Celebrating 20 Years

Join us in celebrating 20 years!

In early January 2000, Arts of Life opened its doors, guided by a progressive vision to put inclusivity and creativity first in the support of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. At the time, Arts of Life was the only Alternative Day Program in Chicago with a specific focus on artistic vocational opportunities. From our start with 10 intrepid artists, we have expanded to support 60 artists in two studios. We have opened two galleries and participated in exhibitions in Chicago-land and beyond. We have forged creative and fruitful partnerships and built lasting relationships. Thank you for helping us reach this remarkable milestone.

We mark this anniversary with a year-long celebration. Upcoming 20th Anniversary events include:

  • Tuesday, August 27, 2019 @ Revolution Brewpub | The Associate Board’s Summer Bash: Party Like It’s 1999!
  • Three City Social, a nationally traveling exhibition featuring Nikole Heusman and Amanda Gantner alongside the work of artists from Los Angeles and Portland
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 @ Wilmette Theatre | The North Shore Studio’s 10th Birthday Party Celebration, featuring the North Shore premiere of Life And Where I’m At – a documentary about co-founder Ronnie Cuculich
  • April 3 – 4, 2020 | A How We Make It reunion exhibition and event bringing together work from volunteers and staff over Arts of Life’s twenty-year history
  • TBD | The release of a limited edition 20th Anniversary beer in partnership with Middle Brow Beer, featuring artwork by Amanda Gantner

We are eager to expand the visibility of our artists throughout the year. If your business would be interested in a collaboration or installation, please contact Vincent Uribe at vuribe@artsoflife.org.

For press inquiries, please contact Anne Cauley at acauley@artsoflife.org.

1994

Co-founders Ronnie Cuclich and Denise Fisher first meet.

Co-founders Ronnie Cuclich and Denise Fisher first meet.

Ronnie and Denise became neighbors when Ronnie moved into a CILA next door. Denise walked her dog by her house every day and eventually introduced herself and became friends with Ronnie’s housemate; who ultimately recommended Denny for a job with the agency supporting her as a case manager.

2000

Chicago Studio Location Opens

Chicago Studio Location Opens

People with disabilities were still rarely seen and weren’t the critical decision makers in their lives. The embarrassing state of services in Illinois motivated Denise to bring people together and create something new. Joining forces with other people with and without disabilities, they began to build what Arts of Life is today. Ronnie wanted to turn her art hobby into a career and Denny wanted everyone to have an equal voice. These tenants allowed, and continue to enable, all members to have a voice and leadership within the broader community. Arts of Life opened the first location in Chicago January 2000 with 9 founding artists, becoming the city’s first Alternative Day Program focusing on artistic vocational opportunities for people with disabilities.

2004

Council on Quality and Leadership Accreditation

Council on Quality and Leadership Accreditation

Arts of Life receives accreditation through the Council on Quality and Leadership, ensuring that AofL meets the state’s requirements for safe, supportive, and effective programming

2006

Arts of Life Artists featured at the New York Outsider Art Fair

Arts of Life Artists featured at the New York Outsider Art Fair

The Carl Hammer Gallery represents two Arts of Life artists, Ronnie Cuclich and Sylvia Ramirez, at the New York Outsider Art Fair

2008

Arts of Life Moves to a New Studio

Artist enrollment reaches 30, prompting the expansion into our current larger studio in Chicago at 2010 W Carroll Ave.

2009

Album Launch

Album Launch

The Arts of Life Band records their first self-titled album with eight original songs.

2010

North Shore Expansion

North Shore Expansion

Arts of Life opens a second studio in Glenview, making our programming available to artists in the North Shore.

2011

John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Showcase

John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Showcase

Arts of Life participates in the VSA Art Project at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Chicago Reader Cover Story

The Chicago Reader Cover Story

The Arts of Life Band and Dave Krueger are featured on the cover of The Chicago Reader. The corresponding cover story celebrates that Arts of Life and the band prove that “being developmentally disabled doesn’t stand in the way of rocking out.”

Awarded Best Advocate for the Arts

Awarded Best Advocate for the Arts

Arts of Life receives the Chicago Reader’s Best Advocate for the Arts Award.

2012

Museum of Everything in London

Museum of Everything in London

Arts of Life artwork is featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Everything in London.

Get the Dinosaurs on the Phone Album Release

Get the Dinosaurs on the Phone Album Release

The North Shore band, Van Go Go, releases their first album “Get the Dinosaurs on the Phone” with a launch party at the Wilmette Theatre.

2015

Awarded Chicago Community Trust’s SMART Growth Grant

Awarded Chicago Community Trust’s SMART Growth Grant

Arts of Life is selected to participate in the Chicago Community Trust’s SMART Growth program, a four-year capacity building initiative.

Teaching Artist Residency Program Launches

Teaching Artist Residency Program Launches

The Arts of Life’s Teaching Artist Residency Program (TARP) begins serving schools and students in the North Shore, providing arts-based education to a broader community.

2016

Enrollment Reaches 60

Enrollment Reaches 60

Artist enrollment reaches 60 between the two studios.

CB2 Partnership

CB2 Partnership

Chicago studio artist, Guy Conners, partners with CB2 for a limited-run print of his painting “Ice Cream Cone.”

2017

Awarded a Coleman Grant

Awarded a Coleman Grant

Arts of Life receives a three-year capacity-building grant through the Coleman Foundation and launches the Artist Enterprise Program (AEP) to advance artists’ professional development.

Circle Contemporary Gallery Launch

Circle Contemporary Gallery Launch

Arts of Life’s first gallery, Circle Contemporary – Chicago, launches with year-round exhibition programing.

Waisman Center Permanent Collection

Waisman Center Permanent Collection

28 Arts of Life pieces are accepted into Waisman Center’s permanent art collection and featured in the exhibition Drawn to Art.

A is for Artist at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

A is for Artist at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Arts of Life featured at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art A is for Artist exhibition curated by Scott Hunter showcasing 24 studio artist. 

2018

Middlebrow Beer Co Artist Beer Can

Middlebrow Beer Co Artist Beer Can

North Shore studio artist, Amanda Gantner, partners with Middlebrow Beer Co., designing a line of beer cans.

2019

In Good Company at the Chicago Cultural Center

In Good Company at the Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center invites Arts of Life to curate an exhibition titled “In Good Company,” featuring seven artists from the studio and four from the community.

ABC7 News Feature

ABC7 News Feature

Hosea Sanders and Marissa N. Isang from ABC 7 news highlight Arts of Life.