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Meet the Instructors at the Oak Park Art League

Tony Armendariz
Tony was born and raised in Chicago in a graphic arts family. Upon graduating from Lane Technical High School he attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago where he had the privilege to study watercolor under renowned instructor Irving Shapiro. While still at the Academy he got his first job as a graphic artist in advertising. Upon receiving his AA in Graphic Art, he continued developing his skills working as an airbrush illustrator, graphic artist, color proofing technician and web designer in a variety of industries. Tony paints exclusively in watercolor in the pure transparent tradition on paper. He currently belongs to many artistic organizations across the country, including the Illinois Watercolor Society of which he serves as their Executive Director. Tony’s work is currently represented by the Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri.


Joe Barabe
Joe has a long history in photography, including commercial, portrait & wedding, scientific (photomacrography, photomicrography, UV and IR photography), stock photography and fine art. He recently retired from McCrone Associates in Westmont IL as Senior Research Microscopist and Director of Scientific Imaging, and is currently semi-employed as principle of Barabe & Associates LLC, specializing in art and document materials analysis. He recently joined OPAL and is advancing in the photo fine arts world with exhibits at monthly shows and, most recently, in a 3-person show at Prairie Title, with John Nicholas and Will Roy. He has exhibited in the Chicago area, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Germany, with work in both public and private collections. He has been both winner and judge in the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Contest, and is an instructor at the Hooke College of Applied Sciences.

Lana Bjornson
Lana received her BFA in art education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and her M.Ed in urban education at National Louis University. Teaching and art have always been her two greatest passions and she has been extremely lucky to be able to combine the two. Most of her teenage and professional career has been geared towards supporting students creative endeavors using a wide variety of materials including 2D, 3D, and 4D materials. During the school year Lana is currently a K-8 art teacher at a charter school in Chicago.

Matthew James Collins

Collins studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he focused on drawing, etching and sculpture. He completed a BA in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  In 1994, he traveled to Europe to continue his study of art. Collins exhibits internationally and his works are represented in public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the Museu Europeu d' Art Modern in Barcelona, Spain. The quality of his work has been recognized by artistic associations including the Portrait Society of America, The National Sculpture Soceity, the Art Renewal Center and the American Society of Traditional Artists. He is a contributing writer for the Epoch Times New York Edition.  Collins has been training professional artists, oil painters and sculptors for over 15 years in Florence.  In additional to numerous short courses, he has been integral to shaping the full time curriculum for Charles Cecil Studios.  Collins divides his time between Italy and Chicago.   

Nancy Fong
Nancy Fong received her bachelors degree in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her painting 'Bajan Queens' is included in the permanent collection of the Oak Park Public Library and she has two public murals along the Green Line embankment. She has served as vice-president on the board of directors of Oak Park Art League, and monitors the Tuesday morning figure painting sessions there.  Her award-winning work is representative, with her most recent work incorporating figures and still life to convey daily life.  Nancy teaches art to preschoolers, middle schoolers, adults, and seniors at various facilities in Oak Park.  She has taught continuing education and community outreach art classes at community colleges.

Kathy Hirsh
It always begins with color: luscious, subtle, vibrant, complex. Nepal and China were Kathy’s home for 15 years a long way from the horizontals of Illinois. She studied painting and botany in college and completed a Master’s in medical illustration. Constantly drawing and painting, Kathy worked as a surgical illustrator for 25 years, and after many years of black and white has found her passion in color. Kathy has been featured in The Artist Magazine, shown at the National Gallery of Beijing, is a member of the Plein Air Painters of Chicago and is in private collections in the United States, Asia and Europe. She begins with the abstract color underpinnings and works to find the delicate balance in the tension between the abstract and representational. She keeps the painting process visible/apparent, the surface playful and maintains the integrity of each individual stroke.

Jesse Howard
At an early age, Jesse showed an interest in drawing cartoon characters and rehabbing empty garages into club spaces. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Ball State University, with a major in Commercial Art and a minor in Business Administration. One of his favorite instructors, Larry Graham encouraged him to pursue truth and spirituality in his subject matter. Eager to continue to develop his graphic art skills, he worked for a topographer in Chicago. He wanted more control over his creativity. In the eighties, he rededicated himself to Fine Art. He began studying sculptors, such as Richard Hunt and Martin Puryear; He felt they had a grasp of space and materials. Since his rededication, his art work has appeared in many galleries nationwide and his career has been covered in many publications. His first major one person show in 1984 was with Zriny Gallery. He also exhibited with the Chicago Cultural Center, 5+5 In Perspectives In Black Art, just to name a few.

