Artists fill downtown La Grange with painted bean bag boards

LA GRANGE – Rectangular boards typically reserved for the thump of flying bean bags have been transformed into public art lining the sidewalks of downtown La Grange this summer.

Boards used in the game cornhole, also called bags, are the platform for this year’s “Fun & Games in La Grange” summer art exhibit sponsored by the La Grange Business Association (LGBA). The exhibition, in its eighth year, pairs local businesses with local artists, who create a painting based on a subject related to the business. The exhibition aims to highlight local businesses and attract visitors to La Grange. Past years have featured elephants, artist’s easels, Adirondack chairs, rain barrels, rocking chairs and contemporary grandfather clocks.

“Artistically, it might be the best year ever,” said Charlene Vickery, chairperson for the project, at a kickoff event May 28 at Bottle & Bottega.

The exhibit features 53 sets of boards painted to themes ranging from “Sips or Suds?” (a wine glass versus a beer mug, found outside Bottle & Bottega) to “Tiki Totem Turtle” (totem poles with animals representing traits like loyalty, found outside First National Bank of La Grange). Douglas Auto Body in Brookfield sealed all boards to make the designs pop visually.

Most of the boards are fastened to light poles throughout the Central Business District, though eight are located in the West End. Exhibit maps are available at various businesses or at and include an entry form for a scavenger hunt that challenges participants to find items hidden in 12 of the paintings. Those who submit a form with all correct answers to a drop box at Village Hall will be entered for a $100 gift certificate to downtown businesses.

This year’s theme was popular among the artists.

"It was like having the greatest, huge canvas,” said Hillary Andrlik, an art teacher in Hinsdale who painted “Lorax – Green Before Green Was Cool” for EcoManiacs.

The boards won’t be played on during the exhibit but will be auctioned for charity Sept. 6 on the lawn outside Village Hall.

"I like it when it's something useful,” said Heather Rae Leininger, who painted the totem pole boards, about this year’s theme. “I think people will be more likely to buy it at an auction."

The exhibition attracts new artists every year, LGBA Executive Director Nancy Cummings said. This year, about half of the artist’s were participating for the first time, thanks in part to new businesses.

“They’re bringing in their own artists and their own perspective on La Grange,” Cummings said.