One State Together in the Arts isn’t your ordinary conference. Rather than lots of plenaries and concurrent sessions, One State has a total of ten presentations—one keynote and nine 20-minute talks. Our presenters are all dynamic, electrifying, and inspiring storytellers.

Theaster Gates

Keynote: Theaster Gates

Internationally acclaimed artist and urban planner Theaster Gates is at the epicenter of where arts and community engage. Through initiatives like the Dorchester Projects, Rebuild Foundation, and Arts and Public Life program at the University of Chicago, Theaster is putting theory into practice and transforming the economic, social, physical, mental, spiritual, and civic well-being of individuals and communities through the arts. He is also challenging artists and cultural organizations to respond to, be shaped by, and connect more fully with their communities.

Artists are an important part of how the world makes sense. And when the world doesn’t make sense, the world looks to the arts to help remind us what it means to be human. Artists have the capacity to not only redefine the small spaces that we inhabit, but we have the capacity to help redefine the world.

Drawing on an expanded artistic practice that includes space development, object making, performance, and critical engagement with many publics, Theaster’s keynote will explore from the inside out what happens when arts and community engage.

In 2012, Theaster was awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, the Wall Street Journal’s Arts Innovator of the Year, a Creative Time Global Residency Fellowship, and became a United States Artists Kippy Fellow. He has also received awards and grants from Creative Capital, the Joyce Foundation, Graham Foundation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and Artadia.

Recent exhibition and performance venues include the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Locust Projects, Miami, FL; the Seattle Art Museum; Art Basel, Switzerland; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Armory Show and the Whitney Biennial in New York. Theaster’s upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago extends the work he conceived for dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Germany. He is represented by Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago and White Cube in London.

Photo credit: Sara Pooley

Other presenters

Doug Borwick

Doug BorwickDoug Borwick is author of Engaging Matters, a blog for ArtsJournal, and author/editor of Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S. One of the country’s leading advocates for the arts and community engagement, in the last six months, Doug has presented workshops in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin and has served as keynote speaker and workshop presenter for China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, CultureSource in Detroit, Ontario Dances in Toronto, and the Texas Commission on the Arts biennial conference in Austin.

Doug Borwick served as president of the board of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, an international organization of higher education programs in the field, from 2010-2012. For three decades he was director of the Arts Management and Not-for-Profit Management Programs at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. He is CEO of Outfitters4, Inc., providing management services for nonprofits, and of ArtsEngaged, offering training and consultation services to artists and arts organizations seeking to more effectively engage with their communities.

Doug Borwick holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the Eastman School of Music and is an award-winning member of ASCAP.

About Doug’s Talk

The historical evolution of the arts and arts institutions has led to a disconnect between them and the broad public. Unfortunately, an often unconscious understanding of the mission of the arts gets in the way of bridging the gap. Simply put, we sometimes act as if our role is to serve art, not people. It is the capacity for impact on people’s lives that led most of us to careers in the arts. Doug will make the case that rather than “art for art’s sake,” our missions should be based on a commitment to “art for people’s sake.” In other words, we should be invested in improving communities. Doug’s talk will explain how this will best serve communities and, in the long term, will best serve the viability and vitality of the arts.

Preston Jackson

Preston JacksonPreston Jackson was chosen as a 1998 Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the highest honor given to individuals in the state. Co-founder of the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, he has taught at Western Illinois University and is professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Much of Preston Jackson’s work deals with the subject of our history—both precise depictions of well-known historical figures as well as innovative portrayals of individuals whose lives, though unfamiliar to us, are part of our history he wants us to learn. His work reveals the lives and personalities of his ancestors, and the stories of all of our forebears who lived in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century. Despite the hardships of those lives, the pieces do not reflect bitterness or hostility, but rather an admiration for the resolution and resiliency of each individual.

Preston Jackson recently was awarded a Regional Emmy for hosting “Legacy in Bronze,” a television show featuring his cast bronze sculptures.

About Preston’s talk

Preston will speak of the power of public art to engage the community, the way in which public art affects a diverse community, and the moral relevance of the subject of art. He will also talk about the responsibility of local artists to be involved in their communities, and the importance of establishing institutions and programs to teach coming generations.

Imran Khan

Imran KhanFor nearly half a decade, Imran Khan has been leading change and innovation as a teacher in what is considered one of “the most dangerous” schools in the nation, Harper High School. His innovations in behavior management, academic interventions, and youth development have rendered standardized test score gains more than twice the city’s average in one year. His innovative models are now being utilized by other networks in Chicago Public Schools and are restructuring approaches to skill acquisition and academic interventions.

