Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University, School of Art & Design
A Chicago native, Abdul-Musawwir is a contemporary artist whose work has generated a strong international following. His art can be found in community centers, private collections, museums, educational institutions, park districts, and in the public sphere. He often dedicates his time to support his surrounding community, as well as making it a point to visit under-served communities whenever he travels. He focuses on initiatives dedicated to youth development, education, and the arts.
CEO, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts
Since joining Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in 1998, Sharon Bradham has led an expansion and successful capital campaign achieving more than $6 million in the rural community of Southern Illinois. Bradham leads programs and operating activities for the John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchel Foundation, the operating entity for the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Bradham is also Vice President of Illinois Association of Museums and past President of the Jefferson County Economic Development Board. Her professional memberships include American Association of Museums, Midwest Museum Association, Illinois Association of Museums, Arts Alliance Illinois, Chamber Music America, St. Louis Planned Giving Council, and the Qm2 Consultants’ Roundtable of Executive Directors. Bradham was chosen as one of twenty-two leaders in Southern Illinois in the inaugural issue of the Southern Business Journal’s “Leaders Among Us.”
Tourism and Arts Director, City of Mattoon
After ten years in local sales and marketing for McDonald’s, Angelia Burgett began her tenure with the City of Mattoon in 2006. She leads the annual events “Bagelfest” and “Lightworks,” as well as a grant program to support local tourism events that generate economic impact. In 2007, Burgett began developing a Mural Arts Program with the Mattoon Arts Council. This sparked her love affair with the value and importance of arts in the community. Working in conjunction with the Council and the City, Burgett elevated the credibility of arts in the Mattoon community resulting in joining tourism and arts together in the same city department in 2012. In 2013 the Mattoon Tourism and Arts Department moved into the Historic Mattoon Depot and renovated the building into the cultural center of Mattoon.
Senior Advisor, Millennium Reserve, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Suellen Burns provides leadership and support for program development, resource development and allocation, stakeholder engagement, partner relations, and communications for Governor Quinn’s Millennium Reserve initiative. The Reserve is a groundbreaking collaboration involving more than 75 public and private partners that unifies and brings value to conservation, economic development, and community development efforts in the Calumet region. Burns is also a consultant for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Most recently she was Program Director for a collaborative arts space developed by seven mid-size and small cultural organizations in Chicago, known as the American Rhythm Center. Her previous experience includes various positions at Arts Bridge, Friends of the Chicago River, the Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as consultant/advisor to numerous emerging and established nonprofit groups. She was co-founder of the Arts Incubator Alliance, a national consortium.
Executive Director, Great Rivers Country Regional Tourism Development Office
Roger Carmack has worked in tourism for the State of Illinois for over 25 years and is also Director of the Great River Road in Illinois National Scenic Byway. He has raised more than $3 million through federal funding for the Great River Road in Illinois and developed 26 Great River Road kiosks along the Mississippi River from Galena to Cairo. Under Carmcak’s management, Illinois received the State Travel Information Center Directors Alliance “STAR” award (Superior Travel Assistance Recognition). This award was given for “The Most Innovative Tourist Information Center Special Promotion.” He also works with the Illinois Office of Tourism to increase domestic and international visits to Illinois.
Artistic Director & Conductor, Heartland Festival Orchestra
With a distinguished record of achievement as a conductor, cellist, and educator, David Commanday has led the Heartland Festival Orchestra in innovation and prestige for four seasons. He led the Peoria Symphony Orchestra through a decade of artistic, financial, and institutional milestones in its rise to an orchestra of regional distinction. He served as Artistic Director and Executive Director of the New Jersey Youth Symphony in 2009–2011, continuing his career-long engagement in teaching young musicians. In 2012 he was appointed Conductor of the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra in St. Louis, Missouri. Commanday has conducted orchestras around the world, including the National Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, American Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Belgian Radio Orchestra, Vienna Pro Arte Orchestra, and the Seattle, Atlanta, and Richmond Symphonies.
