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SEVEN, a documentary play: from the desk of the Executive Director

I am so excited for this year of work produced by the Kaneland Arts Initiative, celebrating 20 years of the Arts.  Already we started our year with the most fantastic concert by Lee Murdock in his annual Hometown Concert, this year featuring special guest, Tim Grimm.  That concert always brings a sense of peace in me that at the same time energizes me into action for the year ahead.


Now we move on to our winter show, in it’s 6th year, opening on Friday (January 18th) in the intimate Kaneland High School black box theatre.  Simply described, SEVEN is a documentary play about seven women in seven different countries who have different stories about the same message.  These women are strong women who rose to make astounding changes in their countries despite the atrocities and adversity that they each endured, but ultimately shaped their lives.  Seven different playwrights interview each woman and wrote their story into this play, all real women and all real stories.  The stories are intertwined as the audience hears similar threads of adversity, realization, and amazing change.  I am so proud that KAI is producing this production, under the outstanding direction of our artistic director, Diane McFarlin.

seven poster

The company of our production is both new and seasoned to KAI staged readings.  The seven women are portrayed by Katherine Bettinghaus, Maria Dripps-Paulson, Rachel Giles, Laura Lagreid, Diane McFarlin, Brianna Silva and Trisha Mills.  The rest of the company is made up of Zack Eckhardt, Emily Murphy, Patrick Murphy, and Abbie Cormier.  The company is small, but the message is huge.

In addition, we are thrilled to present the artwork of 8th grade Kaneland Harter Middle School art student,  Amelia Van Niekerk.  She will be presenting her personal sketchbooks. The artist will be present at the opening night performance for anyone who would like to meet her.

Please join us for this riveting production of SEVEN, the KAI 6th Annual Winter Show, and Amelia’s artwork, on January 18, 19, & 20 in the Kaneland High School Black Box Theatre (enter door 32), 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park, IL 60151.

Performance Dates & Times:
Saturday, January 19th at 7pm
Sunday, January 20th at 2pm                                                                                                Saturday, January 26th at 7pm

Ticket prices ONLINE (click here to purchase your tickets now):
Adults = $10
Seniors = $8
Students = $5

Ticket prices AT THE DOOR:
Adults = $12
Seniors = $10
Students = $7

This production is approximately 90 minutes and is appropriate for very mature middle school students and older (recommended for 8th grade and up). SEVEN will be performed without an intermission. All are invited to stay after the production for a talk back discussion.

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Festival Time! from the desk of the Executive Director

Festival Time is my favorite time of year.  The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival is the founding and signature event of the Kaneland Arts Initiative.  In fact, until 2013, our organization was called “The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival.”  From a small art fair held at one of the elementary schools to a thriving award-winning festival that hosts 20 professional artists, 100 volunteers, 500 pieces of student artwork, and 3,000 guests.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and have SO much to be proud about.

Won’t you join us?


This year, I had the privileged of contracting all of the artists for the Festival, and as stressful it was at times, it was a source of much pride for me.

“We’re in our 19th year,” I’d say to the artists who we wanted for this year.  Not a lot of organizations can say that.  We have consistently brought thousands of patrons each year since 2005.  Ten years felt like a huge feet, but now, as we border our 20th anniversary, I feel we can honestly say to potential artists, “We’ve got a good thing going here.”

And it’s true.  When I walk through art fairs looking for potential artists, I often find an artist who has been waiting for an invitation from us.  They know other artist friends who have told them, “I hope you get picked for that event.”  I love going to BIG Chicago art fairs and getting a hug from an artist who is on our roster of Festival alumni.

Don’t forget our performing artists – they are truly spectacular!  We’ve had Grammy nominated artists and actors who have been all over the world.  Even the student performers are outstanding, often times performing the same caliber as the professionals.  This year, our closing act is a champion in his field and once performed on Late Night with Dave Letterman.

SO, in a few short days, we will be at the 19th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival.  In the midst of all the large crowd, the talent, the sights, and sounds, I hope I find …. YOU!  Your presence there will add to our Artful Adventure and enhance the Creative Celebration of the  day!  May you be filled with the Beauty of the Arts!



See you on Sunday,


Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson

Executive Director, Kaneland Arts Initiative




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February Fun Weekend!

The next two events in the Kaneland Arts Initiative (KAI) season fall on the same weekend.  Both events promise to be full of entertainment celebrating the Arts and the love found within it.  The annual KAI Fine Arts Feast will be on Friday, February 24th beginning at 6pm.  The Feast date was recently changed from earlier in the month, but the location, Open Range Southwest Grill Restaurant, will remain the same.  This year’s Feast theme is BE THE LIGHT, emphasizing the welcoming nature of the Arts and the love that is shared by attending and participating in artful activities.  KAI artistic director, Diane McFarlin, will direct and MC this cabaret-style evening.  At the Feast, there will be a number of silent auction items, as well as a cork raffle, and KAI will be drawing the winning raffle ticket for 2 Blackhawks tickets against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 31st.  The raffle tickets are onsale now!  Tickets for the Feast are $10 each which includes dinner and entertainment.  Tickets for the Feast are available on KAI’s website.
The very next day, on Saturday, February 25th, KAI will present “Comedy Knight” featuring the comedy improv of Green Room Improv.  Green Room Improv is a comedy show similar in style to the popular television show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?  From their website (www.greenroomimprov.com): 

GreenRoom takes audience suggestions and true-life audience stories and turns them into hilarious theatre pieces right before your eyes! Our shows include competing improv teams, improvised songs, audience members onstage, tons of energy and an unforgettable evening.

