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Thought-Provokers: Northwest Side

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 the Northwest Side that we hope you will check out, follow and support.

Ana Fuentes

I thought deeply about where I might find myself in five years, and it was definitely not studying for a mid-wage job inside a cubicle. I always pictured myself amongst artists and creatives. Whether it’s becoming one myself or helping them manage their artistic career. Read more>>

Valarie Joy Winkleman

Every day, my story expands and my journey unfolds more and more. When I think of art, I can’t decide if I have inherited my passions from my very creative kin or if it is something that sparked from the get go and has grown immensely since childhood. Read more>>

Elaine Rubenoff

Having this experience made me grow up really quick. I started to consider how important it is to live with purpose. I desired to find something that filled me up and could live inside me. Art and music was always something that brought me a lot of joy- I never really took it too seriously, though. Read more>>

Sheryl Smith

Put a camera in my hand and a wilderness path under my feet, and I am a blissful girl. A self-taught wildlife photographer, I am inspired by the raw, unfiltered, purest forms of the natural world. Spending hours in the fields of northern Illinois, I seek to capture the beauty of the wild. Read more>>

Jeff Bratanch

I had always been drawing in my free time ever since I was a very young child. In 2004, when I was nine, my mom enrolled me in weekly art lessons at Linda’s Fine Arts Studio. Over the course of 11 years, I honed my skills in many different drawing media and watercolor painting. Read more>>

Laura Stoecker

I stay pretty busy with my different bodies of work to keep things interesting. So while I might be doing editorial work one day, I’m also booking portraits and showing my abstract work in a gallery all at the same time. It keeps things interesting for me. Read more>>

catherine kabbe

I first started ceramics in high school. I remember looking forward to the day in art class when we would be able to throw on the wheel. The day came and I immediately fell in love with ceramics! After high school I started weekly classes for 3 years straight. Near the end of my weekly classes I was given a wheel and a kiln. Read more>>

Danny Sobor

A lot of Chicago art has a strong gra\phic style, from the stuff in the street to the Imagists. That stuff heavily influenced me early on. I work as a painter in Detroit now and I still focus on representation which I think has a lot to do with the visual environment I grew up in. Read more>>

peter kenar

I moved to United States with my family when I was fourteen. My father was going to lose his job with the military. Coming her was an incredible shock, displacement. Many crazy stories have written themselves in my life since then, but we should probably get to know each other first. Read more>>

david alvarado

I started out showcasing my self-published comics and prints at the Chicago Zine Fest and have been keeping in touch with other similar shows. Shops like Quimbys provided the outlet for me to create something and have a space for it. Read more>>

JJ McLuckie

Growing up, in the woods, outside of the already small rural Illinois town that I went to school in lead me to really enjoy quiet time spent alone. Art has always functioned as a way for me to think through ideas that I had trouble communicating with people through conversation before cell phones were as relevant. Read more>>

Mary Lou Zelazny

Transformation and reinvention surrounded me and became part of everyday life. I found these creative currents to be a source of fascination and inspiration. Although these ‘improvements’ were sometimes dubious, the results were always a delight. Read more>>

Mark Heine

I’m a second-generation artist, and my apprenticeship began at birth. I spent my young years wandering my father’s massive warehouse studio, watching teams of sculptors, mural artists, architects and fabricators working on mammoth projects. Read more>>

Leigh DeLeonardo

I’ve been designing clothing since I was 7 starting with my Barbie. I became a bit more committed at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I graduated from the fashion department. Read more>>

Sarah Brittin

I’ve had a love for photography since I was young, but it wasn’t until the digital age came that I realized a kind of freedom in the process that I hadn’t experienced before. I started to feel like I could play with my camera in a way I never felt comfortable doing with film. Read more>>

Eric Burger

I got my first tattoo at a super early age (13) in a gangster kid’s kitchen one day ditching school. And my mother damn near beat it off me hahaha. But as long as I can remember after seeing my first tattoo on someone I knew I wanted to be a part of that and was just obsessed by everything tattooing related. Read more>>

Anna Aaron

Here all my life residing in the northwest side with my daughter, mom and our beloved cat. I studied at SAIC, Depaul and NLU. I’m a photographer/visual journalist, blogger, influencer and certified teacher. Read more>>

John Heckel

After working in corporate sales for 10 years I felt worn down and unmotivated. I wanted to focus more on my quality of life but was having a very difficult time figuring out what I really wanted to career-wise. I had people tell me, “Find a job you enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Read more>>

Grace Michiko Hamann

I’ve had an affinity for vibrant colors and patterns for as long as I can remember, but I really never considered art as a career until I entered college. I originally went to the University of Illinois with the intent to study Psychology, but ended up transferring to the art program and studied graphic design.  Read more>>

Bryam Bueno

I am a self-taught artist, I daresay, which I think we all are, but without any particular art education I started to put my life on canvas after my wife bought me for that Christmas 2008 an easel, a canvas, and a set of acrylics, reviving the art in me I thought it was dead and giving birth to my first piece in the new place I now call home…Chicago. Read more>>

Ashlee Stewack

My creativity has always been fueled by my curiosity. I love learning new things and as a younger artist I always had a lot of whimsy; drawing, painting, singing and daydreaming. A lot of great ideas but never the ability to follow through. Read more>>

Alicia Eisenmann

I had a love of baking and art since I was a child. I enrolled in Kendall College and studied Baking and Pastry. I did my internship at Sea Island Resort in Georgia under the instruction of James Mullaney. When the economy crashed in 2008. Read more>>

Maya Bentley

I knew that someday I could experience that excitement from another perspective. Many years later with more practice constructing garments and gaining more experience within the industry, I launched my own brand MSB Apparel in 2016. Read more>>

Erin Mitchell

Being a part of the AMFM community nurtured my artistry and helped expand the reach of my work to audiences in and around Chicago. Within the past year, my artist career has grown in ways I would never have imagined. It’s a LOT of work and sometimes I wonder WTH I got myself into. Read more>>

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