Year End Letter from our Executive Director

To All Friends of Project Onward, The day we’ve been longing for is here, finally. A vaccine - a light at the end of a very dark, long year. As I reflect on this past year, I thought about how awful it was and still is. I remembered at the beginning of March right before the lockdown, we’d had a series of meetings with our artists and talked about protecting ourselves from this virus. Washing hands, using sanitizer and giving greetings of hand waves and side bumps. Social distancing, as we now know it, wasn’t in the vernacular at that time. Then came the “lock down” and I promised our artists that it would be over soon and we’d be back in the studio in no time, likely in the Summer. In fact, by September, I finally learned not to promise what I couldn’t deliver. A vaccine and/or cure is what we needed to get back to business as usual. Every time an artist asked when he or she could come back, I’d say, “when there’s a vaccine” but I dared not give a date. It seemed so far off. I was discouraged and worried whether our 16 year non-profit would survive the economics of Covid 19. Grant money is up but sales and donations are down from the same period in 2019 even though on-line sales have amazingly skyrocketed. Then the virus hit us close to home. Our staff member, Whitney and her husband, Alex, contracted the virus. They are two integral members of our team. And I thought, “I can’t worry about money when lives are at stake. We will find a way”. But, we‘ve survived and our mission has survived. Some of us got sick, our family members got sick, and some of us lost loved ones. But as each day passes, we’re getting through it. Whitney and Alex are recovered and so far, none of our artists have been sick. If we just hang on a little while longer, life as it was, will return and we’ll all be back in the studio. And I am grateful… for our mission, Creating Art: I am grateful that our artists never stopped creating art. At times, we had to say “slow down – take your time”. I am grateful that our artists used this time to fertilize their imaginations. Beautiful and significant art was created. Thank you to Marsha, Bob, Kim, Danielle, Chris, Tracy, Robyn, Whitney, Debby, Michelle C., Dave, Maureen, Mollie, Meera, Todd, Alfie, Steph, and Debbie M. I’m truly grateful for your willingness to drop everything and help out, usually at the last minute by delivering our artists’ supplies and retrieving completed artwork for the next show. Thank you to those who donated supplies and equipment; Frankie at Apple, Carlos at Blick, Orly at Telisman PR, and Tracy F. for our artists, Connecting People: We truly are a family. I am grateful that our artists Bill, Fernando, Ruby, David H”s, RJ, Cherylle, Matt, Sheila, and John all kept in touch with one another not only in our weekly Zoom meetings but also through phone calls and texts. I’m grateful for our volunteers, Executive and Auxiliary Board members: Bob, Keish, Danielle, Chris N,. Kim, Ellen, Elaine P., Aiden P., Meera, and Nina, who regularly spoke with the artists to calm fears, reduce anxieties, and keep everyone on task with their artwork. I am thankful to our customers who regularly ask about the welfare of our artists. for our Boards, staff, volunteers, colleagues, donors and customers. Inspiring Change: I am grateful to those who helped us promote our art, artists, and mission. Thank you to Bill B. from Clear Channel, Bonnie M., Paul L. of the Bridgeport Art Center and Tracy F. for placing our art on 100 billboards across Chicagoland. Thank you Alex O. for our Instagram Artist Interviews with a voice that has reached so many and has given our artists a special pride in their artwork. Thank you to Joe & Michelle G., Elizabeth L., Andrew R., Dan F., Chris C., Wanda L., Randy V., John L., Avantika C., Arvin S., Gail G., Sharon M., Sandi, Zebedee, Dave & Debbie M., Rob L. our Founder, Michelle P. and Alberto V. from BAC, Lydia U. from The Forest Preserves, Catherine G. of Brushwood Center, Colleen and Donna from the Chamber of Commerce, Lisa S. of Slominski Projects, Nikki I. and Allison G. from OAF, Joe G. from A Major Software, Paula C. of ComEd, Sally S. of Randolph Market, Faheem M. from the Floating Museum , Stano from One After 909, Jerasik at Big Kids, Jocelyn V. from SouthSide Weekly, Luise O. and team from Deloitte, Braden and the team at Arts & Business Council, Jan F. from Lawyers for Creative Arts, Sandra A. at CCT, Anthony C. from SalesForce, Susan H. from Raw Vision, Jonny I. of Cloztalk, Bo at 8a5e, Judy S. from Art at Work, Carlos and Dennis from UPS, Bijou G. of Google, Kymber from Twice Upon a String, Urban Autism, Exelon, Magnificent Mile Assoc., Intuit, School of the Art Institute, Summertime Studios, Dreaming Zebra, Rockwell Property Co., Sage Studio, and Make Studio. And a very special Thank You to our staff: Robyn Jablonski, Whitney Oliver, Ali Harwood and Debby Strama, for going above and beyond and taking that extra step to assist our artists and further our mission. This has been a year of separation, grief, and uncertainty for us all. However, with all of the names mentioned above and you, I am reminded that our success is not measured monetarily but by how much more we are given by those who believe not only in our mission but in our artists. By that measure, we have truly been successful this year. All is calm, all is bright.

With gratitude,




Nancy Gomez

Executive Director



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Project Onward is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to promote art as a powerful tool for understanding and valuing the real and potential contributions of our national population with disabilities.

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Bridgeport Art Center

1200 W. 35th St., 4th Floor

Chicago, IL 60609

(773) 940-2992