Producer & Director of the Theater Division, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Since 2004, Phil Funkenbusch has overseen all productions and performances in the museum complex as well as live performances in exhibit areas, the Museum’s central Plaza, Union Square Park, and the Front Porch Theatre. Funkenbusch has also directed several productions, including The Last of Mrs. Lincoln and Of Mutual Interest: Lincoln and Mexico. Funkenbusch also directed To Kill a Mockingbird at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site. Before coming to the Museum, Funkenbusch was Chief of Interpretive Theater for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. He was a recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Services Award (2000) from the Illinois Humanities Council.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Scott is the CFO of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He brings his understanding of the how numbers, appropriations and finance work to solving all kinds of process and management issues to further our protection of the environment. He formerly headed a strategic design firm, so has experience in bringing creativity to film, print and digital media. Scott is an active consumer of multiple arts, collector of painting and sculpture, theatre-goer, active reader of fiction. Scott also has a Ph.D. in philosophical ethics from Oxford University.
Executive Director, Steppenwolf Theatre
David Hawkanson has spent more than 35 years in arts management. Prior to joining Steppenwolf Theatre, he spent six years as Managing Director of the Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. His distinguished career includes positions as Managing Director at the Hartford Stage Company, which received a special Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theatre during his tenure, and managerial posts with the Arizona Theater Company and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.
Executive Director, Chicago & Beyond Regional Tourism Office
Bonnie Heimbach oversees and administers grants for the Illinois Office of Tourism as the Regional Tourism Development Organization. Heimbach has been employed within the tourism industry for over a decade. She worked with the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition as Project Director to attain the designation of a National Scenic Byway and Illinois Heritage Tourism Demonstration Project for the Lincoln Highway. She has also previously worked for regional advertising agencies, with national consumers, and with industrial clients.
Executive Chef & Owner, Maldaner’s Restaurant
Relocating to Springfield in 1982, Michael Higgins bought the restaurant Maldaner’s in 1995. Higgins has led the restaurant in sustainability programs such as promoting recycling, the elimination of Styrofoam in restaurants, rooftop gardens, bee keeping, and the addition of a 56 14 KW solar panel system. He is a member of Illinois Solar and Community Gardens and of Slow Food Springfield. Higgins is very active in his community as a board member for the MacArthur Boulevard Business and Neighborhood Association, a member of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and a board member with Capital City Independent Business Owners. He is a longtime member of Inner City Old Neighborhoods, an organization that helps the development of older neighborhoods.
Deputy Director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Tourism, Illinois Office of Tourism
Jen Hoelzle leads the state’s tourism industry marketing and development efforts. Hoelzle works in collaboration with tourism industry professionals to promote visitor travel both domestically and internationally, and to help grow the tourism industry throughout the state. Prior to joining the Illinois Office of Tourism in 2012, Hoelzle served as the director of external engagement for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She has also served in several capacities for the State of Illinois, including as the director of the Washington, DC office and as the director of planning and protocol for the Governor’s Office. Hoelzle joined state government in 2006 as a writer for then-Lt. Governor Pat Quinn. Before joining the state, Hoelzle was a freelance associate producer at Towers Productions, working on documentaries that include National Geographic’s “Inside Hurricane Katrina.”
President, Chicago History Museum (Museums in the Park)
A Chicago native, Gary Johnson’s lifelong passion for Chicago history is evident through his leadership at the Chicago History Museum. Beginning in 2005, Johnson has led the institution in community outreach and strengthened its financial capacity. He is also President of Museums in the Park, the association of eleven major museums, and leads the Museums Work for Chicago campaign comprising fifteen area cultural institutions. Johnson came to the museum after 28 years as a lawyer and partner of two global law firms located in Chicago.
President, Urban Juncture, Inc.
