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Design Diary: The Art Center Highland Park

Just as in-person events begin to return, PAGODA RED founder Betsy Nathan had the pleasure of seeing the current exhibition at The Art Center Highland Park. Follow along with her, as she views the show guided by curiosity and love of ephemeral expression.

It was great to visit The Art Center Highland Park and take in artists’ thoughtful perspectives of the pandemic we endured together. For it’s coming out, the Art Center curated the show Ephemera: The Power of Impermanence. Each work embodies the notion of transience — which we all experienced this past year.

When I think of ephemera represented in art, my first reference is a Tibetan Sand Mandala. Each meticulous colored sand meditation is created by monks  from India, Nepal and Tibet. Occasionally they take their talents on the road. Over the years, we’ve been lucky to host these spectacles here in Chicago.

Sand Mandala is a Buddhist tradition celebrating creation, destruction and impermanence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today at the Art Center, it was a treat to see how the notion of ephemeral art translates with local artists. I was welcomed by the curator of the exhibition, Caren Helene Rudman.

Curator Caren Helene Rudman with “Drawing Together to Heal the World” by Nate Baranowski.

The show is designed for visitors to immerse themselves into the concept. “Drawing Together to Heal the World” by graffiti artist Nate Baranowski extends closeness after so much isolation. Until Caren asked me to step on the opening mural by Baranowski, I didn’t realize that I too was part of the community created in this monumental trompe l’oeil. 

“Bring Back the Extinct Northern White Rhino” by Victoria Fuller.

The show expands through 3-4 rooms of the airy and light filled space. As you flow through each corridor, the show even spills into hallways. As a whole, it was apparent the artists and curators jumped on the chance to present their visual perspectives about our shared struggle through 2020. I personally can barely grasp the magnitude of our global experience during the pandemic. Engaging with these diverse voices helped me organize some of my feelings and thoughts. 

Exhibition view. Foreground: work from the Cloth° series by Cleveland Dean.

What originally drew me to the show was Cleveland Dean’s visual voice here — I’m so excited that he was invited to participate in the show to share his strength.

Work from the Cloth° series by Cleveland Dean.

Below, his resin work on burned distressed wood struck me; it illustrates Dean’s take on the tale of the phoenix rising. 

“Apotheosis” by Cleveland Dean.

Artist and guest curator Victoria Fuller goes on to conceptualize the sun. I particularly loved the simplicity of its heat and form here.

“Many Suns (Burnt Matches Sun)” by Victoria Fuller.

The notion of fire reminds us of the sun. Below, the graphic steel gears tell us of the permanence and power of the sun’s regular enduring rhythm that keeps time for all of the planet.

“Many Suns (Saw Blade Sun)” by Victoria Fuller.

Kathy Weaver’s whimsical quilt charmed my spirit. From a distance it looks like the night sky enveloping a psychedelic still-life cornucopia. When you get close, you see she not only stitched fabric and threads but applied painted plastic fingernails… love it!

“The Robot’s Dream – Feeling” by Kathy Weaver.

If you are in Chicago, please find time to visit the Art Center Highland Park. The scale is perfect when you need a creative recharge and don’t want a hassle parking. The warm and knowledgeable team is happy to introduce you to their approachable, inspired viewpoint. 


Ephemera: The Power of Impermanence runs now through June 12, 2021. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 10-4 and Saturday, 12:00-4:00. Located at 1957 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park, Illinois. Hero Image: “TarLine Drawing” by Nancy Natow-Cassidy.

After you visit this exhibition at the Art Center, we welcome you to PAGODA RED to view more work by Cleveland Dean. His Cloth° series is on display virtually or in-personal at our gallery. Learn more here.


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