Exploring emotion through local art and artists


Photo by Emily Ziajor

For many, painting and other forms of art offer an emotional release.

By Emily Ziajor, Multimedia Manager

Ongoing and changing art shows within Gallery 200 in West Chicago allow artists an outlet to showcase their process through art.

Gallery 200 is an art gallery in West Chicago that features the works of local artists. The gallery not only helps sell art, but also displays pieces for others to view. Throughout the coming months, there will be numerous schools featured in the gallery: in March, Gallery 200 will display elementary students’ works, while in April, West Chicago Community High School students will have their pieces displayed.  

Every month, the gallery features an artist. Dean’s assistant and study hall teacher, Britta Renwick, who works for WCCHS, and has also been working at the gallery, has her own show coming this November. 

Renwick has been working for the gallery for over 10 years, after finding the facility through a friend. 

“We just had a great show by a visiting artist who’s now actually also a gallery artist, she became a member – Maria Ananieva,” Renwick said.

Mixed media art incorporates multiple mediums in a single piece. (Photo by Emily Ziajor)

Ananieva, is a 23-year-old artist from Bulgaria who moved to the states six years ago. Her show ran at Gallery 200 from January 3-28. The exhibit was titled “Feathered Instinct” and featured mainly birds and florals. The same exhibit has now moved to The Knee Law Firm in Mt. Prospect, and will remain there for a couple of months. 

Ananieva mainly paints birds accompanied by flowers, not only because she has noticed them a lot in her life, but also because of her connection to nature. She believes every artist finds inspiration somehow, which contributes to their creation of art. 

“When I create, for me, many times, it’s so intuitive. I will plan a little bit with color study, sketch study, values and stuff. Then I’ll kinda go into it without really rendering the final details. Then the painting kind of reveals itself upon me, y’know, and then once I kinda put it together then I start to see more symbolism in it,” Ananieva said.

Ananieva has created art ever since she was a child, and actually has her own studio Ananieva Art. She also works alongside adults and children at Children’s Art Classes in Geneva.

“You can see the difference between adults and kids. Adults really overthink stuff, like they don’t really allow themselves to make mistakes, which is actually very essential if you want to be an artist because essentially you’re not learning how to paint great: you’re learning how to problem solve. You can really see that in the kids. Like they just don’t care, or if they make a mistake they make it into something else, and I just love teaching them how to deal with their emotions too,” Ananieva said.

At West Chicago Community High School, teaching styles have also been slightly altered to best benefit art students. An art therapy approach has been accessible for students in 34-year veteran art teacher Dave Exner’s class.

“Art therapy helps them be a little more in control of their emotions as well as their mental and emotional stability. I think it’s a better use of our time and energy here at school, since we’re still under the effects of COVID,” Exner said.

During the pandemic, many artists say they were hit with either inspiration or art block. Renwick’s mindset during that time was affected by an art block that she claims hindered her ability to create.

“The first piece that I finally could start again was actually a very sad piece. It was a huge piece, but it was showing my emotions that I was extremely upset with everything that was going on. That piece, I put almost every emotion into that piece. It actually made me cry while I was doing it,” Renwick said.

“Anybody can do art and anybody should do art, and it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It just has to be a piece that makes you feel better,” Renwick said. (Photo by Emily Ziajor)

She maintains that art allows artists to express themselves, and acts as an outlet.

“So many people say, ‘I can’t do art’. It’s because they think you have to be a wonderful, great artist. They think you start off as a Picasso, when you don’t. Anybody can do art and anybody should do art, and it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It just has to be a piece that makes you feel better,” Renwick said.

Gallery 200 is located at 103 W. Washington St., West Chicago, IL 60185. Open Friday from 2 – 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.