Viator House of Hospitality hosted a series of gallery shows last weekend that featured the work of two former participants, Erick and Jose. Their vibrant paintings expressed both ordinary and extraordinary experiences, including their journeys to the United States and their time at Viator House.

Acrylic paintings by Erick, who said he was inspired by murals in Chicago.

“This is a special opportunity to recognize the talent that young men we accompany bring to our nation,” said Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, Executive Director, “talent that they often discover and hone at Viator House.”

The exhibit remains on display until March 1, at The Empty Corner in Arlington Heights. The unique event space is committed to expanding the arts and humanities in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs.

“The Empty Corner is thrilled to partner with Viator House on this show,” said Liz Schrenk, co-owner of the space, when she welcomed guests to one of the open houses. “It’s an honor to have their art work here in this space.”

Erick, a native of El Salvador, credited Viator House with giving him the opportunity and support to explore his interest in painting. He lived at Viator House as a participant for one year before working there for five years. He described how he always admired art from a distance but never had the tools to start painting.

Guests admire the art work.

“My art here explores themes of hope, home and ancestry,” Erick the crowd. “As I get older, I’m trying to reconnect with my roots from my Mayan ancestry, and create art that honors my indigenous heritage.”

Jose, a native of Guatemala, also pointed to his Mayan roots in describing his art. His paintings reflected the pain and darkness he left behind as well as his anxiety about the future. One image he created was particularly vague, but that was intentional, he said.

“It looks like a sunset, but it’s not the moon or the sun,” Jose said. “It represents the future. I’m so anxious about what’s going to happen, that it’s unclear.”

The open house events drew a lot of interaction between guests — more than 120 over the three shows — and the artists themselves. Br. Michael Gosch, CSV, commented on one conversation: “When asked what a particular piece of art means, one of the artists said, ‘whatever you want it to mean.’ That is the amazing thing about art.”

An image of Viator House and its impact on people around world

The two artists collaborated on the largest piece in the exhibit. The large circular painting features individual planets, with an image of Viator House — with varying rooftops pointed in all directions — and a mysterious bird.

“The planets represent all the places around the world where people have come from,” Erick explained. “Viator House is a hub, that sends people to do amazing things around the world.”

Jose pointed to some rough patches of paint that were only seen when standing close-up. They symbolize how hard it is for people to travel to this country, he said. The bird, with its outstretched wings, symbolizes the national bird of Guatemala.

“I think it evokes a sense of freedom,” Fr. Corey said.

Fr. Corey Brost with supporters

Those on hand said they enjoyed viewing the art and especially meeting the artists. Prints of each piece were available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the artists themselves.

“There’s just one thing,” said Ghaffar Kazkaz, one of the guests, “this art should be signed.”