Also during the evening, selected students’ artwork from Kaneland McDole and Kaneland John Shields Elementary School will be on display in the auditorium lobby.  The students will be honored during the evening. Online tickets for Comedy Knight are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, and $5 for students.  Tickets purchased on the night of the event will be an additional $2.  Tickets can be purchase now!
The Friday and Saturday events round out the middle of the Kaneland Arts Initiative season, which will be completed after the April 9th Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival and the July musical, Beauty and the Beast.  
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Be Our Guest!

We are super excited to announce our summer musical!

. . . A Tale as Old As Time . . .

KAI’S 2017 Summer Musical will be:


Auditions will be in May for this community theatre production.

We’d also like to announce the acceptance of cover letters and resumes for the following positions for the production:

  • Assistant Producer
  • Director
  • Music Director
  • Technical Director
  • Scenic Designer
  • Choreographer
The KAI summer theatre productions are community theatre productions, not children’s theatre. Salaries for these positions will be determined by experience. Auditions will be scheduled for May 2017 and rehearsals will run from May through July in the evenings at Kaneland High School in Maple Park.
Performances of Beauty and the Beast will be:
July 14 – 16 and July 21 – 23, 2017
Interested people should submit a cover letter and resume to Diane McFarlin at diane.mcfarlin@kaneland.org. 
Applicants may submit their information from September 26 through November 1, 2017 at 11:59pm.
Please submit the contact form below if you have questions about the job openings or auditions for BEAUTY & THE BEAST.

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The Stage is Set! The 2016 Festival Performers

In the previous post, I highlighted the 2016 Festival Visual Artists coming to the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival on Sunday, April 10, 2016 from 11am – 6pm.  As impressive as that list is, it is equally important to shine the spotlight upon the FABULOUS performances that we will offer at the Festival.  Don’t forget, of course, to check out the OUTSTANDING offerings we have as workshops and clinics as well. Click HERE to download the official 2016 Schedule! 

Arts Pavilion Performance Schedule

The Arts Pavilion is our fancy term for the KHS Cafeteria where we feature our professional artists.  Is it also where we have some SPECTACULAR performances.

10:45 am – Special Presentations

  • Golden Palette Artists
  • Theresa Funke Memorial Fine Arts Scholarship
  • Bonnie Whildin Kaneland Hall of Fame Recognition

11:15 am – Laura Fako Utley, Harp

HarpPic2015.jpgLaura Fako Utley has been playing the harp since 1977. She grew up in a musical family in Elmhurst,IL. Her parents are professional musicians playing with the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Growing up, Laura spent her summers studying at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, where her father taught for
many years. In 1990, Laura received her degree in Music Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Laura currently performs and teaches
throughout the Chicagoland area playing with orchestras, small chamber ensembles, for weddings, receptions and special occasions. Laura has produced 3 recordings, Whispering Dreams, which consists of classical transcriptions and Laura’s own original compositions. Silent Night, which consists of traditional Christmas music and Tranquility, which features the harp with violin, guitar and piano. All recordings are available through Laura. Since 2003 Laura has been performing at Edward Hospital in Naperville,IL as part of their Healing Arts Program.

12:30 pm – Kaneland Youth Orchestra

IMG_0247.jpgWith world class directors, Kaneland Yourh Orchestra brings string education to Kaneland school area children. New for 2016! Registration is open to all children 2nd grade through 12th grade. Kaneland area includes but not limited to these areas- Sugar Grove, Montgomery, Elburn, Maple Park, North Aurora, Aurora and surrounding areas. Come join us for Summer Camp 2016. Registration is through our website: www.kyo2012.wix.com/kyorchestraKaneland Youth Orchestra is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

1:45 pm – Dave Seagren, Tropical Sound Steel Pan

Dave SeagrenDave Seagren and his Tropical Sound Steel Pan brings the spirit of the Caribbean Islands to life with a variety of tropical music styles including reggae, calypso, socca, Latin and pop. Each set includes songs varying from Jimmy Buffet to Bob Marley to Harry Belefonte as well as the traditional songs of the steel band. As a solo act with sequenced synthesizer back up music, Dave is at home on the smallest of stages and capable of playing soft enough for a garden party or loud enough to overcome the din of a packed nightclub. Whether you want to quietly sip drinks or limbo the night away, Dave can add the tropical atmosphere you desire. Tropical Sound is also available to perform as a duo or trio. The steel drum or “PAN” is a unique instrument invented in the 40’s in the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Hand crafted from a fifty-five gallon steel oil drum, with only hammers and blunted chisels, this instrument produces a beautiful tone that has become synonymous with the music of the Caribbean. An accomplished pan player and percussionist, Dave brings his musical experience and outstanding soloing abilities to each performance. With such bands as Hairball Willie, The Shotgun Ragtime Band, The Heart of the Gold Band, and Stainless Steel, Dave is a veteran of the regional club circuit.

3:00 pm – Tank Drum Demonstration & PerformanceTank Drums

(This workshop is appropriate for Kindergarten and up). Email kai@kaneland.org to register. Space is limited to 10)                            CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR FESTIVAL WORKSHOPS.