Under the leadership of Bernard Loyd, Urban Juncture acts as a catalyst for the economic revitalization of urban communities and the empowerment of residents through the development of business ventures and creation of jobs within these communities. Current projects include creation of the Bronzeville Cookin’™ destination dining facility and rehabilitation of the historic Forum complex into a hub for artistic expression and hospitality. Between 1990 and 2003, as a member of the management-consulting firm of McKinsey & Company, Loyd co-founded its global Agriculture and Food Chains initiative and led worldwide client development and service in that area. He also co-founded and led the firm-wide Black Client Service Staff initiative, which drove substantial increases in the number of black associates and partners. In Chicago, he currently serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the Metropolitan Planning Council and of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s Green Ribbon Committee.
Director, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Amy Martin joined the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in 2012. Martin had previously been the assistant deputy director for regional outreach at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. She served as the state coordinator for the Illinois Main Street Program, where she worked closely with Illinois Historic Preservation Agency staff to revitalize historic downtowns. She was also managing director of marketing and communications at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
President, Chicago Federation of Musicians
Born in Chicago, Gary Matts has performed for many theatrical productions both in Chicago and on national tours as a freelance drummer/percussionist. Matts has performed with the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, and numerous ballet orchestras and has recorded music for many radio and television commercials. Matts was appointed to the Illinois Arts Council Agency in 2013.
Executive Director, Illinois Finance Authority
Christopher Meister leads a staff of finance and legal experts that provide hands-on support to help Illinois businesses get the capital they need for growth. Meister was appointed to head the Illinois Finance Authority in 2009 after two years as the agency’s General Counsel and Deputy Director. His focus has been to develop creative financing tools to help meet the needs of Illinois businesses seeking to create and retain jobs around the state. Meister has a record of leadership in strengthening economic development statewide. He served as Legislative Director and Associate General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, where his most notable achievement was drafting and securing passage of legislation for the Illinois Film Tax Credit.
Ph.D., Director and Professor of Geography, Western Illinois University, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs
Under the direction of Christopher Merrett, the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs promotes rural community economic development through outreach, research, teaching and policy development. The organization has worked in over 400 communities across Illinois, encouraging grassroots strategies to improve the quality of life for rural places. Through Merrett’s leadership, the Institute embraces asset-based community development strategies of which the creative economy is a key component.
Executive Director & Executive Producer, Kartemquin Films
Since 2008, Justine Nagan has led Kartemquin Films on each new film, and is responsible, in concert with the Board of Directors, for creating and implementing the strategic vision for Kartemquin. With Kartemquin, she also directed Typeface, an award-winning documentary on American typography and graphic design and the doc short Sacred Transformations. Formerly, she worked as the organization's Director of Communications & Distribution and as the Associate Producer on Kartemquin’s Peabody-Award winning documentary Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, which was broadcast nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens in early 2008. She is an active volunteer with The Glass Slipper Project, the Hyde Park Art Center, and WTTW. She serves on the Advisory Board for Midwest Independent Film Festival, has served on the IFP Chicago Board, and is an elected member of the Badger Herald Newspaper’s Board.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
CEO, Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
Born and raised in Humboldt Park, Billy Ocasio has devoted his life to the improvement of his neighborhood through the arts. Ocasio served as the 26th Ward Alderman for over 16 years. In 2009, Governor Pat Quinn appointed Ocasio to serve as Senior Advisor. Billy successfully served alongside the Governor for two years developing legislation and policy changes to reduce poverty, enhance safety, and bring equity to the distribution of State funds. In 2011, Ocasio was asked to join the Illinois Housing Development Authority, ensuring that public funds were proportionally invested in projects that promoted quality affordable housing for the State of Illinois. In 2012, he retired and joined the only national Puerto Rican Museum in the United States, the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. Ocasio serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Norwegian American Hospital.
President & CEO, Chicago Architecture Foundation
During Lynn Osmond’s tenure, the Foundation has realized 300% in organizational growth, has consistently ranked among the top ten Chicago cultural institutions, and has grown its audience to more than half a million visitors. Osmond also spearheaded the launch of the Association of Architecture Organizations and the Architecture + Design Education Network. Osmond received the Chicago Women Achievement Award from the Chicago Alliance for Women in 2009, became an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects in 2005, and was awarded the Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Columbia College in 2005. Additionally, Osmond serves as Founding Chair of the Association of Architecture Organizations and serves on the boards of Choose Chicago, the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, the Central Area Committee, and the Chicago Loop Alliance.
