In Highland Park, art is helping to return to normal almost two months after the July 4 parade massacre

Thousands of people came to the Port Clinton Art Festival in Highland Park this weekend, nearly two months after the July 4 parade mass shooting.

Normal.

Merriam Webster defines it as habitual, typical, or routine.

And for Highland Park, where the July 4 parade massacre on Central Avenue in the city’s downtown left seven dead, at least 48 injured and dozens traumatized, this weekend was a step towards a return to the benefits of normality.

The 39th annual Port Clinton Art Festival drew some 200 exhibitors and thousands of attendees Saturday and Sunday, with art exhibit booths stretching east to west on Central Avenue and north and south in adjacent streets. Yes, it is along the parade route where people were shot or fled from the gunfire.

“We have a huge turnout,” said Amy Amdur, president of Amdur Productions, the Highland Park-based company producing the festival. “People from Highland Park and surrounding communities are all here. I think they want to show their solidarity with Highland Park and they want to show a return to normalcy.

There was never any talk of holding the art festival, which continued even during the COVID-19 years of 2020 and 2021, Amdur said.

Amdur said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told her “she really wants to get back to normal. And that’s what we’re trying to do. The healing process is going to be different for everyone.

On Sunday, I spoke with Scott Fishman, a photographer whose booth featured large-scale images of iconic Chicago scenes he’d taken from helicopters or rooftops — not photos taken from drones. Its booth location was on Central Avenue across from Port Clinton Square near Walker Bros.

Once it was clear the show would go on, Fishman, a Wilmette native who lives in River North, said, “I thought people would come out, with strong support. … I don’t feel like people stayed away because of what happened. I think if anything, maybe some of the younger kids with little kids stayed away, maybe because they were traumatized.

I also spoke with Sue Lances, who lives in Staten Island, New York, whose booth featured her handmade fabric turned into wearable art. His stand was near the building where the shooter perched on a rooftop to fire into the crowd below.

Lances told me she had no hesitation in coming but was wondering if people would come. “And then I said, ‘You know what? People are resilient to this. They will go beyond. They will become strong.

INFORMAL MEMORIAL TO VICTIMS OF HIGHLAND PARKS: A PLACE OF HEALING

If art can help soothe the soul, one example is the informal public art memorial to the victims of the Highland Park Massacre, which sprang up Central Avenue at Saint Johns Avenue just east of the Metra tracks, under an outdoor shelter – on the parade route.

It’s meant to be a place of comfort, artist Jacqueline von Edelberg told me – the force behind this installation.

Things change there all the time. There are artistic activities for children. I pass by often, there is a constant flow of people passing by.

Coincidentally, before the July 4 attack, Edelberg at the Highland Park Art Center had displayed thousands of pieces of orange fabric to protest gun violence – put up following the school shooting of Uvalde, Texas in May. A few days later, the same horror struck Highland Park. Orange became the color of the movement to reduce gun violence after the 2013 murder in Chicago’s South End of Hadiya Pendleton.

The shelter had become an ad hoc memorial for the seven dead about a week after the shooting when Edelberg first discovered it. orange wire.

There is an orange desk with pens where people can write cards and attach them to posts. Edelberg said there are now some 6,000 posts. There’s an orange mailbox for people to write to Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy from Highland Park who was paralyzed in the July 4 shooting. People wrap stones with orange thread.

What will happen to this space in the future – as the city ponders a permanent memorial – is an open question.

Says Edelberg, “People come and they experience space the way they want to experience space. So some people are in mourning. Some people are curious. Some people are sad. Some people heal, but ultimately we hope this place will be a place of peace, comfort, healing and hope.

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