Imran has received four consecutive Medal Awards for highest student achievement from the CPS Office of School Improvement, and was a finalist for the Chicago DRIVE award. He regularly presents to educators, principals, thought leaders, and businesses on education, social disparity, and community action. He continues to teach while launching embarc, a nonprofit organization providing unique cultural experiences and interactions to high school students from Chicago’s most socially and economically isolated neighborhoods.

Under his leadership embarc is growing from 25 students in one school to nearly 400 in seven different Chicago Public High Schools by fall 2013.

About Imran’s Talk

Discover what Imran Kahn, an educator in Chicago Public Schools, has learned working in some of the toughest schools, and how these lessons shape arts education, cultural interactions, and society. He will talk about embarc, an innovative, teacher-driven organization that addresses these challenges and achieves student academic success through systematic, long-term social and cultural exposure.

Pablo Korona

Pablo KoronaDocumentary filmmaker and community activist Pablo Korona is first and foremost a storyteller. A production professional for nearly 10 years, Pablo has now focused his attention on “Our City, Our Story,” a community-based storytelling project based in Rockford, Illinois. He created the ambitious series to give voice to the people who give life to the city and to help the community diversify its perceived identity.

Though the stories told are specifically about the people of Rockford, Illinois they have garnered attention far beyond the mid-size city’s borders and been featured throughout the world. Recent episodes have ricocheted throughout the halls of NASA and anchored an all-staff rally at Etsy, the innovative and highly successful world marketplace. “Our City, Our Story” uses cinematic documentary production in episodes to tell compelling stories that redefine the city’s intricate identity. Just over a year old, “Our City, Our Story” is in the exploratory process of expanding to other cities.

Pablo and “Our City, Our Story” have been profiled in Fast Company and the work has been shared by Etsy, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Washington Post blog, Mental Floss,, and

About Pablo’s talk

Documentary filmmaker Pablo Korona will share his journey from video producer to community organizer and director of “Our City, Our Story,” a community-based storytelling project based in Rockford, Illinois. Pablo will share how this ambitious series has given voice to the people who give life to the city and has helped the community diversify its perceived identity.

Tekki Lomnicki

Tekki Lomnicki's talk is sponsored by 3Arts

Tekki Lomnicki’s talk is sponsored by 3Arts

A solo performer, playwright, director, and educator, Tekki Lomnicki embraces the power of stories. She has devoted her career as an artist to performing her own stories and to empowering others to share theirs. In 1995, Tekki co-founded Tellin’ Tales Theatre, where she now serves as Artistic Director. Dedicated to building community through the art of storytelling, Tellin’ Tales Theatre produces adult solo performances and Six Stories Up, an annual mentoring program and show. Now in its 16th season, Six Stories Up pairs kids and adults with and without disabilities. Together, they write and perform stage pieces focused on current issues such as the environment, immigration and the economy.

Tekki also performs her solo work for schools, conferences, and theater audiences all over the United States and Canada. Tekki starred in the award-winning film, The Miracle by Jeffrey Jon Smith, which is adapted from her performance piece, Thanksgiving. Tekki also taught for Chicago’s Gallery 37 and After School Matters. She also teaches adult solo performance classes at the Victory Gardens Training Center and the Prop Theater.

Tekki is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship in New Performance Forms, the 2008 3Arts Artists Award in Theater, and the 2010 Grigsby Award for Excellence in Solo Performance.

About Tekki’s Talk

Tekki will discuss creative ways to build community through the personal story. Learn how to find a common thread between diverse groups such as adults and children, people with and without disabilities, individuals of different races, creeds, and even political parties.

Jennifer Monson

Jennifer MonsonJennifer Monson is a choreographer, performer, and teacher. Since 1983, she has explored strategies in choreography, improvisation, and collaboration in experimental dance. In 2000, her work took on a radical new trajectory towards the relationship between dance and environment. This has led her into an investigation of cultural and scientific understandings of large-scale phenomenon such as animal navigation and migration, geological formations such as aquifers, and re-functioned sites such as the abandoned Ridgewood Reservoir.

Her projects BIRD BRAIN (2000-2005), iMAP/Ridgewood Reservoir (2007), and the Mahomet Aquifer Project (2008-2010) have radically reframed the role dance plays in our cultural understandings of nature and wilderness. By bringing the work into outdoor settings and creating a framework for viewing the work through workshops, panel discussions, and community involvement, she has found ways to re-engage the general public in a heightened physical and sensory experience of the phenomena and systems that surround us.

Her work has been performed in experimental New York City venues; across the country in Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas; and internationally in Cuba, England, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. In 2004, Jennifer incorporated under the name iLAND—interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance. iLAND investigates the power of dance in collaboration with other fields to illuminate our kinetic understanding of the world. Jennifer is also a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and a professor-at-large at the University of Vermont.

