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2021 Top-Rated Nonprofit

The Arts of Life, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education

Mission: 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.

Target demographics: Adult artists who have developmental and/ or intellectual disabilities.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 60 artists

Geographic areas served: Chicago-land

Programs: We support each other as professional artists in creating a thriving arts community based on cooperative decision-making and mutual respect. We are committed to providing high quality, innovative services for adults with developmental disabilities. The studio focuses on its artists’ needs and strives to exceed expectations. Our community thrives and depends on the unique skills and capabilities of everyone involved - our artists, staff, and volunteers.

Community Stories

53 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Gail Stillerman W.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is truly a unique gift. I have been volunteering there for several years and look forward to continuing for many more.
It is a vibrant and dynamic resource for dozens of Chicago-area artists challenged by bravely living with a range of developmental and physical disabilities. These working artists are a tight-knit community of friends, mentors, and learners who practice professionalism and respect for one another while producing a prolific amount of visual and performing art projects.
This wonderful collaboration is made possible by a dedicated, talented, empathic, knowledgable staff--all of whom make the artists' experience fun and educational--imparting not only art-making skills but important life skills as well. I am particularly impressed by their compassion and ability to adapt to each individual's particular needs, which vary widely.
I am consistently inspired and awed by the artists' enthusiasm, pride, good humor, and sense of ownership for their own work and the organization as a whole. My time in the studio is always the highlight of my week.
Arts of Life hits that sweet spot, providing a valuable program for an underserved population while contributing to the larger community with magnificent artwork and regular events open to the public. Kudos to everyone involved!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is my second home. They help me to be all that I can be. I want to be a fashion designer and a fashion illustrator and they give me the materials I need. They let me create what is in my heart. They help me follow my dream. I love being an artist here. I have made best friends and the staff always supports me.

Claudia A.1

Donor

Rating: 5

Arts of Life has been a lifeline for our adult disabled son who is an artist. Although we all tire of Covid restrictions and precautions and start to let our guard down, the staff and volunteers at the studio continue to be vigilant without ceasing. This is a testament to their untiring caring and commitment to provide a safe work environment for the artists in which to be creative and productive. We are grateful , thankful and blessed to have Arts of Life.

Previous Stories
3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son, Chris, had a traumatic brain injury 30 years ago and has spent many years in support group settings, clubhouses, and supported work settings. All of these options had trade-offs. He was a welder before his injury and never had any interest in painting until about a year ago when he began spending more and more time at home with art. We saw a newspaper article about the San Francisco Arts of Life studio and looked for one locally in Chicago. Arts of Life North Shore has been the answer to meaningful work for meaningful pay for Chris. He is not a Picasso, but is proud of his work and gains self-respect. The staff and volunteers are experts, caring, patient, accepting and provide on-going positive reinforcement for his efforts in a supportive environment. We couldn't ask for a better answer to our prayers!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been an artist at The Arts of Life, Inc. for 5 years. She has grown in soo many ways: socially, artistically, creatively. The studio and staff have helped foster her growth as a person and an artist by providing an environment that respects individuality and diversity. The programming is committed to excellence and it shows!!!! I can't imagine where she/we would be if she had not been a part of this wonderful organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteer at Arts of Life and see the amazing work of both the staff and the community members. This very important NFP plays a vital role in providing a safe space for its artist to flourish. Many peoples lives would be empty without Arts of Life.

Donor

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is a studio for artists with disabilities, where participants are treated with respect and their talents and abilities are encouraged and supported. Every day I am grateful that my son is part of such wonderful community of caring staff and friends.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is an incredible community that I feel very fortunate to be a part of. It provides much needed resources to an underserved population and increases the accessibility of art. Art is an incredible tool for expression and communication that should be accessible to everyone. This organization works hard to make this field more equitable. I've felt incredible gratitude for everyone in this community that is so consistently encouraging, uplifting, and committed to helping one another.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life Program has empowered my brother Daniel Frownfelter to fulfill his dreams and potential as an artist. He takes pride and ownership in his work at Arts of Life in the Glenview studio. Not only does he work as an artist he has been an avid member of the Van Go Go band that created and self directed not only a music video but a studio album. They are currently working on a Holiday album so be on the lookout for that. As a teacher with a Masters in Integrating the Arts and as a Neurologic Music Therapist I honestly could not begin to dream of a program more prestigious for Daniel. He continues to grow everyday and never ceases to amaze us. The staff are incredible. Thank you so much for all you do to make our brother his very best self!
(The first painting was from his first year at The Arts of Life. The second is the same subject, Ariel from ‘The Little Mermaid’, at the end of the year…I wish my art improved that much!)

