Presenter Profiles

  • Michael Acerra.
  • Michael Acerra
  • Lux Blox
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    Michael Acerra is an artist and the inventor of the construction toy Lux. Michael attended Knox College along with his wife, CEO and co­founder of Lux Blox LLC, Heather Zeigler Acerra. After graduating in 1989 with a studio art degree, Michael spent two years living in a yurt in a pine forest in south coastal Maine, where he studied classical figurative drawing under the tutelage of the late Carlo Pittore.
  • Kayem. Photo by Mohammed Langston.
  • Kayem
  • Libyan-American Hip-Hop Artist
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    Son of a Libyan revolutionary, Kayem is a Chicago-based hip-hop artist who was born into the struggle. His father was a political prisoner who helped form a pro-democracy movement after escaping prison. Kayem’s first trip to Libya, after spending a lifetime of advocacy in exile, was filmed in the docuseries Sing Freedom. Kayem has performed, lectured, and held film screenings across more than 50 US campuses, and has headlined several prestigious venues including the House of Blues in Chicago, The Fillmore in Detroit, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Manchester Academy in Manchester, UK. Yahoo! Music listed Kayem’s showcase at South by Southwest 2017 among “The Best 6 Things We Saw at SXSW” and he was recognized among CNN’s “Most Interesting People.” He has also been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Complex magazine, The New York Times, and other media outlets. Photo by Mohammed Langston.
  • Susie An.
  • Susie An
  • Reporter and Comedian, WBEZ
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    Susie An is a reporter for WBEZ’s news desk. She also anchors occasionally, delivering news on WBEZ. Her work has also been heard on NPR, CBC, and the BBC. Susie joined WBEZ as a news desk intern in September 2007. Susie has a BA in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana­–Champaign and is a mother to two boys. When not reporting the news or tackling children, she’s a comedian. She’s performed all over Chicago, including with The Kates, an all-female showcase.
  • Hilary Anderson.
  • Hilary Anderson
  • Dovetail Rivet & Stitch
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    After graduating with an art degree from Knox College in 2000, Hilary Anderson began her post-college career looking for avenues to incorporate environmental education and the arts, first serving with the Northwest Youth Corps as an Americorps member in Oregon. Hilary taught art classes through small arts organizations and nature centers and eventually became immersed in the fine craft community in North Carolina as program director for Pocosin Arts, where she organized workshops and gallery exhibits. In 2015, she returned to the Galesburg area with two children and opened an arts retail business downtown. At Dovetail Rivet & Stitch, Hilary exhibits her own work along with fine craft, contemporary art, and handmade goods by more than 250 independent artists. Hilary curates and provides a retail space for local artists, bringing to Galesburg a wide selection of craft by professional artisans from across the country and beyond.
  • Alexandra Antoine.
  • Alexandra Antoine
  • Free Write Arts & Literacy
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    Alexandra Antoine is an interdisciplinary artist and educator working in Chicago, Illinois. Her work addresses the themes of identity and culture through the use of typography, line, and portraiture. She uses the portrait as a tool to (re)present individuals of the African diaspora while exploring her relationship to them within the larger narrative of her Haitian identity. She holds a Bachelors degree in fine arts and art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently the visual arts instructor at Free Write Arts & Literacy. Her work has been exhibited around Chicago at institutions such as the Hyde Park Art Center, Roman Susan Gallery, Roots & Culture Gallery, and South Side Community Art Center.
  • Brian Babylon
  • Brian Babylon
  • Comedian
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    Brian Babylon is a Chicago-born comic and radio host. The self-proclaimed “Prince of Bronzeville,” he is a fixture in Chicago’s rich comedy community. He hosted and produced The Morning AMP radio show on Vocalo 91.1 FM, a sister station of WBEZ / Chicago Public Radio; he’s also been making a name for himself outside of Chicago, placing in the finals of the New York Comedy Contest in 2009 and, in 2012, being selected for the Comedy Central South Beach Comedy Festival. He moved to Los Angeles and joined the production team for the Comedy Central show Why? with Hannibal Buress. A fan favorite on the popular NPR weekly news quiz show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Brian contributes to BBC Radio, hosted The Moth StorySLAM in Chicago, and can be seen in Season 3 of Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central.
  • Peggy S. Baity
  • Peggy S. Baity
  • The ArtFarm Decatur
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    Peggy S. Baity is the owner and operator of The ArtFarm Decatur, the newest retail art gallery to hit the Soybean Capital of the World. Changing the way Central Illinois thinks about farming, she strives to cultivate creativity and elevate the idea of “approachable art.” Many moons ago, when beginning her career in the arts by taking a job just one year out of high school at the new art supply store opening in Decatur, she had no idea what passions Blick Art Materials would ignite. Quickly moving up the ladder within the company, she spent years developing her own creativity as well as nurturing it in the communities she served. That same fostering spirit lives on now in her own endeavor as she brings forth and spotlights the incredible talent she showcases in her unique downtown storefront.
  • Jane Beachy.
  • Jane Beachy
  • Illinois Humanities
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    Jane Beachy is the founder and artistic director of Salonathon (established July 2011) and the program manager for art at Illinois Humanities, where she spearheads the Elective Studies Series and a myriad of other programs. Jane produces and presents events, performances, and residencies throughout and beyond Chicago, at venues such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, University of Chicago (Chicago Performance Lab), the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Metro Chicago, The Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall, The Promontory, and more. Jane has partnered on programming with Land and Sea Dept., State Matters, Alphawood Gallery, The Inconvenience, The Neo-Futurists, Columbia College Chicago, and MAKE Magazine, among others. She runs an artist retreat at the acclaimed Camp Wandawega in Wisconsin, and has taught as an artist in residence in the Theater and Performance Studies Department at the University of Chicago. She was a visiting artist at ACRE Artist Retreat in 2016.
  • Peter Berg.
