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Join us Friday September 1st at 6 p.m.

This event is family friendly and will offer refreshments, awesome street parking and meet and greet the artists....

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Extra Credit

Student & Teacher Exhibition

September 1 – September 29


The Teachers and the Student Artist’s Bios

Deanna Sortino (Illinois Secondary Art Educator of the Year 2020) hails from Willow Springs, IL, and has been teaching since 2005 with more than a decade focused on the digital arts at Niles West High School in Skokie, IL. She is a trained photographer and designer, who focuses on capturing the decisive moments, interesting lighting, and minimalism within her art. Her favorite form of photography is street photography, where you might see her transform into her alter ego, "Ninja Mouse" while out with her camera -- quickly capturing the scene and silent as a mouse. Ms. Sortino is also the Mini Portfolio Day Creator, SlideRoom/Scholarship Coordinator, Data Analysis Coordinator, Assistant Graphic Designer, Assistant Early College Program Coordinator, and Educator Art Throwdown Co-Creator for ArtConnectED ( which is an organization that connects students to millions of dollars of art college scholarships each year. She has also helped lead The Black, LatinX, Asian and Indigenous Creatives Matter Initiative Team for the IAEA by spending several months putting together a comprehensive list of over 1000+ BIPOC creatives and anti-racist resources to share with teachers

across the world.

Dana Wang I am a photographer and a multimedia artist. I live for: Korean food made by my grandmothers, camping trips, and concert moshes.  Awards: Scholastics Gold Key, Scholastics Honorable Mention, and ISHAE early college Prep.



Luke Jenner is an artist, teacher, and aspiring wizard working out of Chicago, IL focused on fostering thinkers, makers, and designers for the 21st century. He has taught 8 years and counting of high school art and design with a pedagogy rooted in student equity and engagement, creating spaces for students to grow as critical thinkers, problem solvers, and active citizens in the global community. In 2022, Luke was recognized as the Illinois Secondary Art Educator of the Year by the Illinois Art Education Association.

James Paszternak is an emerging musician, multidisciplinary artist, and swashbuckler based in the Chicagoland area.


Jonathan Pruc is a Chicago based artist and educator. His current body of work addresses personal and liminal space through the abstraction of his environment. Jonathan has been an educator for 15 years

and has been at Mundelein High School for the last 10. He also serves as the Northern Regional Exhibition Director for ArtConnectED. He received his Bachelor's of Fine Arts with an Emphasis in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his Masters of Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University Chicago. In 2021, Jonathan was recognized as the Illinois Secondary Art Educator of the Year by the Illinois Art Education Association.

Anna Reed is a Chicago based artist and educator whose work addresses the themes of identity, post-humanism, fragmentation, and the boundaries of virtual space. She often uses her body as source images. Created from Xerox, scans, and other low-fi devices she creates prints and objects in a collaboration between human and the machine. She has been an educator for 21 years and currently teaches at East Leyden High School. She also serves as the Digital Gallery Director and volunteer for Art ConnectEd. She received her BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University, MA in Art Education from University of Illinois and MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Julia Dabek and I go to Leyden High School. Ever since she was young she's always loved art and more specifically, drawing. Throughout the years she's tried many hobbies and activities, but art is one of the only things that lasted. Art makes her happy and she hopes it stays that way for the rest of her life.

Michael Jon Skura has been teaching for 27 years; 19 of them as the Department Chair of Fine Arts at Oswego High School. Graduating from Schaumburg High School and two years later received Associates in Arts & Science with an emphasis in Art at Harper Community College in 1993. Michael Skura went on to earn a Bachelors` in Fine Art Studio/Painting at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1995. He attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where he went on to earn two Master Degrees in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Instruction. ​​Michael is a Chicago based artist who lives in Wheaton, teaches art at Oswego High School.

Shyann Beasley is a rising Senior at Oswego High School. A prolific artmaker, she works with ideas like identity, place, and story through her personal experience as a young african american woman in the far west suburbs of Chicago; such artists as Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, & Kerry James Marshall have greatly influenced her. She continues participating in the long tradition of narrative painting and using the portrait through painting to express her visual poetry of identity.