Donor

Rating: 5

My brother is a working artist at the Arts of Life. He loves going to work and creating artwork with like minded people. He has grown so much as an individual and as an artist because of the great staff and program!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is a wonderful, intentional community that walks the walk. It's a space where artists with disabilities really are provided with every possible opportunity for leadership and self-determination. I'm so happy to be a part of a community where everyone is valued and accepted as they are.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is more than an organization -- it's a community. Important mission, dedicated staff, respected artists. Read the stories from client family members and volunteers. Peoples lives are being changed for the better. I know that my life has been!

Donor

Rating: 5

Our son has participated in Arts of LIfe for 7 plus years. It has increased his confidence in himself. The studio is fun, creative and a great forum for positive change in the world. He loves being an artist and has been recognized through awards from outside organizations and he has sold numerous paintings with the proceeds supporting the organization. I cannot say enough good things about the place and the staff. It has life changing for our son and for us as a family. I do not know what we do without Arts of Life.

Mark L.10

Donor

Rating: 5

Bringing the gift of the arts to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities is unique, challenging and wonderful. We are avid supporters of the cause and this organization and have been so impressed with the hard work of the staff and volunteers making a difference in the lives of others who love the arts. If you believe that everyone should have the opportunity to share their special gift, this is an organization that deserves your support!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is a progressive art studio that walks the walk and doesn't just talk the talk! This organization lives its values of promoting self-respect, independence and artistic expression for all. I have grown so much by being involved in this organization and I am excited to see Arts of Life grow as well! I am so grateful that this community exists.

Vincent U.

Donor

Rating: 5

SO happy to be a part of this community. I love Arts of Life!

Karim S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Every member of the community has self-fulfillment goals they are continually working towards. The program is geared towards making sure participants are always making steps towards being their best self!

I worked here several years and had never been at a place like it before or since!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is a great place to volunteer. I was able to do volunteer work that leveraged my professional skills and contribute to meaningful projects. I greatly respect the work that they do in providing professional opportunities to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities, enabling them to do meaningful work and contribute to the broader community. It's a very necessary organization.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is a leading example of what a progressive studio and equitable artistic community can be. They are constantly innovating to provide the artists with more stake in the organization, more leadership opportunity, and more exposure in the broader art community. Supporting Arts of Life with time, finances, or resources directly contributes to bringing about a more equitable and exciting world in the arts and opportunities at large for individuals with disabilities.

2 Cara G.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered at Arts of Life for just over a year, and I can't wait until I come back! The artists and staff are some of the best people I have ever met and had the pleasure to work alongside. Despite the COIVD-19 pandemic, the folks at Arts of Life remained positive and had a great outlook on how to work around social distancing and support those who needed to participate in an online setting. My position included managing virtual programming one day a week starting in 2020, which included some art directives to warm up the artists working in the studio and at home as well as discussions about current artwork. In addition to these responsibilities, I had the pleasure of working 1 on 1 with a few artists to work on their individual art practice. The interactions with staff were always warm and supportive and the artists, themselves, were what made volunteering so special and so meaningful. I feel really lucky to have spent time working in such an amazing environment!

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

Serving on the Associate Board has been an incredible experience. Learning about the incredible work these artists create and do and the profound impact this organization has had on their lives has been nothing short of life-changing.

1 XamanEk C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is a wonderful organization that brings great opportunities for development to the community they serve and their families. It also brings a whole new life experience for the staff and volunteering that really creates a positive impact in your life.
I love their enthusiasm, passion and professionalism in everything they do. The art work they produce has a noble purpose essence in life which is full of color and texture with a deep personal mark printed by each one of the artist.
We love The Arts of Life for their comitment and for what they brought to our lives.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is a Chicagoland treasure! They are a one-of-a-kind community that advocates for and provides services to artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arts of Life's artist are truly gifted and create the most unique and collectible art around. Every dollar truly makes a difference for this nonprofit and I will continue to go to Arts of Life events and support this organization however I can.

4 Star S.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been working with Arts of Life for 4 years and I can say this organization is KEY for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This organization helps to create leadership skills allowing the artist to grow professionally and independently. I've never been a part of such an amazing community as this one and I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had here as an artist mentor and intern.

1 Francesca K.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is changing the lives of more than 60 adult artists with disabilities -- it has been truly an honor to work with this group of incredible and dedicated people.