4:15 pm – Mariachi Ameca

Official Mariachi AmecaMariachi Ameca was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1983 by Jaime Cervantes.  Jaime grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Ameca, Jalisco in Mexico, in a family of musical talent.  At the age of 15, Jaime left his hometown for Mexico City where he worked as a stunt man in many films.  After working in the film, A Man Called Horse, at the age of 19, Jaime was able to purchase his first accordion.  Soon after, he learned his favorite instrument, the violin.  He majored in classical music at Morton College and after performing in many mariachi ensembles, founded his own ensemble which is now Mariachi Ameca. Mariachi Ameca is a large ensemble made up of 2 generations of musicians that is able to blend traditional mariachi music with a contemporary sound.  Members of the ensemble have accompanied many famous Mexican artists. Mariachi Ameca was employed by Six Flags Great America for over 10 years and have performed in movies and commercials.  Mariachi Ameca has award winning vocalists and outstanding musicians that will thrill you with their artistry and authenticity. Their music is perfect for almost every occasion and/or event.

Mariachi Ameca will be performing in both of our performance venues during the Festival, one on the Kaneland Auditorium stage and one strolling amongst the visual art.

Auditorium Performances

12:45 pm – NIU School of Theatre & Dance Performance

NIU 2The School of Theatre and Dance at Northern Illinois University provides intensive artistic and academic training for students preparing for careers in theatre and theatre-related areas. The course of study is rigorous and realistic, designed to develop, challenge and broaden the skills and attitudes of all theatre students, but especially the highly motivated student who takes responsibility for his or her own growth.  Our principles are simple. Students perform publicly all four years of the program. Our students have a strong work ethic and commitment to excellence, but also the ability to work as an ensemble and treat other artists with respect – this is not only fostered but required. We emphasize in collaboration and NOT Competition! There are three metropolitan areas within a 2.5 hour drive of the university, all with robust theatre communities, including Milwaukee, and Madison, and of course, Chicago. NIU’s proximity to Chicago gives our students enormous professional exposure, with opportunities to audition for summer stock companies, internships at major regional theatres and to work as assistants and designers for many of the hundreds of producing organizations that call Chicago home.   The goal and the focus of the training we provide ensures that graduates of this program step out the door ready to begin their careers. SoTD alumni are actively working in film, television and onstage in NY, LA, major regional theatres and overseas. Every academic year, we stage a full season of seven Mainstage Series and six Studio Series productions on three stages, providing public performance opportunities every year of a student’s academic career. Our programming reflects eclectic choices, which are designed to challenge both our students and our audiences. Also every year, a select group of students studies for one month at the famed Moscow Art Theatre School. The School offers several degree programs, including BA in theatre arts, BFA with emphases in acting, design and technology and dance performance, and MFA with specializations in acting and design and technology. We have an internationally recognized faculty of practicing artists and scholars, and a gifted student body of about two hundred, recruited and carefully selected from around the country and abroad. The School of Theatre and Dance is a member of the University Resident Theatre Association, and its programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

2:00 pm –Bill Cho’s United Taekwondo Center Performance

Bill Cho's TKD Colorado US OpenBill Cho’s United Taekwondo Center has been in operation in the Kaneland School District since 1995. We are committed to providing the highest quality martial arts instruction, empowering our students with valuable skills for a daily life and contributing to a safe and peaceful community. Our motto is “cultivation of exceptional attitude by fostering our students mind, body and spirit.” Taekwondo is not only kicking and punching but, more importantly, we are committed to teaching our students the life skills that will help them succeed in any Endeavor they may choose to take on. We would like to thank the KAI and the Fine Arts Festival for giving us the opportunity to share our skill of martial arts with all in attendance. We love to support and promote keeping the Arts alive whether it’s visual, auditory or physical. We hope you enjoy all three of those while you watch our performance. Please feel free to check us out on Facebook at Bill Cho Taekwondo Sycamore or stop by our facilities in Sycamore and St. Charles.

Bill Cho’s will be available from 1 – 2pm in the KHS Commons Area teaching guests to break boards.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR FESTIVAL WORKSHOPS.

3:15 pm – Mariachi Ameca

Mariachi Ameca3.jpgMariachi Ameca was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1983 by Jaime Cervantes.  Jaime grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Ameca, Jalisco in Mexico, in a family of musical talent.  At the age of 15, Jaime left his hometown for Mexico City where he worked as a stunt man in many films.  After working in the film, A Man Called Horse, at the age of 19, Jaime was able to purchase his first accordion.  Soon after, he learned his favorite instrument, the violin.  He majored in classical music at Morton College and after performing in many mariachi ensembles, founded his own ensemble which is now Mariachi Ameca. Mariachi Ameca is a large ensemble made up of 2 generations of musicians that is able to blend traditional mariachi music with a contemporary sound.  Members of the ensemble have accompanied many famous Mexican artists. Mariachi Ameca was employed by Six Flags Great America for over 10 years and have performed in movies and commercials.  Mariachi Ameca has award winning vocalists and outstanding musicians that will thrill you with their artistry and authenticity. Their music is perfect for almost every occasion and/or event.

Mariachi Ameca will be performing in both of our performance venues during the Festival, one on the Kaneland Auditorium stage and one strolling amongst the visual art.

