Frank Lloyd Wright portrait

America’s most celebrated architect would have celebrated his 150th birthday this week. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a leader in the Midwestern Prairie School style of architecture, was born June 8 in Richland Center, Wisconsin.

After attending the University of Wisconsin for a short time, Wright moved to Chicago. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the potential for development in Chicago was limitless. The Chicago that Wright moved to was filled with grimy neighborhoods and crowded streets, making Wright determined to find work.

After many interviews Wright found work as a draftsman for Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a prominent architect who designed buildings in Syracuse, Buffalo and Chicago. Silsbee was founding member of the Chicago and Illinois chapters of the American Institute of Architects. After for working for Silsbee, Wright worked for the firm of Adler & Sullivan.

Wright worked at the firm until 1893, leaving to open his own practice. In 1896, Wright moved his office into the Steinway Hall Building, sharing the space with three other architects. Wright and those architects would form what is today known as the Prairie School style of architecture.

The Prairie School complemented the Chicago area. The one- or two-story houses often had open floor plans, natural materials like wood and stone, built-in cabinets, strong horizontal lines, low-pitched roofs and ribbons of windows.

Wright would design more than 50 houses in this style, including the Arthur Heurtley House in Oak Park, the Nathan G. Moore House in Oak Park and the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo.

Wright would pass away in 1959. Following his death, most archives of Wright’s work was stored at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Wisconsin and Arizona.

Mary PorterfieldMary Porterfield is a Chicago-based artist with a BS in Biology, MS in Occupational Therapy and a MFA. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally.

Porterfield has been teaching for 14 years with an emphasis on painting, composition, contemporary content, color theory, 2D design and drawing.

ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start?  Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and, if so, tell us about it?
MP: My interest in art began as a child when I would watch my mother paint.  When I was young, we lived in Germany because of my father’s career in the air force.  My mother took art classes to help her overcome her homesickness for the Midwest.  I would go with her to her painting classes and fell in love with art at that time.

Foresters by Mary PorterfieldILI: Illinois has factored into our work in the past.  What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?
MP: The diversity of Illinois, especially in Chicago, has been a huge influence on my work.  My art is largely based on my experience as an occupational therapist, working in a hospital on the Northwest side of Chicago.  I’ve witnessed many family members sacrifice their own health to care for a loved one who is disabled.  These individuals, who take on the role of caregiver, have been the most inspiring to me.  Their selflessness and resilience reflect so many of the attributes I see in Illinois residents.  Their stories are reflected in the narratives within my landscapes. Learning from their experiences makes living in Illinois especially meaningful.

Birds of Pray by Mary PorterfieldILI: What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?
MP: There are many exhibition opportunities available at various art centers, colleges, universities, galleries and independent spaces.  Some of these opportunities are listed on

ILI: What do you like about Illinois?
MP: In addition to the people of this state, I’ve been really moved by the Illinois landscape.  Both the cliffs of Galena and the canyons of Starved Rock State Park have made their way into my work.  In their beautiful yet daunting views, they represent situations I’ve encountered in healthcare that are inspiring yet challenging.  These scenes form the background of my paintings and are inhabited by many figures who struggle to care for others in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

ILI: What is your favorite medium to work in?
MP: I typically paint on wood panel but, recently, I’ve been drawing more.  Drawing has allowed me to bring more attention to the narratives that are camouflaged within my paintings.

Rise and Fall by Mary PorterfieldILI: Where can people view or purchase your work?
MP: My work can be viewed at or I can also be contacted at

ILI: What artist inspires you and why?
MP: I have deep respect for outsider art because of the unrestrained manner with which so many of the artists worked.  I’ve been most inspired by Chicago outsider artist, Henry Darger.  Over the course of his lifetime and without an audience, Henry completed a 15,000 page fantasy novel, along with some 300 watercolor and collage drawings.  Words cannot describe the level of respect I have for his lifelong commitment to such an idiosyncratic and intimate vision.

Sarah Kaiser.Head Shot smSarah Kaiser is an Evanston based artist and teacher who received her MA in Art History and MFA from the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the juxtaposition of figures, animals and patterns unified by a nature-inspired color palette.

She mainly works in oils, using gestural brushstrokes to convey universal themes such as the transience of life, the persistence of time, and the relationship between humans and nature.

ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?Evanich Commission Detail Shot sm

Kaiser: My earliest recollection of making art comes from a photograph my mother took of me when I was three or four years old. I was painting with watercolors, and I remember that there was a picture of Donald Duck on the tin paint box. At the moment in which the photo was taken, I told her that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I’m glad she encouraged me. Since I was an only child until age 13, I also needed to fill the time, so I turned to drawing and painting. Mom and I moved often because of her job. I went to 7 different schools between kindergarten and the 12th grade. As a result, I was often the new kid at school, and had to make new friends. This meant that I often had to play alone. When I was bored, I would make art.

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headshotSherri Burritt is an artist based in Morton outside of Peoria.

For three decades she created works mainly with watercolor until about six years ago when she started experimenting with oil paints, enjoying the flexibility of the medium.

Her works focus on impressionistic style still lives as she plays with light and texture to create not just a scene but an emotion and feeling.

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Wall headshotsmMicah Wall is an artist based in Edwardsville who specializes in woodworking and personalized craftsmanship. He founded his own business called Unnatural Resources and prides himself in working with his hands and tools to bring beauty into our everyday lives and spaces.

Coming from a long line of craftsmen, the spirit to create and design is something he considers part of his DNA. He specializes in bringing others’ visions to reality and bringinging out the natural beauty in his materials.

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