Oak Park Culture

Oak Park is known for a thriving arts community.Oak Park CultureThe Arts District on Harrison, bounded by Austin Avenue to the east and Ridgeland Avenue to the west, is currently experiencing a revival with many boutique galleries, shops and restaurants providing unique shopping and nightlife. Oak Park is home to several professional dance and theatre companies, and there is a renewed effort to create a cultural arts center. Both middle schools have theater programs called CAST and BRAVO, respectively.

Oak Park is also home to WPNA, broadcasting from the former Oak Park Arms Hotel at 1490 on the AM dial since 1951. Run by the Polish National Alliance, the station’s programming serves the diverse linguistic and cultural communities in the Chicago metropolitan area. There is also the Oak Park Art League (OPAL), which is a nonprofit community-based visual arts center providing classes, workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and exhibitions. Since 1921, OPAL has been providing innovative opportunities for arts engagement and cultural enrichment. Over 4,500 artists participate in OPAL’s events each year.

Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first 20 years of his 70-year career in Oak Park, building numerous homes in the community, including his own. He lived and worked in the area between 1889 and 1909. One can find Wright’s earliest work here, like the Winslow House in neighboring River Forest, Illinois. There are also examples of the first prairie-style houses in Oak Park. He also designed Unity Temple, a Unitarian church, which was built between 1905 and 1908. There were several well-known architects and artists that worked in Wright’s Oak Park Studio, including Richard Bock, William Eugene Drummond, Marion Mahony Griffin, and Walter Burley Griffin. Many buildings in Oak Park were built by other Prairie School architects such as George W. Maher, John Van Bergen, and E.E. Roberts. Additionally, there are various architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries located throughout the town, including the Seward Gunderson Historic District.

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