Nancy K. Jensen
Nancy is an abstract painter who is influenced by the major abstract artists of the 20th century. Professionally, she has worked as a visual merchandiser for 25 years, designing more than 3,000 displays, promotional marketing concepts, and windows for clothing, cosmetics, import foods and many, many other kinds of retail stores up and down the Magnificent Mile. Nancy’s experience working with children includes teaching a variety of mediums through the Park District of Oak Park, Expressions Graphics and has also taught Fashion merchandising at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is an adjunct professor teaching art to adults at the College of DuPage.

Larry Kolden
Larry Kolden is an Artist, Educator, and Craftsman. He studied Photography at Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, WI and the Winona School of Photography. Kolden received his  B.A. and M.F.A. from University of Wisconsin in Madison, majoring in Drawing, Painting, and Printmaking. As a Fine Art professor, Kolden taught at the University of Dallas, Oxbow Summer School of Art,  Southern Illinois University, University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Drury University. He is a past recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Artist fellowship and has been a Visiting Artist at the University of Minnesota, University of Chicago, and Drury University.  Kolden also ran a design, fabrication, and installation business that specialized in architectural restoration. A retrospective of his drawings and paintings were presented in a 2015 solo exhibition at Chicago Cultural center
Amalia Kouvalis

Amalia is a Chicago artist and a recent college graduate from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in oil painting and printmaking. Her dramatic, melancholic oil paintings and etchings are heavily influenced by dreams, memories, silent films, and Victorian aesthetics.  Amalia's work is a reflection of her interest in spirits and dream-like atmospheres. Growing up in her late father's 1920's movie theatre, Amalia's mission is to visually express her personal connection to the enchantment of the theatre's ornate interiors, dim lighting, and mysterious atmosphere. 


Jill Kramer Goldstein
Jill received her MA in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA in printmaking & book arts from Kent State University. She has been teaching for over 15 years in both museums and community art settings and has facilitated programs for preschoolers to seniors. Jill is the Art Start Coordinator for the Oak Park Education Foundation and the General Manager of Water Street Studios in Batavia, Illinois. She was an Artist-in-Residence for the National Park Service at Acadia National Park, and her work was chosen to promote the annual Night Sky Festival in down-east Maine. Her artistic practice focuses on landscape and environment through various relief print methods and has been exhibited in Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Texas and Mexico. You can see her prints and other work at,

Jackie Lakely

Jackie graduated with a BA in studio art and history in 1992, and she has done graduate study in painting and art education. She has worked in the non-profit art world for over a decade and has exhibited her work in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Scotland, and Chicago. A mixed media piece of hers was purchased for the permanent collection of the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California. She has been teaching at the Oak Park Art League since 2013. Her work is about the process of exploring and building the surface into a world of layers and color, usually incorporating drawing, acrylic, collage, and mark-making with various tools and wax oil crayons. She also keeps watercolor sketchbooks in which she draws and paints from life. Her work often reflect s all the places she has lived and visited, and she is excited to embark on her first artist residency in Scotland for the month of March in 2016.

Richard Laurent

Richard is a nationally recognized oil painter. His background in design, illustration and animation has given him a different outlook on the process of making art. His personal journey has been to understand the history of traditional painting processes and to share this knowledge with his students. He has appeared in Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibitions, Spectrum’s Best Contemporary Fantastic Art, and Contemporary American Painting published by Jilin Fine Art. Currently, Richard teaches drawing and illustration at Columbia College-Chicago. He is represented locally by Gallery H and Zia Gallery.

Olivia Lauritsen
Bio coming soon!

Elaine Luther

Elaine is an artist with a sense of humor, an enthusiastic and kind art teacher and a public engagement artist. Her mission is to make art that’s sometimes vulnerable, and sometimes funnyHer art has been exhibited in Chicago and across the country.She regularly gives speeches at conferences and professional association meetings.She is an Advisory Board member for Woman Made Gallery and an ambassador for the Self-Employment in the Arts Conference.





Jen McNulty

Jen has had a diverse career, from illustration to photography to tiled mosaics and now 3D photo mosaics. She graduated with a degree in Advertising and Art History from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana in 1991 and continued her post-graduate journey at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in illustration. She has had her illustrations published in over 30 national and independent publications. It was when she moved to London in 1999 that she discovered her interest in mosaics, and she pursued photography several years later, and now has merged all of these art forms into the work she creates today. She has exhibited widely and received much acclaim for her mosaics, including being selected for an exhibition at Morpho Gallery entitled, “Best of Emerging Artists 2013.” She was also selected by the Oak Park Education Foundation to teach in their Art Start Program for the 2014-5 and 2015-16 school years.


Kelcie Mitchell

Kelcie graduated from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in painting and drawing. She also studied at The International School of painting, drawing and sculpture in Umbria, Italy. She has been teaching art to all ages for 5 years and continues to work closely with students who are looking to dive deeper into their artistic practice via private lessons. Her personal work is in pursuit of merging the perceptual with the mythic. She is an advocate for direct experience.