  • Peter Berg
  • Great Lakes ADA Center
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    Peter Berg has been coordinating and providing technical assistance as well as conducting training on various aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since he joined the Great Lakes Center in October 2000. He is a graduate of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, with a bachelor’s degree in history. Prior to joining the Center, he spent seven years with Dominick’s Finer Foods, the last two years as a customer service manager. Peter currently serves as a member of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office Illinois Accessibility Code Task Force and is the former chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Disability for the City of Naperville, where he resides. Peter was a 2010 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award of Merit and former chair of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In June 2017, he completed the ADA Coordinator Training Certification Program (ACTCP) through the University of Missouri’s College of Human and Environmental Sciences, School of Architectural Studies.
  • Aymar Jean Christian. Photo by Chris Froeter.
  • Aymar Jean Christian
  • OTV | Open Television
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    Aymar Jean “AJ” Christian is an assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and a fellow at the Peabody Media Center. His first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television, was published by New York University Press. He leads OTV | Open Television, a research project and platform for intersectional television. OTV programs have been recognized by HBO, the City of Chicago, and the Emmy, Streamy, and Gotham Awards. Photo by Chris Froeter.
  • Paul Coffey.
  • Paul Coffey
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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    Paul Coffey has held the position of vice provost and dean of community engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2010. Previous roles at SAIC include associate dean of academic administration and executive director, Undergraduate and Graduate Divisions; executive director, Undergraduate Division; and associate director of admissions. He also taught studio classes at SAIC from 1992 to 1998. Paul currently leads the Office of Engagement, where he and his team are responsible for external partnerships nationally and internationally, including sponsored research course partnerships with CB2 and Samsung. Recent projects include building the College Arts Access Program and SAIC’s initiative at Homan Square in the North Lawndale community of Chicago.
  • Haman Cross III.
  • Haman Cross III
  • Conscious Creator
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    Haman Cross III is a product of deep spiritual roots with a firm foundation in the artistic expression of spiritual ideals and concepts. As a leader, spiritual explorer, and devoted creative, he is passionately committed to the expansion ​​​of awareness in himself and those around him. As an artist, Haman works in several disciplines and media ranging from fine art, illustration, and mural painting, to stage design and community gardening. He constantly builds​​ ​to educate, inspire, and mobilize individuals and groups towards community engagement and empowerment. Over more than 20 years, he has contributed to countless program initiatives and community-development efforts, participating as an organizer, entrepreneur, coordinator, collaborator, and innovator providing support to both individuals and organizations. Haman’s work encompasses all generations, genders, and ethnicities.
  • Amor Montes de Oca.
  • Amor Montes de Oca
  • 2112 Chicago
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    Amor Montes de Oca is director of strategic initiatives at 2112, Chicago’s first business incubator focused on the development of entrepreneurs in music, film and video, and creative-industry technology. Through community, educational opportunities, and access to capital, 2112 creates a truly fertile ground for the professional development and acceleration of its members. Amor is responsible for developing member-engagement programs and partnerships, including spearheading and developing initiatives as part of 2112’s strategic direction and core principles. Amor is a passionate leader, combining business acumen, personable demeanor, cultivation, and stewardship. Amor is a mother, travel enthusiast, flamenco aficionado, knitting novice, and aspiring paintball ninja.
  • Christy Dickinson.
  • Christy Dickinson
  • Arts Midwest
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    Christy Dickinson develops policies, guidelines, and efficient procedures for Arts Midwest grant programs, including oversight and direction for the Art Midwest Touring Fund, and Shakespeare in American Communities. She also works closely with other programs to provide leadership and streamline grants management and is a member the Salesforce administrative team. She holds a master of arts in liberal studies from Hamline University and a bachelor’s in fine arts, painting. When she is not at Arts Midwest, you can find Christy in her painting studio, housed in an historic chicken coop.
  • Karen DiLossi
  • Karen DiLossi
  • Partners for Sacred Places
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    As Partners in Sacred Places’ first director of the Arts in Sacred Places program, Karen DiLossi has developed a manual of best practices and a series of systems critical to developing long-term, sustainable relationships between faith-based and arts organizations. She has contributed to the Center for the Future of Museums as a guest blogger and was an essayist for MICA’s MFA in curatorial practice, as well as for the journal for the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions. Recently, she was elected as her local Democratic committee person in her neighborhood of south Philadelphia. Karen has worked in professional theater since 2000, both onstage and off. In her work at Partners, Karen has expanded the program beyond Philadelphia, having nationally moved it into Chicago, Austin, and Baltimore. Karen has a BA in history and drama from Washington College and an MA in theatre from Villanova University.
  • Katrina Dion
  • Katrina Dion
  • Free Street Theater
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    Katrina Dion is a director, deviser, movement artist, and choreographer based in Chicago. She is the director of youth programs and development at Free Street Theater, an academic tutor at Albany Park Theater Project, and a freelance director. Most recently, she co‐directed IAMGIRL by Remy Solomon with Morgan McNaught (Prop Thtr); co‐directed REST with Tricia Hersey and directed for US, with love, Checkmate, and The Americans (Free Street Theater); PUNK (The New Colony); and co‐directed Cycle 3 of Every 28 Hours with Coya Paz (Goodman Theatre). Katrina is the creator of Tacos vs. Plays, a joyful criticism Twitter, and a co‐founder of Joy / Club, a collective dedicated to joyful and intentional space-making. Katrina received her BFA in theatre arts and a minor in mathematics from DePaul University.
  • Shannon Downey.
  • Shannon Downey
  • Badass Cross Stitch
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    Shannon Downey is an instigator. She applies this skillset in a myriad of ways that are always evolving based on where the spark of change is most needed. Currently, she is the director of development for Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, where she raises funds to grow and protect immigrant and refugee rights and power through civic engagement and language access. She is adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago and DePaul University, where she teaches creatives how to build empires that will pay the bills and change the world. Shannon is, however, best known by her alias, Badass Cross Stitch, where her shenanigans tend to get the most attention. In this role, Shannon is a community organizer disguised as a fiber artist and craftivist. She blends politics, activism, and art into projects that are designed to inspire others to take action, think, discuss, engage with democracy and their community, and find some digital / analog balance. Her work has recently been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Time, Bust, Elle, Fast Company, and Money, to name a few. In June, she launched her most ambitious project to date: Badass HERstory.
  • William Estrada.
