Art Show: ‘Arising’ celebrates students’ talents

Professor Lara Hrycaj and GSU Senior Dominique MacLean view one of the pieces in “Arising.”

Future artists rose to the occasion to represent their respective schools at the Union Street Gallery, 1527 Otto Blvd. in Chicago Heights. On view until Saturday, March 4, “Arising” brought art students, families and the community out to this enriching celebration of hard work, talent, and creativity.

Visitors to this space will see more than 50 artworks. Sculpture, ceramics, and printmaking added variety to the more typical roster of painting and drawing. Several resident artists were kind enough to open the doors to their spaces, offering a snapshot of the day-to-day of a master in their craft. One such artist is GSU’s Debbie Burk. A resident since December 2022, her sensational work in ceramics is the first space visitors encounter when entering the building.

Moving forward into the main space, you realize that this gallery has more to offer than what can be gauged from the street. Your eye travels from one corner, the high ceiling, to the next corner. The first floor housed the works of artists from GSU and Prairie State College. The second-floor loft gives a presence. Union Street Gallery feels both grand and intimate. The second floor displayed the work of the high school students. The artwork lined the wall, creating a vibrant, stimulating experience for its many viewers.

An element that I believe made this exhibition different from most others is that having student participants drew classmates, friends, and families, resulting in a showing that felt familiar, inviting, safe. This is crucial for young artists who may be nervous to display or speak formally about their work.

One of my favorites from the show was a piece made by GSU’s Jess Romero. Romero is in her junior year with a concentration in sculpture. This untitled piece—a sculpture, is made of wood and painted shades of red and blue. It is geometric in style and represents an anatomical human heart. This was Jess’ first time exhibiting her artwork, adding that this experience has made for good practice speaking about her art and process.

A similar sentiment was shared by artist Kayla Jones. Also in her junior year, Jones says that the exhibition allowed her to share a dialogue with her peers about each other’s work. Jones says that the highlight of her experience at the show was being able to see all the work in a formal space, adding that it was motivating to “not necessarily [see] the competition, but seeing the field, where everyone is at [with their work].”

At the end of the program, Gallery Director Julian Graham addressed the gathering to speak about the Gallery and thanked everyone involved with this production. Then board members of the gallery and representatives of each school presented awards for Best In Show from each of the participating schools. GSU grad student Jason Cuevas was awarded for his encaustic paintings.

I believe that all parties involved would consider this event a success. Hopefully this experience inspires all the participating artists and adds to the buzz around the gallery—a gem in the community.

Chicago Height’s Union Street Gallery is a community building resource and I believe that this exhibition has done well to reinforce that community connection and inspire the next generation of artists in Chicago’s Southland. Union Street is very active, offering exhibitions, classes, internships, and volunteering opportunities. For more information on how you can get involved, visit