John Spinello of Bloomingdale may not be a household name, but his invention is a happy memory for millions: the ‘Operation’ game.

Spinello, a native of Chicago’s west side, was a sophomore at the University of Illinois in 1962 when an industrial design assignment resulted in the prototype for the game many of us remember for its funny bone, bread basket and a startling buzz for a wrong move.

He sold the invention in 1964 for $500. While he never made another dime on the game, he and his wife and children have had a good life. Enjoyment watching generations of children delight at the game, however, doesn’t pay the bills, and Spinello finds himself in need of a $25,000 operation of his own. Toymaker friends and fans of the game initiated a crowdfund website to help pay for his oral surgery as an expression of gratitude for his creation of an iconic family game.

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Anastasia MakOur Illinois Artist of the Month is Anastasia Mak, a native of Ukraine who made our state her home and the subject of many of her paintings. She is inspired by Illinois artists, subjects, places and the state’s friendly people. Read on to learn more about Anastasia and see more of her artwork on her website.


ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?
Mak: I have been drawing/painting ever since I was able to handle pens, brushes and markers — which, I am told, started at around 2 years of age. My mother was very happy because I have always been able to occupy myself with art for hours, and she didn't have to constantly entertain me. Also, ever since I remember, I have wanted to be a professional artist. When I was 11 though, my dad broke it to me that it would probably not be feasible to earn a decent living in the arts, and when I go to college, I should study something "more useful." I remember that moment so clearly — we were sitting on a bench in New York's Central Park, having that conversation, and I was thinking: "Now what? My life has no meaning!" — at 11! So, well, in college I studied business. And then became an artist.

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Salisbury folk artist George Colin

Illinois recently lost a treasure when 84-year-old folk artist Adolphe George Colin passed away. George and his wife Winnie spent many days in their Salisbury gallery surrounded by dozens of his works and countless personal mementos. Born in California, George’s family moved to Springfield when he was 7 years old. A Lanphier High School graduate, George worked at Pillsbury Mills for almost 30 years before quitting his day job to devote all his time to art.

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Art in Illinois isn’t confined to cities or art museums, it is in our streets, parks, civic spaces and restaurants. Illinois artist Felicia Olin’s works in paint and mixed media include familiar faces and places in our state. Born in Marion County, Felicia studied art at Benedictine University and Illinois State University and lives in Springfield. See Felicia’s art and where it has appeared on her website.


ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start?
Olin: It is hard to say how long I have been an artist because I have been obsessed with making art since I was able to grab a crayon and scribble.

There was never a time in my memory where it wasn't important to me. If there was any particular moment where I became aware of the potential of art in my life, that moment was in 8th grade when my art teacher, Wanda Riseman, entered my work into the Scholastic Art Competition and I had one of my pieces sent to New York for their national judging. It was motivating to know that this thing I just did naturally had some merit.

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reichsWhen Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist who grew up in Chicago, published her first academic paper titled "Cranial suture eccentricities: a case in which precocious closure complicated determination of sex and commingling" in the Journal of Forensic Science in 1989, she probably couldn’t have deduced that she would one day go on to pen some of the most thrilling and engaging crime fiction novels of her generation.

But that is exactly what happened.

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