20 Neighborhoods Teaching Artists, Interns, and Teaching Assistants

Teaching Artists

Ramona Dallum Lindsey represents, inspires, and nourishes the human spirit with eco-friendly textile art.   Her textile art breaks the rules.  She free-styles with layers of fabric and 3-dimensional forms. Recycled and store bought textiles are free-hand cut and arranged until something unexpected breaks through.  The layers are held together with machine and hand stitching.  Paints and found objects are added to each piece.   Ramona’s contemporary textile wall art and soft sculpture is uncommon, unexpected, and earth friendly.  She combines her artistic talent with 12 years experience as an elementary teacher to help people become storytellers and activists through visual arts. 

Sabba Syal Elahi received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her art has been featured nationally at ArtWallah, internationally in Spain and Pakistan, and in the Chicagoland area.  Sabba’s artwork is rooted in her bicultural experience and explores issues of cultural and historical misrepresentation, identity, and gender through personal, family, and community narratives. For the past three years she has curated the visual art for an annual Chicago event called Voices of Resistance, which showcases the work of local/midwest South Asian artists, and helped to co-produce the month long exhibition and performance evening. in fall of 2011.  Sabba has served three years as Coordinator of College and Career Programs at Marwen, a position which complements her psychology and visual arts background and professional experience serving youth, families, and communities of color. In August Sabba will be participating in a Teaching Artist Residency at Ragdale.

Silvia I. Gonzalez received her BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as a dual degree in Art Education and Photography. Her personal work reflects a study of feminine identity and the delicate observations between light, temporality, and intervention. She currently lives in the city of Chicago and teaches media literacy and social justice topics through the Visual Arts to High School Students.

Juarez Hawkins, a native of Chicago, is a second-generation artist. Her mother, Flo Hawkins, is a muralist who worked on Chicago’s famous Wall of Respect. Juarez received her Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and her Master’s from Columbia College. She is a two-time recipient of both the Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) Grant and the Oppenheimer Teacher Incentive Grant. Juarez is a member of Sapphire and Crystals, a collective of African American female artists. Juarez has exhibited throughout the country. She recently hosted solo exhibitions at Concordia University, the 33 Collective Gallery, and the South Side Community Art Center. Her work has been featured in the Hyde Park Art Center’s Not Just Another Pretty Face invitational, and has been showcased in such literary works as The Bull-Jean Stories, Tales of a Woojiehead, and Out and Proud in Chicago. Juarez has taught art in a variety of venues, including Gallery 37, Little Black Pearl Workshop, and a number of Chicago-area schools. She currently teaches at Chicago State University.

Ruth Hodgins is a visual artist who lives and works in the USA. She received her BA from the Glasgow School of Art and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2011 Ruth received an Artists Grant from the Centre of Cultural Innovation, California, and attended a residency at the European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands. Other awards include a Merit Fellowship from the San Francisco Art Institute, a Creative Achievement Award from the James Milne Trust in Scotland, and an artists grant from the Cross Trust, Scotland.  She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including the SFMOMA Phyllis Wattis Theater in San Francisco, WE Artspace in Oakland, Pehrspace Gallery in Los Angeles, Atrium Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland; Paradox Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland; and the XXII International Biennale of Vallauris – Contemporary creation and ceramics, France.

Karen Light received her BFA in 2002 with a concentration in sculpture as well as a minor in Women and Minority Studies from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. As an artist, she deeply explores those crucial moments of Truth through paint, color, found objects, images, colored pencils, oil pastels – whatever materials inspire her at the time to create a “sculptural painting.” Her experimental process is intertwined with the writing of poetry and prose that, along with the “sculptural paintings”, make up her Truthseeker series. She has exhibited pieces of this body of work in several group shows around Chicago and Cincinnati and currently has a studio space in the Oak Park Arts District. 

Elaine Luther is an artist who has worked with metal since 1990 and with paper, glue and contact paper since she can remember.  After 20 years of making jewelry, her newest passion is mixed media paintings.  She also does quilting and felt making.  She has taught since 1992 at a number of art centers including Lillstreet Art Center and the Indianapolis Art Center.  Her sculptures have been exhibited at those art centers and Gallery I/O in New Orleans, LA and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, IL.

