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Thought-Provokers: Downtown

Chicago has always had an artistic soul. The culture and heritage of our city, like most great cities, owes a tremendous debt to the arts community. Supporting local art is something we care deeply about and we’d like to do everything we can to help the local arts community thrive. Unfortunately, too often media attention is monopolized by corporate interests and tabloid gossip – but culture doesn’t come from a focus on celebrity breakups it comes from a focus on the arts.

Below, you’ll find some incredible artists from in and around Downtown that we hope you will check out, follow and support.

Nick Wenger

Expressing myself through poetry transitioned to writing melodies and lyrics. Searching for people interested in making music with me was a struggle, so I learned to play the guitar. I worked with my guitar teacher at the time to help me write guitar parts to some of my songs, and this transitioned into an entire album, which I released in 2016. Read more>>

Fauvely (Sophie Brochu)

I started writing music as a respite from working on a novel. I was going through a bout of rejection and feeling like a failure, so I made these crappy bedroom recordings when I needed a break*. I wasn’t asking anyone to like them. Read more>>

Jess Grabowski

I found some resources and calligraphers to admire. Through all of this, I have found my own unique style and hope to inspire young artists to take the time to create something unique, something that is made with your own hands, something that is just theirs. Read more>>

Judith Brandon

Being an observer, I didn’t speak a lot. I barely talked at all, which made my parents quite concerned. They would find me drawing somewhere almost daily. I got to be pretty good at rendering, and for the most part, people understood this visual language. Read more>>

Elizabeth Pham

The work was hard and the hours were long. Jewelry making became the way that I would de-stress. I would always get compliments on the pieces I made, and I had made so much jewelry that I figured I should try my hand at selling my pieces. I officially launched See Song Designs in 2012 on Etsy. Read more>>

Sophie Grimm

All of my family has influenced me throughout my life, but in 2006 I made my way to Chicago for my own artistic journey, starting Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts’ Theatre Conservatory. I took a year leave from school when my family went on the road for a 39 city tour but returned to school to graduate in 2011. Read more>>

Gabriela Victoria Everett

I started to get serious about what I wanted: to make something that confronts the quiet, gray areas in society, as well as celebrating their potential beauty. I wanted to do it through art and writing; I moved to Chicago for college and presently attend Columbia College in the South Loop. Read more>>

Lynn Tsan

I have always loved art and never, ever wanted to be an artist. Well, not exactly. The “never, ever” was after experiencing two years of art school (Minneapolis College of Art and Design) in the ’70s. I was a quiet, small 18-yr-old when I tried to break into the sculpture department. Read more>>

Tonja Sell

I love exploring, painting is a form of exploration for me. The desire to explore pulls me to the studio, as well as compels me to travel the world. Matt and I take student artists and art enthusiasts on International art tours to Spain and Italy each year. Together, we explore, learn and grow. Read more>>

Denise Espinosa

My love for photography started as a child with film cameras (I loved developing film… oh, the element of surprise). I am a wedding and documentary local/destination photographer. I love being able to visually tell the client’s story. I also love to paint. Read more>>

Cameron (Cam) Sherrill

With small business along with this have run a home good and appears shop online. I am currently based in New York working as a Designer and Animator for Esquire along with several side projects such as a cartoon pilot. Read more>>

Cathleen Clarke

I finally decided to move to San Francisco and pursue an art degree at the Academy of Art University. Four years later, I earned my BFA in Fine Art, Painting and Drawing and I eventually moved back to Chicago, where I currently live and work. Read more>>

Jeremy Cross

I first became fascinated with drawing at around six or seven years old. You see, I grew up being made to go to church (the not intentionally entertaining with a kind eye, they speak in tongues and flop around on the floor possessed “By the Spirit”). Read more>>

Megan Olson

Growing up in these urban and rural areas has definitely impacted the way I see the world and make art. While in school at the San Francisco Art Institute, I started experimenting with abstracting the natural forms around me, while being simultaneously inspired by its thriving graffiti culture and the many friends I had that were part of that culture. Read more>>


I started believing in myself and one thing led to another and now I can confidently say that I am a filmmaker and I am blessed to have a real vision that I didn’t think I would ever have. So now, I write down all my brain goo and turn it into films somehow. It’s pretty awesome. Read more>>

Eduardo Gomez

I believe everything started when I was in college. As an Architect, I see the world from another perspective, in the end, they taught me how to do so. That’s when I began noticing all the already “existing pictures” in our world… mostly when I’m surrounded by buildings and the city. Read more>>

Rosanna and Eric Vorel

Eric and I love supporting other makers and artists: there’s a special energy when someone pours their heart and soul into something. If you’re not doing something you love, we would love to inspire you to try something new and share your magic with the world! Read more>>

Dane CT Leasure

I believe that all societies need storytellers to bring humanity’s light and darkness to center stage and expose it. Without that, how can we be true to ourselves? Theatre is how I express these stories. I quickly found out as I progressed through my career that I was not going to be an actor. Read more>>

Nikki Bartel

This dream began a very long time ago, yet I have found many paths to take me around, over, and under the very thing that feeds my soul. This is a result of Life. The many paths that I have ventured have given insight and inspiration to express these journeys into whatever form I choose. Be it a piece of jewelry, a painting or sculpture there is a great need to create and share with others. Read more>>

Kayleigh McElwain

Growing up, I was taught to cross stitch by my mom, and to crochet by my grandmother. I always enjoyed it, but never really immersed myself in it. Our upbringing was more focused on the musical arts. I also enjoyed messing around with drawing and other art forms, but never took the time or had the time to grow those skills. Read more>>

Alejandra Camarillo

My love for photography was even more intense while living in the city a few years later. I bought my first camera but unfortunately, it was stolen shortly after and I was very hurt and just started working in the nightclub scenes and tried to move on from the situation. Read more>>

Gina Weathersby

My love of people, easy going personality and soft-spoken manner, teamed with years of experience collaborating, problem-solving and remaining focused while creating visual stories within the parameters of a given project. Read more>>

Cassandra Pawk

I started to get serious with the types of art I could create. As I began to develop my style, I was accepted to an artist residency in France. This was it, I was ready to pursue art full time. Since then, I have made the residency at Chateau Orquevaux in France my temporary home. Read more>>

Pate Conaway

I came into art through the back door and by circumstance! I was young professional, working at a hospital, and being an artist wasn’t on my radar. Actually, at the time, I did not believe I could be an artist – that was for other people, not me! Read more>>

Jade Tomeny

Ever since then, I have loved imagining concepts and turning them into realities through my photo shoots. I feel like I have all this pent-up creative energy, and one way I can get it out is through makeup and photography. Read more>>

Ahmad Lee

I’ve been lucky to learn from some amazing artist, teachers and designers through the years and meet some special art collectors and clients in general that that pushed me forward and gave me the courage to growing and take on being a full time artist/creative for hopefully the rest of my life. Read more>>>

Sammi Malone

I’m an extremely emotional person and my music has helped me survive that. It has helped me grow and appreciate the things in life that have hurt me. Anyone that says music can’t save lives doesn’t know what they’re talking about because I can tell you several instances where it saved mine. Read more>>


Although his initial sculpture direction was in contemporary portraiture and figures under the tutelage of Chiam Gross, Bruno Lucchesi and others while at the New School, the basic nature of that work evolved as his scientific curiosity led to a growing visual language. Read more>>

Leigh Barbier

For me, making drawings, paintings and sculpture is a simple and direct process of giving emotions form. This compulsion, along with my over-active imagination that perceives peril around every corner, drives my image making. Read more>>

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