Seeking Out the Other: A Community-Building Initiative Presents the Second Event in an Ongoing Series

Seeking Out the Other: A Community-Building Initiative Presents the Second Event in an Ongoing Series

“Who are the “we” in “We the People of the United States . . .” 

Thursday, February 24th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Location: The Art Center Highland Park, 1957 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL 60035


Guest Speaker: Janea D. Harris of Insight Advocacy will give a short introduction and then moderate topics including:


  • Who are the “we” in “We the People of the United States…?”
  • Does the United States have a “national character” — what defines it and how has it changed over time?
  • What does being a “citizen” mean? What does productive, imaginative, and engaged citizenship look like at this time in our history?
  • What happens to the idea of a shared American identity (liberty, equality, individualism, populism? laissez-faire?) when social mobility declines along with trust in American institutions?


Janea D. Harris is an author (All Girls Have Sup-Her Powers, The Power of Voice, Through the Window of Winter the Rabbit) and poet who loves using creative writing to help children gain a better understanding of complex topics. As an educator, she learned that children often discover lasting life-long lessons in the books that they read. As a newer resident of Highland Park she will share some of her initial experiences after moving to the city, events which led her to co-found Insight Advocacy, with the mission to advocate for inclusion and diversity in our community by providing visibility, insight, and resources to support families of color.


Seeking Out the Other takes on the format of a community potluck meal. Attendees are encouraged to bring food that represents their own background or their family traditions. Plates, flatware and a variety of beverages will be provided.


This event is a continuation of the series ‘Seeking Out the Other’, a collaboration between the Highland Park Library, the Highwood Library, The Justice Project, and The Art Center Highland Park. Part of the Arts in Action initiative of The Art Center Highland Park, the evening’s structure and format was created by Chad Clark, Assistant Director of The Highland Park Public Library.


For reservations, please visit:

Member Highlight: Jody Berns

In our first Member Highlight, 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

Henri Dauman: a Conversation

This is a unique event for The Art Center. We rarely feature one artist, one artistic medium in our main gallery. But when we were offered the opportunity to be the FIRST midwest exhibitor of the photography of Henri Dauman we jumped on it. The exhibit is open from October 1 through November 13, Monday through Saturday, 10-4, or by special arrangement for groups with special needs or other requests. Read more about it by CLICKING HERE.

The night before the opening Curator Caren Helene Rudman and Executive Director James M Lynch had the opportunity to talk to Henri and his granddaughter, Nicole Suerez, and her husband, Peter Kenneth Jones, respectively the Producer and Director of the documentary film about Henri’s life, Looking Up. The video below is a part of the conversation they had about the life, work, and future of this gifted genius, Henri Dauman.

Update on COVID Policy, Masks and Vaccination

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff;

It has been great to have live classes back in our building for the past few months. We’ve made every effort to remain a safe space, with masks, smaller classes, and social distancing. Whenever possible our events and get-togethers have been staged on our front lawn to minimize the risks of social gatherings.

Unfortunately, with the new Delta variant, we need to go back to stricter controls. Here are the requirements for visiting TAC as of September 7, 2021.

  1. For our Fall classes, we plan to be fully in-person in our galleries, events, and classes.
  2. All in-person staff, faculty, students ages 12 and up, and vendors must be vaccinated*
  3. Faculty, TAC Staff, and Students ages 12 and up are required to show proof of their vaccination status and proof-of-vaccination documentation by September 7 (per Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order, issued August 26, 2021)
    1. You can present your documentation to either the Director of Education, Mairin Hartt, or Executive Director, James Lynch,  on the day of your first class or can email your documentation to the Director of Education
    2. TAC will not keep your documentation on file and you are not required to show proof-of-vaccination documentation to anyone at TAC except the Director of Education or the Executive Director. **
  4. All staff, faculty, students, and vendors will be required to be vaccinated to attend live events, classes, or workshops.
  5. Keep your proof with you. TAC reserves the right to ask for proof of vaccination status for any participant in live programs, classes, or workshops held in our facility.
  6. Regardless of vaccination status, anyone entering the premises of TAC will be required to wear masks covering their nose and mouth, including in studios and classes.
  7. As per CDC and IDPH guidelines, a minimum of 3-feet distancing will be maintained in classes and throughout the building to the extent possible.
  8. Remember: Break-through Covid-19 infections are possible even for vaccinated individuals. We continue to require that you should stay home if you are not feeling well and not return to live classes, studio time, or events until you test negative for COVID-19.
  9. We will continue to monitor state and CDC guidelines and update our policies accordingly. Let’s hope for the best.