Gabriel Mejia is a visual artist/ educator/ activist/ spoken word coach. With his art practice, he explores the action/reaction dynamic between individuals who share politically-charged physical space such as protests, schools, crime scenes, and public spaces. Through the meticulous construction of these images, Gabriel attempts to deconstruct the crowded chaos and forced cohabitation of urban life. He earned his Bachelor’s at Northern Illinois University, and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. He has exhibited in Chicago, Wisconsin, Toronto, and Southern California, and has taught in Chicago Public Schools for 13 years. He currently teaches at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center on the city’s North Side.

Galia Quezadais currently a senior at Von Steuben High School. Most of her work is fueled by personal experiences surrounding serious topics in her life, specifically the topic of eczema and skin conditions as they have had a significant role in her life and upbringing. Aside from experiences relating to overcoming her severe eczema, Quezada also explores topics relating to issues she is passionate about and any other area of interest.


Ann Marie Greenberg is an artist working with plastic in Chicago. She is a TAB art teacher at St. Edward School. She is currently showing work at Lula Cafe in Logan Square.

Viola Schultz attends St. Edward School in Chicago. She has a passion for all things art and finds inspiration from her artistic family, friends and the schools artistic community.

Eleni Sianis is a practicing artist and Visual Arts Educator with over 17 years in the secondary classroom. She was born in Athens, Greece and previous to her work as an educator, lived and worked in New York as an advertising art director. She has taught throughout the Chicago suburbs and currently works at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, IL. Her work takes on various forms based on the current project. She has worked in the media of painting, drawing, digital arts, photography and video. Her work has been shown in ArtBasel Miami, New York City and Chicago. Eleni is also the Event Director and longtime volunteer for ArtConnected (an organization that facilitates scholarships for Art students throughout Illinois).

My name is Nina Young and I am a junior at Willowbrook High School! The piece I'm entering was made at the end of my sophomore year for an art assignment and is one of the largest pieces I've worked on in scale, being taller than myself. As an artist, I enjoy graphic design, photography, ceramics, and of course drawing. I've been interested in art ever since I can remember, and this year I'm finally taking AP Art and am very excited about making a portfolio! As most of my past pieces have been skill-focused, working on techniques, I am looking forward to diving deeper into telling a story through my art and making an impact on those who view it.

Justin Bickus has been an art educator in the Chicago suburbs for the past 16 years. In addition to teaching, he has organized a group of artists who participate in "ART POP UPS" at Chicagoland restaraunts and businesses and has been commissioned for t-shirt designs and murals in the western suburbs Justin's work explores mortality, relationships, and disease through a matrix of characters. The narrative explores specific instances and events but are often veiled and left open to interpretation. He is interested in genealogy and the inheritance of traits, both positive and negative. The depictions are often reactions, reflections, and therapeutic representations of real-life events and personal fears. While characters that are represented rarely have ties with the real visual world, they are strongly tied to actual people, places, and events. His style and work has been heavily influenced by cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s, popular culture, comic books, and horror movies.

Isha is a junior at James B. Conant High School. Their recent work explores the differing sides, expectations, and feelings of isolation.  How can this feeling be represented in a universal was? How do people cope with these feelings?  What positives can come from isolation?  Having expereinces in both facets ofisolation from relationships with other people to dealing with inner thoughts and finding comfort in your own company.  Isha utilizes an array of media ranging from traditional painting and drawing materials to mixed media and altered objects as well as digital illustration and design.


Sarah Wain is a Chicago-based painter specializing in realistic oil painting. She has shown her paintings in galleries and eateries throughout the Midwest. Sarah studied Art Education at William Jewell College and earned her master's degree in Educational Leadership from North Park University. Sarah has worked as a public art educator in MIssouri, Indiana, and Illinois. She currently teaches art to high school students at Lane Tech College Prep in Chicago.

Hello! I’m Olivia Kluska and I’m a senior at Lane Tech. I’ve had an interest in the arts since young childhood and treat it as an extension of my person, using it to process to daily life and experiences. It helps me better understand the world and my relationships with others; defaulting to an outlet for whatever challenge comes my way. My process to reach a finished product is quite analytical, and has even been described as “mathematical” by prior art teachers (how ironic, right?). It involves many revision stages and brainstorm sessions, which has made my friendship with sticky notes quite strong. Playing with bright colors, symbols and trinkets, and the human form is a staple of my work, which makes me hope it possesses someone to sit and look at my art for a little while longer. Although I’ve branched out in many directions, I’m my happiest drawing (both traditionally and digitally), painting, scultpting and filming.

