Chicagoan Dr. Carla Knorowski was an avid Paris traveler and fell in love with the city as a young woman. She has traveled to nearly every city named Paris to connect her love for the city around the world, amounting to nearly 89,000 miles of flying over the years. In her efforts, she has been hailed as a nonprofit leader and scholar and advocate for culture, education and the arts. However, five years ago marked an absolute shock to her and everyone across the globe.

In April 2019 when the Notre Dame Cathedral had endured fifteen hours under flames, Knorowski was in completely devastated. Being a prolific fundraiser, she put together an event to raise awareness and restoration funds for the iconic cathedral to expedite the construction and ensure that it would keep its classic French Gothic architecture in place. With the success of the event she raised a total of $500,000.

The event she created was a global virtual fundraising event whose participants included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actress Glenn Close, and Notre-Dame Cathedral’s titular organist Olivier Latry as well as others. Her efforts toward its reconstruction promoted her to the rank of Officer in its National Order of Merit (L’Ordre National Du Mérite) by the Republic of France, which was officially signed by President Emmanuel Macron. It is the second national Order of France, the first being the Legion of Honor. The Order recognizes distinguished civil or military service. Annually it is awarded to approximately 3,000 French citizens and 300 citizens of foreign nations.

The construction and restoration of Notre Dame was in the process of being renovated as it was nearing 850 years old. Luckily, many sculptures had been placed in an alternate location before the fire had begun and a lot of the stained glass was saved with the firefighters help. Thanks to Knorowski and her love for Paris and French culture, Notre Dame is closer to its 2024 reopening date in time for the next Olympics.

Mineral Display Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary ArtYou wouldn’t know it from driving through suburban Oak Brook, but the village is home to the only museum in America dedicated to lapidary art – the art of cutting and polishing precious stones.

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is home to some of the world’s most unique and historic collections of mosaics, jewelry, stone carvings, fossils, dioramas and gemstones. As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Lizzadro Museum has hosted exclusive exhibits from the Smithsonian Institute’s collections. The partnership also facilitates collaboration on educational initiatives and research.

Founded in 1962 by Joseph F. Lizzadro, Sr., an avid lapidary hobbyist and collector, the museum has been building on to his original collection for 60 years. In 2019, the Lizzadro received a donation of several historic pieces from the Oakland County Museum in California – among them, a five-foot-tall jade pagoda that took 10 years to complete and was on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Interestingly, the Museum’s move from Elmhurst to Oak Brook in 2019 enabled them to put the jade statue, titled Altar of the Green Jade Pagoda, on display for the first time. Also included in the collection is a nephrite jade imperial altar set from the Ming Dynasty and the Imperial Screen, a cinnabar screen encrusted with jade, amber, ivory, coral and gemstones that was gifted to Emperor Qianlong in 1791 during a visit to Southern China.

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Short Film imageA little bit of Hollywood can be found in Illinois at the annual Elgin Short Film Festival! Every September since 2009 Elgin, Illinois has been host to a number of talented young film makers from around the country and world. The event begins with a red carpet reception featuring interviews with filmmakers, followed by a film screening. At this year’s 2022 Film Festival, six short films were screened. The films are all 20 minutes or less, and contain two categories: animated and live action. Three films of each category had been pre-chosen for the event, and the winners of each category are selected by the judges and audience members in attendance.

This event celebrates the arts and cultivates the creative talents of people around Illinois. First place prizes receive $1,000. The very first winner in 2009 was an Illinois resident from Chicago. David Priego won with his short film “House of Cards”, which received a great rating of 8.5/10 on IMDb. The film is about a divorcing family who, in the war over the division of their material items, only realize the importance of family when tragedy strikes.

The film festival takes place at the Hemmens Cultural Center. The center is named after Hattle Pease Hemmens, who left over a million dollars after her death in 1957 to establish a non-profit Community Auditorium in the city of Elgin. The short film festival brings glitz, glamour and charm to the City of Elgin. Friends, families and film lovers are all welcome to attend the event, and every year the festival has been growing in notoriety. Hollywood has come to Illinois, and it can be found in the enchanting city of Elgin! Find out more about the event at the city of Elgin’s website here.

art suppliesOriginating back to the early 1900s, Black History Month is an opportunity to place a spotlight on the history, the culture and the feats of Black people. The Black community continues to excel as pioneers and innovators. Illinois is home to a large number of artists and entrepreneurs. We appreciate and highlight the pronounced dedication to their craft. This is a list of a few Black Illinois artists who produce breathtaking bodies of art:

Dwight White II – This artist and creative consultant is from the greater Chicago area. He challenges himself in pursuit of an insightful agenda to promote expression and authentic conversations. As a strategist and multi-disciplinary creative, White devises a conglomerate of radiant colors, beauty, power, experience, life, and raw emotion into his paintings and his words. Check out his work at http://www.dwhiteart.com/artwork.

Martha A. Wade – Observant of her artist father while being raised in Oak Park, Wade’s desire to become engulfed in her own world of art grew. In 2000, Wade attended the University of Michigan for a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. She was fearful to chase her dreams of becoming an artist. However, she returned to school in 2008 to pursue her passion in which she received her Masters of Art Management. Years later, Wade’s art may be found within the country but also internationally in countries such as Scotland, Ireland, and Sweden. Her art is a composite of boldness, meditative practice, muse, existential realities, the highest self, and the feminine essence. You may view her art at http://www.wadecreate.com/favs.

Natalie Osborne – Influenced by the Chicago atmosphere and the intricacies of various expressive worlds like fashion and graffiti, Osborne presents original contemporary work highlighting the beauties of black women. She advocates and creates artwork to support the mission of criminal justice organizations such as the Innocence Project. She encourages other creators to continue pursuing their skill, and if they are feeling lost, she advises they find a cause and allow their art to speak for it. She is very popular among interior designers. If interested in viewing some of her current pieces, go to https://bettershared.co/collections/natalie-osborne.

Nikko Washington – Raised in Hyde Park, Washington has absorbed the cultural essence of his environment and incorporated its aesthetic touches into his body of artwork. He currently holds the position of artistic director for SaveMoney, a Chicagoan hip-hop collective. In this role, Washington has been asked to design album covers for a number of musicians, like Kami, Vic Mensa, and Towkio. He specializes in different art styles and forms. From painting to screen-printing and graphic design, Washington produces an explosion of color and emotion when he encounters a canvas. To preview his work, visit https://www.nikkowashington.com/.

Tyler Clark – Affiliated with many top celebrities and companies, this Chicago artist experiments with unique forms of art. She creates 2D and 3D crafts by incorporating hair, fabrics, and jewelry. Her pieces display a flare of women’s empowerment and a sort of authenticity. Clark’s artwork has repeatedly been featured in galas and exclusive events. She remains an inspiration to young girls and urges the acceptance of Black beauty as she continues making strides in the art industry. Check out her work at her personal art website: https://inspiredbytyler.com/.

pexels patrícia paixao 4134527Today is National Popcorn Day – a day to grab Illinois’ state snack to celebrate. First originating in 1988, National Popcorn Day fell on the same day as the Super Bowl for years, giving people a fun way to celebrate the day.

Popcorn has special roots right here in Illinois. Since 2003, popcorn has been Illinois’ state snack. There are more than 300 popcorn farms throughout the state which led second and third grade students at Cunningham Elementary School to propose that popcorn become the state snack. Their teacher, Fran Hollister, helped get former Senator Larry Walsh to sponsor a measure to make popcorn the state snack.

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