4:30 pm – Swing Assembly

Swing Assembly TrumpetsEstablished in 2009, Swing Assembly is the stylish, sophisticated answer to the modern party band.  There is no event that this band cannot cater to! ​ With a repertoire spanning 80 years, the band mixes the elegance of a swing band with the festivity of contemporary funk, soul, and pop.  Featuring two vocalists, six horns, and the hippest rhythm section in the Chicago area, this jam machine can jump from the most delicate ballad to the funkiest dance tune at the drop of a hat.  Let our 11 tuxedoed gentlemen (and one bejeweled chanteuse) provide a touch of splendor to your special event!

Remember that there is NO admission to attend the Festival and experience all of the Art we are presenting to you.  The Festival is an experience like no other – offering a celebration of the Arts for families and community to enjoy.  Be sure to check out the workshops that are offered throughout the day of the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival!


I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, April 10th!

Partnering with YOU in the Arts,

Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson

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So Much to See! The 2016 Festival Visual Artists

I am so excited to talk about the visual artists for the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival!  We have quite a wonderful array of mediums and talent and I am sure that everyone will have something to experience no matter what level of art appreciation or knowledge they have!  We have a few coming to us locally, some from Chicago, and one even crossing the Wisconsin boarder to share their gifts. Click HERE to download the official 2016 Schedule! 

Here’s an overview of who you’ll see on Sunday, April 10, 2016 from 11am – 6pm in the Arts Pavilion (KHS Cafeteria):

Gail Azinger, Ceramics

Gail AzingerGail Azinger has over 40 years experience in the ceramic arts and is a retired high school art teacher from School District U-46. She currently reaches adult ceramics classes and leads Raku workshops for the Centre in Elgin, Il. Gail has her Master’s Degree in Art Education from Northern Illinois University. In 2001 she exhibited a bowl in Koga, Japan and since 2007 she has sold her work out of her home at her yearly Holiday Open House and Art Sale with 5 other area artists. She has participated in Elgin’s Art and Soul on The Fox since 2009, was invited to exhibit her work at the Art On The Eighth Show in Elgin in 2011, has demonstrated wheel throwing and has sold work at the Elgin Green Expo from 2012-2014, has participated in the Spring Bloom Art Festival in Bloomington, Il. in 2014, and has judged the Up-State 8 High School Art Exhibit when it was hosted by District U-46 in 2015. She is a member of the Clay Worker’s Guild of Illinois and a former member of the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission. Gail works on the potter’s wheel and uses hand building techniques to create functional and sculptural works in stoneware clay. Sharing her pottery with others and teaching are rewarding ways for her to connect with people. The last 15 years have been spent working in clay to improve her technique and develop a personal style. Gail lives in Elgin with her husband

Paula Dammeyer, Jewelry

Paula DammeyerPaula Dammeyer is a self-taught metalsmith/jewelry artist who has been creating and selling her jewelry for more than nine years. She likes experimenting with new techniques and mediums, but her real love is working with metals. She uses copper, brass, sterling and nickel silver in her designs, along with gemstones, beads and other found objects. Some of the many techniques utilized in her work are fold forming, enameling, soldering, reticulating, riveting and etching. She also enjoys wire wrapping everything from cabochons to coins. Paula’s objective is to keep creating jewelry that is handmade and one of a kind, with a lot of love, patience and attention to detail.

Tina Fischer, Fused Glass

t fischer 2.jpgTina Fischer is a glass artist who started with stained glass and went to fused glass. She had a kiln from doing ceramics in her earlier years and it was only natural to start playing with glass. She is original from Georgia and now lives in Elgin, Illinois. She has worked with fused glass art for more than 12 years. Warm glass is art glass that is formed in a kiln. This process involves firing a mosaic of compatible glass in a kiln up to 1700 degrees until it fuses together. The alchemy of intense heat creates the illusion of fluidity in each unique piece. Because glass is a liquid even it its (seemingly) solid state, it has unusual versatility and shows magical qualiities as the colors change with the light. Light filtering through transparent or translucent glass plays with our perceptions and gives a sense of depth. Warm glass is an extraordinary medium for the artistic expression. She has found warm glass to be the perfect way to use her imagination and creativity as an outlet. To combine color and texture into distinctive fused glass art.

Pamela Hamilton, Pastels

Pamela HamiltonPamela Hamilton has been an artist for as long as she can remember. As a child, nearly any surface became a blank canvas, including the side of her father’s car, the walls of her childhood home and the inside covers of every encyclopedia her parents owned. But, it wasn’t until recently that Hamilton was able to fully immerse herself in her artistic pursuits. Time spent studying painting and drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago was cut short when she decided to start a family. It was only after she gave up her job as an art director at a national magazine that her schedule freed up, enabling her to concentrate on her favorite pastime–painting. Much of her work–from pet portraits to landscapes–is done using pastels. “I love the immediacy of this medium–the vibrancy, rich tone, texture, paint-like quality and portability. I draw inspiration from my love of color, form and light.” Since 2011, Hamilton has participated in more than 60 exhibits, including numerous juried fine art fairs and solo shows, and has earned four “Best in Show” titles and numerous awards in other categories. Hamilton is a member of the DuPage Art League, the Wayne Art League, the Geneva Art Guild, the Chicago Pastel Painters and the Pastel Society of America.

