Galena’s arts scene is alive and well

More than 20 businesses sell artwork, many artists create work before visitors’ eyes

City’s nationally recognized artists include Archie Liberman and Jan Ketza-Harris

GALENA—The secret is out. An artists’ community is alive and thriving in the hills of Galena. The beautiful bluffs and scenic valleys of northwest Illinois inspire a steady stream of creativity.

An unusually large collection of artists, craftspeople and thespians is influenced by the area’s appeal. One only has to travel a short distance to discover the local talent. The rural communities of Elizabeth, Stockton, Woodbine and Warren, in addition to the county seat of Galena, are home to many galleries, studios and art museums. Galena has more than 20 businesses that sell artwork; many artists create masterpieces right before the visitor’s eyes.

The inspired novice can create nostalgic works of art under the instruction of an experienced artist. Classes in tilemaking, rosemaling, tatting, oil painting, pottery, weaving and sculpting present a hands-on experience. The Galena Art Center and the Hawk Valley School of Arts invite guests to unleash imagination and talent.

The Galena Artist’s Guild has more than 100 artists, a larger membership than many similar urban organizations. The presence of these artists and their work makes Galena and Jo Daviess County an intriguing cultural destination.

Notoriety of Jo Daviess County artists stretches far beyond the area. Resident artists are recognized for artwork nationally and internationally. Galena’s own Archie Liberman is a photo journalist, instructor, columnist and lecturer, whose work has appeared in Look, Life, Time, London Illustrated, Paris Match and other highly regarded publications. American Artist magazine has featured Galena’s Harold Martin on the cover, receiving recognition of the “Emerging Artist Award.”

Renowned artist Carl Johnson, a Chicago-area native, relocated in 1970 only three months after he first visited the area. Galena has inspired Johnson ever since. Johnson says: “After 32 years of painting Galena, I still find inspiration in Galena’s views. My list of wonderful things to paint in this town gets longer, not shorter! The variety and quality of the architecture and the topography of the land on which the city is built continue to be an inspiration for my work.”

Nationally-known artist Jan Ketza-Harris first visited Galena when she was a Girl Scout and returned often with her family. After living many years in a Chicago suburb and exhibiting her art from New York to California, she realized her creativity was waning. “I could no longer create in a crowd,” explains Ketza-Harris. “I knew that returning to the place of happy memories and peaceful landscapes would provide just the inspiration I needed. Now, I create oil paintings, abstract canvases, jewelry and hand-painted clothing in Galena.”

Variety of art media flourishes in Jo Daviess County. Painting, photography, sculpting, basket making, woodworking and etching are just a sampling of the brilliant mosaic of art expression that colors the countryside.

The palette of Jo Daviess County art-inspired events is broad. The Galena Country Fair, the annual Galena Art Festival and Twenty Dirty Hands Pottery Tour are a few of the exciting festivities taking place.

Local performing arts groups also display a full panoply of talent for the viewer’s pleasure. The Main Street Players Theatre Company and Galena Festival of the Performing Arts musicians revel in entertaining crowds year-round.

The streets of Galena, steadfastly exhibiting 19th century architecture, are alive with visual appeal. The picturesque town, nestled in the rolling hills of Jo Daviess County, bestows an open-air gallery ready for viewing 365 days a year. In Galena, art and drama are part of the everyday experience.

For more information, contact the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 877-Go Galena (464-2536) or

From the July 12-18, 2006, issue

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