Take in the talent of local artists by traveling this self-guided tour. You’ll stop at art studios, galleries, shops, wineries, craft breweries and restaurants along the way.
The talents of local artisans have recently enhanced the journey through the scenic beauty, rolling hills and pastoral farmlands of northwestern Illinois. Currently in its third year, The Northwest Illinois Scenic Art Loop meanders through picturesque Jo Daviess and Carroll counties and features stops at local art studios, galleries, shops, wineries, craft breweries and restaurants. The 113-mile Loop runs all year and is self-guided, so tourists can tailor the stops to their interests.
“The Art Loop functions as an awareness mechanism that brings people to the artists and their studios,” says Henry Matthiessen III, a Loop co-founder. “People from metropolitan areas are looking for a getaway, a change of environment both culturally and artistically, and the Northwest Illinois Scenic Art Loop provides exactly that.”
Parts of the Art Loop follow U.S. Route 20 as well as Illinois Routes 64, 78 and 84, so access is easy from any direction.
“We’re targeting that tourist who is out here three to six times per year,” Matthiessen says. “Maybe they come out to Galena via Route 20, so they can see the art studios along 20. On their next visit, perhaps these tourists will decide to drive along Route 84 by the Mississippi River and take in the art studios on that part of the Loop.”
Matthiessen says the Art Loop is an expanded offshoot of the monthly ARRT Drive.
“ARRT [All River Road Talent] does an art drive the first weekend of each month, and it’s a self-guided art tour that we create to pique interest in local talent,” he explains. “The concept behind our monthly ARRT Drive is for patrons to have the unique experience of seeing artists at work in their studios, and for these artists to increase their visibility and marketability.”
The main difference between the monthly ARRT Drive and the Northwest Illinois Scenic Art Loop is that the Loop covers a broader area and includes stops at wineries, craft breweries and restaurants.
“We invited some of the major restaurants and establishments in the two-county area onboard the Art Loop to change things up a bit,” Matthiessen says. For example, Chestnut Mountain Resort, in Galena, Ill., is a stop on the Art Loop.
“They have a gallery and gave ARRT their lobby to showcase art for as long as we would like,” he adds.
Careful consideration is taken before an artist is included in the Loop.
“Artists are juried onto the Art Loop,” Matthiessen explains. “This is to ensure that legitimate artists are represented and the experience is about art and culture.”
Both the Loop and ARRT offer a greater opportunity for tourists and locals to explore the cultural offerings of the region.
“There are a lot of great art tours around, but they only happen once or twice a year,” Matthiessen says. “By having the monthly ARRT Drive and year-round Art Loop, the success of these events is not weather dependent, our advertising budget goes further, and patrons can choose a time for the tour that fits their schedule.”
“Our overall goal,” Matthiessen adds, “is that the Northwest Illinois Scenic Art Loop provides an opportunity to see art, meet artists, speak with artists and touch the artist in you.”
To view the Art Loop route, or for more information on each location in the experience, visit scenicartloop.com.