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About

Muralist Keith Pollok

Enriching the Northwest Side of Chicago by supporting and promoting a vibrant arts scene

NAC is a non-profit grassroots volunteer group from all walks of life, ages, professions, and neighborhoods. We believe that Arts and Culture are a vital and unique part of the toolkit for thriving communities. We identify creative ways to support our local talent in a way that distinguishes our area of the city and elevates our neighborhoods as a lively, vibrant cultural destination. Our work helps position us as liaisons between local artists and political, cultural, and social institutions so that together we can all facilitate and foster this cultural transformation on the Northwest Side of Chicago, where we work, live, and play.

WE BELIEVE THE ARTS HELP BUILD STRONG, VIBRANT COMMUNITIES.

WE CONNECT NORTHWEST SIDE ARTISTS & COMMUNITY MEMBERS SO THEY MAY BETTER KNOW, APPRECIATE & SUPPORT EACH OTHER.

We are part of a growing movement to foster creative placemaking, a process where the public, private and community partners strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood or town through arts and cultural activities. NAC knows how to help community groups partner together, how to maintain efforts, how to get beyond the traditional silos and boundaries, and how to envision, plan and execute projects. These are vital skills to ensure that arts-and-culture programs build real engagement within the community and that they are successful and sustainable.

WE BELIEVE THE ARTS HELP BUILD STRONG, VIBRANT COMMUNITIES. WE CONNECT NORTHWEST SIDE ARTISTS & COMMUNITY MEMBERS SO THEY MAY BETTER KNOW, APPRECIATE & SUPPORT EACH OTHER.

We are part of a growing movement to foster creative placemaking, a process where the public, private and community partners strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood or town through arts and cultural activities. NAC knows how to help community groups partner together, how to maintain efforts, how to get beyond the traditional silos and boundaries, and how to envision, plan and execute projects. These are vital skills to ensure that arts-and-culture programs build real engagement within the community and that they are successful and sustainable.

WE ARE INCLUSIVE

The focus of our community-building through the arts is what we refer to as the Northwest Side of Chicago -Division Street north to the Chicago city limits and the Chicago River west to the city limits.

If you live, work, play here, or just want to participate in a significant way, we warmly welcome you.

Northwest Arts Connection boundary map

BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH THE ARTS

  • Introduced Moods + Foods, an 11-week free outdoor performance series at Woodard Plaza, Chicago in the summer and fall. It was designed to transform a busy city plaza into a community gathering spot for people on their way home from work. Live entertainment, including circus performances, theater, literary readings, and music captured passerby’s attention. People were encouraged to patronize local businesses for food and beverages 
  • Participated in Chicago’s Year of Public Art 50 x 50 Neighborhood Arts Program:  Aldermen in all 50 wards had the option of using funds for public art with matching monies from the city. 30th Ward Alderman Reboyras chose NAC as his public arts partner. Together we organized four murals in the 30th Ward, around Kilbourn Park, by multiple Northwest Side artists.  
  • Recruited and provided entertainment to the Family Wellness and Back to School Fair hosted by Senator Iris Y. Martinez 
  • Recruited community members to participate in the American premiere of composer David Lang’s monumental piece crowd out, including more than 1,000 singers—professional and non-professional—from all corners of Chicago 
  •  Was awarded a grant from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) for general support
  • Developed the Northwest Arts Connection Artists You Should Know visual art series, a rotating exhibition featuring Northwest Side artists. Series was displayed at Perkolator coffee house in Portage Park
  • Launched the first annual Around the Corner youth art exhibition featuring visual artworks from youth at multiple Northwest Side high schools. Students had the experience of showing their work in a gallery setting. Youth performers from Northwest Side studios and schools participated with music, dance, and literary readings
  • Introduced the Leading the Way program, in which established artists are paired with youth artists to guide them and serve as examples of working adult artists
  • Co-developed and co-presented Winter Wonderland, a Small Business Saturday event, at City Newsstand in the Six Corners area of Chicago.Mr. & Mrs. Claus dropped by. Family entertainment included musicians, storytellers, literary readings, face painting, marshmallow roasting, and more
  • Participated in Irving-Austin neighborhood’s summer District Days and December Holiday event 
  • Developed and presented the Day of the Dead multicultural celebration, the first and only one of its kind on the Northwest Side. Included music, dance, literary readings, film screenings, remembrances, and an altar in Woodard Plaza 
  • Worked with Festival Cubano to connect it with Northwest Side artists 
  • In partnership with Avondale Neighborhood Association, NAC co-developed and co-presented the Avondale Restaurant Crawl, featuring tastes from restaurants and street performers 
  • Participated in bringing the first public sculpture to the streets of the Six Corners area. Portagecreated by Ted Sitting Crow Garner and developed with the assistance of the American Indian Center, recognizes the contributions of Native Americans to the community. The sculpture’s dedication was included in Chicago Artists Month, a month-long celebration of the arts in the city 
  • The following year NAC helped throw a birthday party for Portage‘s one-year anniversary. The event was included in Chicago Artists Month 
  • Co-presented A Day in Avondale, a community-based neighborhood festival 
  • NAC gained federal recognition as a non-profit organization.
  • Kicked off their first Annual Strategy Meeting
  • Participated in the Six Corner‘s BBQ Festival Coordinated programming for NAC tent & stage with 12 performers. Coordinated the West Stage multi-cultural performance with 19 musicians.  
  • Developed “Neighborhood Night Out” programming for community members to spend an evening together enjoying a neighborhood’s culinary and performance art.  