Olga M. Marroquin is a bilingual creative director for Liberating Mella. She is compelled to create art based workshops that reach out to a community that does not always have an artistic outlet or voice. She is the Author of “Damaged Goods – Learning, Growing, and Letting go” a book that explores a young Woman’s (Mella) journey and transformation from negative to triumphant. She created “Mella” as the main character of the book and “Liberating Mella” a brand that manifests through a variation of artistic mediums seeking to free the individual of mental barriers.

Victoria Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist who received her BFA in fine arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She recently exhibited at Northern Illinois University, The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco and Cobalt Studio. Upcoming events include a group exhibition at Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University and mural with Yollocalli Arts Reach.

Lily Mayfield is a teaching artist residing in Chicago, IL.  She was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida.  Mayfield received her BFA degree in photography with a minor in art history from the University of Florida.  She completed an MFA degree in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2007.  Mayfield is an adjunct professor of photography at Columbia College, Dominican University, and College of Dupage.   Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions both locally and nationally, including a solo show at the University of Illinois at Chicago in January 2012, and Woman Made Gallery in 2009.  Mayfield curated the exhibition Returning the Gaze: Contemporary Portraits by Women Photographers at Northern Trust Bank in March 2011.  She has also been a juror of art exhibitions, including one at Woman Made Gallery.  Mayfield is currently working on a photographic series documenting Chicago’s west side and continuing to photograph in Pavones, Costa Rica every chance she can get. 

Laura Elayne Miller is an Interdisciplinary Artist based in Chicago. She creates experimental narratives through multiple mediums, including: installation art, film/video, sculpture, sound, photography, theatre, textile arts, architecture, and works on paper. Through the marriage of concept and craft, she explores the many facets of collective memory. Laura intellectualizes the innate connectivity and relationships between environments, human behavior, and discourse. As a result, she creates artwork that expresses how we perceive the external world and its relation to our inner monologues. Laura’s artwork has been shown in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Europe. In addition, she has also worked in NY, LA, Berlin, and Paris as a Producer/Director of Television and Film, and as a Theatre Director. Further, she has curated several gallery exhibitions in Chicago, including Invisible Cities, a featured gallery show in Chicago Artists Month 2010. Laura received her Bachelors in Theatre from Fordham University, a Post-Baccalaureatte in Architecture from Columbia University, and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media from Columbia College Chicago.

Lindsay Obermeyer’s art has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at venues including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MA), the Milwaukee Art Museum (WI), the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), and Centro Colombo Americano (Columbia). She views her role as artist to be synonymous with that of an educator and as such has always included teaching as part of her art practice. She’s never sure who learns more, her or her students. Lindsay has taught at schools, universities, guilds and shops across the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. She is currently the visual arts researcher for Chicago Artists Resource, an adjunct instructor at Chicago State University and a project designer for the crafts industry. She has earned a BFA and MFA in textiles and an MAT in elementary education.

Jeannette Perkal is an artist, activist, and aspiring art therapist from Albuquerque, NM. Her artwork approaches themes of identity, family, relationships, secrets, and personal history, engaging diverse tools including fiber, wax, found objects, and her camera. Her research examines questions of critical ethnography as they pertain to issues of mental illness, cultural trauma, and disability. She is actively committed to exploring the intersections between art, healing, and justice in community-based settings.

Katherine Robinson, for two school years, has been a teaching artist in residence with Changing Worlds: an educational nonprofit whose mission is to foster inclusive communities and activate peacemaking through creative means.  She also guides student learning in Oak Park District 97 and volunteers with Ag47: an artistic mentorship program that amplifies the voices of young women.

Suellen Semekoski of Andersonville Living Arts  is currently working with women veterans for the 20 Neighborhoods project. She is on faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chcago and has been working in the veterans arts community for several years.  As both an artist and art therapist she is interested in the continuum of private workings to public showings of art to transform the individual and community. Wellness through creativity, mindfulness and the socio-politcal power of non-violence are practices that inform her studio engagement in community. She is honored to be working in Andersonville with this group of  women veterans who come from neighborhoods all over Chicago.

