The West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission named Chicago area artist Linda Schmitt as the People’s Choice Award winner for the 2021 art banner exhibit titled “Take Flight.”
Schmitt received the greatest number of online votes in the People’s Choice poll, which included a total of 23 original works of art transferred onto 30- x 60-inch vinyl banners installed on Main and West Washington streets from May through September this year.
The winning banner, titled “Taking Off,” features a watercolor study of a graceful heron shedding water off its feathers as it climbs higher and higher above its resting place. Schmitt explained her inspiration for the piece in a statement included with her submission to the juried exhibit, “The image of ‘Taking Off’ demonstrates soaring above life’s challenges into the new and exciting possibilities that the year 2021 holds.”
According to Heidi Kuahrich, West Chicago’s Cultural Arts Commission Chairperson, the banners have become one of the highlights of summer in West Chicago, and the People’s Choice Award is an opportunity for residents and visitors to show appreciation to the artists for their contributions to the community’s streetscape. “It’s enriching to see how our vibrant artists from near and far interpret the annual theme. Personally, I love seeing the community engage with the art by commenting on their favorites online and around town, though the overwhelming feedback often is ‘it’s so hard to choose’.”
Schmitt is a seasoned artist, experienced in various art media and subject matters. Currently she is focused on expressing the unique beauty and scientific detail of native plants and birds through her pen work and watercolors, studying under renowned botanical artist Heeyoung Kim. A member of the Mayslake Nature Study and Photography Club, she learned about the West Chicago exhibit through the DuPage County Forest Preserve, which assisted the city in promoting the call for art.
Schmitt gathers real-life botanical inspiration from 30 acres of family farmland that she and her husband recently returned to meadow, a brilliant study of native pollinator plants, grasses, and the beautiful creatures that follow. She is documenting the growth of the meadow, both scientifically and artistically, and she is excited to share her rich studies of the flowers, birds and animals that visits her land. See Schmitt’s work at www.westchicago.org.
Other recent achievements include: acceptance into the Kentucky Watercolor Society (2021) and the Missouri International Watercolor Society with a recent display in Barcelona, Spain (2020); an individual showcase at the Indian Public Library, Darien, Ill. (2020); juried exhibits at The Red Barn in Valparaiso, Ind. and the McCord Gallery and Cultural Center in Palos Heights, Ill., (2019); and various additional awards, including a People’s Choice Award, in smaller venues and classes.
Schmitt will be honored at a future City Council meeting, where she will be presented with her award-winning banner by Mayor Pineda and representatives of the Cultural Arts Commission.
The theme for the 2022 art banner exhibit has been announced as “Renewal.” Calls for art will be going out shortly and Commission members are extremely excited about the prospects of the new creative year and how local and regional artists will respond to the theme.