About Us

Our Mission:

To be the catalyst for change in Chicago neighborhoods through promotion and creation of art.
To enrich the quality of life for residents using art as a mechanism.
To promote artistic exposure and cultural expression by linking artists, businesses and property owners.
To organize capital and other resources supporting arts initiatives that stimulate the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods and community, enrich and enhance cultural heritage and encourage economic vitality.

Our History

Arts Alive Chicago was begun by a group of residents and artists on Chicago’s northwest side including the 30th, 38th, 39th, 45th, and 49th wards and the 11th, 15th and 17th wards on the south side more recently.
Until the early 1990s, the Northwest Corridor was one of the most vibrant areas in the city. During the next 20 years, due to economic and civic lethargy and neglect the area declined, and by the year 2011, it had earned a notorious reputation for business flight, job loss, boarded up storefronts, pedestrian isolation,community alienation and loss of identity which resulted in diminished pride and involvement. Currently, the area is home to an ethnically and economically diverse population. Its anchor institutions include Six Corners Sears, the Portage Theater, the Copernicus Center, Gale Street Inn, The Gift Theatre, The Irish American Heritage Center, Polish American Association, American Science and Surplus, City News , Fantasy Costume, Chris’s Billiards, The Jefferson Park Transit Station including Metra,Cta Bus and Blueline hub, and extensive forest preserves.

A similar decline was experienced by the Englewood community. Today, Chicago’s Englewood and West Englewood community areas are frequently at the forefront of the city’s ongoing battles with gun violence, poverty, and mass incarceration. Of Chicago’s 4,379 shootings in 2016, Englewood accounted for 441 of them (10%), making it currently the second most violent community in the city. Young people’s exposure to violence, directly or indirectly, has been linked to increased risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, aggressive behavior, and lower rates of school achievement and high school completion (Seal 2014). Schools in Englewood, especially within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, have traditionally scored well below national and district averages and report above average incidents of student misconduct. Luke O’Toole Elementary School, which serves a student body that identifies as 90.7% black and 98.2% low-income, scores, on average, at the 10th percentile for reading comprehension and 21st percentile for math. Students at the school rate that they do not feel safe in and around the school building or traveling to and from school, impeding students from focusing on their school work and reaching their full potential.
In its six years Arts Alive Chicago has created 35 public art murals as part of community engagement projects, partnered with 4 Chambers of Commerce on events and art partnerships, received grants to initiate programs in schools, partnered with the Eagle Scouts and the Cook County Forest Preserves on multiple scout and civic projects and has earned a reputation for high quality work, integrity and involvement.

We are a 501(c)3: 

We welcome donations to fund our projects and operations!   We have a PAYPAL account set up (you can see the button on the bottom of the opening page.) Please make sure to specify project if you want your donation to be specifically designated.

If you prefer, checks can be made out to Arts Alive Chicago and mailed to 4041 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, Il 60641.

Our People:

In 2017 we welcomed Amy Jo Arndt, Linda Vidmar and David Given to the Advisory board, and elevated Jerry Rogowski to the Executive Board.

In 2016 we welcomed Catherine Marchese to the Advisory Board

In 2015, we welcome Jaime Guerrero to the Advisory Board.

The Executive Board

Cyd Smillie — president– Ms. Smillie has a B.F.A. in Technical Theatre and Stage Design; 17 years experience in Hollywood Film Industry; Owner/Director of Touching Ground Gallery; is a practicing artist and teacher, and a home owner and resident of Mayfair for 20 years.

Linda Vidmar  – secretary— Ms. Vidmar is known throughout the area as a community leader and organizer.  She is a mother, an actress and a driving force in the 11th ward.

Jerry Rogowski- Vice President– Our European trained artist who insures all work is done to the highest standard

Sara Peak Convery – Treasurer – our newest working artist addition.

David Given- our construction and building guru/consultant

The Advisory Board

Amy Jo Arndt – Resident artist who created and managed the Have-A-Seat project which introduced 20 new artists to the Six Corners area

Amy Meadows–known throughout the community for her wit and windows.  Ms. Meadows teaches Visual Merchandising at Columbia after many years of directing Window Display for Marshall Field and Co. and was on the ground floor of Chicago Loop Alliance’s Pop Up Art Loop program.  An early supporter of Arts Alive/45 projects, Amy and her family live in Old Irving Park..

Gary S. Heitz — vice-president  –Mr. Heitz brings over thirty years of experience in the set-design and event staging business to the job.  He and his wife Laura are both homeowners in Portage Park area