4 danabassett

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had such an enriching experience volunteering at the Arts of Life. I was able to work with incredible artists both in and outside their studio, and the exhibition we put on together was stellar. I also love the staff and administrators who keep everything running smoothly and working with volunteers to realize everyone's potential and needs. Such a great program!!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

EVERYONE should know about this organization. Arts of Life is one of the only non-profits that allows adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a space to create art while strengthen their leadership skills. With the help of the organization, the artist's are given opportunities to showcase their work at places like Groupon HQ, Chicago Cultural Center, and Renegade Craft Fair. There's so much to love about Arts of Life, and more people should come and support. Plus, the art is AMAZING and the artist's are fun to hang out with.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was an intern at Arts of Life in the Fall of 2018 and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did they help me expand my writing and editing skill set, but I learned so much valuable information about the non-profit world, as well as the art world. The services and opportunities they provide for the artists that are patrons of Arts of Life are truly one of a kind and quite outstanding- and every one of the artists that I met had a passion for both Arts of Life and the work that they got to do there. Truly a 10/10 organization, although I can only rate it five out of five stars. I encourage any and everybody to look into this organization, volunteer, and donate as this is an organization that is so beneficial and helpful to artists with developmental disabilities and to their families.

1 Michael H.7

Board Member

Rating: 5

For 20 years The Arts of Life has been assisting in empowering disabled adults achieve their dreams through the arts. The Arts of Life enables these wonderful people and their talents to be valued in our society. The joy and pride expressed by the artists and their achievements makes our world a better place.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is an organization that truly makes a difference. Not only does the Arts of Life support its artist, they also empower them.The mission of Arts of Life is to employ and support artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These artists are provided with a working space, community, mentors and a professional gallery to exhibit the artists' works. This a truly amazing organization and I am proud and truly fortunate to be part of it.

4 Kj B.

Donor

Rating: 5

This community is so near and dear to my heart. Seeing the development of so many amazing artists is spellbounding. I've been involved with the studio since 2003. It's a long-standing creative space for the differently abled. I feel so honored to call these artists part of my greater arts community.

3 Leah S.2

Donor

Rating: 5

I cannot say enough good things about Arts of Life. It is a tremendous organization, one that has been transformational in the life of my cousin and many others. I’m so grateful for their amazing work.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

A family member chose to attend the Arts of Life North Shore Studio several years ago. Arts of Life has allowed his creative energy to find focus, purpose and success. He has exhibited and sold paintings, been involved in many artist-developed creative efforts including poetry, drama and music. The artists are supported and facilitated by the consistently fine staff and volunteers to let their talents rise and their voices be heard. I am always looking forward to the next event, exhibit, and opportunity created by and for the artists at Arts of Life.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is a wonderful place where artists with disabilities can create art and feel whole.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life gives individuals with disabilities opportunities for self expression and recognition of their artistic abilities that are often not readily available to them. We are impressed by the studios’ dedication to sharing the work of these "unseen" artists with the wider community through public art projects, gallery showings, partnerships, and a strong social media presence. The Arts of Life stands apart from other organizations for people with disabilities because it is committed to enriching theirs lives by facilitating their art-making as well as making them known. The Arts of Life is a creative and inspiring community where our son flourishes both as an individual and an artist.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is an amazing place. It offers such a great opportunity for each individual to express themselves. And it works because of the people who work there. They care and really want to help each person to realize their ability to create. They are committed to helping each person learn to work together, help one another and support each other.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have worked at at Arts of Life North Shore as a painter-musician for over 5 years and it is still one of the greatest places on earth to work. We work independently of each other but as a community, too. We have many positive chances to make the studio what we want it to be, and make it better. It is a fun place with great music, poetry, drama, exhibits, art talks. You name it, we do it! Check out VanGoGo, our band, on iTunes!

6 Dave H.4

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

What an amazing program and so well run. The artists in this program - each individuals with divergent abilities - accomplish things that no other program provides. It brings out skills and talent and intelligence overlooked by more traditional programs. The staff is devoted. And the environment accepting.

3

Donor

Rating: 5

Our daughter, Becky, started attending Arts of Life in 2012. On our initial visit to Arts of Life in Glenview, we were thrilled with the commitment of the staff and their passion for guiding Arts of Life participants in the process of bringing their own concepts to each piece of their art. A treasured photo of Becky welcoming her first niece to our family was beautifully portrayed in her painting, capturing her pride in her new role as an Aunt. Becky not only enjoys the art projects. She has made many wonderful friends at the Arts of Life studio. Every participant has a vested interest in making the Arts of Life experience what they want it to be. The participants' input is respected, and considered as the staff plans future events and field trips. Becky truly feels she is an integral part of the Arts of Life community. She has blossomed artistically and socially. We are grateful we found the Arts of Life program and look forward to many, many years of fun and friendship at A of L! We are the proud parents of artist, Becky, and we happily support this wonderful organization. -- Rudy & Debbie

