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A Letter from our Executive Director 👩💜

Welcome! After a long 14 months, the day has finally arrived. I wish to announce that Project Onward has officially re-opened!

In order to comply with the City of Chicago indoor guidelines, social distancing and mask wearing will continue until the foreseeable future for all artists, staff, interns, volunteers, and guests.

Our open gallery hours for all guests will be: Staff: Monday through Saturday 10am – 5pm Artists: Wednesday through Saturday 11am to 5pm

We will also resume our 3rd Friday gallery exhibitions, the first of which will be GARDEN PARTY opening on May 21st from 6-9 PM.

It will be absolutely lovely to see our artists back in the studio, as we get back to work creating art, connecting socially, and inspiring our audience with powerful works of art. Our future is bright and busy as we plan more outdoor events and exhibitions this summer! You will see us at the Millenium Park Art Fair, Gold Coast Art Fair, and Printers Row Art Fair. We will continue to show you all new artworks on a monthly basis through our in-house gallery exhibit space as well as our online platform. All are welcome to visit at any time, and tours can be arranged with a prior reservation.

The 2020 pandemic year slowed us up but did not take us down. In fact, our artists, staff, and volunteers showed remarkable resiliency and everyone worked extra hard to accomplish our mission from home. Looking back, I am absolutely amazed at what we were able to accomplish within the constraints of the pandemic.

Here’s a look back: One of the most powerful ideas we had during the pandemic was to showcase our artists from home with an interview series via Instagram called Artists at Home. Interviews were hosted by Alex Oliver, our very own Auxiliary Board Member, Lightning Speed band leader, musician, and interviewer extraordinaire. Alex’s gift is to make our artists extremely comfortable talking about their lives, art, work ethics, and inspirations while giving you a bird’s eye view of the process of making art. He interviewed 22 of our artists with the promise of more to come. Alex is a true friend and inimitable member of our team.

We held two virtual panel discussions: Outsider Connections featuring our founder Rob Lentz, artist Faheem Majeed, and retired SAIC Professor of Art Therapy Randy Vick, and Voices Amplified, a discussion featuring Laura Johnson of Zebedee Management, Dr. Sharon Malley, and Sandra Murillo of The Chicago Lighthouse.

You may have seen that Project Onward’s art and mission were plastered on billboards all over Chicagoland and suburbs. We extend our thanks to PO friend Bill Boeker of ClearChannel, we appeared on 100 billboards!

You may have heard our mission on IHeart Radio over 2000x during the month of February 2021!

And did you watch us on tv’s NBC 5 Chicago News? The topic was Chicago’s Digital Divide featuring Michael Hopkins and Ricky Willis. Also on tv, our amazing Kareem Davis with his exhibit at Western Exhibitions was featured on Windy City Live.

Our artists were interviewed in print as well. You may have read all about Bill Douglas and his art process on The Hardscrabbler Bridgeport Blog or Tony “Bright” Davis’s feature in Raw Vision Magazine. Our fabulous volunteers, Maureen McCabe, Dave Lindstrom, and artist Bill Douglas were featured in a very nice article in The Beverly Review as well. SouthSide Weekly had a great write up that featured Project Onward and included almost all of our artists. Just two weeks ago, The Daily Northwestern ran an article featuring John Behnke, Luke Shemroske, and Cherylle Booker.

Our Project Onward artists created new artwork for 15 online exhibitions, five of which were for outside exhibitors. This included the exhibit Fresh Air, for which we won our very first award. The Best of the Best Art in the Park that we created for Brushwood Center- Forest Preserves of Cook County was presented by the Illinois Association of Park Districts in November 2020. Very cool!

We participated for the first time at the Paris Outsider Art Fair and had a third showing at the New York Outsider Art Fair. Shin Gallery NY, Western Exhibitions, Bridgeport Art Center, Big Kids restaurant, and Ignition Project Space all accepted physical artwork from us to exhibit. Our Valentine’s Portrait Slam was a hit as well as our January Clearance sale. As previously mentioned, the our virtual fundraiser Voices Amplified included a variety show featuring our multi-talented artists singing and dancing, which was a fun time for all.

Last but not least, Project Onward Founding Artist Fernando Ramirez was awarded the title, Artist in Residence, for the DCASE INVEST/SW. He is creating art for the New City neighborhood where he resides. Congratulations Fern!

We are very proud of what we accomplished in the last fourteen months, and are very excited to invite both you and our artists back to the studio. Without the support of our patrons, donors, and volunteers, this would not have been possible.

We hope to see you all soon!

Nancy Gomez

Executive Director

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