  • William Estrada
  • Teaching Artist
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    William Estrada was born to immigrant parents and grew up in California, Mexico, and Chicago. His teaching and artmaking practices focus on exploring inequity, migration, historical passivity, cultural recognition, self-preservation, and media representation in marginalized communities. He has worked as an educator and artist with Telpochcalli Elementary, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, Hyde Park Art Center, SkyArt, Marwen, Urban Gateways, DePaul University’s College Connect Program, Graffiti Institute, Vermont College of Art and Design, Prison + Neighborhood Art Project, and the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. His work is a discourse of existing images, text, and politics that appoints the audience to critically reexamine the meanings of their surroundings. As a teacher, artist, cultural worker, and urban anthropologist, he reports, records, reveals, and imparts experiences you find in academic books, school halls, city streets, television sets, teacher lounges, kitchen tables, barrios, college campuses, and in the conversations of close friends. His current research is focused on developing community-based and culturally relevant programs that center power structures of race, economy, and cultural access in contested spaces.
  • Ben Fink.
  • Ben Fink
  • Appalshop
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    Ben Fink is lead organizer of the Performing Our Future project at the Appalshop, a grassroots media organization in the east Kentucky coalfields. He has organized with faith, labor, community, and statewide networks in Minneapolis–St. Paul, taught high school in Berlin, and directed youth theater, creative writing, and community-engagement programs in rural southern New Jersey. He has served on the board of directors of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed, Inc., trained the homeless-housed Amya Theater Project of Minneapolis, and was dramaturge to the German premieres of a couple of Broadway musicals. Ben holds a PhD in cultural studies from the University of Minnesota. His writings have been published by the National Endowment for the Arts, Salon, Moyers & Company, HowlRound, and academic journals Theater Topics and The Good Society. His book, The Problem with Education Technology (Hint: It’s Not the Technology), is available from the University of Colorado Press.
  • Kristal Frisque.
  • Kristal Frisque
  • Art Defined
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    Through her personal aesthetic, Kristal Frisque’s handbuilt ceramic vessels encompass the space we live in, in that objects of the mundane become a pronounced component to space, volume, and atmosphere, taking on a new position in modern culture. As an art instructor at her studio, Art Defined, she believes everyone has an artistic side. From teaching acrylic painting classes to wheel-thrown pottery, her mission is to help others feel art is accessible.
  • Gregory Gilbert.
  • Gregory Gilbert
  • Knox College
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    Professor Gregory Gilbert’s specialized area of research is focused on modern and contemporary American art, specifically contextual and theoretical issues associated with the Abstract Expressionist, Neo-Dada, and Pop Art movements. Greg is particularly interested in studying the intersection of these artistic tendencies with forms of mass visual culture, as well as their relation to trends in American literature and philosophical thought.
  • Malik Gillani.
  • Malik Gillani
  • Silk Road Rising
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    Malik Gillani nurtured Silk Road Rising from its embryonic stage into a celebrated theater company. He is a recognized leader in the creation of innovative arts programming that expands artistic access. Most notably, he conceived of and developed Silk Road Rising’s model for creating online video plays which are accessed across the globe. Malik earned a bachelor’s in liberal arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, with an emphasis on the Great Books; and a masters in nonprofit administration from North Park University. Malik has been a volunteer grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the CityArts program of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Malik is the recipient of many arts management and leadership awards, including a Chicago Community Trust fellowship, and was recently named a Notable LGBTQ Executive by Crain’s Chicago Business.
  • Sheldon Gooch.
  • Sheldon Gooch
  • Sight Specific
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    Sheldon Gooch is a senior art history undergraduate at Illinois State University with a research focus in art created within the context of the HIV / AIDS epidemic. Sheldon is currently employed at University Galleries, assists local artist Jan Brandt at her studio, and is the communications director and curatorial coordinator for Sight Specific. Through his roles at Sight Specific, he facilitates writing workshops, informational meetings, and community outreach initiatives within Bloomington-Normal. After graduation, Sheldon will continue his education in graduate school with hopes of attaining a full-time curatorial career.
  • The Gordons.
  • Gary and Roberta Gordon
  • Inside-Out Studio Sparta
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    Gary and Roberta Gordon have played music together for 44 years. Their story is not one of “rags to riches,” but rather one of travel and great rewards, sharing their music with others since 1973. They have many recordings to their credit from 1975 to the present and have run the music store Alligator Music for 27 years. In the 1970s, The Gordons toured extensively in the south and midwest with a five-piece bluegrass band, working festivals, pubs, parties, and theaters; the 1980s took them to North Carolina festivals and the opening of an art museum. Returning to Illinois in the mid-1980s brought a new era of playing electric country music with a family band, with son Noah Gordon on drums and vocals and first cousin Curtis Jay Hiner on bass. After Noah left home to pursue his career in Nashville, Gary and Roberta returned to the acoustic folk music they love and, in 1995, were invited and hosted by the Irish Bluegrass Association for their first tour of Ireland. Europeans loved The Gordons’ brand of American roots music and the warm initial reception led to consecutive tours yearly from 1995–2005, including shows in Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Within the US, they continue to perform in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. The Gordons opened Inside-Out Studio in 2007.
  • Christena Gunther.
  • Christena Gunther
  • Evanston Art Center
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    Christena Gunther founded Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) when she moved to Chicago in 2012, and presently is director of education at the Evanston Art Center. Christena serves as president of CCAC’s board and co-chair of CCAC’s steering committee. Previously, she was involved in accessibility for visitors with disabilities at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was a member of New York’s Museum Access Consortium (MAC) steering committee. Cultural accessibility became a passion of Christena’s at young age as she visited art museums with her brother, who has Down syndrome. CCAC has been the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Excellence in Emerging Leaders Award in 2015, and the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award from Lifeline Theatre in 2016.
  • Stephanie Hein.
  • Stephanie Hein
  • MakerGirl
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    MakerGirl is a nonprofit organization that runs 3D printing and STEM classes with girls ages seven to ten, to advance its mission to inspire girls to be active in STEM. MakerGirl’s current academies are at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and Northwestern University, and it plans to continue expanding. In addition, MakerGirl runs #MakerGirlGoesMobile road trips, bringing its sessions to girls across the country, with an emphasis on rural and underserved communities.
  • Tommy Hensel.
