The artists of Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism are getting ready for everything Halloween and are inviting the public to their upcoming art show and escape room.

The “Nightmare at Merchant Street” art show runs Thursday through Oct. 26, featuring paintings, photographs, sculptures, puzzle boxes and mixed media art by 12 artists. The artwork reflects the artists’ interpretation of the theme and are unique, one-of-a-kind “creepy art” pieces, said Janice Miller, MSAGAA executive director.

“Creepy art, the students love it. It’s just different and unusual,” said Miller.

MSAGAA mission is to advance the careers of artists with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder by presenting their high-quality works of art to the public. Current artists range in age from 12 to 40.

Art on display will correlate to the Escape Room, “Artists of the Underworld,” taking place at 6 and 8 p.m. on Fridays, Oct. 18 and 25 and Saturdays, Oct. 19 and 26.

During Escape Room events, groups of eight will solve the mystery in order to get out. The artists work in the show will serve as the clues.

Volunteer Charlene Phillips, whose daughter, Caitlin, is an artist at the gallery, noted the artists have been working on the Escape Room and art since August and meet twice a week to create their art and plan the story line.

“The artists wanted to try something new and different this year,” Phillips said. For Halloween last year, artists wrote and performed The Curse of the Black Phone. “It was the artists decision to do this escape room.”

Leading the story line is artist Hope Turngren.

“Creepy art is my favorite style of art. I love anything and everything scary. This was right up my alley,” Turngren said.

Artists developed the story line and clues to help event goers get to the final solution – and get out of the room.

In the downstairs gallery, artists will introduce the story and give instruction. Each group will have to figure out how to “escape” using clues based on the pieces of art students made.

“And the artists will do something special during the escape room as well,” said Phillips, who wouldn’t elude to what it was. “People will just have to come and see.”

“The whole event is such an amazing experience for our artists,” Miller said.

A silent auction of the artists’ pieces in the show and used in the Escape Room will be up for auction on the final night of the show, at 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 26.

“We wanted the silent auction done just in time for Halloween so people could take home the pieces and use it in their own Halloween displays,” Phillips said.

The art exhibit will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

The Escape Room is for those age 8 and older. Tickets are $15 each. Advance registration is required. Call 815-616-0160 for tickets.

The gallery is at 356 E. Merchant St., Kankakee.

For more information about MSAGAA, visit

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