Amy Huisinga, AcrylicsAmy Huisinga

Amy Huisinga is a self-taught award-winning artist living in Chicago. She was raised in Monticello, Illinois and attended the University of Illinois, where she earned her bachelors degree in accounting. After spending five years as a CPA in the public accounting field, Amy moved to Chicago to pursue an art career. Amy enjoys working primarily in acrylic painting because of its flexibility and rich color range. Many of her acrylic paintings incorporate various painting surfaces, added textures and dimensions, and other mixed media techniques. Various acrylic mediums used include modeling paste, ceramic stucco, blended fibers, resin sands, and heavy acrylic medium to add an extra dimension and realness to the scene. This dimensionality gives the viewer the feeling that they could walk right into the scene. Viewers are often caught by surprise and enjoy becoming a part of the discovery process. Amy paints primarily outdoor scenes, reflecting the landscapes of the Midwest as well as urban street scenes and European settings.

Tom Liebing, Repurposed Tank Drums

Tank DrumsTom Liebing of Custom Tank Drum taught  high school Graphic Arts, after teaching for 33 years, retired. His son and partner, Eric, has a degree in music and is a professional percussionist. Between Eric’s knowledge music and Tom’s knowledge of materials, they are the perfect blend to make the perfect drum.  This is the start of their 8th year of drum making.  The drums are very popular at Art Show, Craft Show, Green Fairs, Music Shows and Special Needs Conferences. Custom Tank Drum has also presented at STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Fairs. Tom and Eric take great pride and satisfaction in taking propane tanks, no longer good for use, and cutting, grinding, welding, tuning and painting a recycled propane into an enjoyable instrument. Tom will be presenting two workshops during the Festival as well as displaying his work and answering questions in the Arts Pavilion.

Kari McDonald, Printmaking

Kari McDonaldKari McDonald graduated with a B.F.A. in Printmaking from Northern Illinois University in 2010 and has been a self-employed artist ever since. She has always found more creativity when working with what she has at hand – literally – she hand prints her woodblocks with a wooden spoon and Japanese leaf barengawa. Her studio is out at her in-laws’ farmstead in the Shirland, IL area in an old converted cow barn. Her family calls this building The Manger and it has an apartment with a garage. That garage is now her studio shared with her father-in-law and his printmaking/paper making/painting work. The farm is a peaceful place with lots of land, a fresh water spring with pond in the front yard, and a family garden where she grows her own salsa ingredients. The original owner of the farm from the early 1800s was one of the first settlers in the area and was a prominent figure in the local community. His name was Lemuel Fisk. Kari felt so connected with the land and nature (and disconnected from the digital technological world) when she is out at the farm that she wanted to relate my artwork to that sense of peacefulness. So Lemuette was established! When you hang her new prints on your wall, they will bring a little bit of that natural-space and peaceful feeling to your home.

Jill Miller, Fiber Artist

Hooey Batiks velvet pillow.jpgJill Miller learned how to batik in an art class at the University of Illinois in 1989 and was immediately addicted. Batik is a sloppy, waxy mess and it’s always a pleasant surprise to see the bright, colorful designs hiding under layers of wax. She loves playing with color combinations, coming up with silly new designs, and just having fun with it all. When she is not at art shows or working in her studio you can find her in her Urbana, Illinois home, gardening in the backyard with her chickens, or whipping up a tasty dish in the kitchen.

Lauri Novak, Photography

Lauri_Novak_rgw_web2We are pleased to have Lauri Novak, our Kaneland Alumni Spotlight, at the Festival this year!

Lauri has been taking photos ever since she received my first Kodak X-15 Instamatic Camera at the age of 10.    With camera in hand she was fortunate to have traveled around the US more than most at an early age. Traveling gave Lauri an appreciation for the world around me.  Lauri started seeing in a different way, different perspective and appreciating what she saw. As she got older Lauri had the opportunity to travel a little bit overseas, which opened up her eyes to other cultures and even more ways of seeing the world.  Capturing these views and perspectives and sharing them is her passion.  She sees the world in photographs and loves that her photography helps others to see the world around them in a new and different way.

Margie Olszewski, Digital Arts

Margie Olszewski Photo.jpgMargie Olszewski creates imaginative digital paintings with her computer. Her uplifting themes are expressed in brightly colored scenes, birds, pets, faces and abstracts. Margie has had a devotion to art, music and the humanities throughout her life. This appreciation began at an early age and as a continuation of a family tradition of creative expression and love of the arts. Margie studied art and piano throughout her school years. These studies continued at Mundelein College, Chicago, as a Humanities major. Best job ever ~ working several years for Newcomb-Macklin Company in Chicago, the oldest continuously run frame-making company in the United States that specialized in making frames for the American Impressionists around the turn of the century including Stanford White and arts and crafts designs. Margie enjoyed working in this creative environment and working on the presentation of many top artists for display at the Union League Club, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago. For several years Margie Olszewski became a public access television producer and while producing her own TV show, Animal Addicts, revisited the world of photography that she had briefly studied at Mundelein, but in the medium of video. This was a great opportunity to combine photography and music, while exploring the ways people and animal interact and the way animals impact the lives of those who love them.  Currently, Margie enjoys doing ‘paintings without paint’ on her laptop, painting with a computer stylus, and using various art computer programs. Enjoying the ever-changing adventures of exploring visual fine arts.

