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Inspiring Stories from the West Side

The heart of our mission at VoyageChicago is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the Chicago’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out the West Side’s rising stars below.

Armando Villegas

While attending one of my last classes at Chicago’s Artist Exchange I decided to put together an ensemble from what I thought were the brightest and available students from the class. The result was “Ace of Diamonds” a murder mystery thriller which I co-produced, directed and ended up having to act in. The experience left me feeling a little burned out from producing and directing because I overburdened myself but my passion for acting, not so easy. Read more>>

Kira Ryan

I have dreamed of being a model since I was a little girl. I was such a ham and absolutely loved being in front of the camera. During my high school and early college years I applied to a bunch of agencies but nothing ever happened because I’m “short” (5’4″) and most agencies required 5’7″ or 5’9″ at least. I would keep trying off and on for years but kept getting discouraged. Read more>>

Lauren and Sidne

Our story started back in 2011 when I (Lauren) was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. On my first day of chemo, my best friend and co-founder (Sidne) gave me a pair of 5-inch, glittery, bright blue, spike-covered heels. From that moment on, those shoes became my ‘chemo shoes.’ Because in those shoes I knew I was going to kick cancer’s ass, which is exactly what I did. Read more>>


I’ve been a harpist longer than I haven’t and that’s always going to be a fact. It’s so much a part of the air I breathe at this point that I can’t even begin to imagine life without this instrument. It was love at first sight for me, the first time I saw a harp performance I was eight years old and that was all it took for the obsession to begin. Read more>>

Natalie Cole

My creativity has been pass down from generation and has grown into a love that is truly strong. I founded ColeStyle in 2014 to establish, help create and bring out the beauty in everyone, helping transform clients into the best portrayal of themselves. I received multiple certifications in Makeup Artistry and one also Fashion Styling, I hope to help bring my client’s radiant beauty and personal style to life. Read more>>

Kelly Miller

I knew I belonged in the beauty industry. My parents encouraged me to receive my Bachelor’s degree before pursuing it as a career. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2014 with a degree in Advertising, and soon after, enrolled in cosmetology school. I developed a great interest in color and makeup. Read more>>

Paula Henderson

By contrast, in the series Groundwork(s), I make the patterns left on ground surfaces from our movement the basis of abstract compositions that acknowledge the beauty of formal elements of color, line, and composition while simultaneously working beyond those formal elements to connect to thoughts of our shared space, our collectivity and more. Read more>>

Kevin Fair

IPG started in 2009. I wanted to have fun with my friends and run competitive gaming tournaments.
I realized the need for hosting game tournaments and events and in 2011, I hosted the first Chicago bar gaming event. Since then, I’ve evolved into providing gaming setups for NYCC, C2E2, Extra Life & BitBash. Read more>>

Keith Jackson

Here I am, 12 years in and I learned early that my comedic style is to motivate, advise and take the serious things in life and find the humor in them. Comedy has led me around the world, given me an opportunity to bring laughter into parties, churches, college campuses, comedy rooms, backyards, you name it. Read more>>

Frank Howard

Gay people are told they have no history, which is false. I’m extremely curious, and over the years have accumulated much knowledge about the contribution LGBT people have made (which is to say, I’m an amateur historian). I began a Facebook page where I’d write a concise and pithy essay every day, five days a week, about a different LGBT person of note. Read more>>

Annie Spindler

My passion for wellness, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle came from my Grandmother, Mary Grimes. She breastfed eight out of her nine children (in the ’50s and ’60s!) and volunteered as a mentor for La Leche League, which started here in Chicago. She realized the benefits of breastfeeding and nutrition long before it was a popular thing to do. She bought organic and ate “whole food” long before the grocery chain existed. Grandma taught my Mom about nutrition and wellness and my Mom passed the knowledge down to me. Read more>>

Claire Watkins

cout Ripley started as a solo violin looping project when I was in undergrad at DePaul University. I’d primarily write on a looping pedal, and then perform those songs solo out in Chicago. That then morphed into the violin along with electric guitar from Ian Young. Our drummer Connor, who also produces all our recorded material, and I were classmates and decided to work together on making a Scout Ripley album, which then morphed into the live band that people can see today. The music itself is indie orchestral-pop, and we now have five live members of the band – I do strings and vocals, Connor on drums, Ian on guitar, and our friends Danny and Dominic on bass and synths, respectively. Read more>>

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