CHICAGO — Tucked away in an Edgewater alley is an open studio garage, meant to be a vibrant space for connection, conversation and creativity.

“[The] open studio garage started pretty early on in the pandemic,” said Jenn Ross, art therapist and owner of the garage. “I was feeling isolated having moved into a new home, new life experience and wanting to connect with friends … I suddenly realized I had this resource right behind my house.”

Ross said the idea took off from there and her garage became a center for community connection where the therapeutic benefits of art are practiced.

“Art is a great way to practice taking those safe risks to try something new,” Ross said. “[To] practice being vulnerable and build your own self esteem validated from the inside out, instead of waiting to receiv that outside validation.”

Ross asks for $10 contributions for supplies and weather permitting, her studio is open to adults on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays for people of all ages.

“It’s been a real blessing to be able to do this and see how it grows,” Ross said. “It’s different every week seeing people do these things they wouldn’t have done before. It just brings me so much joy.”