Michael Shiroda, Caricature

KCFAF2013-68For more than a decade, Michael Shiroda has been drawing caricatures of people at live events.  These sketches with an exaggerated likeness are unique to each person and are always a crowd-pleaser — they are as much fun for the subject as they are for onlookers!  In addition to this and commissioned paintings of homes, he also enjoys making comics, writing stories, painting, and making music, for which he has also produced a CD.  His focus lately has been with comic book illustration and will soon be published under the ‘Pulp Will Eat Itself’ title.  Annually, Michael provides Festival guests with unique, personalized caricature drawings.

Staci Sterenberg, Glass Mosaics

Staci SterenbergStaci Sterenberg is a Chicago based artist working in mixed media. Growing up in rural Michigan, her habits of collecting small trinkets and forgotten objects finally led her to mosaic making. Her methods stem from the desire to create art objects from the discarded remains of cast off materials. She is inspired most by color and pattern and injects her own brand of irreverent and sometimes subversive humor into her work. Staci has worked on private commissions, gallery exhibitions and art fairs, and her work can be found in hundreds of private collections around the world. Staci has also worked as an art teacher for sixteen years. Her work is informed and inspired by the people she interacts with as an instructor as much as from her own imagination.

Ranjan Roy, Henna Hand Tattoos

Henna pic with Stewart StudentsRanjan Roy has been doing Henna since past 10 years based in Schaumburg, IL. The art form of henna design has been practiced in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Europe and has been used by Hindus. Ranjan is very creative and does henna designing without any references. She creates designs with her imagination and on-demand. She does private events and many summer fest in Kane County area.  Ranjan will be giving guests henna hand tattoos during the Festival in the Arts Pavilion.

Rosalie Waranius Vass, Watercolor

Color Island W?C & Acrylic

Rosalie Waranius Vass grew up in the glacier area of Wisconsin. Her hometown was small and her roaming range quite large. She was fascinated by the changes in the sky and the colors of the seasons. She watched the cows and sheep graze in the pastures and all of life seemed amazingly slow and multi-colored. She was content to scan her environment to find the colors, textures, moods, and compositions that she would later paint.  Her paintings burst with the reflections and experiences of her childhood adventures and adult travel. The desert, the ocean, the mountains and the architecture of her world travel all find a place in her work; never as one scene from one location but a blenderful of images from many times and places. She has painted flocks of sheep, herds of cows, choirs of angels, and countless towns, cities, palaces, bridges, and cemeteries. Her paintings are like random pages out of the diary of her life; come experience the joy of her art.

Don Widmer, Paper Arts/Bookmaking widmer_plumpBluebird_600dpi.jpg

Don Widmer is a Chicago-based book and paper artist. His practice incorporates hand papermaking, letterpress printing, and traditional and experimental bookbinding.  His handmade paper artwork utilizes pulp painting, sometimes in combination with watermarks, to create imagery with cultural and mythological significance.  Widmer has exhibited throughout the Midwest, including Terrain Biennial (Columbia College Chicago), Arts on Elston, Side Street Studio Arts, Zenith Art Studio, Morpho Gallery, Framing Mode and Gallery, Werkspace Gallery, Art on Track, Built Festival, Hearts-A-Bluhm, and Illinois Wesleyan University. His recent awards include Outstanding Achievement in 2D Paper (Buffalo Grove Art Festival), and the Redhead Design Studio Honorary Award (East Lansing Art Festival).  Raised in Cleveland, Widmer received his MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts from Columbia College Chicago in May 2012.  Prior to his art career, he was Library Director at VanderCook College of Music from 1996-2009.

Kathleen Murphy Willer, Mixed Media

Kathleen Willer HeadshotKathleen Murphy Willer is an award-winning artist who has been painting professionally for 22 years. Her work has been shown in exhibitions and galleries across the United States and she has collectors on five continents. Over the years, Kathleen has managed two small art galleries in the Milwaukee area and has worked as an art consultant. She has a bachelor’s degree in art from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. Home is Menomonee Falls, WI, just outside of Milwaukee, where she lives with her children. Her mixed media paintings feature bright colors and happily quirky themes.

Arts in Our Community –  The Fine Line Creative Arts Center

Each year, we try to bring a comunity art organization to the Festival to present their organization and promote their classes/events.  fineline_logo
The is one of only a few regional art
centers in this country. Internationally known artists teach a variety of workshops. The membership draws from the Chicago area and surrounding states. There are as many as 1,300 students a year, a teaching staff of 45-plus and well over 200 class offerings a year. So passionate are the members of the Fine Line Community that the center is run almost entirely by volunteers.The Fine Line Creative Arts Center is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization. The Fine Line provides year-round classes in textiles, ceramics, metalsmithing, glassmaking, painting, papermaking and more.

I hope that you will get a chance to come to our Festival and meet these amazing artists.  Each have a unique gift to share and their work will not disappoint!  Be sure to check out the workshops that are offered throughout the day of the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival!


See you on Sunday!

Partnering with YOU in the Arts,

Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson


Arts Opportunities Abound at the Festival!

