LA GRANGE – Nikki Thomson was a graphic designer for 17 years before the economy tanked.
She lost her job as all the places she had worked – graphic design studios, print shops and other businesses – shut down.
These days, Thomson isn’t designing full-time, but she jumps at every opportunity to put her creative talents to work.
"Any time anyone says, 'You want to do something artistic?' I'm like, 'Yes, I would like to do that,’” Thomson said.
Bean bag-toss boards were a new canvas for Thomson, who painted two boards for DeVries Grocery & Market as part of the summer’s Fun & Games in La Grange summer art exhibit sponsored by the La Grange Business Association. The auction raised more than $10,000 for 15 different charities, with most of the proceeds going to Pets and Pals Charities Ltd.
Thomson’s boards, which feature three glasses of wine nestled under a vine, were voted the People’s Choice Award.
“I've never painted bean bag boards before,” Thomson said Friday night as the boards were auctioned off for charity in front of Village Hall. “It was very cool. It was very hard to set them up and paint them standing in my living room."
Thomson’s "Cheers to La Grange" set sold for $325. The top bid was $700 for a Chicago Blackhawks-themed board set painted by Margaret Prescott for St. Cletus Religious Education.
“It’s just very cool,” Thomson said. “I’ve never had anybody bid on my stuff before ... I like the fact that it’s all going to charity. The whole thing is so cool. It mimics the whole thing in Chicago with the cows.”
The boards were on display throughout the summer, fastened to light poles and other structures outside downtown businesses. The stars and stripes set created by Karen Gula and her staff at Lilett’ Candies Gourmet Chocolate Shop was stolen over the Fourth of July weekend, so a basket was passed around at the auction to collect money for the Wounded Warrior Project, where Gula had hoped to donate the money brought in by her boards.
Kerri Klun’s Star Wars-themed boards were part of the silent auction. Klun, who has designed summer art pieces for the past four years, put lights inside her boards for a special effect.
"I always want it to go for a lot because I want [a lot of] money to go to charity,” Klun said. “So I always work extra hard to make it a little special. I like to engineer it.”
Those with ideas for next summer's art exhibit are encouraged to email Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org.