Arts of Life Receives Two Awards from The Arc of Illinois

April 23, 2021 By anne-cauley
Artist Raina Carter and Denise Fisher Hold the Arc of Illinois Award

This week The Arc of Illinois lauded the work of our community. With two remarkable awards they recognized the work both of Arts of Life and that of longtime volunteer Cindy Shanker. This serves as a reminder that despite the many challenges of the past year, we have much to celebrate!

The Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes Arts of Life as an organization that offers an exemplary, unique, and innovative program resulting in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) achieving full participation in the life of the community. This award is presented to the provider whose services are a model of excellence to others promoting inclusive environments.

According to Executive Director Denny Fisher, “Arts of Life is the only independent CDS in the state offering a career in the arts to adults with ID/DD. I am so proud of our resilient community for rebounding this past year to find new and creative ways to keep our artists connected to each other and to meaningful daily programming. Our Collective Decision Making model proved to provide the strong foundation needed to handle the many hurdles of this pandemic and grow through it. We are excited to build upon our recent successes in connecting our artists with each other and the broader art community.”

The Mabley Volunteer of the Year Award

Longtime volunteer Cindy Shanker was honored as an exceptional individual who actively devotes time and energy to enhance life experiences for people with ID/DD. 

Cindy has been a tireless advocate for and an essential supporter of Arts of Life’s artists for over 10 years. Pre-covid, she volunteered twice a week in the North Shore Studio to support the artists in their artmaking, host art history discussions, and launch a group that writes poetry collaboratively. This year Cindy transitioned to working with our artists virtually. She expanded the poetry group to welcome artists from both studios, coordinated the publication of their third poetry book, and hosted a virtual poetry reading.

Having someone who the artists trust and respect consistently supporting the artists makes it easier to implement new approaches and assess the quality of our services. Cindy also provides essential support in on-boarding and training new volunteers to help get them up to speed quickly and effectively.

Cindy regularly advocates for exhibition opportunities for the artists, including facilitating an exhibition at the Winnetka Art League. She shares her art connections with the artists, regularly asking artists in her network to give art talks in the studio. These provide valuable opportunities for Arts of Life artists to demonstrate their professionalism and share their practice.

Not only that, in her personal time, Cindy made home visits to assist in setting up accessible art making systems while the studios were closed. As a true champion of our artists, Cindy is very deserving of this recognition.