Director of Illinois Artisans Program and External Affairs, Illinois State Museum
Through her leadership, Carolyn Patterson has expanded the Illinois Artisans Program to include nearly 2000 juried artists who live and work in Illinois. Prior to her association with the Museum, Patterson taught art and created her own art enterprise. She also served as Vice President of the Taxpayer's Federation of Illinois where she interacted with the state's top business and governmental leaders. She has produced films, launched talent to a national stage, and played lead roles in successful fundraising endeavors and marketing campaigns. She is a member and supporter of numerous organizations and continually strives to mentor the next generation of leaders.
President, Broadway in Chicago
Lou Raizin has over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry. As a founder and the prime mover behind Broadway In Chicago, a joint theatrical venture formed in 2000, his leadership propelled the transformation of Chicago from a short-term stop on “the road” to the third most important city in the world for theater. Encompassing the five premier theater stages in the city, Broadway In Chicago has brought an economic impact of over $750 million annually to the City of Chicago and State of Illinois and supports more than 9,200 local jobs. Raizin’s focus on economic development, tourism and culture while serving as Chair of the Chicago Loop Alliance has led to the creation of the Pop Up Art Loop comprised of over fourteen galleries and major public art projects like EYE by Tony Tasset, GO DO GOOD by Kay Rossen, and COLOR JAM by Jessica Stockholder.
Development Director, Trails to Adventure Regional Tourism Development Office
Before joining the Trails to Adventure Regional Tourism Development Office in Southern Illinois, Tibretta Reiman worked as Executive Director of the Foundation for the Future of Pinckneyville where she was responsible for tourism, economic development, grant writing, event planning and fundraising. Reiman currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association, as an Advisory Board member for the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs, and as Marketing Coordinator for the television show "Small Town Big Deal" on RFD TV.
Design Director, Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street
Andrea Reynders maintains a broad engagement in the field of fashion as an artist, educator, curator, fashion consultant, stylist, and production designer. Reynders mentors the Designers-In-Residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator and has designed for numerous clothing collections, including her own label. Reynders has served as an advisor for the St. James Press in London, Laurence King Publishing, and the French publication of the Jean Charles de Castelbajac Album. She also served as a visiting artist at the Royal College of Art in London, the Department of Design at the University of Johannesburg, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Professor Emeritus and former Sage Endowed Chair of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Reynders developed courses in fashion design and construction, as well as interdisciplinary courses that cross the boundaries of art and design.
Director, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Mike Ross is deeply committed to embracing the art of the past as well as the art of our time across disciplines, aesthetic sensibilities, and cultural legacies. He views Krannert Center as a potent blending of classroom, laboratory, and public space. Before joining the Krannert Center in 1997, Ross came from the Miller Theatre at Columbia University in New York City. He has served as board chair for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, as board president of Arts Alliance Illinois, and is a founding member of 40 North, the Champaign County Arts Council. He is a recipient of the North American Performing Arts Agent and Managers Association’s Award for Excellence in Presenting the Arts and was selected by National Arts Strategies to participate alongside 100 national and international cultural leaders in its inaugural Chief Executive Leadership Initiative.
Managing Director, Illinois Film Office
Bringing seventeen years of production experience to the Illinois Film Office, Betsy Steinberg heads the effort to attract film and television production to Illinois. Under her leadership, the Illinois Film Office has broken revenue and jobs numbers four times, including 2013’s $358 million revenue report — nearly doubling the previous record set in 2012. Steinberg was previously Vice President of Development for Towers Productions, where she generated millions of dollars in business for television networks including A&E, The History Channel, National Geographic, Court TV and MSNBC. She has produced, written and directed numerous documentaries including 2004’s “Isaac’s Storm,” the Emmy nominated docu-drama based on Erik Larsen’s best-selling book of the same name.
