Starting on Sep. 21, Oak Park’s Bright Olive Art Lab will operate for a month as the Xander Art Gallery: Art for an Angel exhibit to raise financial support for the family of a four-year-old Texas boy who lost his life in August saving a younger child.
Gallery owner Jenny Tiner is a high-school and college friend of Misty Vento, whose son Xander became a nationally-celebrated hero when he dove into a pool to rescue a drowning three-year-old girl. The girl survived, but, tragically, Xander did not.
Now Tiner is giving her gallery over for a month to Xander’s memory, having amassed over 300 pieces of art from 16 artists to help fundraise for the Vento family, who she says are facing the financial burdens that accompany the agonizing grief of such a heartbreak: medical expenses, time off from work, and new campaigns for organ donation and pool-safety awareness.
“I can’t be there to hug or go over there and give her any other type of support,” Tiner said of her longtime friend and her family in Texas. So, she said, this was a way to help from afar.
“Art lives forever, in my opinion,” she added, saying any of the pieces from the gallery would be “a memory of [Xander] that will always be a daily reminder of him, when they look at it.” She added that Xander himself loved to create artwork.
Not only did Xander’s sacrifice save a little girl’s life, but he continues to give from beyond. The Vento family recently learned that, thanks to Xander’s organ donation, two people—a 15-year-old boy and a 62-year-old man—can see again.
Thus, the “Art for an Angel” exhibit will also be striving to disseminate information about the gift of organ donation, and even to sign up new organ donors in accord with Xander’s generous example.
Art in the exhibit is centered around a theme of boyhood or family, with a focus on the color green. Many of the 16 artists are from the Oak Park area, but some have sent works from as far as Washington and Texas. Up to 100 percent of each sale goes directly towards helping the Vento family.
“He did not hesitate,” Tiner said of Xander’s act of heroism. “So we should not hesitate to support this family. It could have been any of us… and we would need that support as well.”
The art from the exhibit can be previewed at the Art for an Angel Facebook page, which also has more information on the exhibit. The opening of the gallery will also coincide with the Arts District’s Art on Harrison Art & Music Festival on the 21st and 22nd.