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About ArtConnectED

Our Mission Statement

Art ConnectED believes the visual arts are a powerful force in culture and education, enriching the lives and endeavors of humankind.  Our mission is to advance art education for young people by providing art exhibition and education opportunities that celebrate students' artistic achievement, promote mastery and ingenuity in learning, and facilitate post-secondary opportunities.

Who We Are

Our 5 Major Pillars

We enhance the creative educational landscape, giving student and teacher artists agency to succeed through:


Amplify Student Artwork:

We expose and celebrate the creativity, beauty, expression, and technical mastery of student artists on a platform beyond expectation. We seek opportunities and connections to enable continued student growth and excitement through creation.


The Art of Recruitment:

We work with dozens of Illinois high schools and universities across the country to connect thousands of seniors and underclassmen to hundreds of millions in tuition scholarship offers-- including many who were not previously college bound.

Advocacy Through Exhibitions:

We go beyond recognizing talent in Illinois through exhibition by providing professional development to teachers

and advocating for the importance of art programs as an integral part of student education and futures.

Building Creative Capital:

We forge connections to the industry and outside organizations

in order to support meaningful student learning opportunities and internships that promote creative futures.

Teacher/Curricular Inspiration:

Whether it be through our Educator Exhibition or innovative program support,

we invigorate teachers and practice across Illinois while supporting their programs and curriculum.


Our history and Future


Since its inception in 2013, Art ConnectED has facilitated over $400 MILLION in tuition scholarship offers to senior artists from colleges nationwide. These opportunities never existed before! Many of these recipients include students and parents who did not think college was a possibility for their family situation. Started by a few teachers in 2013, the IHSAE has grown to include over 13 teacher directors and 20+ regular volunteers implementing programming that has impacted 150 high school visual art programs, and over 1,200 students annually. Demographics bridge city, suburban, public, and private schools across the Chicagoland area and all of Illinois.

 Actualizing our 5-year plan in 3 with minimal supports and teachers donating much of their time to our work, we have since become uniquely positioned and staffed to support educational programming and creation from a multifaceted approach. The IHSAE continues to grow, and we now support teachers with innovative projects, offer workshops for teachers, arts organization leaders, and national post-secondary institutions, provide venues for teacher creation and curation, host advocacy exhibitions for policy leaders, developed various art-making competitions, are working to generate community art projects, and are committed to supporting the visual arts in new and innovative ways. 

Our Team

Meet our team

executive directors

Director of Communication & Exhibition

Chris Sykora

Deerfield HS

Director of Recruitment & Sponsorships

John Zilewicz

Niles West HS

Director of Finance

Nick Hostert

Palatine HS

Data Coordinator & Mini Portfolio Day Director

Deanna Sortino

Niles West HS

visual communications team

Director of Visual Communications/Webmaster

Luke Jenner

JB Conant HS

Digital Gallery Director

Anna Reed

East Leyden HS

Graphic Designer

Ian Stong

East Leyden HS

Graphic Designer

Wendy Guss

Cary-Grove HS

senior scholarship exhibition team

Senior Scholarship Exhibition Director

Kevin Shifley

Mundelein HS

Senior Scholarship Assistant Director

Dan Lobraco

Lake Park HS

Senior Scholarship Exhibition Team

Stefan Pfautz

Antioch HS

Northern regional exhibition team

Northern Regional Exhibition Director

Jonathan Pruc

Mundelein HS

Northern Regional Exhibition Asst. Director

Erin Garrity-Duffey

JB Conant HS

Northern Regional Exhibition Team

Ryan Hennebry

Lemont HS

central regional exhibition team

Central Regional Exhibition Director

Carol-Lynn Comparetto

Champaign Central HS

Central Regional Exhibition Team

Emma Long-Ingram

Lexington CUSD#7

Central Regional Exhibition Team

Michaela Gomez

Danville HS

Central Regional Exhibition Team

Tara Starling

Springfield HS

Art throwdown team

Art Throwdown Director

Randy Sweitzer

Grayslake North HS

Art Throwdown Team

Kelly Bott

Grayslake North HS

Art Throwdown Team

Michelle Adams

Lakes HS

Art Throwdown Director

Randy Sweitzer

Grayslake North HS

Art Throwdown Director

Randy Sweitzer

Grayslake North HS

Art Throwdown Director

Randy Sweitzer

Grayslake North HS

Art Throwdown Director

Randy Sweitzer

Grayslake North HS

awards & galleries team

Media and Press

Media and Press Materials

Press Contacts:

ArtConnectED featured on Good Day Chicago on Fox32

Contact Us


​​We partner with our venues to ensure accessibility for all of our programs. All exhibitions are accessible for visitors with limited mobility, and exhibition materials are available in large type / closed captioning. Please contact us directly if you have additional concerns. 


Contact ArtConnectED

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