Walking through downtown La Grange a little while back, Village resident Bartek Szymanski decided that any empty storefronts would look a lot better with some nifty art instead of hollow windows. They might even be more appealing to buyers.
Conveniently, Szymanski is an artist himself, a painter who balances his architect job with doing watercolor commissions, many of local homes. He has paintings on the wall in local businesses like The Barker Shop and the Western Springs Starbucks. And he's hoping to expand into displays in vacant real estate.
“I started thinking about what type of art could possibly be displayed in there to just make it more—colorful, was my thought at the time,” Szymanski said. “Really what I am trying to do is… make the pedestrian area a little more appealing for a time.”
Now Szymanski has landed his first exhibit: two pieces in the La Grange Arcade vacant office (26 S. La Grange Road.) left when Congressman Dan Lipinski moved south to Orland Park, a location granted to him by Burcor Properties, who are seeking a new leaser.
One piece is of a local home—one of the things the artist is more frequently commissioned for—the other, a painting of a scene from Strasbourg in France.
Szymanski hopes this will be just the first of several displays of art in unused space in and around La Grange. He has reached out to the holders of other properties in the area, and is in particular considering the Chase Bank windows along La Grange Road. He added that while some realtors turn him down, others are quite receptive to the idea.
“As people find out more about it, I hope that it will get some more traction,” he said. “It’s hit-or-miss if they’re going to be interested or not.”
Born in Poland and educated at the Warsaw University of Technology, where he picked up painting while learning to draw for architecture, Szymanski moved to La Grange ten years ago. A father of two with wife Kathleen, he paints from his home and is teaching his young daughters, whose work also appears on his website.
After taking a break for a while to focus on his family, Szymanski returned to painting in 2009. According to a Suburban Life profile, he is a member of the La Grange Art League and frequently donates his art to support schools and charities.
Though he does make some money off of painting as a second job, it’s not his focus—and he said he's not seeking to make any money off of these displays, or bolster his ego, but just help beautify his Village a bit.
“I do it more for my own enjoyment than for anything else,” he said.
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