Our Mission

Because we believe art is intrinsic to the quality of life in our communities, the Oak Park Area Arts Council celebrates, supports and promotes artists and arts organizations in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.  By raising funds for the arts, and advocating for policies that promote the arts, we enhance the social, economic, and cultural foundations of our communities.


1974 The organization was founded by local artists as the Civic Arts Council of Oak Park.
1976 Nonprofit incorporation followed.
1979 Regranting, utilizing Illinois Arts Council funds, started.  The organizations also annexed the Village of River Forest.
1986 The Council’s work was integral to the successful Oak Park application for the Governor’s Award for the Arts.  Service expanded to the Village of Forest Park, home of Circle Theatre.
1987 Part-time staff was hired.
1988 The organization moved into offices at Oak Park Village Hall, and became the agent for regranting funds from the Village of Oak Park (VOP).  Staff became full-time.  The organization initiated a newsletter, technical assistance workshops and other programs.
1992 The organization developed a new mission statement and goals, and changed its name to the Oak Park Area Arts Council (OPAAC) to more accurately reflect its service area.  The regranting program received a name (ArtsFunds) and new guidelines.  A membership program and a benefit event were instituted to increase private sector revenues.
1999 The first African-American Executive Director, former Board President, was appointed.  Funding increased from Village of Forest Park.  The VOP was selected as Continental Harmony host site, one of 6 National Endowment for the Arts Millennium projects.  OPAAC became affiliated with the LAN, Local Arts Network/Illinois Arts Alliance.
2000 OPAAC was selected by the Americans for the Arts to participate as a local partner in Arts & Economic Prosperity.  This study assessed the economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations in over 75 communities throughout the U.S.
2001 OPAAC presented world premiere of A Symphony of Place, Celebrating Fair Housing and Diversity in Oak Park, Illinois, a Continental Harmony project, American Composers Forum, National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Project and White House Millennium Council.  Composer, James Kimo Williams, was selected to write an orchestral score for the occasion.  Almost 1,700 seats were filled in the auditorium of Oak Park & River Forest High School.  OPAAC worked with the VOP to write and adopt the Public Arts Ordinance.  Two pieces of public art were brought to Oak Park on loan from Navy Pier, Pier Walk Exhibition.
2005 OPAAC launched Off the Wall, the summer teen arts employment program.  Patterned after the City of Chicago’s Gallery 37, the program hires teen artists to work with professional artists to create a public art piece while learning employable skills.
2008 OPAAC developed a new mission statement and logo.  Three-year Off the Wall mural project was completed at Lake & Scoville, adjacent to Oak Park & River Forest High School youth athletic field.
2009 OPAAC now offers a host of programs and services including a fine arts scholarship program, e-ART, that is a bi-weekly electronic listing of the latest events and happenings in the tri village area, soon to premiere a new electronic newsletter, an annual benefit jazz concert held to raise funds for the scholarship program, and ArtsFunds, one of the largest local arts council’s regranting programs in the state.