Veronica Stein works in the mediums of textiles, photography, installation, performance, sculpture, audio,video, multi-media and performance. She earned her BFA from The University of Illinois at  Chicago where she studied photography, film and electronic media and earned her Master of Arts in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Stein lives and works in Chicago where she has taught at The Gary Comer Youth Center, The Chicago Freedom School, Prescott Elementary School, the Multicultural Arts High School, Harper High School, the Chicago Park District and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently a teaching artist at Free Street Theater Company. A practicing artist, Stein recently exhibited her work in the Exquisite Corpse (2011) group show at Chicago’s Fulton Art Collective.

Patricia A. Stewart, Chicagoan, received a fine arts degree from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree from Chicago State University.  She also studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the International School of Art and Design in Miami, Florida, and the Savanna College of Art and Design in Savanna, Georgia. Mrs. Stewart retired from a successful art teaching career, Art Curriculum Developer/Coordinator, Lead Teacher, Standards Based Curriculum Coach, and graphic artist for the Chicago Public Schools. She has earned recognition for her dry pastels, acrylics paintings, leather jewelry, and leather assemblages, electronic photo reconstruction, and graphic designs. Patricia Stewart has received numerous awards for her work from various institutions.  Her paintings, sculptures, and jewelry have been exhibited at the Neleh Art Gallery, Susan Woodson Gallery, Africa International House, South Side Community Arts Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Southern Illinois University, Chicago Cultural Center, African American Cultural Center (University of Illinois, Chicago), DuSable Museum, Chicago State University, South Shore Cultural Center, ISF, Sapphire and Crystals, D’Estee, Gallery Guichard, ARC Gallery, and several studio shows. As an educator, she believes in breadth, wealth, and deliberation.   As an artist her works reveal the Integrity of the Human Spirit, the Sensitivities of Life, the Unity of Family, the Fidelity of Friends, and Pride in her Heritage.

Kristina Tendilla is a community outreach worker, an educator, immigrant advocate, community organizer, and an artist. She has been teaching history and cultural studies for 7 years in schools, youth programs, universities, and national workshops. With a strong commitment to public service and the arts, she has worked with CIRCA-Pintig community theater, Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment, and Benton House community center. Kristina received an Immigration Advocate certificate from the National Immigration Institute of San Francisco, and continues to work with immigrant family services. She also co-authored, In Our Aunties’ Words, an oral history book revealing the journey of 1960s Filipina immigrant women diaspora. After two years of social activism leadership in Chicago, she is the youngest woman to be nominated to sit on the 2011 Mayoral Advisory Board on Human Relations. In July 2011, she founded Girls Action League, an exciting young women empowerment program. Kristina hopes to continue the enriching program in her community in Bridgeport!

Stephanie Piccirilli-Wernet is the co-founder of Bright Endeavors, an eco-friendly social enterprise manufacturing handmade candle and spa products; helping adolescent parents (aged 17-24) transition into economic stability. Stephanie is charged with leading product and brand design, strategic planning, business
development and operations for Bright Endeavors while directing workforce development and corporate partnerships for Bright Endeavors’ parent organization, New Moms, Inc. With a strong personal commitment to serve, lead and help transform communities, Stephanie brings a diverse set of skills and experiences; gained from her education in art and design, a well-rounded business and training career and work experiences in social services, community building and outreach. While studying painting and design in college, Stephanie took part in several art installation projects and exhibits, along with serving as an assistant in the creative arts program. She graduated with a comprehensive education in life drawing, painting, photography and graphic design. Stephanie holds an undergraduate degree in communication design from Ray Vogue College of Design in Chicago.

Ife Williams, born and raised in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, started Art Forwardwhile working as an Americorps for Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago in North Lawndale. Her passion for the arts and dedication to community improvement grew from her love for hip-hop and the vibrant patterns and colors of urban street art. A self-taught visual artist, the subjects of her paintings raise awareness for social justice and tolerance. The Chicago cityscape can often be found as a background to images exploring the different cultures and neighborhoods of the city. Williams’ interest in cultural organizing and community development started as a peer-mentor in community centers, then working as a youth development coordinator, teaching artist, and cultural educator. Her involvement with public arts began as a youth with Gallery 37. Since, she has developed and facilitated numerous community-based multidisciplinary art projects.


