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North River Commission Draws New Plan for the Arts

By Patty Wetli | April 8, 2013 10:37am
 Perry Gunn, executive director of the North River Commission, takes part in an arts and culture brainstorming session.
Perry Gunn, executive director of the North River Commission, takes part in an arts and culture brainstorming session.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

NORTH PARK — Far from resting on its laurels after checking off 90 percent of the projects included in its inaugural five-year arts plan, the North River Commission is forging ahead with a second round of priorities to tackle through 2018, from artsy trash cans to community arts centers.

Members of the commission's board gathered last week at the Frankenstone Art Center with local artists, residents and representatives from area community organizations to continue work begun in 2007 toward "building community through art."

"There's just so much more energy this time around," said Eileen Figel, the commission board member who heads up the group's arts and culture committee.

Figel cited the creation of a sculpture garden in Albany Park's Ronan Park as the most significant accomplishment from the 2007-12 plan, along with an after-school arts program that has since lost its funding.

The commission previously identified five strategic priorities for 2013-18:

  • Brand and market the area as a destination for arts and culture.
  • Share resources and information to support local artists.
  • Enhance student learning through arts programs in schools.
  • Support public art projects with/for strategic community action.
  • Promote and support cultural events to celebrate the area's diversity and history.

The purpose of the meeting at Frankenstone was to create specific actions for each priority.

Ideas that grew out of the brainstorming session included producing a community arts directory, organizing pop-up workshops ranging from jewelry making to gardening, and designing a logo that better encompasses the commission's mission and service area, which is bounded by Addison Street, the Chicago River, Devon Avenue and Cicero Avenue.

"There is an economic reason for supporting the arts," said Ron Duplack, president of the commission's board.

"The question is how to leverage our communities through the arts. It enhances everyone's lifestyle and creates a lot of opportunities for people to engage and connect."