I am a 17-year-old artist and I was born in Chicago. Throughout my life I have used creative mediums to express myself. This piece comes from my AP art collection of works about people’s relationship with clothing. I have also recently started creating in the fashion design realm. No matter what medium, I love to express my feelings using art and I hope to create pieces that people can tap into emotionally.

Renee Kuharchuk is a painter and teacher living and working in the Chicagoland area. Her work captures close-up portraiture that experiments with dynamic brushwork and abstract colors. Through painting the human form, she explores themes of feminism and the human experience. As a woman battling anxiety and depression, her practice not only brings these issues to light, but creates a space for self-healing and, on a broader scope, awareness of our inner battles. Kuharchuk received her BFA in painting and sculpture from Elmhurst University while also double majoring in Art Education to earn her professional teacher's license. She graduated from Concordia University with her MA in Education focusing on differentiated instruction. Renee works as a high school visual arts teacher striving to support her students in developing their personal artistic practice. She pushes her students to create fine-quality work while exploring their artistic style and voice. She encourages her students to strive to self-assess their portfolios while learning to critique and participate in showing their work to the public.

Dawn Zalkus is a proud teaching artist currently practicing at Niles West High School. Over the past 20 years she has worked with students to build a strong community where young artists feel safe to collaborate and freely share ideas. The core of this community fosters lifelong learning, and personal growth while actively working to build artistic voice, creativity, risk taking, and leadership skills. Zalkus’s favorite career endeavor is BHS Rock the Runway, a wearable art fashion show, where students construct garments of anything, but fabric. Each year this theme based competition sells out to over 800 viewers and showcases innovation, voice and collaboration. This event has even influenced Zalkus’s own art making, encouraging Zalkus to design her own wearable art creations. As an active member of the Illinois Art Education Association, Zalkus has served as a board member, facilitated the National Art Honor Society Student Leadership Conference and facilitated the Design Thinking module of CFE. Zalkus was named the 2018 Illinois Art Educator of the Year by the IAEA.

I'm Grace Huggins, I'm 17, and live in Batavia. I've been making clothes since I was in first grade. I love exploring with mixed media, and adding unconventional materials to my designs. I love pushing myself beyond my limits. This piece is from the high schools annual fashion show and it is about the minds inner chaos. The artist statement reads, "I imagine that I could leave this place of torment and chaos. Everything is loud and all constant. I want desperately to be able to see through this, open my eyes and gain a new perspective".

Chris Sykora serves as the Executive Director for Art ConnectED, of which he is a co-founder. He teaches high school visual art at Deerfield High School, and holds a Master in Educational Leadership, with a Principal Endorsement. Chris has served as a Board Member for the Illinois Art Education Association, and as the Advocacy Taskforce Chair. With a social constructivist and creative process focus, Chris has led numerous community based projects and professional development workshops with such partners as the museums, universities, art & educational organizations, and school districts across the country on topics of Creative Curricular Systems and Student Choice. All of which is highlighted in his TEDx Talk: How Creativity Will Save Schools. He also has experience bridging intersections across disciplines, learner communities, and democratic policy. Chris is the recipient of two IAEA Awards, the Early Professional of the Year in 2015, and Educator of the Year in 2022.

Emma Spiegel is Sophomore at Deerfield High School and created this piece in the beginning of her freshman year under the guidance of her teacher, Mr. Sykora. She is now an AP student focused on developing a portfolio for future opportunities in the arts.


Cassie Rogala is a certified K-12 Art Educator, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She has been teaching visual arts to students across the midwest for over eight years. Cassie comes with experience teaching in a variety of places from public and private schools to community art centers and nonprofit organizations. Her mission is to provide an environment where students feel safe to share creative ideas, experiment with materials and encourage curiosity about themselves and their community. In addition to teaching, she works creatively as an artist, photographer, and videographer. Cassie currently resides in Oak Park with her husband and three year old, whose interests greatly influence her ceramics practice.

Vivian Robinson is a 12 year old 7th grader at Kenwood Academy. She is a multimedia artist who enjoys ceramics, sewing, painting and most things artistic and creative.