Marlena Ascher, Chicago Northwest Side community member, had a dream to make the Northwest Side a destination for the arts of all kinds and began reaching out to anyone she thought might care. The next several years were spent introducing herself to strangers, asking questions, taking notes on conversations about the arts, and discussing the idea with community members. 

WHO WE ARE

Our team is comprised of dedicated, energetic, and friendly Northwest Siders from all walks of life.

We are united by our passion for the arts and for our communities.

NAC leadership team at Around the Corner 2017, multi-high school art exhibition
Ron Duplack, NAC Team, Board Member

Ron is an attorney, focusing on public and private business affairs. He currently serves as President of the Mayfair Civic Association and has served over 25 years on the board of the North River Commission and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, and is president of both. He is actively engaged in historic preservation and the arts community.

Ron Duplack

Board Member
Carma Lynn Park, NAC Team, Communications Director

Carma is a business consultant specializing in market research. She also has experience in marketing creative individuals’ work as well as over four years of leadership experience with grassroots non-profits. Driven by a love of words and images, she is a writer and photographer.

Carma Park

Communications Director
Wendy Jo Harmston, NAC Team, Board Member

Wendy Jo has more than 30 years of experience in community organizing and development. Her work includes sitting on several community boards. She has served as the president of the North River Commission and of the Old Irving Park Association. A visual artist and singer herself, she has taught music and art in the Chicago Public Schools.

Wendy Jo Harmston

Board Member
Grace Pisula, NAC Team, Production Director

A multimedia artist, Grace is a one-woman art house, producing photography, video, graphics, and animation. She is a first-generation Polish-American with a love for technology, education, and the environment. Her passion in life is to use her skills to help people by sharing their stories and promoting local talent and services.

Grace Pisula

Production Director
Enrique Morales, board member

Enrique is an education consultant and teacher of different curriculum styles. He works in the arts as a researcher, writer, curator and visual arts consultant. He is also a practicing artist who creates installations, working with a variety of materials. As an active member of his community, he leads the transformation of public spaces into art places.

Enrique Morales

Board Member
Marlena Ascher, Founder and Past President

Marlena is an organizational development consultant and management/leadership trainer. She has also taught at area colleges and universities. Prior to founding NAC, she served on the board and later as President of the Old Irving Park Association, where she managed the transformation of several viaducts into beautiful public art spaces.

Marlena Ascher

Founder & Past President

COMMUNITY VOICES

GET INVOLVED

Volunteer

Join us and be a part of enriching our Northwest Side communities through the arts. Let’s chat and see how you can become a part of our mission. 

Support

Join us and be a part of enriching our Northwest Side communities through the arts. Find out what you can do to become a partner of our organization.