Photo of Jody Berns

Member Spotlight: Jody Berns

In our first Member Spotlight, we feature artist, longtime member of The Art Center, and former board member Jody Berns. Read on to learn why Berns refers to her membership as an act of “not only giving but getting back.” 

As a child, Jody Berns would sit at a small table in her mother’s basement studio and create works of art. “It just gave me joy to be there,” Berns says, “to create projects, different types of art. I liked to do jewelry or emulate the type of work that she would do, and she would help and teach me along the way.”

Berns’ mother, Maxine Cobert, was a professional artist. Cobert’s early work as a fashion illustrator saw her employed by famed Chicago retailers such as the Mandel Brothers, Marshall Fields, and Chas A. Stevens. Berns herself had retired from a successful career working in technology for large banks when her mother passed away. Looking to reignite her passion for art, Berns enrolled as a student at The Art Center, where her daughter took classes and her mother taught in the 90s.

Berns chose to try her hand at digital photography: “The first class I took was with Rino Liberatore. It was a basic ‘How to Use Your Digital Camera’ class. I also took Iris Allen’s course in Photoshop. And that set me off on my way. [Photography] combined a lot of my love for technology and art and really seemed to resonate with me.”

On her artistic process, Berns says: “I like to start with an image and then use it as a base to build on. So when you look at a lot of my images they’re either composites or I use technology to manipulate the image. So it’s something that I can be creative with—not just what I’m seeing in the world, but something I can work on and make my own.”

Ochre Trench by Jody Berns
“Ochre Trench,” by Jody Berns, from her Fashion Plate series.

Berns combined her photography skills with her own mothers’ artwork to create a series of composite images called Fashion Plate. After her mother passed away, Berns found a treasure trove of drawings in a portfolio folder: “I just started taking them out and scanning them, realizing that it was a way for me to connect with her again.” The result is a collection of stunning images that seem to break down the barrier between past and present, Maxine Cobert’s illustrations come to life in modern settings.

Barriers are a thematic thread we also see drawn through Berns’ piece I Heart Sofia, currently on display in The Art Center’s In View 2022 exhibition. The image is a composite of two photographs—one of Sofia that Berns captured a few years ago combined with a picture of a lighthouse window. In her description of the piece, Berns writes that “during the pandemic, we have had to adapt to distance and barriers from those we love. My piece, I Heart Sofia, is an image showing a longing for what is on the other side of the window. The longing for connection.” 

Berns, whose son and grandchildren live outside the United States, is keenly aware of the impact the Covid-19 Pandemic has had on our ability to connect with the people we love. Her series People on the Other Side, of which I Heart Sofia is a part, grapples with that sense of separation. 

Composite photo of woman gazing out window
“I Heart Sofia,” 2020, Jody Berns

“I’ve had to create a relationship with them through glass,” Berns says of her family living abroad. “A lot of artists use their artwork to express how they’re feeling as sort of an outlet. So in this particular series, that’s what it felt like to me. An outlet for what I was feeling over the past couple of years.”

Yet, however looming feelings of separation may be, Berns still refers to The Art Center as a “gem,” one that is central to Highland Park’s sense of community: “We’re so fortunate to have all of these classes and programs going on. The galleries that Caren [The Art Center curator, Caren Helene Rudman] has been curating are second to none when you look at some of the things that you might go to Downtown Chicago to see. It’s really rare that a community has something as unique and cultural.”

To learn more about Bern’s work, follow her on Instagram and Facebook or visit her website.


Iron Five Video Event at TAC

One-night-only screening

Wilmette resident and Art Center Faculty member, Rino Liberatore will showcase his documentary “Iron Five”, chronicling the story of the 1963 Loyola Rambler Basketball Team, still the only school from Illinois to ever win the NCAA Championship in a game that shattered a racist barrier in college basketball.

In 1963 there was an unwritten rule in the NCAA prohibiting college teams to field more than two Black players at a time. Loyola’s starting line-up had four Black players and one white player. See what happened when they braved threats, tradition, and bigotry in this amazing documentary about the game Time magazine called one of the most important moments in college basketball history.

The film includes interviews with members of that celebrated team. “Iron Five” debuted at The Black Harvest Film Festival and aired on WGN-TV. It can only be seen at this special event on Thursday evening December 2nd at 7 PM at The Art Center, 1957 Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Advance tickets will are now available for this screening.

The Art Center, a not-for-profit organization, is the North Shore’s home for artistic discovery and creative exploration. Through innovative programs, exhibitions, and classes designed for all levels and ages, The Art Center provides a welcoming space for our diverse communities to experience and participate in the arts.

The documentary lasts 22 minutes and will be preceded by a director’s reel of archival work, and finish with a Q&A with the producer/director Liberatore. Question and Answer with the film’s creator will follow the presentation.


Vaccination proof must be supplied at the door and masks are required

$10 e-Ticket available here.


The Art Center is a Local Business Too!

The Art Center Highland Park is a Local Business, too.

Have you ever even considered the value of Highland Park having a thriving arts center just off-center of our downtown? Do you realize that we’re a business, too, and that we drive results to our community in a big way?

You may not think of it in this light, but we’re a business, too.

  • We employ 3 full-time and 4 part-time employees year-round
  • We have a pool of 60 teachers who are independent contractors and depend on us for income
  • We create summer employment for teens in our summer camps
  • We never turn down a scholarship request and have done outreach programming from Highland Park to Waukegan
  • We collaborate with other not-for-profits to support their success by offering discounted rental rates or free room use when possible
  • We operate on just under a $1m budget and (pre-COVID) trend income positive
  • We don’t always ask for ‘freebies’: we regularly buy hardware supplies, use caterers, buy beer/wine/liquor, use printers, security companies, plumbers, landscapers, and electricians and we choose local businesses as often as we can.
  • We do not own our building – we pay rent to the city
  • Our employees, teachers, and students shop and eat locally
  • We attract 30,000 attendees each year to our events, classes, and festivals
  • For our summer concerts on the lawn, we incentivized attendees to shop/dine locally and gave them a free raffle ticket if they could show a same-day receipt.
  • Our executive director is on the city’s Cultural Arts Advisory Group and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce
  • Our Art Walk recently showcased over 40 stores throughout the city at no cost to the store owners
  • Our gift shop offers unique gifts and we charge sales tax like any other store
  • Our events bring YOU sales

“Event-related spending by arts audiences reflects an average of $22.87 per person in spending for hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs-with non-local attendees spending nearly twice as much as local attendees ($38.05 compared to $21.75)”


As we tell people, the arts are not the icing on the cake, but a key ingredient to success. We want to remind you that we’re willing partners for anything that we can do to support the health and welfare of the Highland Park business community and we hope we can count on you for any support you can give us in return – raffle items, hang our event posters in your windows, and consider holding events, parties, or team building events at our center.

We want to be YOUR business partner. Please reach out to us for any ideas for collaboration, brainstorming, or programming that will support your business. We are invested in our community and hope you are invested in us.

Reach out to James M. Lynch, Executive Director, 847-432-1888, ext. 4


Please also reference our arts community friends: Bitter Jester Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park Players, Makkai Ballet, North Shore School of Dance, Soul 2 Sole, and others