2

Donor

Rating: 5

This is an incredible community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are respectful of each person and of the group in community, making decisions together,sharing their lives, their art and music in a most creative way and apply skills to activities of daily living.
My son attends the program and has made great gains and eagerly looks forward to participating. He also plays in their band, Van Go Go and has made many friends and really feels a positive connection to the leaders who are fellow artists doing their work together and sharing their lives. As a parent I couldn't think of a better place for my son!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered for The Arts of Life for over 4 years and am so grateful I found it. The community is caring, respectful, vibrant, creative and open. I have never experienced anything like it. The artists have autonomy and are integrally involved in how their artistic practices are structured and the studio is run. I always leave with a smile on my face and a gratitude that I get to be a part of such an amazing place.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I never quite realized or appreciated that organizations like The Arts of Life existed to serve such a wonderful, talented, and (unfortunately) underserved population. After volunteering, I now know how important tAoL is, how committed and caring the staff is, and how the community it embodies is so instrumental in providing the artists an opportunity for personal expression, building self-assurance and developing mutual respect. It's a privilege to support their mission.

3 Jack L.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteer once a week at Arts of Life . Great Art ! Affordable Prices ! Great talent !

4 Rita H.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered off and on at the Arts of Life for three years. I keep coming back because it is one of the most radically accepting and welcoming places I've ever been to. I love the amount of acceptance and independence given to the artists, really embracing people at all different levels and stages of life and helping them succeed in the way that's best for them. All the staff are truly caring and friendly.

Arts of Life is a unique and wonderful organization, and I can't recommend highly enough!

4 Chris V.2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Arts of Life is an organization for artists with disabilities can make their own kind of art in a studio The studios are run by the community of artists. The staff are aides to the artists learning new skills for an example giving ideas how to do art talks. The studio have great artists with talents. The art of Life is a awesome place work as a disability artist.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

My son began attending the Arts of Life five years ago and we continue to be impressed by and delighted with this organization. They have boundless creativity that shows itself in their daily activities, their outreach and their fundraising. The staff members are tremendous and, most importantly, they respect and build the dignity of their artists. Everything that happens here is about the artists and they are included from inception through execution.
I believe in the Arts of Life and last year I became Board President so that I could help continue and build the impact of this most excellent organization.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Nothing but great things to say. With a driven and passionate staff, Arts of Life continues to exceed my expectations. Experiences at the studio are intriguing, meaningful and impactful. Working with a variety of individuals with a variety of mediums is great for volunteers because everyone can find something they enjoy! Arts of Life also allows volunteers to take on more responsibility if they wish and hosts numerous events that are exciting and always for a great cause.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

years ago my wife and i stumbled into the Chili Cook-Off event to support our friends that had volunteered their recipe. we had minimal idea what the event entailed but figured a couple bucks for unlimited chili and a couple beers, why not!?

we absolutely fell in love with The Arts of Life that night! the camaraderie between the artists and volunteers and spectators and workers and family members and everyone else around blew us away. we knew then that it was something we wanted to get behind.

fast forward 5+ years and we've been to as many events as we can possibly make it to, my wife has joined the Executive Board, and we are in our 4th year of raising money through an event at the gym that we own.

The Arts of Life is a wonderful organization and means the world to a lot of people.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Arts of Life treats adults with disabilities with the respect they deserve, enhancing their self-worth and empowering their decision-making. All in a nurturing environment that inspires creativity and individual growth.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

Arts of Life is the best thing that ever happened to my daughter. She has autism and is mentally handicapped, but she now sees herself as an artist and derives such satisfaction and joy from that fact. The agency is a true community, involving people with a wide variety of disabilities and staff who are also artists. The agency is involved with the community through art fairs and field trips to art-related places and events. We love Arts of Life!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been associated with The Arts of Life for the past three years now. As a member of the Executive Board, I have seen the difference and impact this organization has made to the lives of several deserving artists with and without disabilities. Not only are they helping these artists groom and become independent, they are also helping them get noticed in the arts community through their far reaching initiatives. The Arts of Life is powered by great talent, dedicated and warm staff, and highly supportive volunteer community. They have witnessed consistent growth and change in the way they are achieving their mission.

3 Ann B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the opportunity to be both volunteer and donor for Arts of Life.
Volunteers are embraced for their talents and counted on fully to contribute to the success of both day-to-day activities and special events.
The organization is youthful and forward-thinking, and unique in its mission. My experience with it's artists, musicians, staff and voluneteers has been positive and rewarding.

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

About 5 years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself at the annual Chili Cook Off - a heart and soul (and belly) warming charity event hosted by a very special organization, The Arts of Life. They’re a Chicago area organization focused on adult artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After just this one event, I immediately fell in love. As I learned more about their mission and their truly innovative approach to creating vocational opportunities for their artists, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I currently serve on the Executive Board, and fall deeper and deeper in love with the staff, artists, volunteers, and community every day. There's something about the feeling you get when you walk into their studio, that you just can't put into words. I couldn't speak more highly of this organization!