In Our Own Backyard:The Artist’s Way

Kay Bolden | 11/8/2017, 1:41 p.m.
“Art isn’t just a way for me to express my creativity,” says Antonia “Toni” Ruppert. “It’s a way to connect ...
Antonia “Toni” Ruppert thinks that art is "a way to connect and engage with the community.” Kay Bolden

“Art isn’t just a way for me to express my creativity,” says Antonia “Toni” Ruppert. “It’s a way to connect and engage with the community.”

Toni fulfilled a lifelong dream this summer, when she was selected to complete a summer art residency in Italy. The JSS International School in Civita Castellana, Italy offered her an intense, serious environment to study, learn and paint among masters in the field.

“I did nothing but paint for two weeks!” Toni said. “Two weeks of real growth as an artist.” In addition to living in the artists’ colony and immersing herself in Italian culture, she also visited Rome to soak in the country’s rich art history. She studied the work of Caravaggio, a master of the 17th century Baroque period, and an artist for whom she developed an affinity.

Her father was also a major influence on her artistic perspective. “My dad was always drawing,” she says. “He worked long hours at the Brach factory to support our family. When he got home from work, he created his art.” Toni’s dad passed away in 2014, but she remembers his words. “Toni,” he would say. “You just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Her dad’s faith in her talent helped her when things were difficult. “The myth of the starving artist isn’t far off,” she jokes. “It’s not always easy to make a living, but when you’re determined, you find a way.” She attended Loyola University, and took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Asked about her own philosophy of art, Toni can’t help but smile. “For me, it’s all about colors and textures and space. I love the act of creation, and I love showing people how they can do it, too.” There is, she believes, an artist in all of us.

Sharing her love of art led Toni to start teaching art classes and contributing to community art projects. “I’d been working in corporate America as administrative assistant,” she said. “I was using my lunch breaks for sketching and drawing. Finally, I decided I had to try to work as an artist—to do what I really love.” In 2008, she quit her corporate job and never looked back.

Her first major break came when the Markham Public Library was undergoing a expansion. Working collaboratively with other artists, she helped create a 14’ x 7’ art installation, and a bench for the new space. She also contributed five paintings, which still hang there.

Toni’s original work will be on display at the Freeport Art Museum, November 17 through February 10. The museum’s 14th annual Regional Juried Exhibition features work by artists living in the tri-state region of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Created to encourage contemporary art, this show provides an opportunity for both established and emerging artists to debut their latest work.

It’s been an amazing year for this married, mother of two. “I was told so many times that being an artist was impractical. “But you can live your dreams,” Toni says. “I’m proof of that.”

For more of Toni’s work, visit her website https://www.ToniRuppert.com.

Kay Bolden is an author, Times Weekly blogger, and Nanowrimo novelist. She’d love to hear your thoughts on sustainable living, and how we can all live together on the only planet we’ve got. Follow her on Twitter @KayBolden or drop her a line at Kay@KayBolden.com.