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Thought-Provokers: West 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 West Side that we hope you will check out, follow and support.

Elizabeth Gerlach

Over the course of a few years, he would require many therapies, surgeries, doctors visits, and special care. After a two year battle with various respiratory illnesses, Benjamin passed away at Lurie Children’s Hospital in May 2016. In April 2017, we established the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation – with the mission of purchasing switch-adapted toys and small devices to kids with motor challenges/diagnoses. Read more>>

Wen Liu

After graduating, it took me a while to find my feet and get my own studio. Since then, I had my first solo exhibition and sold my first piece in the US. I want to use this momentum and the opportunities I’m receiving to expand my practice, continue experimenting and developing as an artist, and take my career to the next level as an international immigrant female artist with roots in Chicago. Read more>>

Linas Jodwalis

As cliche as it may sound, I went to the movies in the spring of 1999 to see this strange movie no one was talking about, called the Matrix, and that was the day my life made sense. That’s the day I decided I needed to figure out how to do whatever it was I just witnessed. Read more>>

Julia Polay

I am a product of my environment, the resources I have been exposed to make me who I am. Sometimes, I’ve described myself as a collector of treasures and stories. I am a hoarder of ideas, images, and techniques. The work I create is a consequence of obsessive interests – the work is a by-product of what I absorb. Read more>>

Erica Iman

I’m an explorer, through my work, travel, and everyday experiences. I was the child that found a hideaway in the woods that felt like home as I dug out the dirt around the tree roots and arranged sticks to make a table, sitting there alone most of the time, daydreaming, and feeling safe by that. Read more>>

Anna Freerksen

I’ve always been an artist. I’ve always made drawings and paintings and as I moved through school I discovered sculpture, ceramics, and jewelry making. It never really felt like a choice I made to become an artist, it was just the way I experienced the world and what I was drawn to do. Read more>>

Zack Kravits

I started without realizing it was art. I was a personal trainer in the fitness industry and watched YouTube on a daily basis. I wanted to become a fitness YouTuber. After making several really bad videos, I became frustrated with the quality and pretending to be someone that I wasn’t. Instead, I became obsessed with making my next video better than the last and became more passionate about filmmaking than fitness. Read more>>

Margi Hafer

I have enjoyed making art since I was a small child. I hold a BFA in Fine Art, and teaching certification from Northern Illinois University, and an MA in sculpture (mixed-media with an emphasis in clay) from Governor’s State University. Throughout the years, I have taught students of all ages in my gallery, high school, community colleges, and older adults. Read more>>

Ellen R Hanson

We are just more likely to share and mythologize ours. My story is fairly boring. For some reason, as a high schooler, I was stubbornly set on becoming a painter. I still am. I also have this romantic notion of the artist in her studio that I love to indulge in. For example, there are a few nightgowns I wear in the studio that each reminds me of a 19th-century French painting smock. In addition to the nightgowns and maybe even because of them, I like when I work into the early hours of the morning. Read more>>

Lydia Cash

I’ve wanted to be a singer for as long as I can remember. I was always bouncing around the house singing – so much that I remember my father frequently instructing me to go to my room if I wanted to sing. So, I’d go sing in my room. My parents bought me a karaoke machine for Christmas one year – it came with a single tape, “Under The Boardwalk” by The Drifters. I sang that song till I was blue in the face. Read more>>

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