Editorial: Why COD's blockbuster Frida Kahlo art exhibition is good for the region

  • A window on the west side of the Wheaton Public Library is decorated in honor of the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the College of DuPage.

    A window on the west side of the Wheaton Public Library is decorated in honor of the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the College of DuPage. John Starks | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 6/10/2021 9:01 AM

After more than two years of anticipation, "Frida Kahlo: Timeless" finally has arrived at the College of DuPage.

The exhibition, which opened last weekend at the Glen Ellyn school's Cleve Carney Museum of Art, features 26 original pieces spanning the career of the famed Mexican artist and cultural icon. The drawings and paintings -- on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico -- represent the largest selection of Kahlo works displayed in the Chicago area since 1978.


It couldn't have come at a better time.

We've spent most of the last year entertaining ourselves at home. Our favorite suburban fairs and festivals were canceled, postponed or scaled back because of COVID-19 restrictions. Even the Kahlo exhibition's original summer 2020 opening date was pushed back due to the pandemic.

Now the statewide reopening is planned for Friday. What better way to celebrate than to experience a blockbuster exhibition right here in the suburbs?

"With the country opening up, the timing is perfect for economic impact to really take flight, and that's good for all of us," Diana Martinez, the director of COD's McAninch Arts Center, said recently.

Local business owners are ready for Fridamania.

Last week, reporter Katlyn Smith wrote about how dozens of storefronts in downtown Glen Ellyn and Wheaton are decorated in honor of the Kahlo exhibition. Restaurants and shops are offering special menu items and souvenirs to the influx of Kahlo fans.

DuPage County tourism officials estimate that nearly $8 million will be infused into the local economy during the Kahlo exhibition's three-month run. That money represents spending on dining, overnight lodging, transportation, Kahlo-themed merchandise and new jobs created, Smith reported.

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What is especially exciting is that COD is preparing for attendance to exceed 100,000 people.

Beth Marchetti, executive director of the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the county has marketed the show internationally since it was formally announced in November 2018.

In recent years, folks have had to travel to Mexico -- or to exhibitions in Budapest, Milan and Moscow -- to view Kahlo's works from the Olmedo collection.

Martinez said people are coming from 48 states and six countries to view "Frida Kahlo: Timeless."

That means visitors from across the nation and around the world will get to see firsthand what suburban Chicago has to offer. So, while the star of the show is undoubtedly Kahlo and her artwork, Glen Ellyn and surrounding towns also are on display. And that's good for all of us.

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