Nature Artists’ Guild Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Schulenberg Prairie

Initially, it may be difficult to understand the lure of the prairie, as it is not known for showy flowers, majestic trees, or rushing streams. Instead, the prairie reveals its peaceful beauty to its visitors slowly and quietly, until eventually, they understand. As traveler and author Eliza Steele wrote in 1840 –

 I started with surprise and delight. I was in the midst of a prairie! A world of grass and flowers stretched around me, . . . We passed whole acres of blossoms, a carpet of every color intermixed, or narrow bands, as if a rainbow had fallen upon the verdant slopes. . .”

October sketchbook pages, copyright Karen Johnson. Karen completed these watercolor sketches at the Schulenberg Prairie in October, 2020.

This year, The Morton Arboretum celebrates the 6oth anniversary of the Schulenberg Prairie. From their website –

Begun in 1962, it now takes in more than 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie, savanna, and wetland habitats, and has become an inspiration and model for similar restorations.

The first planting took place in 1963, and over the next few years, staff and volunteers planted not only seeds but more than 80,000 seedlings that Schulenberg and his staff had grown. With few other restorations to guide them, they devised techniques as they went along and used different ones in different areas.

Schulenberg attempted to replicate the former prairie—one of the first times such a restoration had ever been tried. He based his plans on what he could learn from the few scraps of tallgrass prairie that remained among the Chicago area’s highways and subdivisions.

Today, the prairie is regarded as a benchmark in the development of ecological restoration in Illinois.

When you wander the prairie paths in summer, you’re surrounded by swaying grasses and tall flowers alive with butterflies, bees, and birds.

The Nature Artists’ Guild is honored to participate in the anniversary celebration by creating artwork inspired by the Schulenberg Prairie for a special display at the Sterling Morton Library this November.

The project will begin with a paint-out at the Schulenberg Prairie on August 25 from 9 am until noon. Participants will be supplied with 8 x 8 artboards or paper to be used at the prairie or taken home to be used in the studio with their sketches, photos, or other sources of inspiration found at the prairie. Interested members can contact Carol Balabanow to be added to the list of participants to be notified with any paint-out updates. (Carol’s email address is in the Nature Artists’ Guild’s Yearbook.)

For members unable to attend the paint-out, the 8 x 8 boards and paper will also be available to be picked up at upcoming workshops and meetings. Members are welcome to use their own surfaces, but the final size must be 8 x 8 inches to fit into the display. No framing will be required by participants. The final works must be created at or inspired by the Schulenberg Prairie.

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