Local artist and educator Donna Castellanos collects and transforms everyday objects--which she calls “once loved things”--into a bold hands-on exhibit. Castellanos imagined each separate museum space as if it was a room in a house such as a study, playroom, dressing room, or workshop. Each thematic gallery then has an autobiographical element, whether through materials important to her or narratives that evoke her past. Throughout the exhibition, visitors encounter worn and well-loved items that share a commonality, from repurposed encyclopedias to antique musical instruments. Both nostalgia and inclusion are strong motifs as guests are invited to add their own contributions to her personalized installations.
Many of the exhibition materials were sourced from estate sales and thrift stores. Reusing these castoff items, Castellanos incorporates them into a variety of mixed media from painting, sculpture, installation, wearable jewelry, and clothing. She then invites gallery visitors to reconsider items that can be easily discarded, especially when viewers are encouraged to become active participants by playing, creating, and performing. Castellanos gives these “once loved things” a second life by inventing a new outlet for a visitor’s engagement and an exploration of their own creativity.
Donna Castellanos has been in the Elmhurst community since she was born, and now gives back to the community as an artist, curator, and educator. As the Elmhurst Art Museum’s Education Program Coordinator, she teaches a variety of classes and designs interactive interpretive displays for each of the major exhibitions. Since 2013 she has been the art director and curator for Flight 112, a local bar, restaurant and gallery in Elmhurst. Castellanos received a degree in graphic design from the American Academy of Art in Chicago.