  • Tommy Hensel
  • Moraine Valley Community College
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    Tommy Hensel is a native of Columbia, South Carolina and has worked for more than 30 years as a professional actor, singer, stage manager, and director. He holds a bachelor’s in music and a BA in communication from Florida State University, and an MA in theater from the University of South Carolina. Tommy is the managing director of the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Moraine Valley Community College, a position he has held since January 2008. Prior to that, he worked as the executive director of the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, New Hampshire, and also maintained a career as a theatrical director, actor, and cabaret artist. He currently serves as chair of the Illinois Presenters Network and is a board member of NAPAMA. He was also one of the co­chairs of the most recent Arts Midwest conference. On the side, he maintains an active role as a restaurant and bar reviewer in Chicago for The Local Tourist.
  • Eric Hotchkiss.
  • Eric Hotchkiss
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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    Eric Hotchkiss is an interdisciplinary designer, engineer, and educator currently based in Chicago. He received his BS in mechanical Eengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and a masters in designed objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This cross-pollination among fields provides Eric a unique perspective on design. Having worked in many areas of design — ranging from medical devices and consumer electronics, to fashion and home furnishings — Eric has had the opportunity to create many of everyday cultural artifacts that shape our lives today. Eric strives to produce objects that in nature are both discursive and subversive. His work has been exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center, Salone del Mobile Milano, and Connect Gallery. In 2016, Eric cofounded Made in Englewood, an interdisciplinary design studio that creates objects that are culturally relevant and driven by the narratives of the communities in which they reside.
  • Tanesha D. House.
  • Dr. Tanesha D. House
  • New Covenant Community Development Corporation
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    Tanesha D. House, EdD, MBA, is a community organizer on the West Side of Chicago where she was born and raised. As lead QLP (Quality Life Plan) staff, she is responsible for galvanizing all community stakeholders to develop and execute a comprehensive QLP for the North Lawndale community. Having had diverse experiences in a variety of sectors, Tanesha is widely recognized as an award-winning transformational leader, organizer, speaker, educator, and coach. Tanesha is very people-oriented and possesses great optimism for community and economic development, locally to globally. She is often described as a change optimizer, natural community organizer, encourager, and conscientious, as well as proficient in her professionalism, with an uncanny ability to connect with individuals from various social strata — from those who are disadvantaged to those who are diplomats.
  • Jaclyn Jacunski.
  • Jaclyn Jacunski
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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    Jaclyn Jacunski is the director of civic engagement for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For the last five years, she has worked closely with local leaders and residents in Chicago’s West Side neighborhood of North Lawndale to develop art and design programming with the community. In her work, she promotes community interaction as part of the organizational culture at SAIC to build racial equity and social justice in Chicago. She is also an interdisciplinary artist who exhibits locally and nationally. Her practice stems from a search for understanding, engagement, care, and attention with political controversies that surround land, communities, and acts of resistance. Jacunski has a MFA in printmaking from SAIC, a BFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and has taught at SAIC and Harrington College of Design.
  • Logan Jaffe.
  • Logan Jaffe
  • ProPublica Illinois
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    Logan Jaffe is the engagement reporter for ProPublica Illinois, which means she thinks and works collaboratively with communities who are most impacted by stories so they can inform the reporting process. Previously, she was an embedded mediamaker with The New York Times’ “Race / Related” newsletter, in collaboration with the documentary showcase POV, in which she reported and produced an audience­-driven project confronting the pervasiveness of racism through everyday objects. She was also a producer with the Times’ “Daily 360” project. In Chicago, she worked as the multimedia producer on WBEZ’s Curious City, a journalism project fueled by audience questions about the region, and was also a recipient of Chicago Filmmakers’ Digital Media Production Fund for Battle Flag, an interactive documentary which questions the meaning of the Confederate battle flag in America.
  • Ivas John.
  • Ivas John
  • Musician
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    Born as a first-generation Lithuanian-American into a music-loving Chicago home, Ivas John’s earliest influences came from European folk dancing, melodies hammered out on the family piano, and playing trumpet in the school band. In the early years of his career, Ivas was known for playing the electric blues with finesse, and a maturity beyond his years. While away at Southern Illinois University, he earned a place in the local music scene, and began backing blues luminaries three times his age with his in-demand guitar work. Well over 1,000 shows and four albums between 2007 and 2012 helped build Ivas’ name and introduce him to new markets, including a residency and longstanding relationship with the legendary St. Louis club BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups; Ivas’ most recent project, Good Days A Comin’, put him on the map in the world of acoustic music. Coming together over a shared vision of what pure folk and country blues music should sound like, Ivas and producers Gary and Noah Gordon assembled an “A Team” of supporting acoustic musicians. In addition to his ever-popular standing gigs, Ivas has enjoyed for many years being involved on the local level as both a teacher and community organizer. He helped found the Southern Illinois Blues Society, the Cross Rivers Roots Festival in Southeast Missouri, and works closely with PBS to produce concert events for television. Always one to shine a spotlight on the gifts of others, his collaborations with other top-shelf musicians are steadily growing.
  • Britt Julious.
  • Britt Julious
  • Writer and Editor
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    Britt Julious is a writer of many genres, an editor, and a storyteller. She serves as the editorial director of Cancer Wellness magazine, writes a music and nightlife column for the Chicago Tribune, and previously edited for Vice’s THUMP. She regularly contributes to publications including The New York Times, Vogue, Women’s Health, Elle, and Esquire. Britt’s work focuses on the intersection of art, culture, race, feminism, and politics, and she is a firm believer in the underground, the avant-garde, and the underdog. Britt also frequently serves as a moderator, panelist, and guest speaker for organizations, schools, and events throughout the country, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Pitchfork Music Festival, Adidas Originals, Soho House, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. The Chicago Reader named her the “Best Local Writer Who Excels at Social Media,” and BuzzFeed named her one of the “Best Role Models for Ambitious Twentysomethings.”
  • Allison Lacher.
  • Allison Lacher
  • DEMO Project
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    Allison Lacher is an artist and arts administrator based in Springfield, Illinois. In 2013 she cofounded DEMO Project, a space for contemporary art, and served as codirector of the space until its demolition in early 2018. She works at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) where she teaches in the Department of Art, Music and Theater, and also serves as the exhibitions manager at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery. She is a founding member of the artist-owned gallery Monaco in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Christy LeMaster. Photo by Josh Reed.
