Keeping Art Alive Amidst a Pandemic in Kankakee County


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While we’re only in Stage 3 of the 5 stages of Restore Illinois, it can easily seem like there is nothing to do outside of the home. There are lots of local events we know and love that have been canceled for 2020.

Many of these events involved local artisans and art-related activities. However, some events have been able to make a few alterations and remain running! One such event is the yearly bench auction held by the Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism.

The Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism is an art gallery located in the heart of downtown Kankakee at 356 E Merchant Street. Their artists, all of which have autism and range in age from 5 to 27, have been painting benches and auctioning them off for the past five years.

This auction raises money to support the gallery.

This project was the idea of Dondi Maricle and her husband, Al. Dondi and Al build the benches and find sponsors to fund them. Then, the artists paint them! One example of these creative benches is this one painted by Brennan Moore in 2019. It featured three women in gorgeous dresses, with flowers in the center.

The 2020 benches will be put on display at the Kankakee Farmers Market next Saturday, June 13th, and then auctioned off on Saturday, June 20th.

Trenna Carriker-VanVleck
Trenna Carriker-VanVleck
Trenna Carriker-Vanvleck is a wife and mother to three boys, two of whom are twins with another on the way! She just graduated with her associates from Kankakee Community College and will be attending Olivet Nazarene University this fall to pursue a major in Art Education. When she’s not supporting the arts here in Kankakee County, she spends her time working at Little Me Studios in Bourbonnais.


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