As excitement builds for the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival, I wanted to make sure to highlight some wonderful Arts opportunities that are available for our guests.  On Sunday, April 10th, the Festival offers its guests a diverse number of workshops and hands on arts experiences.  Remember, that all of these workshops are free!  Click HERE to download the official 2016 Schedule! 

Tom Leibing makes drums out of recycled propane tanks.  His pieces are functional instruments and beautiful works of art.  Guests will have two opportunities to experience his custom tank drums.

  • The Tank Drum TUNING Workshop will be held at 11:15am in the Kaneland High School Black Box Theatre.  This workshop is for a more developing or advanced musican as Mr. Leibing will bring tank drums that have not yet been completely tuned to their final music pitches.  Throughout the hour long workshop, students will learn how Mr. Leibing tunes the drums using specific tools to shape each note on the instrument and then they will tune the drums.  This workshop is appropriate for late elementary school (4th/5th grades) music students through high school. Please email us at kai@kaneland.org to enroll in this unique workshop.  Space is limited to 10 students.
  • In the Tank Drum Demonstration Performance at 3:00 pm on the Arts Pavilion stage, Mr. Leibing will demonstrate how he makes the drums, how they work, and he will lead 10 volunteers in an impromptu performance.  All are welcome to attend this event and we suggest that you reserve your spot to work with Mr. Leibing by email us at kai@kaneland.org.  Remember space is limited to 10 people.

This year, we are thrilled to invite Bill Cho’s Ultimate Taekwondo Center from Sycamore to perform their martial arts skills.  They will perform on the Kaneland Auditorium stage at 2:00 pm, but before they take to the stage, they will be in the KHS commons area (west of the KHS Art Club) at 1:00 pm teaching guests to safely break boards.  This is a walk in clinic (no registration is required) and all are welcome to attend and participate.  Parents of students in elementary school or younger must remain with their child(ren).

For the first time in the history of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival, we are offering an art class!  We are so excited to welcome Michael Barton back to the Festival to teach a photography class at 3pm in the Black Box Theatre.  In The Impact of Light on Photographs, Mr. Barton discusses how understanding light will allow you to take phenomenal photographs.  Known around the United States as an amazing professional, artist, and teacher, Mr. Barton bring his extensive knowledge to this class. You will want to register  ASAP.  This class is appropriate for high school students and older.  Educators will receive 1 CPU for attending this event.  Click here to sign up.Brain Balance_KAI2016_SeminarFlyer_FINAL

We are also pleased to offer a unique clinic for families with special needs.  Dr. David Foss of Vital Wellness Center in Elburn and Tracy Adams of DancEncounters in Geneva have teamed up to bring you Brain Balance for ADHD & Autism Spectrum in the KHS auxiliary gym at 2:00 pm.  In this workshop, Dr. Foss and Ms Adams will discuss how movement is a nutrient for brain balance and development.  Especially geared towards families with ADHD and Autism Spectrum needs, Brain Balance is a hands on experience that your family will not want to miss.  Please wear comfortable clothing and bring your questions! All family members are welcome to this engaging presentation.  Parents may attend without their children, but children must have a parent present at this event.  Click here to sign up for this workshop.

Our “make and take” workshops in the Arts Pavilion are a much anticipated tradition at the Festival.  This year is no exception.  Make sure you stop by and see the folloiwng artists, create art, and bring it home as a momento of your Art filled day:

  • Tina Fischer, fused glass
  • Michael Shiroda, caricature
  • Ranjan Roy, henna hand tattoos

This year’s Festival will delight audiences young and old!

Click here to download the 2016 Festival schedule.

I look forward to seeing you at the 17th Annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival!

Partnering with YOU in the Arts,

Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson

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The Arts Need You! from the desk of the Executive Director

Arts Advocacy Day is happening NOW in Washington, DC

What is Arts Advocacy Day?

“The National Arts Action Summit is your opportunity to receive crucial advocacy training from experts in the field and then put that training into practice. Hosted by Americans for the Arts in partnership with over 85 national arts organizations, Arts Advocacy Day is the largest gathering of its kind, bringing together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations. Grassroots advocates from across the country come to Washington, DC to meet with their members of Congress to garner support for issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction, and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.”  http://www.americansforthearts.org/events/arts-advocacy-day

While we are not in Washington, DC, making our voices heard, YOU can make a difference right here at home.  Here is the link to contact Illinois politicians and tell them that the Arts are an important part of our schools and communities: http://www.americansforthearts.org/events/arts-advocacy-day/facts-figures-to-make-your-case

If you’re not into writing a letter to a congressperson or rallying at the Capitol, then volunteering at local Arts events will provide Arts opportunities for local communities and schools.  The Kaneland Arts Initiative gives professional quality Art experiences to families and students within our community.  We are always looking for volunteers for our events.

Please consider advocating for the Arts locally and nationally.  To volunteer for KAI events, please email Volunteer Coordinator Extraordinaire, Laura McPhee.

We are always grateful to you for your support of the Arts!

Partnering with you in the Arts,

Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson



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KAI’s February Events that You Won’t Want to Miss

January flew by and KAI had two wonderful events to start of 2016.


The annual Lee Murdock Hometown Concert with Special Guest, Tom Kastle, was a fabulous event on January 2nd.  Art students from Kaneland Harter Middle School showcased their work in the lobby of the auditorium and Lee and Tom told stories and created beautiful music.