  • Christy LeMaster
  • Nightingale Cinema / MCA Chicago
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    Christy LeMaster founded Chicago’s rough and ready micro cinema, The Nightingale, in 2008. She has programmed screenings for Chicago Filmmakers, Columbia College Chicago, the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Chicago Film Archives, Sector 2337, and Intuit Gallery. She has organized series for TRACERS, the Chances Dances 10th Anniversary Retrospective, and co-programmed Run of Life, a documentary series for the Chicago experimental media venue Constellation. She taught Media Theory at Columbia College Chicago, and has been a movie critic on WBEZ’s morning show Eight-Forty-Eight and for CINE-FILE.info. She was a 2011 Flaherty Film Seminar fellow and a Summer Forum 2012 resident, and a visiting artist at ACRE. She has served on juries for Media City, Onion City, Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and the Dallas Video Fest. She is currently the assistant curator of public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo by Josh Reed.
  • Joseph Lefthand.
  • Joseph Lefthand
  • CreatiVets / School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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    Joseph Lefthand is an artist and administrator currently living in Chicago. A veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Losinski works at the intersection of art and social practice. His work explores the role of body movement, performance, and storytelling as alternative modes of communicating and engendering social discourse. In addition, he is the coordinator and instructor for the Chicago branch of CreatiVets, a nonprofit that partners with art and design schools around the nation to provide high-quality arts instruction to veterans who’ve served in conflicts overseas.
  • Kate Lorenz.
  • Kate Lorenz
  • Hyde Park Art Center
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    Kate Lorenz is Hyde Park Art Center’s executive director, a role she assumed in January 2010. Previously, she was the Art Center’s associate director. Kate is committed to supporting artists and to building a diverse community of people who support them. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, she has been fully converted into a Chicagoan. She has a BA in mathematical methods in the social sciences and psychology from Northwestern University, and received her MA in humanities at the University of Chicago. She was a founding member and board member of Enrich Chicago, a collective of arts organizations in Chicago working towards racial equity in the field, and is an adjunct faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Masters of Arts Administration and Policy program.
  • LowDown Brass Band.
  • LowDown Brass Band
  • Musicians
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    LowDown Brass Band deftly synthesizes the gritty sounds of Chicago with the high-energy, second-line street beat of the Crescent City. LDB brandishes a powerful brass frontline of trumpets, trombones, and saxophones, with a funky backline of drums and sousaphone. Combining the poetic ferocity of Billa Camp with stellar vocal harmonies, adventurous improvisation, movement, and grooves, LDB creates an infectious and diverse sound that has something for every listener. Fresh off their headlining set at the 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival, LowDown maintains a constant performance schedule throughout North America. Recent performances include the Lagunitas Circus, Chicago Jazz Fest, Frendly Gathering, Alaska’s Salmon Fest, Chicago’s Do Division Fest, Wakarusa, Cotai Jazz Fest, and a annual residency at Shoe Fest. Following an ambitious project titled “LowDown Sounds” that included a critically acclaimed cameo by Roy Ayers on the track “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” LowDown is now touring their brass hip-hop record, LowDown Breaks. This new offering steps deeper into refining their unique sound, combining slick horns with live hip-hop samples and world music grooves.
  • Yvette Mayorga.
  • Yvette Mayorga
  • Interdisciplinary Artist
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    Yvette Mayorga is an interdisciplinary artist and educator. She uses confection, industrial materials, and the American board game Candy Land as a conceptual framework to juxtapose the borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico. The spaces in the “candy lands” of her work relate to immigrant utopian visions of The American Dream; the smell, decoration, and personal photographs in her work serve to critique the glut of violence at the border. Yvette has presented her work at The Vincent Price Art Museum, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, EXPO Chicago, LACMA’s Pacific Standard Time, the Chicago Cultural Center, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the University of Indianapolis, The Arts Incubator, Roots and Culture, Weinberg / Newton, Gallery 400, Ukraine Institute of Modern Art, and the Lubeznik Center. Yvette received her MFA in fiber and material studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; she has been featured in The Guardian, The Inter University Program for Latino Research, ArtNews, Artnet, REMEZCLA, Teen Vogue, Hyperallergic, and on the cover of the Chicago Reader. Photo by William Camargo.
  • Sheila McNary.
  • Sheila McNary
  • North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council
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    Sheila McNary is a member of the executive subcommittee of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC), a group of stakeholders including community-based organizations, business owners, elected officials, and individuals who guide comprehensive planning and implementation in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. She also serves as the chair of the NLCCC arts and culture committee, which hosts arts festivals annually promoting the artists, music, and businesses reflecting the diverse community of North Lawndale. Sheila is also the owner of Advanced Care Services, Incorporated, a Chicago-based medical staffing company established in 1999. She is a registered nurse with a degree from Northwestern University and a North Lawndale resident.
  • Jessica J. Modica.
  • Jessica J. Modica
  • Freeport Art Museum
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    Jessica J. Modica has served as executive director of the Freeport Art Museum for six years. In that time she has helped develop several collaborative, community-wide arts projects and has recently led an initiative to build a million-dollar civic arts plaza on land the museum owns in the heart of downtown Freeport, breaking ground in fall 2018. Jessica studied fine art at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln before moving to Texas and completing a BA in art history from Texas State University. She went on to study art history and museum studies at the graduate level at Northern Illinois University, where she earned a graduate certificate in museum studies.
  • Donna Neuwirth.
  • Donna Neuwirth
  • Wormfarm Institute
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    Donna Neuwirth is cofounder and executive director of Wormfarm Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate culture and agriculture across the rural-urban continuum. After many years in art and theater in Chicago, Neuwirth and cofounder Jay Salinas moved to a small farm in Wisconsin. Seduced by life in the soil and struck by the parallels in process between farming and artmaking, they formed the Wormfarm in 2000 and began its artist residency program. Wormfarm has developed ambitious projects that link urban and rural, people and land, culture and agriculture — including the award-winning Fermentation Fest: A Live Culture Convergence. Its signature feature, the Farm Art DTour, has commissioned site-responsive art installations in farm fields since 2011, and brings people from near and far to consider the working landscape upon which we all depend.