Sharron Ott Bartemio
Sharron believes there is synergy between color, art and human emotion and her instruction emphasizes the stimulating, meditative and therapeutic benefits that come with the creative process of making art. In addition to her color focus, Sharron’s curriculum includes art fundamentals, including: Composition, drawing and painting technique, 3D concepts, and the development of artistic style. A classically trained artist, Sharron began her study at age 11, under the guidance of Eleanor King Hookam, founder of the Elmhurst Art Museum in Illinois. As her visual vocabulary developed, she incorporated many disciplines and mediums into her style. Sharron has toured with Cirque Du Soliel as a scenic artist and costume mistress, created scenic art for Steppenwolf Theatre, and set design for Red Moon Theatre. She received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited her paintings across the US and Canada, with works held in many prominent collections.


Pam Penney

Pam Penney
With a B.A. degree in Interior Design and A.A.S. in Architectural Technology Pam worked in the field of architecture for many years but gravitated back to her love of fiber in the early 1990’s.  Pam has a passion for combining traditional needle art and fiber techniques in unique and contemporary methods to create her own textile art.  She is also passionate about sharing these skills and has taught knitting, sewing, crocheting and felting for over 25 years to both adults and children. 


Ann Primack
Ann has been an explorer of art and various media for her whole life. She studied for her MFA at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Cookville, Tennessee, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also studied with artists Ruth Duckworth and Virginio Ferrarri. After an artist residency in Rome, which culminated in a solo exhibit,she found clarity in the direction of her work. Her primary mediums include ceramic sculpture, painting and drawing. She teaches classes for children and adults and has taught several summer art camps here at OPAL.


Claire Reynes

Claire is a Chicago-based artist, papermaker, and educator.  Her artmaking practice involves handmade paper and papermaking components including pulp painting and image transfers, as a base upon which she builds, layering medium and texture.  She enjoys exploring different fibers used for making paper and tries to incorporate natural elements and plant material when she can.  She often draws with pen and ink on the paper and completes the piece with embroidery.  The focus in most of her work is the human body and spirit, the relationship between the two, and the effect of emotion visible in the physique.  Claire currently teaches art full time at Mark Twain Elementary. She also facilitates on-site papermaking and paper art workshops around the Chicago and Oak Park areas.

Keli Stewart
Keli Stewart's work has appeared in Quiddity, Meridians, Warpland, Hip Mama, On Becoming, and Calyx among other journals and publications. She received artist fellowships from Hedgebrook, where she was awarded the 2010 Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Award, and the Augusta Savage Gallery Arts International Residency. An alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Callaloo Summer Writing Workshops, Keli’s work was selected for first place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award from the Illinois Center of the Book, Emerging Writers Competition, chosen by Illinois poet laureate Kevin Stein. She received her BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College in 2002 and her MFA in Poetry from Chicago State University. Her manuscript "After Birth" was recently named semi-finalist for the Claudia Emerson Chapbook Award.
Rhona Taylor
Rhona is a Second City trained actress who was a member of the Playwrights’ Ensemble while at the University of Iowa. As an Artist-In-Residence for the City of Chicago, she wrote scripts, directed and acted with children. Rhona currently teaches at Pilgrim Community Nursery School and Intuit Dance on Harrison St. in Oak Park. She was the creator/coordinator of the After School Arts Program for District 97 and the Park District of Oak Park. In addition, she has led theater workshops for children with the Village Players, S.C.A.W., and the Actors Guild for Triton College’s Junior Theater.

Chris Tedin
Born in Sitka, Alaska, Christopher Tedin started his career as a painter, working primarily in oils and watercolor. He studied with several Alaskan regional artists, including Ernie Robertson. Chris studied fine art at Gonzaga University with Robert Gilmore, whose work is included in many collections and museums along the west coast. He studied painting and sculpture at Northern Illinois University, where he received an MFA and a Fellowship. Chris has been working as an illustrator, graphic designer, and most recently as an art director in Chicago. He has been teaching visual effects and animation, as well as fine art and design at the college level for over 20 years. Chris still sculpts and paints and he teaches full time at Tribeca Flashpoint College in Chicago.

Ben Trissel
Ben is a 4th generation printer and a second generation artist. He has worked in the field of typography and design for a number of major software companies, as well as designed and illustrated books. His latest project, working with the author Ellis Amdur, is a print edition of Girl With the Face of The Moon. He currently owns a company, Sidgl, which makes custom messenger bags from sustainable materials. Influenced by artists like Nikolai Fechin, Eva Hess and Phillip Guston, Ben thinks about painting and drawing as a 'personal calligraphy' - that the mark made by the artist on paper or canvas is a crucial to how an image is perceived.