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Did you know actress and singer Jennifer Hudson was born on Sept. 12, 1981? Born and raised in Chicago, as a young girl she sang in her church choir, which started her love for singing and performing. Later, in 1999, she graduated from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in Bronzeville.

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Eliza Von Zerneck is a freelance illustrator and designer from Peoria. Her favorite medium to work in is acrylic paint. When her residency at the Prairie Center of the Arts was put on pause because of COVID-19, she found new ways to create art in her own home. Lately, she has been using scraps from my mom’s fabric trunk to make patchwork illustrations and soft sculpture pieces.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start?

I’ve been a fan of art much longer than I’ve been an artist. I scribbled with crayons and markers during school just like everyone else, and I loved being praised for my drawings by my teachers, but the real seeds were planted in the evenings when my parents would read me picture books. I couldn’t fathom how someone could create those intricate illustrations, but I loved looking at them while my mom read the words out loud.

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Michelle Smith is a Springfield, Illinois artist. Smith recently won a The Ralph Lauren Design for good Polo shirt. Her design on the iconic polo can be viewed and purchased here: https://rlauren.co/2ZW0pse

What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you? As Illinois is all I really know, it has always been, and always will be home. I am very proud to be able to say, not only do I live and work in Illinois but I am born, raised, educated and STILL in Illinois!

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music-22.jpgThe pandemic has forced us all to spend a lot of time at home, which has forced many teachers to get creative with their e-learning curriculums. What started off as a homework assignment at Carl Sandburg Middle School led one 7th grader to go viral.

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Donna Zarbin-Byrne is our February artist of the month, representing both Evanston and Chicago. Since childhood Donna has wanted to be an artist. Today, her work can be found not only in Illinois but Honolulu, Hawaii, too.

What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

Living and working in Evanston and Chicago has afforded access to a multitude of art venues throughout my life. Additionally, the many cultural experiences also inspire and encourage my practice in the arts.

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