  • The Gaylord Building.
  • Pamela Owens
  • The Gaylord Building Historic Site
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    Pamela Owens currently holds the position of executive director of the Gaylord Building in Lockport, a site owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Prior to accepting this position, Pamela was the executive director of Joliet City Center Partnership, LLC — a collaborative effort between the City of Joliet, downtown business and property owners, the Will County Center for Economic Development, and other community stakeholders. Pamela also served as director of the Moline Main Street Program, a municipal program housed within the City of Moline’s Planning and Economic Development Department. She received certification in business district executive management from Rutgers University and professional community and economic development certification from the Midwest Community Development Institute. Pamela serves on the boards of directors of the Northern Illinois Tourism Council and the Joliet Area Historical Museum. The Gaylord Building. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith / Buyenlarge.
  • Molly Parker.
  • Molly Parker
  • The Southern Illinoisan
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    Molly Parker is an investigative reporter for The Southern Illinoisan, a 2003 graduate of Southern Illinois University, and a 2004 graduate of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Public Affairs Reporting program. Originally from southern Illinois, Molly has worked as a reporter in four states — Illinois, Mississippi, and North and South Carolina — and returned to her home state in 2014. Earlier this year, she was selected to participate in the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, supporting seven journalists across the country in yearlong investigative projects. Molly’s project focuses on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s oversight of federally subsidized housing, and the affordable housing crises in small cities that not enough people are talking about. Her reporting project expands on The Southern Illinoisan’s ongoing coverage of a public housing crisis in Cairo, the state’s southernmost city.
  • Hilesh Patel. Photo by Parke Ballantine.
  • Hilesh Patel
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    Hilesh Patel oversees marketing and communications, public programs, and organizational operations to help guide the vision of the Hyde Park Art Center as a leader in contemporary visual art and arts education in Chicago. Previously he managed in-school and after-school programming through partnerships between teachers and artists at Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). He is a member of the Chicago Artists Creating Transformation (ACT) Collective, producing socially and politically engaged art, and deepening the impact of creative resistance in local communities. Photo by Parke Ballantine.
  • Coya Paz.
  • Coya Paz
  • Free Street Theater
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    Dr. Coya Paz is artistic director of the historic Free Street Theater, which has been using theater to address social inequity for 49 years and counting. She is an associate professor in The Theatre School at DePaul University, where she also serves as an associate dean for curriculum.
  • Reginald Ponder.
  • Reginald Ponder
  • 91.1 FM Chicago / Vocalo.org
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    Reginald Ponder, “The Reel Critic,” is well-known as a national film critic who loves movies and analyzes all aspects of the film industry through a multicultural lens. He is passionate about sharing his critiques to ignite dialogue about society, race, culture, and power. Reggie is a member of the African American Film Critics Association and is currently the resident film critic for Chicago’s 91.1 FM Vocalo. He is a frequent guest on Central Time on Wisconsin Public Radio and The 21st on Illinois Public Radio. Reggie received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He has written extensively about film in publications such as N’DIGO Magapaper in Chicago, AOL Black Voices, TheBlackBoxOffice.com, and The Root. He is currently working on a book about blacks in movies in pre-post-racial America.
  • Nicholas Puddicombe.
  • Nicholas Puddicombe
  • Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
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    Nicholas Puddicombe started working at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in September 2013 as patron services director. Part of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the Krannert Center is recognized as one of the top university-based performing arts venues in the world. His primary role is managing all aspects of front-of-house operations for more than 300 events per year at the Krannert Center, including managing a staff of more than 70 student workers and graduate assistants, crowd control and access management, ensuring patron safety and accessibility, and maintaining clear communications with backstage — all while providing exemplary customer service for all patrons.
  • Claire Rice.
  • Claire Rice
  • Arts Alliance Illinois
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    Claire Rice leads the visioning, development and implementation of all programs and initiatives of Arts Alliance Illinois. Claire previously served as the national director of Sustain Arts at Harvard University, a project providing free access to meaningful data on arts and cultural activity, successfully launched in three US regions to date. She began her arts career at the internationally renowned performing arts presenter UMS in Ann Arbor, where she served as director of education. While there, she produced a monthlong residency with the Royal Shakespeare Company, among the largest projects in the 131-year history of UMS, and was associate producer for the Naxos recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, recognized in 2006 with four Grammy Awards. In 2010, Claire was published as a contributing author of 20UNDER40, a collection of innovative ideas addressing challenges faced by the arts sector. Claire came to the arts after six years working with federal and state-level clients in Washington, DC as a management consultant for Accenture. She holds a BA from the College and William and Mary and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Photo by Tim Wu.
  • Kathleen Ridlon.
  • Kathleen Ridlon
  • Knox College, Community Outreach Programming in the Arts
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    Kathleen Ridlon is an assistant professor of dance and director for the Kleine Center for Community Service at Knox College in Galesburg. She is a recognized artist on the Illinois Arts Council Agency’s arts education roster, and is on the faculty of the Peoria Ballet. As a dance advocate, she works to cultivate community engagement through her teaching and dancemaking practices. Kathleen has created dance residences at Northern Iowa University, the University of Oklahoma, Missouri State University, and Beloit College. Her choreographic work has been supported through several Mellon Foundation faculty enhancement grants. She received her professional dance training at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City and holds an AA in dance from Dean College, a BA in Psychology from City College of New York, and an MFA from Smith College.
  • Karla E. Rivera.
  • Karla E. Rivera
  • Ingenuity
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    Karla E. Rivera strongly believes that storytelling is the essential bridge between communities and has leveraged this skill throughout her career. With over 11 years serving in the nonprofit sector, primarily for educational institutions in high-need communities, Karla has worked with more than 3,000 youth ages 8–21 through arts education, community organizing and advocacy, workforce development, college-readiness, and violence prevention. Her background as an artist, community organizer, teaching artist, and Chicago Public Schools graduate comes full circle as director of public affairs at Ingenuity. In this role, Karla is responsible for setting and guiding the strategy for all communications and advocacy initiatives for the organization, working closely with the executive director and staff members to advance access to quality arts education in Chicago Public Schools. Through this work, she also fosters long-term partnership with diverse stakeholders to achieve arts-positive policies and resources at the local, state, and federal levels. In addition to her dedication to arts education advocacy, Karla remains active as an artist, collaborating regularly with local theater companies as a writer / performer / director, and as a company member at 2nd Story. She holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago, has studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is a graduate of the Greater Good Nonprofit Leaders Program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and sponsored by the Allstate Foundation.
