Regular Folk's Art Koehnline Museum at Oakton Features Works by Self-Taught Artists

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Byline: James Kane

Fifty works by self-taught artists put together over 30 years by a Naperville couple will be on display for three months at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College, 1600 E. Golf Road, Des Plaines.

The exhibit, "Arient Family Collection: Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century," features sculptures, paintings, drawings, textiles, metal works and ceramics by artists without any formal training.

The "folk" and "outsider" works were collected from across the United States north and south, urban and rural, black and white neighborhoods by Jim and Beth Arient.

They avoided dealers and other collectors, preferring to visit and purchase directly from the artists.

The free exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 5, and closes Aug. 18. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; (847) 635-2633 or

"I found out about this collection through Dr. David Sokol from the University of Illinois at Chicago," said Nathan Harpaz, manager and curator of the museum and instructor of art history and museum studies. "It is one of the largest collections of self-taught artists, and many of these artists turned recently into 'museum artists.'"

Sokol, who is familiar with the collection, served as guest curator of the exhibit.

Jim Arient wrote up how the collection was created for the museum. After their wedding in 1971, he and Beth became lifetime members of the Art Institute, spent time in museums and galleries and with auction catalogs and dealers, focusing initially on 20th-century art, then Inuit and Canadian art.

Their collecting was transformed in 1977, however, by what Jim calls "the book" Beth's discovery at the local library of "Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists" by Bert Hemphill and Julia Weissman. …