Unveiling the Vibrant Legacy of Riverside Arts Center: A Journey of Artistic Community

Step into the world of Riverside Arts Center, where artistry thrives and community flourishes. Founded by Ruth Freeark and Jennifer Taylor in 1993, this vibrant hub has been a catalyst for artistic collaboration and a source of inspiration for creatives throughout Illinois. As we commemorate its 30th anniversary, we invite you to join us on a journey through the humble beginnings, the remarkable growth, and the unwavering commitment to fostering creativity and inclusivity.

The Birth of a Creative Haven

Uncover the origins of Riverside Arts Center and the vision that brought it to life.

Riverside Arts Center was born out of a storefront apartment building owned by Ruth and Bob Freeark, who had a shared passion for fostering artistic community. With the help of Jennifer Taylor and Garry Henderson, they transformed the space into what is now known as The Freeark Gallery. Despite initial skepticism, their dedication and determination laid the foundation for a thriving artistic hub.

From its humble beginnings, Riverside Arts Center quickly filled a void in the community. People were drawn to the center's inclusive and collaborative atmosphere, recognizing the need for a community-based arts center in Riverside. The center became a beacon for local artists and creatives seeking a space to connect, collaborate, and create.

A Hub for Artistic Expression

Explore the diverse range of events and exhibitions hosted by Riverside Arts Center.

Riverside Arts Center offers a variety of spaces for artists and community members to engage with art. The Freeark Gallery and FlexSpace serve as venues for exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, and public performances. The center also extends its reach to the Riverside Town Hall, showcasing the work of local artists.

With 16 exhibitions held each year, Riverside Arts Center provides a platform for 126 artists to showcase their talent. Each exhibition is accompanied by artist talks, workshops, and public performances, creating a vibrant and interactive experience for attendees. The center's commitment to fostering artistic expression is evident in the diverse range of events and exhibitions it hosts.

Nurturing Creativity in the Community

Discover the educational programs and youth initiatives offered by Riverside Arts Center.

Riverside Arts Center goes beyond exhibitions and events, offering a range of educational programs for all ages. From after-school and weekend youth programming to art classes for adults, the center provides a safe and inclusive space for individuals to explore their creativity.

One of the center's notable initiatives is the annual exhibition featuring Advanced Placement art students from Riverside Brookfield High School. This opportunity allows young artists to showcase their work and gain recognition within the community. Additionally, the center offers artist residencies, providing artists with dedicated time and space to focus on their craft.

A Thriving Community of Artists

Meet the artists and community members who have found a home at Riverside Arts Center.

Riverside Arts Center has cultivated a vibrant and supportive community of artists and creatives. Artists like Shawn Vincent, an instructor and ceramic artist, have been involved with the center for over a decade. Vincent emphasizes the center's inclusive environment, where individuals are encouraged to express their creativity without judgment.

Another integral member of the community is Tariq "Mr. Tee" Tamir, who has been involved with Riverside Arts Center for 18 years. Mr. Tee highlights the unique sense of belonging and growth he has experienced at the center, making it unlike any other place he has taught or exhibited his art.

Supporting the Arts for a Bright Future

Learn about the organizations and foundations that have contributed to Riverside Arts Center's growth and success.

Riverside Arts Center's growth and sustainability have been made possible through the support of various organizations and foundations. The Illinois Arts Council Agency, Arts Midwest, the Village of Riverside, and Riverside Township have all provided financial support to facilitate the center's programs and exhibitions.

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, in particular, has been a consistent supporter of Riverside Arts Center since 2016. Their grants have played a crucial role in the center's ability to host exhibitions, educational programs, and artist residencies. The foundation's recognition of the center's close connection with its community further underscores the impact of Riverside Arts Center.

Looking Ahead: A Vision for the Future

Explore the aspirations and goals of Riverside Arts Center as it looks towards the next 30 years.

As Riverside Arts Center celebrates its 30th anniversary, there is a collective hope for continued growth and expansion. Executive Director Liz Chilsen envisions the center's exhibition and school programming reaching even greater heights, while also expanding its reach into the community.

With increased awareness and support, Riverside Arts Center aims to secure the necessary funding for building repairs and maintenance. The center's dedicated team and passionate community are committed to nurturing the arts and ensuring that Riverside Arts Center thrives for the next 30 years and beyond.


Riverside Arts Center has truly made its mark on the artistic landscape, serving as a beacon of creativity and community for the past 30 years. From its humble beginnings to its current thriving state, the center has provided a space for artists to connect, collaborate, and showcase their talent. Through exhibitions, educational programs, and a supportive community, Riverside Arts Center has nurtured the soul of Riverside and beyond.

As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we look forward to the future of Riverside Arts Center. With continued support and growth, the center will continue to inspire and uplift artists, foster creativity, and enrich the community for years to come.

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