more than 300 students under age 18, according to McElroy.

“I teach group-only lessons to elementary age students and get positive feedback from the parents,” Hill-Soldner said. “I host studio visits for students with special needs and for school children – this has always been a very positive experience for the students and teachers. Many of my teen students have graduated from high school and chosen art related careers of study like art education, architecture, graphic design and interior design.”

New in 2010, culinary arts classes include a kids culinary boot camp where children learned cooking skills and created works of art to eat or take home, McElroy explained. “By adopting a philosophy that the arts enrich the mind, body and soul, yoga and karate are also now appearing on the roster,” she added.

Scholarship funding is available for those students who are otherwise unable to participate in Lakeside classes. Currently 22 students directly benefit from the fund, receiving art education in painting, drawing and sculpting. These students exhibit annually on the property. This September, they will exhibit at Amber Larsen’s Creative Artistry School of Art, which is located in a small house on the property (formerly the Dole family’s servants’ quarters).

Each May, the Sage and Dole galleries feature the artwork of District 47 schools (Crystal Lake). Additionally in May, Pioneer Center for Human Services’ VOICE Sexual Assault Services Annual Adolescent Allies Art Show and scholarship competition features artists from each McHenry County high school. “We are proud to partner with the school districts and Pioneer Center for this celebration of emerging artists,” Legare said.

Preserving a ‘Jewel’, Supporting the Arts

Lakeside is vital to the community “because it provides a place for artists to share professional experience and celebrate the artistic efforts created within,” Brutchin explained. “It is very important that Lakeside continues to thrive especially because the arts programs are being cut. People can come and find a mentor/instructor to develop their appreciation for art or pursue their passion to create in a variety of processes and visions.”

Maintaining a Civil War-era building to fulfill this important mission has been no easy feat for Lakeside, and there are still renovations to be done. However, the outpouring of support has been incredible.

From volunteer laborers to generous donors, Lakeside Legacy is as much a story about philanthropy as it is about the emerging local arts. Several renovations and installations have been possible due to private donations and donations from the Crystal Lake Historical Society and Polly Crandall Questers Chapter 772.

A few somewhat urgent capital improvements needed include a new roof and brick tuck-pointing.

One unique way the community is invited to help build Lakeside’s future is by purchasing a brick. Every gift of $100 or more will receive a personalized brick. “Our goal is to sell 2,500 bricks and raise $250,000,” McElroy said. “For every $10,000 raised, we will refinish a step of the beautiful Dole Mansion staircase, using it as a ‘thermometer’ of our fundraising efforts. Anyone who joins us step by step, brick by brick, and hand in hand assists us as we sustain and preserve this beautiful property for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Lakeside Artists Say The Arts …

“… round us out as humans, allowing the creative side to be expressed.” –Johanna Gullick

“… are so important to life, especially when times are tough. People need art.” –Lori Kiergaard

“… are important in growing the local economy. Studies have proven that communities thrive when there is a vital and active arts community.” –Jeanine Hill-Soldner



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