  • Jeff Robinson.
  • Jeff Robinson
  • DEMO Project
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    Jeff Robinson is an artist and curator based in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. He serves as instructor of art at the University of Illinois at Springfield and as director of the UIS Visual Arts Gallery. He served as codirector and cofounder of DEMO Project until its demolition in 2018. A 2018–19 HATCH Projects curatorial resident at Chicago Artists Coalition, Jeff has exhibited independently and collaboratively at venues including Roman Susan (Chicago), Ski Club (Milwaukee), University Galleries of Illinois State University (Normal), Outhaus (Urbana), and E. Tay (New York). His work has been published in New American Paintings, and his practices have been featured in Daily Serving, Newcity (Chicago), FLOORR Magazine (London), and the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), among other outlets. Jeff maintains an active collaborative practice with artist and curator Allison Lacher. Upcoming collaborative installations are planned for the Hyde Park Art Center and the Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago).
  • Michael Rohd. Photo by Justin Barbin.
  • Michael Rohd
  • Center for Performance and Civic Practice
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    Michael Rohd is the lead artist for civic imagination at Center for Performance and Civic Practice. He is also founding artistic director of the 19-year-old national, ensemble-based Sojourn Theatre. In 2015, he received an Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theater and The Robert Gard Foundation Award for Excellence. He is an institute professor at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and Art and author of the widely translated book Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue. He was the 2013­–16 Doris Duke Artist ­in ­Residence at Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago. Recent and current projects include collaborations and productions with Goodman Theatre, Bush Foundation, Lincoln Center, Singapore Drama Educators Association, Americans for the Arts, Nashville’s MetroArts, ArtPlace, Cleveland Public Theater, Catholic Charities USA, Cook Inlet Housing Authority Alaska, ASU / Gammage, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Photo by Justin Barbin.
  • Nina D. Sánchez.
  • Nina D. Sánchez
  • Enrich Chicago
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    Nina D. Sánchez, director of Enrich Chicago, collaborates with a collective of 23 arts and philanthropic institutions working to end systemic racism in the arts. She has served in a variety of capacities within multicultural leadership initiatives, direct-service, and education sectors, building anti-racism frameworks, disrupting systemic inequity at its core, and mobilizing strategic plans into meaningful programs, opportunities, and institutional / individual actions. She leverages her strengths of strategy, ideation, and assessment to be an active voice for effective policies and systemic interventions that support increased racial equity in her hometown of Chicago.
  • Joshua Shearer
  • Joshua Shearer
  • Anna District 37
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    Joshua Shearer uses every platform available to him to speak up for students who are denied access to the joys and learning experiences that visual arts education can provide, and firmly believes that every Illinois student needs and deserves an art teacher. This battle for equality in arts education has led Josh down many different paths since he began teaching art in southern Illinois in 2006. Since 2010, Josh has served as the South Council vice president for the Illinois Art Education Association. In this role, he has established the Southern Illinois Art Education Conference, whose seventh convening will be held at Southern Illinois University in spring 2019. In 2015–16, Josh served as an advisory dommittee member for the Illinois Fine Arts Standards Initiative. Josh regularly presents at local, regional, and state conferences.
  • Kacie Smith
  • Kacie Smith
  • State Matters
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    Kacie Smith is executive director of State Matters, a nonprofit that works with artists to create educational content that explains state and local government. She is a director, writer, and producer, as well as the co-founder of Pursuit Productions and an artistic producer for The Cambrians. She also served as the performing arts director at the Hairpin Arts Center, bringing high-quality art, events, and experiences to Chicago’s Logan Square / Avondale community, including a monthlong festival highlighting Latinx artists from across the city. She is also a proud graduate of the University of Michigan.
  • Samuel M. Smith, MSW
  • Samuel M. Smith, MSW
  • Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
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    Samuel Smith is a social worker by training and an arts engagement professional by fortune. He is a part of the core engagement team at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and an adjunct social work faculty member at Illinois State University. His current interests are in the use of arts and cultural resources — particularly theater-based methods — for community peace-building initiatives. He also participates in the Champaign County Coalition, where he focuses on youth and engagement in challenged communities.
  • Jennifer Sova.
  • Jennifer Sova
  • The Overlook
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    Jennifer Sova is an artist, organizer, and arts advocate interested in the intersection of art, activism, and creative communities. As a response to the current political climate, Sova founded The Overlook, a mission-driven, nomadic arts project providing a platform for collaborative residencies, programs, and projects that support makers and thinkers who are women, queer, and POC. She views this creative labor as a part of her interdisciplinary art practice, holding the same space as her photographic, video, and performative works. She has exhibited at Woman Made Gallery, was a LAUNCH resident at Chicago Artist Coalition, and has shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago as a part of the Chicagoland Shorts Film Festival. She received her Bachelor of Arts in photography from Columbia College Chicago with concentrations in gender studies and business. Jennifer is currently based in Chicago and invites you to dismantle the patriarchy with her.
  • Monica Moki Tantoco.
  • Monica Moki Tantoco
  • National Veterans Art Museum
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    Currently education and programs manager at the National Veterans Art Museum, Monica Moki Tantoco is an educator, artist, and museum professional based in Chicago. Moki works with veterans, educators, and youth, drawing inspiration from the National Veterans Art Museum’s collection of art by veterans. Her curriculum and programs explore socially engaged interdisciplinary art practices focusing on veteran-specific social issues. Moki is currently researching civic education in the arts, and is interested in critical theory around reintegration into civilian life and the veteran art movement.
  • Jonathan VanderBrug.