Founder & Executive Director, Black Ensemble Theatre
A Chicago native, Jackie Taylor rose from modest roots to become a distinguished director, producer, actress, singer, playwright, and theater founder. Through her leadership, Taylor has created a strong institution committed to eradicating racism. The Black Ensemble Theatre is recognized throughout the nation for its outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs. Taylor has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, as well as held featured roles in several major films. Taylor, who serves as the president of the African American Arts Alliance, has a City of Chicago street named in her honor. The Governor of Illinois declared March 27, 2009 Jackie Taylor Day in Illinois. In 2013, she was named a Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Honoree and was included in New City Stage Magazine’s List of the 50 People Who Really Perform in Chicago.
Bureau Chief of Marketing and Promotions, Illinois Department of Agriculture
Born and raised in Southern Illinois, Jennifer Tirey began working as a campaign staffer for the Democratic Party of Illinois and later was selected for the Legislative Internship Program through the University of Illinois at Springfield. Tirey completed her internship with the Illinois House of Representatives and worked on the Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan’s Issue Development Staff. In 2002, Tirey became the Director of Legislative Affairs at Central Management Services, and in 2005 she went on to become the Deputy Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum running the day-to-day operations for one of the highest-attended presidential museums in the country. In 2011, Tirey joined the Illinois Department of Agriculture, where she promotes small to mid-sized Illinois food and agribusinesses.
President, Illinois Restaurant Association
Sam Toia serves as President of the Illinois Restaurant Association, a non-profit trade association representing the industry that is the state’s largest private sector employer with over 400,000 employees and $18 billion in annual sales. Toia also serves as trustee of the association’s charitable arm, which awards dozens of scholarships annually to area high school students seeking further education in the field. A long-time restaurateur, Toia is a member and former chairman of the board of the IRA. He has served in leadership positions in many civic and public agencies, including the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Board, the Counseling Center of Lakeview, the Uptown Learning Center, and the Kimbark Plaza Co-Op in Hyde Park. Sam has also served as board member and president of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association. He currently serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Owner & publisher of Chicago Gallery News
Ginny Van Alyea is the owner and publisher of Chicago Gallery News, a magazine and website devoted to the promotion of the area's visual arts. Van Alyea took over as publisher from founder Natalie van Straaten in 2007 after working at the magazine since 2002. Van Alyea serves on the host committee for EXPO Chicago. She is a member of the Museum of Contemporary Photography's Darkroom Benefit board, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's committee for Art in Motion. She has previously served on the advisory board for Chicago Artists Month. She has also advised various private groups and institutions on how to start young collector groups, working with NEXT Art Chicago in 2012 and the Merchandise Mart Antiques Fair from 2011-2013. Ginny has been serving as a member of the University Club of Chicago's Literature and Arts Committee since 2009, and she has been a member of the board of Governors for the Illinois Saint Andrew Society also since 2009.
Founder & Executive Director, International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago
Through his work, Pepe Vargas helps foster the understanding of Latino culture through the universal language of the arts. The Chicago Latino Film Festival, where Vargas began in 1986, evolved into the largest Latino film festival in the U.S. and is Chicago’s biggest International Latino cultural event. Building on that success, Vargas expanded the International Latino Cultural Center’s programming to showcase the boundless multinational talent of Latino artists. Originally from a small town in Colombia, Vargas came to Chicago in 1980. He has served as a juror in various film festivals, as a media panelist for Illinois Arts Council and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and as a trustee of the Illinois Humanities Council. Vargas was Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year 2003 and one of two winners of the Chicago Community Trust 2006/7 Fellowship for Community Leaders.
Executive Director, Land of Lincoln Regional Tourism Development Office
Under the direction of Heather Wilkins, the Land of Lincoln Regional Tourism Development Office provides marketing support and offers training on topics ranging from social media and event planning to tourism trends and hospitality training. Wilkins’ key role is to work in partnership with communities throughout a thirty-three county area in central Illinois. She has created thematic trails for the area focusing on unique attractions including soda fountains, transportation museums, and jumbo-sized attractions. She also works closely with the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, Historic National Road of Illinois Byway, and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area.