Meet Chris McLaughlin
Watch an excerpt from Chris’ interview!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Chris McLaughlin and I’m a Board Member at The Arts of Life. In my day to day, I run a company called Oceana Design, which is a web design and software development company.
How did you get involved in The Arts of Life?
I originally found out about The Arts of Life through artwork at Starbucks. I saw the work and thought it was really neat. I read the mission on one of the cards and knew I wanted to get involved. I’ve been involved the past seven years, first doing product donations and then volunteering. Later, I joined the Board where I was President for several years.
What made you get involved?
Working with people with disabilities has always been part of my life and I feel a strong connection to it because of my own personal experience as a kid in different programs for learning support. There’s a great need for people to work with the disability community. People with disabilities are the most unseen, oppressed people in the world today. They are a great, dynamic population and one of the most worthwhile communities to work with.
Why do you continue to be invested when there are so many other amazing organizations in Chicago?
I continue to be involved in The Arts of Life because there’s a great need for services like this, especially in Illinois. There are so few programs that truly follow the model of empowerment that The Arts of Life promotes. The Arts of Life is the artists’ program, we’re not making decisions for them. We’re just involved in the process, helping it along. As a Board Member, it would be so easy to make simple decisions based on my experience without getting the artists input, but nothing changes without the artists’ support and interest. When we were looking for a new space, I facilitated a session with the artists to understand what they wanted in a new space. I then had to meet those needs because I was responsible to them. This sort of relationship and continuity in The Arts of Life model is uncommon. The artists find their voice through the arts and become strong members of their community. I’ve never experienced any other program in Illinois or the US that truly empowers people to become leaders in their own community and organization.
What do you love most about The Arts of Life?
I love the community element. The Arts of Life mission states that we are “people with and without disabilities”. It’s really inclusive of all people and you feel that immediately when you walk into either studio. They’ve really forged a great sense of community and built a family.
Why should people giving during the Summer Leap?
The Summertime is a critical time for fundraising, especially for The Arts of Life. In the last year, we’ve doubled our community at the North Shore Studio and are currently at capacity at our Chicago Studio, so we have a lot of new artists! But with that comes extra need for paintbrushes, art supplies, tables, chairs, all of the things that enable artists to be artists and community members. And so we’re gearing up and are meeting the needs of all of our incoming artists and that’s why the Summer Leap is so critical. We’ve got this influx of really excited people to be a part of the community and we want to make sure that all of their needs are being met. That’s where you come in! We need your help! Please consider giving a donation to help us leap into the future!