  • Jonathan VanderBrug
  • Arts Alliance Illinois
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    Jonathan VanderBrug brings more than 15 years of diverse experiences to Arts Alliance Illinois, where he builds policy initiatives, advocacy campaigns, and coalitions to influence funding and legislative decisions made at local, state, and federal levels. Through generating new research, analyzing data, and maintaining relationships with fellow experts in the field, he coordinates Alliance activities with state and national organizations, and develops targeted messaging to engage both new and lifelong advocates for the arts, culture, and arts education. VanderBrug holds a BA in english literature from Calvin College, and an MNA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management.
  • Krissy Vanderwarker.
  • Krissy Vanderwarker
  • Peace Works Chicago
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    Krissy Vanderwarker is a director / maker, professor, and personal brand consultant. Vanderwarker’s directing credits include Home Invasion and Midsommer Night’s Eve (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure (Lookingglass Theatre Company), Skin of Our Teeth (Remy Bumppo), Harry & The Thief (Pavement Group), The Grown-Up (Shattered Globe Theatre), Psychonaut Librarians (The New Colony) and, with Dog & Pony Theatre Co., Breach, Counterfeiters, God’s Ear, As Told by the Vivian Girls, Mr. Marmalade, Ape, Osama the Hero, As Much As You Can, and Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). Krissy is currently making Ghost Army, a city­wide interactive experience, and Peace Works Chicago, a collaborative, immersive warehouse installation designed to envision and embody what peaceful and just communities look and feel like. Photo by Joe Mazza / Brave Lux Photography.
  • J. Gibran Villalobos.
  • J. Gibran Villalobos
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
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    J. Gibran Villalobos is an administrator, curator, and art historian. As exhibitions and collection coordinator for the City of Glendale, Arizona, Gibran organized temporary public art projects as well as exhibitions with local entities in conjunction with municipal exhibition spaces. He has served on the Arizona-Sonora Administrators Exchange, panels for the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and Americans for the Arts (AFTA), and research grant panels for NALAC and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), he served as curatorial assistant in the Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies. His research has been presented at the Hemi GSI convening at UCLA, the 12th Havana Biennial, and the American Association of Geographers. During his time in Chicago, Gibran has managed a series of projects across top institutions including the Chicago Park District, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2014 he piloted a five-year initiative, The Re:Center Project, working closely with cultural centers in the Chicago Park District to engage grassroots organizations and shape cultural programming at park sites. He was the inaugural speaker for the Latino Studies Symposium at Northern Arizona University in 2015 and, in 2016, attended the Advocacy Leadership Institute, where he was invited to the White House Office of Public Engagement, the NEA, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to speak to key issues affecting Latinxs in Chicago. In 2018, Gibran joined a statewide delegation organized by Arts Alliance Illinois to National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. He currently serves on the auxiliary board for the National Museum of Mexican Art and on the executive board for The Association of American Cultures (TAAC), is faculty lecturer in SAIC’s Department of Arts Administration and Policy, and serves as partnerships and engagement liaison at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo by Anjali Pinto.
  • Micah Walk.
  • Micah Walk
  • Musician
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    Micah Walk is a singer-songwriter from central Illinois. His debut solo album (self-titled, 2014) was produced by Jamie Candiloro (Willie Nelson, The Eagles, Ryan Adams). As a member of the group The Deep Hollow, Walk co-wrote the song “Devil,” which appeared on the group’s 2016 folk chart–topping debut and won American Songwriter’s 30th Anniversary Song Contest. The Deep Hollow’s upcoming LP, Weary Traveler — an album that No Depression says defies the “sophomore slump” — was produced by Gary Gordon and is scheduled for release on November 9. Micah has won the annual Illinois Times “Best Male Singer-Songwriter” award multiple times.
  • Melinda Wilson.
  • Melinda Wilson
  • Curie Metropolitan High School
  • Read Bio

    Melinda Wilson holds an MEd from DePaul University and an MA from the University of Illinois, with additional coursework at Northwestern University. She has trained at Batsheva Dance Company in Tel-Aviv, Pineapple Studios in London, and the Centre de Danse and Centre de Danse du Marias in Paris. Numerous awards and recognitions for her work include a 2018 Top 50 Global Teacher Award from the Varkey Foundation, a Golden Apple Award, Dance Chicago’s Outstanding Choreographer Award from New Voice, IAHPERD’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, and SHAPE National Dance Teacher of the Year 2017. She has also won first place choreographic awards from the Danza International Competition and Barcelona Dance Grand Prix, and 11 Oppenheimer Teacher Incentive Grants. She has served as an advisory committee member for the Illinois Arts Learning Standards Initiative in Dance for Arts Alliance Illinois, as a board member for Ingenuity, and a dance arts instructional specialist with Chicago Public Schools. Melinda is a teacher of ballet, modern, and jazz at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Lou Conte Dance Studio, resident choreographer for Her Story Theater, and dance artistic director at Curie Metropolitan High School. She is also the founder of Per4mers4Change, promoting positive active citizenship through the power of performance and youth.
  • Madeline Wood.
  • Madeline Wood
  • Illinois Music Education Association
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    Madeline Wood holds bachelor degrees in flute performance and music education from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and a master’s degree in music education from Northern State University. She has won top awards in flute performance with the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation, the North Shore Musicians Club, and the Chicago Musicians Club of Women (Farwell Trust 2009). In 2014, she was the recipient of the Illinois Elementary Schools Association’s Class Act Music Award. She has taught woodwind lessons at Monmouth College and coached chamber ensembles at Knox College. Currently, Madeline teaches band at United Junior High and High School, performs with the Grace Notes Trio, directs the Monmouth Municipal Band, and is the Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) District 2 President-elect.
  • Xiaorong Jajah Wu.
  • Xiaorong Jajah Wu
  • Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
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    Xiaorong Jajah Wu is the deputy program director for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights’ Chicago and Houston offices; before stepping into her current role, Jajah was a Young Center attorney for five years. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 2010. Upon graduating, she worked as a PILI Fellow at the Young Center and then joined Schiff Hardin, LLP, where she practiced in the areas of environmental and general litigation, and devoted substantial time to pro bono cases related to child custody and immigration. Outside of her work with the Young Center, she is a writer, musician, and movement artist based in Chicago.