Ionit Behar is an MA candidate in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a BA in Art Theory with a concentration in Art History and Film Studies from Tel Aviv University and a degree in Art Administration and Cultural Management from the Bank Boston Foundation in Montevideo. Behar is involved in a variety of curatorial projects and contributes as an art critic to several Uruguayan publications. She is currently working at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and at Woman Made Gallery (20 neighborhoods project) as a curatorial intern. She served as a curatorial fellow assisting grupa o.k (Julian Myers and Joanna Szupinska)  of the 2012 graduate thesis exhibition at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Hannah Fehrman is a documentary / editorial photographer and multimedia creator. Hannah’s ongoing work looks at how people interact with and relate to the space around them. She is interested in telling stories; whether her own story or someone else’s. She aims to inspire her audience to engage in the world around them. Hannah’s passion for engagement expands beyond the medium of photography. Hannah seeks to connect her enthusiasm for people and photography; she hopes to cultivate an environment of discussion and discovery with her work.

Diandra Miller is an art student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently studying performance, dance, and film and expecting her Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2014. In her practice she is invested in ideas of home, self, community. She dances Ballet Folklorico, Flamenco, and recently Butoh.

Meredith Lancaster is a Chicago transplant from Southern California. Recently, Meredith received her Bachelor of Arts in History of Art and Architecture from DePaul University. In the fall, Meredith will be moving to the Pacific Northwest to begin a Teaching Fellowship while she pursues her Master of Arts in Art History at the University of Oregon.

Teaching Assistants

Kristin Abhalter has a background related to design and production for theatre.  Her practice includes paintings and sculptures of the human body and exploring the use of technology to create organic form.  She has instructed community college courses in design for the theatre and has led community groups in the creation of murals in Minneapolis, MN.

Maritza Bautista is a bilingual (Tex-Mex, pocha Tejana) visual arts and video artist, educator, published author, independent curator, and cultural worker.   She received a MA in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009) and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Studio Art from Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas (2001).  Maritza has been working in the arts non-profit sector for over ten years now.  She has collaborated with youth in rural South Texas and Jornaleros (day laborers) in Chicago to produce short, video documentary projects exploring issues unique to marginalized communities. Currently Maritza lives in Chicago and works at Rumble Arts Center, an accessible cultural space that facilitates the empowerment and education of individuals and communities in Humboldt Park.

Elissa Heckendorf is an Art Therapy graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has a BA in in Art Education and a BFA in Painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Elissa has worked in therapeutic day schools and various community settings throughout the Boston area. She is interested in using art therapy to work with children and military families.

NIC ole K. is a artist, actor and activist from NYC. They are currently residing in Chicago working as a teaching artist. They believe that art is a spiritual practice and an opportunity to create new dialogues. NIC ole is overjoyed to be working with the 20 Neighborhoods project.

Elyse Schauer is a teaching assistant in the 20 Neighborhoods Project. With a background in social work, Elyse currently attends SAIC, focusing in fiber arts, and plans to attend graduate school for Art Therapy. She also plays music and volunteers for Girls Rock!Chicago, teaching bass lessons and band coaching, and Envision West Town Center, providing support to artists with developmental disabilities. Elyse is excited to experience the interactive processes of art making and community building through the 20 Neighborhoods Project.

Nicole Wingate was born in Florida and moved to Chicago in 2005 after completing a BFA in Art and Photography from the University of South Florida. Her work as been shown at Woman Made, the Contemporary Art Museum of Tampa, and the Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado. She is a member of the Society for Photographic Education, a volunteer, working artist, and art educator. Her interests include environmental culture and DIY trends.

Betsy Zacsek is a Teaching Artist, painter and sculptor residing in Chicago,IL.  Her work is energetic, expressive, and abstract. Betsy’s work is always concerned with process and a joyful exploration of materials.  She is a Co-Founder of LAWN Gallery, an outdoor, project-based exhibition space in Logan Square that invites emerging artists to transform the unkempt, urban, residential yard space into an installation event according to their vision.  Betsy is always busy with creative projects, cooking, and volunteering.

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