* If you are not vaccinated, you must show proof of receiving the first Covid Vaccination shot or proof that you have scheduled your first shot Covid Vaccination shot. If you have received your first Covid Vaccination shot, you must show proof of schedule for the second injection within 42 days of the first shot. All in-person Faculty, TAC Staff, and eligible students must be fully vaccinated by October 30.

** In the case of a medical exemption, medical documentation will need to be provided to the Director of Education or Executive Director.

*** Please review the In-Person Open Studio and Class Safety Protocols specific guidelines and updates.

Ivan Hernandez Salinas: From Intern to Faculty

Meet Ivan Hernandez Salinas, a faculty member at The Art Center. Ivan came to the center in the summer of 2020 as an intern – and we all know how that worked out. With no live summer camp or classes, Ivan and Executive Director James M. Lynch created a new plan. Drawing on his experience as a graffiti artist they approached Curt’s Cafe, a local not-for-profit with ties to the arts community, and offered them a mural for the side of their Highland Park facility.

Ivan held brainstorm sessions with Curt’s Cafe students and came up with a design idea. Because of COVID strictures, the work had to be done in small groups, over time, but Ivan managed to create an 8×8′ mural entitled ‘Rise Up’. He made sure that each of the students got a chance to add their own brushwork to the finished piece, creating a sense of pride and ownership.

This summer Ivan returned to The Art Center as a full-fledged faculty member, leading several of the summer camp sessions and contributing as an artist to several projects, including ‘Draw Together’ and the recent National Night Out, sponsored by the Highland Park Police Department. A favorite with students and staff, Ivan heads back to Illinois State University on August 16 to finish his final year of studies, a culmination of years of hard work and a much-deserved reward.

The youngest of 3 boys, Ivan’s family is from Waukegan, where his brothers are in construction. As a teen he worked in landscaping and construction and came to Highland Park High School as part of an outreach initiative, earning a spot in the College Bound Opportunities program, and a Minority Teachers Scholarship. It was his mentor, Allan Rossman, who introduced him to the art center with support from local philanthropist Jonathan Plotkin. “Things have worked out great,” says Ivan, “and I will always feel like part of the TAC team, no matter where I go or where life leads me.”

Follow Ivan on Instagram: _Chico_brown_

The Art Center Highland Park Will Never Look the Same

Starting mid-April of this year The Art Center Highland Park will feature a new

website with a more dynamic ‘look and feel’, according to Executive Director James M. Lynch. That’s not the only change coming in the next few weeks, as the 61-year old not-for-profit arts organization looks to a dynamic, energy-charged future. Aside from a new overall look, the new website will feature an updated Mission and Vision Statement and, for the first time in many years, a completely redesigned logo.

“We are extremely lucky to have some amazingly talented board members who offered their services pro bono,” says Shana Guthman, Board President. “The team worked for months, brainstorming, doing market research, presenting ideas, and working in a committee specially created for this purpose. When they pre

sented the results of this months-long project to the full board, the response was unanimous approval.”

Debbie Hall, board member and past board president, of MindsView Innovation, led the brand strategy committee. The challenge was to make the TAC brand more relevant and important to the target consumers, especially young families who are once again moving into the area. For TAC it is important to reach the art ‘dabblers’ and experimenters of all ages, and also the skilled and advanced artists looking to learn, grow and create. Another segment that TAC is targeting is the ‘Arts Edu-tainment’ seekers, from the art curious to art enthusiasts looking for cool city culture in a convenient, suburban location.

Associate Board members Rietje and Sam Becker of Rietje and Sam Design, stepped up to do the design work that would complete the new ‘package’. They presented three concepts to the committee, with the major challenge that all three were ‘winners’. Ultimately the team decided on a logo which was based on the actual shape of TAC’s building that will ‘frame’ social media, banners and marketing and be featured on a new line of t-shirts, aprons, pins and tote bags, plus other ‘swag’, soon to be featured in the new online gift shop.

“With these new developments, we’ve opened up a whole new world of possibilities,” says Lynch, “As we expand to be not only an arts center, but a cultural center, with new classes on offer,  new programs like the monthly ‘Sunday Salons’, where creative artists from multiple genres, film, dance, theatre, will present and discuss their work. It is not just a win-win for us and the community, it’s a win-win-win for our extended community, for our growing national and international partners, and for the supporters who have stood by and invested in the growth and success of The Art Center Highland Park for 61 years.”

For more information on art classes, events, and other activities, visit: or call 847-432-1888.

TAC is located at 1957 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, with plenty of street parking available, only three blocks from the Metra Stop. Hours are Monday-Friday, 10AM-4PM, Saturday, 12-4PM.