Tomeka Reid to Susan Yount

Tomeka Reid

Recently described as a “New Jazz Power Source” by the New York Times, Chicago cellist and composer Tomeka Reid has emerged as one of the most original, versatile, and curious musicians in the Chicago’s bustling jazz and improvised music community over the last decade. Her distinctive melodic sensibility, usually braided to a strong sense of groove, has been featured in many distinguished ensembles over the years. Reid has been a key member of ensembles led by legendary reedists like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, as well as a younger generation of visionaries including flutist Nicole Mitchell, singer Dee Alexander, and drummer Mike Reed. She’s also a co­leader of the adventurous string trio called Hear in Now, with violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi. Recently Reid released her debut recording as a bandleader, with the eponymous recording by the Tomeka Reid Quartet, a lively yet charged debut album that is a vibrant showcase not only for the cellist’s improvisational acumen, but also her knack for dynamic arrangements and her compositional ability.

Reid, grew up outside of Washington D.C., but her musical career largely kicked into gear after moving to Chicago in 2000 to attend DePaul University for grad school. Her work with Nicole Mitchell and various Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians ­related groups have proved influential to the young musician. By focusing on developing her craft primarily as a side person and working in countless improvisational contexts, Reid has achieved a stunning musical maturity.

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Isabella Rotman

Isabella Rotman is a cartoonist and illustrator from Maine living and drawing in Chicago. Her art is usually about the ocean, mermaids, crushing loneliness, people in the woods, or sex. All of her self published comics are available in her online store. She is author of the sexual health comic You're so Sexy When You Aren't Transmitting STDs and Artist in Residence at

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Julie Schmidt

Julie Schmidt is the designer of Juliet Jewelry. Her line of women's jewelry combines her love of shapes, fine details and architecture. Her passion for art and design began at an early age, much of which was influenced by her parents. She was encouraged to look beyond the obvious to discover more intricate color combinations & unexpected proportions. She loves to visualize details, texture, and balance, to play with positive & negative space transforming those ideas into works of art.

This passion led her to create a beaded jewelry line that led to her create a women's hand forged sterling silver jewelry collection that was modern and clean. She was invited to launch my newest collection during the Mercedes Benz LA Fashion Week. Later that year she had an exhibit through invitation only at Olympus Fashion Week Spring 2007 in New York City, launching her newest designs.

Her work has been seen on Jess Zaino, a stylist on the Style Network channel wearing Juliet Jewelry's Signature Circle necklace. Juliet Jewelry has been featured in Daily Candy, Chicago Scene, Chicago Journal, Hong Kong Watch & Jewelry, Philadelphia Style, WWD, ABC Chicago News, and Chicago Magazine. Also Cuddledown an international high end catalog company based in the East Coast bought her designs to feature and sell for the launch of their new accessory category.

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Irena Siwek

Irena Siwek was born in Cracow, Poland and moved to United States in 1992.  She studied at Dominican University in River Forest IL and received a Bachelor degree in mathematics in 1997.  Irena Siwek is a pen and ink artist who for nearly two decades has followed her passion for drawing. 

Her distinctive self-taught perspective contributes to the creative authenticity of her work, which is intriguing, engaging and introspective. Subjects of marionettes, human and animal forms are reoccurring themes in Siwek’s work, through which she explores how we coexist within the world of interdependence. Her drawings exhibit attributes of whimsy abstract expressionism, surrealism and fantasy.

Solo exhibit includes Point of view at the DreamBox Gallery in Chicago. She has also been a part of many group exhibitions including the Polish Museum of America and her work is well supported by private collectors.

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Lucy Smith

Lucy Smith was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She’s a singer, songwriter bandleader and producer. Her quartet/quintet frequents the Chicago jazz scene and her musical collaborations include works for theatre, film and spoken word productions. Her newest project, Autumn in Augusta, is a working tribute for and about her mother and her mother’s music. Autumn in Augusta’s recently released CD: “Songs My Mama Would Like” (with Michael Caskey, drums; Marcin Fahmy, piano; and Junius Paul, bass) has garnered rave reviews and impressive jazz chart placements. As leader/arranger for the Lucy Smith Quartet/Quintet and as singer/songwriter for the jazz-infused Passing for Normal/Swag, Lucy has led a myriad of musical combinations exploring the worlds of traditional jazz, folk, soul and other popular music. 

She’s currently the music director for Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian’s “Jazz at Four” service where she creates a new jazz infused paradigm for worship while rearranging centuries old hymns and keeping alive the legacy of sacred jazz music. Her other music director work includes projects at the Park West Theatre, Goodman Theatre andat Steppenwolf Theatre where she shared the stage with blues legend Koko Taylor and others. Lucy has composed and performed music for the feature film Hannah Free and the documentary Woke Up Black and she is the producer and coordinator for the music stage at the Artists of the Wall Festival. In addition to those mentioned above, Lucy has shared the bandstand with many musicians who have Chicago roots, including Joshua Ramos , Greg Ward, Marcus Evans, Patrick Mulcahy, Matt Ulery, Tom Vaitsas, Robert “Baabe” Irving III, Ernie Adams, Rajiv Halim,  Jon Deitemyer, Ernest Dawkins, Xavier Breaker, Charles Heath, Chuck Webb, Jeff Hanley and Orbert Davis.  Lucy was lead vocalist for Columbia College’s Center for Black Music Research's Stop-Time Ensemble and the Concord Orchestra.  Prior to full-time musicianship, Lucy was the Associate Director at the Crossroads Fund, a public foundation that raises money to support organizations working on issues of social and economic justice in the Chicago area.