John Zilewicz is a full time Art Educator and has been teaching Visual Art for the past 25 years. He is currently teaching at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois where he has been working since 2005. In 2016, Zilewicz was the recipient of the Illinois Art Education Associations (IAEA), Art Educator of the Year. He is the Co-Creator and Executive Director of ArtConnectED. A group of art educators who are responsible for developing one of the largest high school art exhibits and scholarship shows in the country called the Illinois High School Art Exhibition. The show has gained national recognition around the country from top art schools, colleges and universities. John Zilewicz lives and works in his home studio located in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He has a Masters of Art in Drawing & Painting and his Bachelors of Arts in Studio Art and Art Education. The artist’s work has been exhibited in various exhibitions in and around the Chicagoland area. Many of his works are also held in private collections.

Ajax Hinklin is a AP Studio Art student at Niles West High School.


Erin Garrity-Duffey’s  an Artist and educator who’s work investigates the nexus of art, science and the human condition. Her art is consumed with the mechanics, formation, and deterioration of the human brain. Neuroscientific studies of memory loss, early childhood development, and trauma have produced a wave of discoveries in recent decades about how the mind functions and falls apart. This research—collected from science journals, newspapers, and magazines—has acted as inspiration and source material. Her drawings and paintings are reminiscent of magnified fluid pressed between glass slides, reflecting a longstanding practice of observing blood, scabs and other biological specimens under the microscope; biomorphic forms allude to the interior of the human body without directly portraying it.

Josh Blum is an AP Art Student at Conant High School. Josh is a "varsity" memeber of CHS and has taken classes in digital and 3D Arts. His body of work explores conceptual notions of self through symbolic representations. Josh's work is rooted in reflections of both physical and emotional nature


Randy Sweitzer has been privileged to make art a driving force in his life and livelihood, having successfully run a freelance illustration and graphic design business for more than twenty-five years, and now, as a high school art teacher. Working with major advertising agencies in Chicago, national magazines, and newspapers provided a wealth of experiences and sensibilities that he shares with his students, adding a real-world, engaging perspective to his art instruction. Far from a purist, he has a passion for mixed-media, cross-process solutions for image making. Randy graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI with a BFA in 1988. He is entering his 11th year of serving the students of Grayslake North High School, teaching a range of classes including AP Art, Digital Art Photo + Design, Drawing and Painting II, and 2D Art + Creativity.

Elijah Bond is a Junior at Grayslake North High School. This piece, "Surviving Traitor" is a linoleum print that is part of a series utilizing the same linoleum. The linoleum was carved and printed near the end of his sophomore year five times, including a textile print on the back of the artist's favorite jacket that he doesn't ever seem to take off... The final clean print depicts a scene from one of Elijah's many original stories. He plans to kick off his AP portfolio by questioning what draws him to storytelling utilizing a traditional comic book style. He also plans to pursue comic book or graphic novel illustration as a future career.

Kevin Shifley has been teaching art for 16 years. Currently he is teaching at Mundelein High School in Mundelein Illinois. Kevin is deeply invloved in the ArtConnectED program and serves as the Senior Scholarship director for the Illinois High School Art Exhibition. He earned his Bachelors in Visual Arts Education from Indiana University and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the Concordia Univeristy Chicago. Kevin lives and works in Mundelein and participates in a vairety of art shows and exhibitions.


Dan Lobraco is an artist and educator who has taught high school art classes for the last 18 years. Dan received his BFA in sculpture from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and his Masters in Art Education at Northern Illinois University. He currently teaches Photography, Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture at Lake Park high school. Dan's personal studio practice includes sculpture, mixed media installations and watercolor landscape images from his travels. With his sculptures, he is working with translating abstract elements developed from drawings and paintings he created during the COVID pandemic year into three dimensional forms. He uses 3-D printers and laser engravers to create pieces modeled directly from his drawings, which are then selected, broken apart, and then pieced together. He is intrigued by the process of creating these pieces which are simultaneously an act of construction and destruction.


BU a Junior at Lake Park Highschool. I have been doing art since I can remember and when I was going into highschool I knew that I wanted to be in as many art classes as possible. Growing up I had the influence of my dad as he is a photographer. My favorite mediums to work with is clay and cardboard and I also loke to paint. I am interested in a possible career in set design.

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