Who We Are
Arts of Life is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in January 2000 with a shared vision: to create a working, person-centric, artistic community while providing a work environment of equality in Chicago. Motivated by founding artist Veronica Cuculich along with two co-directors Arts of Life brought nine other individuals with developmental disabilities to create the organization we are today. Our shared vision grew from a passion for artistic expression and a need for an alternative system.
For artists at Arts of Life, a career in the visual arts is an opportunity for meaningful employment. Each artist has their own studio space and works independently from individualized project plans or receives 1:1 visual arts facilitation to increase their artistic skill set. Artists earn a monthly stipend for participation in the program with eligibility to receive bonuses based on personal annual art sales.
Today, we have two professional art studios and represent over 60 artists with varying levels of physical and intellectual disabilities. Each studio is 6,000 square feet and includes a community gallery that is open to the public.
Arts of Life advances the creative arts community by providing artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities a collective space to expand their practice and strengthen their leadership.
- Inspiring Artistic Expression: The Arts of Life model supports creative decision-making and experimentation, creating a safe place to take risks while promoting self-confidence, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
- Building Community: Arts of Life is a collective of professional artists built upon a foundation of collaborative decision-making and mutual respect.
- Promoting Self-Respect: Everyone at Arts of Life has both strengths and weaknesses. Within the community, we are fully accepted and encouraged to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves.
- Developing Independence: Our community members gain a sense of inner freedom through their creative practice and professional development, enabling us all to trust our own judgment and take personal and artistic risks.
Strategic Plan | FY21-24
Artist enrollment reaches 30, prompting the expansion into our current larger studio in Chicago at 2010 W Carroll Ave.
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.