A look inside the Oak Park Conservatory, which is seeking to attract visitors from nearby community areas like Austin. | Oak Park Conservatory

Crossing Austin Boulevard: This story is part of an ongoing series of articles that Austin Weekly News will publish about issues, events, people, places and things that take place west of Austin Boulevard, but that nonetheless resonate to the east of it, as well.

The Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St. in Oak Park, has reopened to the public and its looking to lure visitors from surrounding communities like Austin.

The Conservatory has even recruited students from nearby Oak Park and River Forest High School to make a three-minute video that the Conservatory uploaded to its website last month.

Twin brothers Joey and Jake DiMaso, 16, teamed up with student Louise Calkins to make the video, titled, “Adventure at the Oak Park Conservatory.” The three budding filmmakers, all sophomores, created a short but immersive experience, particularly for viewers who have never been inside the Conservatory.

Patti Staley, the director of Horticulture/Conservatory Operations, said the video was made possible by a grant that the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory (FPP) received from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation Future Philanthropists Program.

“In meeting with our FPP team in the winter, the OPRF student leaders suggested we create a video to help promote tours to schools/students for when we can offer the program again,” Staley said. “They suggested we work with students to continue the mission of engaging youth.”

Judy Klem, FPP’s executive director, said she hopes the film can also attract visitors from communities beyond Oak Park.

“We are hoping to reach out to underserved communities and offer a grant to cover the cost of busing to bring students in for a tour of the conservatory,” she said. Those target communities include Austin, Maywood and Berwyn.

During the pandemic, all school tours, along with a lot of other programming, were put on hold, Staley said.

“The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory saw a need and desire to expand the opportunity for school tours to students outside of Oak Park, but the cost of renting a bus was prohibitive,” she added. “We wanted to overcome this barrier by offering a grant to cover the cost of the bus and invite students from surrounding communities to experience the Oak Park Conservatory and this enriching tour.”

Klem said FPP and Conservatory members are building the structure of the bus grant program and hope to launch it in the coming months. Anyone interested in contributing to the grant program can contact Klem at director@fopcon.org.

For more information on the Conservatory, click here or call 708-725-2400.