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Shayna Swanson

Shayna Swanson is an award-winning circus artist, founder and Artistic Director of Aloft Circus Arts, and founder of the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival. Her artistic work pushes the limits of physicality and emotion. She has been creating and performing aerial works that have been described by the Chicago Reader as “truly heart-felt and creative” for over 12 years. As a former competitive gymnast and diver, her work naturally fuses difficulty, strength and intricacy with thoughtfulness and surprise. Shayna developed her circus voice through independent study of the body in vertical space, but refined her skills through training at Circus Maniacs in Bristol, England, and with private tutors like Elsie and Serenity Smith, Fred Deb and Norboul Meirmanov.

In 2005 she received the Glenn P Davis Scholarship to the Aerial Dance Festival, awarded every year for excellence in aerial choreography. That same year Shayna formed Aloft and, with a grant from the City of Chicago, produced the critically acclaimed full-length show Rolling Blackouts. In 2006 her choreography was selected into the repertory of Thodos Dance Chicago and featured in the Best of Dance Chicago Showcase. Also that year the Chicago Reader named her a “Mover and Shaker” of the Chicago dance scene. She has been acclaimed at national and international aerial and circus festivals. Her unique rope act won the “Best Performance of Festival” Award at the 2011 American Aerial Acrobatic Festival, a Special Prize at the 2011 Circuba Festival in Havana, Cuba and was featured at the Huishan Acrobatic Festival in Taiwan and Collision Arts Asia Festival in Malaysia. She is also the 2012 US National women’s Cyr Wheel Champion.

Shayna formed the Aloft Loft in April 2006 to provide a supportive and vibrant community training space for physical artists of all sorts. The Aloft Loft is now one of the top professional training spaces in the USA. Since founding Aloft Circus Arts, Shayna has created 5 full length shows and 4 interactive performance parties. She was the co-aerial director for the first and second incarnations of the massive church/circus hit Imagine ChristmasEl Circo Cheapo Cabaret, part talent show, part vaudeville, part punk rock warehouse show, has toured across America, selling out shows weeks in advance every month in Chicago for the last 5 years. In addition to producing and creating her own shows, Shayna’s work has been seen in Circus Flora, Pegasus Variete in Germany, the Kim Tom Clown Festival in Shanghai, Mint Fest in England, Olympic festivities in Hong Kong, Vivendi Cabaret in the Cayman Islands, resorts in the Caribbean and with productions like the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cirque de a Mer, The Coor’s Light/Maxim Model Search Tour, New Vision Cirque, The Big Aerial Show, The Midnight Circus and Circus Smirkus.

The past year has been Shayna’s most productive. Seeing the need for a world class circus festival in the USA, Shayna founded the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, which brought 10 national  and international shows to Chicago. She also began a Full-Time Intensive Training Program for aspiring circus artists at the Aloft Loft, remounted her 2006 show Dinner of our Discontent, began development on a new creation, wrote and directed the multi-media spectacle Sephira, began a Residency Grant to artists wanting to create new shows, AND gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  

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Danielle Tanimura

Born in Chicago in 1983, Danielle Musashi Tanimura is a transgender Photomancer of Japanese and Bohemian Jewish ancestry. Her passion for history, photography, and graphic design combine to create a visual reflection of a spiritual world at war for identity and deliverance.

Danielle also blogs her experiences of living with chronic pain, exploring gender identity, mixed-race musings, and a family history of life on the fringe.

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Lesley Timpe

Squasht creates locally designed and professionally hand-crafted garments and accessories made from start to finish right here in Chicago, IL. Founded in October, 2004 by St Louis native Lesley Timpe, Squasht is creating a buzz in the independent fashion world. Lesley was recently voted “Best Local Clothing Designer” for both 2013 and 2014 in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” Readers Polls.

Squasht designer Lesley Timpe was trained at Maestro Mateo Design School in Spain and brings a subtly sophisticated European vibe to her seasonal collection of dresses, skirts, tops, tunics, headbands, and reversible hats. The signature pieces of the Squasht collections continue to be endlessly wearable vintage-modern dresses and retro-styled reversible handmade hats.

After being in business for many years and being carried in more than 30 boutiques nationwide, Lesley opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the Ukrainian Village of Chicago in May 2010. In addition to the Squasht collections, Squasht Boutique also carries the handiwork of many other independent designers from both near and far. Discover a plethora of independent brands of handmade apparel, jewelry, handbags, and other unique accessories at Squasht Boutique.

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Susan Yount

Susan (aka Sissy); was born and raised on a 164-acre farm in Southern Indiana where she learned to drive a tractor, harvest crops, feed the chickens and hug her beloved goat, Cinnamon. Soon after receiving her BA from Indiana University in Photo-Journalism, she married a physicist and moved to Ohio. While attending Kent State University as a guest graduate, she worked at the largest flour mill in northeast Ohio where she kept those Accounts Receivable up-to-date (no small feat, that!). Moving to Chicago, she and her husband built a home on the south side with a view of the Sears Tower. In the middle of the upheaval she found time to give birth to a bouncy baby boy! She is the Editor and Publisher of Arsenic Lobster and works at the Associated Press. Having completed graduate studies in poetry at Columbia College in Chicago, she now balances work, her home and her delightful boy. Only Mimi Mousy Tongue knows what Susan will be doing next and she’s not talking. Her poetry has appeared in several print and online magazines including Elixir, Bathtub Gin, Wicked Alice, Verse Daily and The Chaffin Journal. Susan is a 2003 recipient of The Lynda Hull Memorial Scholarship in Poetry. In 2010 she was awarded first prize in the 16th Annual Juried Reading competition at The Poetry Center Of Chicago. In her spare (!) time she moonlights as the madame at the Chicago Poetry Bordello. She has two chapbooks, House on Fire (Blood Pudding Press, 2014) & Catastrophe Theory (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012).

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