The end of January brought us to the world premiere performances of 2001 Kaneland Alum, Nic Wehrwein, new play, Memorial Park.


The Company of Memorial Park with the author, Nic Wehrwein.

The story detailed a pivotal day of young Mars, played by the talented Mace Jendruczek, and his family performed with great clarity by mom, Trisha Mills, and dad, Peter Lopatin.  They encounter a drifter named Fiddley Diddley, a war veteran with a past and a struggle with substance abuse, and all are forced to face demons of substance and domestic abuse and the choices that they make.  Doug Orlyk, who formerly directed KAI’s most recent summer production, big! the Musical, developed this role into a intriguing mix of funny and sad, troubled and insightful.  The cast was rounded out by the well-played supporting roles of Betsy Mills as the narrator and Lyndsay Mach as Mars’ girlfriend.  Brilliantly directed by the always insightful KAI Artistic Director, Diane McFarlin, Memorial Park, was both riveting and funny in its portrayal of these real characters.  The crew made up of all Kaneland students did a fabulous job running the backstage and technial parts of the production.

Fresh off the successful performances of Memorial Park, the Kaneland Arts Initiative (KAI) presents two February events that are family-friendly, fun, and affordable.


On Saturday, February 20th at Open Range Southwest Grill Restaurant in Sugar Grove, KAI will hold its 7th Annual Fine Arts Feast.  This event is the annual fundraiser inviting new and returning Individual Arts Patrons to come together for an evening of information and entertainment.  Tickets are $10 for this buffet pizza dinner with amazing musical numbers.  This year’s Feast celebrates the FREEDOM TO FLY, a cabaret style performance by Kaneland Arts Initiative staff, committee, and friends.  KAI is raffling 2 Blackhawks tickets including a parking pass for the March 22nd home game against the Dallas Stars and will also be offering some great items for auction during the evening.  All proceeds from this event will benefit the programming of the Kaneland Arts Initiative.

On Saturday, February 27th, KAI brings to the stage GUYS IN TIES!


GUYS IN TIES, is anelite traveling improv comedy troupe that present a hilarious and unforgettable show by combining wit, intelligence, humor and 18 years of experience. Some memorable names they have performed with or opened for are: Weird Al Yankovic, Norm MacDonald, Howie Mandel, Darrel Hammond, Sinbad, Brad Sherwood (Who’s Line is it Anyway) and much more.  Their performances are family friendly.  Online ticket sales are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citzens, and $5 for students.  At the door, the prices are an additional $2.  The GUYS IN TIES performance is part of the KAI Theatre Subscription Package, which gives an additional discount to those who sign up for a package.

See you at our upcoming events!

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Proud to be a Knight … from the Desk of the KAI Executive Director

This year, Kaneland School District’s motto is “Proud to be a Knight.”  It’s a motto to elicit pride and tradition and to focus on the amazing things that happen within our school district and ultimately out in the Kaneland Community and among the Kaneland Nation of faculty, staff, and students.  The Kaneland Arts Initiative has much Kaneland Pride as we have cast, crew members, volunteers, and community members participating in our many events.  We truly are a Kaneland tradition, 17 years strong, that evokes the idea of coming together to celebrate our appreciation of artistry and the Arts.

This weekend, KAI is pleased to produce the World Premiere performances of Memorial Park, a play written by 2001 Kaneland graduate, Nic Wehrwein.  The play is about an unlikely relationship between Mars, a 13 year old boy, and Fiddley Diddley, a drifter clown, that brings to the surface many past and current struggles with domestic and substance abuse.  The message is simple: one’s future is not dictated by one’s past and is written beautifully through the relationship between Mars and Fiddley Diddley and supported by the other roles in the play.

I am excited that KAI is able to produce this profound play that is both light at times and serious, but what is also exciting is the author itself, Nic Wehrwein.  Nic was briefly my student as he was a member of the Kaneland band program, back when there was only about 30 kids in the program and yours truly was the director.  He was a great kid – a guitar player in my jazz band and percussionist in my concert band – but not the “teacher’s pet” kind.  He was the student with the ironic sense of humor and quick wit that reminded me that high school students are “changlings,” stuck somewhere between adulthood and adolescence.  He and his classmates possessed a mature outlook on life, yet embraced it all the same with joy and laughter, but also with seriousness and calm.

When he was cast as the role of Audrey, the Venus flytrap with a taste for blood in KHS’ spring production of Little Shop of Horrors, I knew he would be outstanding.  I had the pleasure of conducting him, rather conducting AT him, as he was backstage watching me on a screen, while he waited for me to cue the camera so he could sing his part from backstage.  The first time the audience saw him was his curtain call.  I remember being very impressed with his ability to be patient, yet accurate with the tone and inflection of his part.  He was a natural.

Here we are on the eve of opening night of his performance and I am just as impressed with this Kaneland Knight as I was back in 2001.  Nic has written a great piece with an honest message that exercises my mind and my emotions with each rehearsal I see.  I am in awe of his ability to write real characters who come to life under Diane McFarlin’s always outstanding direction of an amazing and talented cast.

When we hear the phrase, “Proud to be a Knight,” it’s hard not to think of feats of athletic prowess and skill, but this weekend, our pride will be on the stage through the words of Nic Wehrwein.  I hope you’ll share this experience with us.

Proud to be a Knight,

Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson