SYCAMORE – Valerie Weberpal has made and sold thousands of art pieces, making her name known in the folk art world throughout the country.
Weberpal was one of two community members who created the The Sycamore Art Trail, an art studio crawl entering its third year.
Now, she wants to make her name better known in Sycamore by opening up her corn-crib-turned-studio to the public.
The studio, dubbed “The Crib” by Weberpal, will be the topic of discussion for the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee at an upcoming meeting. The committee will decide Wednesday whether to recommend approval for a special-use permit that would allow Weberpal to hold events, sell her art and teach classes in her studio at 16521 Swanson Road west of Sycamore.
Her husband, John Weberpal, converted the space from a working farm building to a studio in 2015, just in time for Valerie to decorate for Christmas.
“I have been an artist my entire life, and we live on a farm here of course, and I’ve just always wanted a studio outside of my home,” Weberpal said. “After badgering my husband for many, many years, he finally granted my wish.”
The Weberpals stored corn and soy beans in the building before 2015 when John power-washed the interior, replaced the windows and added insulation. The once-drafty farm structure is now sealed up so tightly mice and even bugs can’t get in, Valerie said.
The outside of the Crib still resembles the grain-storage building it was before, save for fresh white paint and an inviting sign that reads “The Crib, studio of Valerie Weberpal.”
The interior is a kaleidoscope of color displaying hundreds of paintings, dolls, paper mache animals and decorations hanging from wooden beams and a hollowed out, rustic-red elevator shaft in the building’s center.
Her dolls, made from wool felt sweaters Weberpal that buys from the Salvation Army, are what she is best known for, but she also picked up painting in 2015 and has dived deeply into the medium.
“I want to say I’m a contemporary folk artist,” Weberpal said. “My paintings are not realistic, but more representational art. You may look at something and say, ‘That’s a person or a flower,’ but it’s not realistic.”
Weberpal said she has been touring folk art shows across the country since 2004 and is especially well-known in Columbus, Ohio. However, she said she wants to become more well known at home.
“I love Sycamore,” Weberpal said. “I’ve been to lots of places and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”