About Jennifer’s Talk

Dancer, choreographer, and educator Jennifer Monson will discuss the evolution of her own environmental dance works such as BIRD BRAIN and iMAP/Ridewood Reservoir to the creation of iLAND, an organization that supports collaborative interdisciplinary projects that engage local communities in research of urban ecology. Using dance as a primary research tool iLAND’s projects focus on the intersection of artistic, scientific, and political practice as a site for innovation and experimentation.

Donna Neuwirth & Jay Salinas, Wormfarm

Worm FarmAfter many years in art and theater in Chicago, Wormfarm co-founders Jay Salinas and Donna Neuwirth moved to a small farm in Wisconsin in 1993. Seduced by the life in the soil and struck by the parallels in process between farming and art-making, they formed the Wormfarm Institute in 2000 and began an artist residency program.

Donna is co-founder and executive director at Wormfarm. She has a BFA in theatre from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After a brief career in professional theater, she operated a scenic design company that specialized in themed special events. A self-described impresario and provocateur, Donna’s event work continued on an organic vegetable farm and eventually to downtown Reedsburg, population 9100. As Wormfarm’s director, Donna has worked with Jay to develop and implement numerous ambitious community engagement projects at the intersection of culture and agriculture including Reedikulus Puppet Festival, the Re-enchantment of Agriculture, the Roadside Culture Stand project, and the Farm Art DTour.

Jay is co-founder of Wormfarm and serves as director of special projects. Jay is an artist, farmer, and educator who holds a BFA from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and an MFA in sculpture from University of Cincinnati. He has operated a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm since 1995. His teaching experience ranges from Chicago public housing projects to university art departments. He initiated Artward Bound, a rural art and gardening immersion program for urban youth, and he coined the term “cultureshed’ in conjunction with Regrowth and Renewal, the Wormfarm’s first social sculpture project. His farm/earth work includes a 4 acre organic vegetable garden and working with immigrant Hmong, Latino, and Amish farmers providing education, technical assistance, and marketing assistance. He served as co-director at Milwaukee’s Growing Power for three years and currently serves as project coordinator for the Farm Art DTour.

About Donna & Jay’s Talk

Donna & Jay will discuss the creation of interdisciplinary projects that link urban and rural, people and land, culture and agriculture. Learn how their work aims to raise the profile and the allure of agricultural regions as places where important work is done and where livings — in the truest sense — can be made.

Gail Rost

Gail RostGail Rost serves as the Executive Director of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation. Most recently, she has taken on the role of General Manager of The I.D.E.A. Store, an earned-income social-enterprise created to support the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, interrupt the waste-stream for environmental health, and provide the community with a marketplace for creative reuse.

Gail was born post-World War II while her military family was stationed in Uruguay. Upon returning to the States, they moved to Champaign, Illinois. Gail attended the local public schools, the University of Illinois for undergrad and graduate degrees, and eventually settled in Champaign herself, marrying and having 3 children.

Americans Mothers recently named Gail the National Mother of Achievement. She was named Mother of Achievement for the state of Illinois in 2012 by the same organization. The award recognizes outstanding women whose positive influence, talents, and community service has made a significant impact in the lives of children and families.

About Gail’s Talk

Diverting materials from the waste stream to reuse is nothing new. In fact, up until the increased affluence and mobility of the Western World, it was the norm. Many brilliant minds are working to address the issue of waste and limited space and resources, and while they are doing that, The I.D.E.A. Store in Central Illinois is doing its part to slow the process down. As an earned-income retail establishment supporting the K-12 education foundation in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the store jumped into the mix of solutions less than 3 years ago. Engaging the community through education and hands-on art-making, the store’s social mission of making an impact on local notions of reuse is succeeding. Gail’s presentation will briefly cover the genesis of the store, its purpose, and the unexpected outcomes as it moves its way from being the new kid on the block to “beloved community resource.”

Photo credit: Robin Scholz / The News-Gazette

Jane M. Saks

Jane Saks Jane M. Saks is a cultural advocate, arts producer, writer, and educator. She has worked to challenge and champion issues of gender, sexuality, human rights, race, and power within the worlds of arts and culture, politics and civil rights, policy and advocacy, academia, and philanthropy.

She is the founding executive director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media. The Institute is a creator and curator of innovative work and ideas investigating issues relating to women and gender through all the arts and media. The first and only entity of its kind in the nation, the Institute offers an innovative approach that merges arts and cultural production with critical theory, research, and education. The Institute addresses human rights, access, representation, equity and participation, as well as race and class, using the arts and media as a central means of social change, educational, policy engagement, and advocacy.

Jane is also a published poet, a member of the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council for the City of Chicago, and an inductee to the City of Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. Recently she has been a lecturer at the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University.