Illinois Art Station’s New Building Seeks To Preserve Natural History | Local education



NORMAL – Leaders at the Illinois Art Station hope a plethora of flora and fauna in its future new home will inspire young artists.

“I think this is perhaps the most breathtaking view of the town of Normal,” said Dr Laura E. Berk, President of the IAS Foundation and its founding donor. “It’s just a gem of a place and we would love the whole community to have the opportunity to visit and experience it.”

The nonprofit arts education organization purchased three properties at 101 E. Vernon Ave., and 605 and 607 S. Linden St. in June for its first permanent location. The normal city council on Monday approved the rezoning of the properties and a site plan for future construction.

Illinois Art Station, founded in 2018, provides art experiences to nearly 3,000 young people and their families through local partnerships with organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal and the Bloomington and Normal Public Libraries. .

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Two occupied homes at 605 and 607 S. Linden St. were purchased to make way for part of the Illinois Art Station. The land will eventually become a rain garden to help run off storm water.


He is known for his large-scale murals by local youth and professional teaching artists on Market Street and Morris Avenue and inside the Constitution Trail tunnel under Washington Street.

One of the properties, 101 E. Vernon, was originally part of the Custer Bros. Nursery, which operated from 1890 to 1950 before the nursery moved several blocks east, Berk said.

Around this time, the Custer family built a house on the Old Nursery, where they lived until 2007, when it was purchased by John Freese, former Chief Justice of the 11th Judicial Circuit, and his wife, Marilyn.


Wildflowers in bloom along Sugar Creek near 605 and 607 S. Linden St. illustrate the natural habitat that will be part of the Illinois Art Station facility.


When the time came for the Freese family to sell the house, they intended to ensure the property’s natural environment was preserved, Berk said.

The IAS plans to preserve as many original trees and shrubs and potentially add historic signage, Berk said. In doing so, the organization hopes that the natural space and beauty could provide artistic inspiration.

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“This site simply offers a wonderful opportunity for our young people to learn about the importance of preserving the natural world, how it can be done and how to represent what nature means to them in terms of art,” said Berk .

Now, the IAS is preparing to begin construction in the fall and transform the former Custer family home into an arts education and studio space, said Laura Jaster, executive director of IAS.

Current plans include the expansion and renovation of a split-level building with a lobby, a small art gallery and two art studios.

Jaster said the project could be completed as early as summer 2021.


A jogger on Constitution Trail passes through open ground at 101 E. Vernon Ave. which will be part of the Illinois Art Station.


The two homes located at 605 and 607 S. Linden will be demolished and turned into a rain garden to help with storm water runoff. A 13-space car park is provided with access from Linden Street.


An area just north and west of Linden Street, as it crosses a bridge in Block 600, will be part of the Illinois Art Station.


There will be six accessible parking spaces available on a circular route between the house and Constitution Trail with access on Vernon Avenue.

“We are very excited about the design of the building,” said Berk. “We think it blends in perfectly with the natural space.”

Art comes to life on the path of the Constitution

Photos: Art comes to life on the Constitution Trail

Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.


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