Picture this: the prairie at Hickory Knolls ablaze with blooming wildflowers. Or this: the determined look on a batter’s face as he knocks one out of the park. Or this: the glee on the face of a little girl as she sluices down the water slide at Swanson Pool. Or this: a fiery sunset over the Pavilion at Pottawatomie Park.
These iconic images of the St. Charles Park District – and hundreds of thousands more – are the work of photo-artist Mike Frankowski, who has been chronicling the daily events, weekly programs and special celebrations for the Park District for six years. Every person who has ever walked through the halls of Pottawatomie Community Center or visited Hickory Knolls Discovery Center and the District’s aquatic facilities, thumbed through the park district’s seasonal activity guides, stopped to admire the colorful banners that festoon the park district’s parking lots, or lingered over a page on the park district’s web site, has been stopped in their tracks by the vibrancy of Frankowski’s images. Whether they show a mother and toddler playing on the floor of a preschool classroom, tiny dancers elegantly poised at a ballet barre, or families gathered around a campfire out at Hickory Knolls, Frankowski’s photos capture the park district in a way that makes individual stories just jump off the page.
If you’ve seen yourself or a family member featured in one of these photos and thought, “I’d like a copy of that!” – you’re in luck. Beginning in November, the park district will launch a photo retail site where fans of Frankowski’s work can purchase their favorite photos – as digital downloads, prints in numerous sizes, and even keepsake items such as magnets, mugs and mousepads.
“We get many requests from people who have been featured in a photo of a program such as Summer Camps or special event like Concerts in the Park about buying the image they’re in,” said Erika Young, Public Relations and Marketing Manager. “We have such a huge archive of hundreds of thousands of images – both published and unpublished – that we can now organize into a digital photo retail center.”
The majority of the proceeds from the sale of digital downloads, prints and keepsake items will go toward the park district’s Financial Aid Program, which assists economically challenged families or individuals who wish to participate in preschool, dance, swim lessons and many other programs, events and facility passes. In 2015, the Financial Aid Program raised $12,000 which supported just over 100 families, according to Young.
“This will be a fun fundraiser for the financial aid program,” said Young. “It will be easy for people to make a big impact with a very small purchase.”
The park district’s new photo retail site is like opening the candy store for Frankowski fans who have long admired the way he captures the essence of park district people and places. Not just a way for those whose faces have graced banners and brochures to own their fifteen minutes of fame, the photo retail shop is also a way for people who have favorite park haunts and facilities to commemorate their special affinity with the district’s distinctive settings. Volunteer at one of the district’s natural areas? What better way to keep on enjoying the beauty of your favorite spot than through a frame-worthy print of Ferson Creek Fen in spring or Hickory Knolls in all its autumn glory? Frankowski’s images of sunsets over Primrose Farm, fireworks exploding over the downtown skyline, or the Pottawatomie Park Pavilion in the light of a summer thunderstorm are photographic tributes to the varied vistas that combine to make our city beloved and unique.