Spring-themed artwork by Marklund clients on display, up for auction

Many of us anxiously await spring, but maybe not as much as some artists at Marklund Hyde Center in Geneva.

The developmentally disabled residents, students and clients at Marklund in Geneva spent time during the holidays creating six of 13 paintings that three Marklund centers completed with an “Awaiting Spring” theme for display in the 737 N. Michigan Ave. office complex lobby in Chicago.

The work that therapists at Geneva, the Marklund Wasmond center in Elgin and Marklund Philip Center in Bloomingdale oversaw with Marklund children and adults will be on display at the building, which houses a Neiman Marcus store and various offices. The art will be on display through March.

In the meantime, these interesting creations are available through an online bidding process as a fundraiser for Marklund at through May.

The opportunity for the art display came about through Live Art International and CBRE, a longtime supporter of Marklund. Live Art International was collaborating with CBRE, a real estate and investment firm, about the need for a new set of artwork, which it rotates after a few months, in its building lobby. Live Art suggested Marklund.

“Our residents have been commissioned to do art before, about eight years ago from a donor we have a relationship with when he was opening a new business, so we had some experience with this,” said Heather Graves, chief development officer at Marklund.

Marklund student Amyia shows her joy in working on a painting with a recreational therapist at the Marklund Hyde Center in Geneva in preparation for an art display in downtown Chicago. Courtesy of Marklund

“Our residents and clients do have developmental disabilities, so our therapy team totally stepped up with residents who loved art,” Graves added. “The students and residents came up with a theme, and the therapists worked on personal therapy goals while figuring out how to use different tools to make the art.”

It was a quick turnaround, which meant Marklund’s past experience with art projects came in handy.

“We had three or four weeks to get supplies, do the art, get it framed and get it to downtown Chicago,” Graves noted. “It was during the holidays, so we had a lot going on and some staff off work. In coordinating and doing the logistics to make sure we could stay on target with the challenge, our therapy team stepped up and exceeded all expectations.”

It helped quite a bit that one of those recreational therapists, Wes Kochan, working out of Geneva for Marklund since 1997, has had a side gig as an artist and musician for many years.

“With recreational therapy, myself and the others are good at getting these sorts of things done,” Kochan said.

“It wasn’t just a matter of getting some paintings done. I knew where these were going and that it had to be good art,” he added. “My background in doing art and music in the past helped.”

It also sparked plenty of innovation in how the developmentally impaired residents and students could create such beautiful pieces of art. Each painting represented the work from eight to 10 Marklund residents or students.

The “Water Lillies” painting is one of six pieces of art that students and residents at Marklund Hyde Center in Geneva created for a display in the lobby of the Neiman Marcus building at 737 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago. Courtesy of Marklund

The large canvases called for a different approach in terms of the thickness of paint, the types of brush strokes needed, and how the artists could reach certain parts of the painting based on their range of motion limitations.

“It’s almost like giving them a longer arm, when you sometimes take a plastic hockey stick and tape on a paint brush at the end,” Kochan said. “Everyone thought it was really cool and they could use it to reach out to paint the sky, back and forth, like an art pattern.”

Kochan would choose a resident with a different motor pattern to do the more detailed work with smaller brushes and strokes. “I like a nice, simple approach,” he noted. “We use things readily available and get good results.”

Gunjan Patel, director of therapy at Marklund, found the creativity of therapists to be “amazing.” She described one process as putting a small hole in the bottom of a bucket of paint and then having a resident hit the bucket to spin it around and spray a pattern on the canvas.

All of that creativity paid off with a project that left her knowing it all went well.

“The smiles on all of the residents’ and students’ and clients’ faces in getting this project done was just so beautiful,” Patel said.

But it had an even deeper meaning for Patel, who has worked at Marklund for 20 years, and others who have been there a long time. She realized the time frame for this effort was its own gift, but also in stark contrast to how therapists at Marklund approach their life’s work.

“Sometimes we are afraid we will not be able to get a project done, but anything that shows a little progress — as therapists, we are happy,” she said. “With the population we work with, it is not like outpatient therapy where, within four weeks, we will attain our goals. This work can be years and years, so it’s not immediate gratification.

“It can be frustrating,” Patel added. “But we have to be patient with the population we serve.”

It’s a good reminder for all of us. We have to be patient for spring. But, oh, how much easier it is to wait when the “Awaiting Spring” display from Marklund students and residents brings such a pleasant jolt to all of us.

A chance for Swift tickets

Although it’s important to highlight Marklund’s work with developmentally disabled kids and adults, it’s worth noting the agency’s Top Hat Ball fundraiser in Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 10, has a significant auction item.

Tickets to a Taylor Swift concert on Oct. 25 in New Orleans, with hotel room and an autographed Swift album, will be up for bid at the event at the Chicago Marriott on Michigan Avenue.

Proxy bidding is available for those unable to attend. Information is available by emailing

Passing along the Bible

Lynette Anderson’s numbers are quite impressive. And they remind us that many people like her who give so much to shape our children’s values basically fly under the radar of public recognition.

Anderson is retiring after 26 years as director of children and family ministries at Hosanna! Lutheran Church in St. Charles, where she directed Sunday school and vacation Bible school programs for thousands of children. Just before COVID, she had as many as 350 kids and 125 volunteers involved in VBS.

Lynette Anderson, director of children’s ministries at Hosanna! Lutheran in St. Charles, takes time with her grandsons, Bryce Paris, left, and Grayson Paris, during a vacation Bible school session in 2016. Anderson is retiring after 26 years of operating VBS and Sunday school programs at the church. Courtesy of the Anderson family

“It has been an absolute joy,” Anderson said of her time in writing the programs each year for VBS and Sunday school. “I’ve been very blessed by the journey.”

After coming to Hosanna! with her family in 1984, she spent time coordinating a program for 3-year-olds, and served on the church board. When she wrote a job description for a director of children’s ministries, the Rev. John Nelson asked her if she wanted that job. It wasn’t her initial intention, but she took it — and the children of the congregation have since benefited.

Like any teacher working the past three decades during a time of tremendous technological change, Anderson had to adjust her approach often. But the basics of Bible teachings never wavered, even when she and her husband, John Arthur, and other volunteers would build props to reflect popular movies or events at the time — with a twist for the religious studies.

“We had a circus theme when the movie ‘The Greatest Showman’ was popular and many other interesting things for the kids to find the teachings relevant for them and their families,” Anderson said. Another prop setting featured “Mission Possible” as a play on those action movies.

“The biggest thing in the program is for them to know they are loved, and to do it through fun things,” she added.

Hosanna! is hosting receptions for Anderson after the 5:30 p.m. service Saturday, Feb. 10, and after the 10 a.m. service Sunday, Feb. 11.

She knew it was time to leave the program in other hands, mostly because she wants to spend more time with her grandkids.

As for the receptions at the church, she’s looking forward to the many faces she knows well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the kids and parents again,” Anderson said. “I have been blessed with seeing generations of kids and families come through as kids who went through the program come back with their kids. That is always my joy.”

Barbecue back in business

There isn’t an overflow of barbecue restaurants in the area, so it was good to see that Firewater BBQ & Brew at 524 W. State St. in Geneva held a recent ribbon cutting that made it official that owners Roger and Collin Dunn are back in business.

The restaurant actually reopened late last year, but it had been shuttered for months because of a significant renovation in the aftermath of a fire at the site.

The fire didn’t gut the place, but owners saw it as a good time to do an upgrade of sorts in addressing some things that were likely in the back of their minds for some time.

Most importantly, this place has good barbecue.

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