Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods presents 'Connecting to Our Common Ground'

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, in collaboration with Hyde Park Art Center and collector, artist, and environmental scientist Patric McCoy, present an exhibition of artwork celebrating the diverse ways in which we connect with and are shaped by nature.

The exhibition, "Connecting to Our Common Ground," is free and open to the public at Brushwood Center until Oct. 29. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Saturdays, and 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays at Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd. Riverwoods, IL 60015).

"Connecting to Our Common Ground" is a special exhibition in honor of Brushwood Center's 2023 Smith Nature Symposium awardee Baratunde Thurston.

Renowned for his PBS show, "America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston," he travels the country to uncover our complex relationship with the outdoors. The exhibition explores the ways that artists from different communities experience the natural world through painting, mixed media and photography.

It seeks to answer questions such as: How has nature been an important part of their lives? In what ways has their time outside been impacted by climate change, equity, or access? How has their relationship with nature shaped who they are as people?

Featured artists include ​Paul Branton, Peter Gray, Ken Hester, Renee Robbins, Sheri Rush, Farah Salem, Preston Lewis Thomas, Julian E. Williams, Jr.

“I was thrilled to be invited to participate in this exhibition which reflects how people are shaped by the natural environment,” says exhibition artist Farah Salem. “This is a topic of interest for me as an art therapist in terms of trauma healing through an eco-psychology lens. As well as an artist, through my art-making process I attune to the experience of being desensitized and disembodied from the earth, and reorient the body towards a generative reciprocal relationship with the earth. I explore these concepts through my artistic process that moderates the somatic and internal tensions of grief and acceptance by tracing and re-embodying migratory ancestral healing practices that link bodies and land."

“We are so excited to present this exhibition in partnership with Hyde Park Center. These talented artists share their experiences with the outdoors, and explore the intersection of art and nature, which is central to Brushwood Center's mission,” says Catherine Game, Executive Director at Brushwood Center. “This tribute to Baratunde aims to facilitate meaningful conversations about the environmental challenges our communities face, while celebrating all we are doing as a collective to create change.”

Connecting to our Common Ground is part of the 40th Annual Smith Nature Symposium Event Series, celebrating Brushwood Center's 40th anniversary through an exciting line-up of artists, programs, and change-makers.

For more information about the exhibition, artist biographies, and related events, please visit

About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods works collaboratively with community partners, artists, health care providers, and scientists to improve health equity and access to nature in Lake County, Illinois, and the Chicago region. We engage people with the outdoors through the arts, environmental education, and community action. Brushwood Center's programs focus on youth, families, Military Veterans, and those facing racial and economic injustices. Brushwood Center collaborates closely with community partners to offer art and nature programs with youth, families, Military Veterans, seniors, artists, and area residents. Our program strategy is rooted in the asset-based community engagement model, which is a bottom-up way of working with communities that focuses on community strengths and assets rather than on deficits and problems.

Specifically, Brushwood Center prioritizes:

Building authentic, long-term relationships with community-based organizations and partners;

Collaborating with community assets to develop mutually beneficial programs and contributing resources where needed to advance the health of people and the planet; and,

Combatting settler colonial legacies and false narratives, such as white saviorism, through cultural and artistic platforms.

For more information about Brushwood Center, visit

Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park Art Center is a hub for contemporary arts in Chicago, serving as a gathering and production space for artists and the broader community to cultivate ideas, impact social change, and connect with new networks. The Art Center functions as an amplifier for today and tomorrow's creative voices, providing the space to cultivate and create new work and connections. For more information about Hyde Park Art Center, visit

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