WEST SUBURBAN CHICAGO–Featuring 5 Creative West Suburban Faces to Know
From talented musicians and entertaining artists, to unique craftsmen and dancing instructors – our community is filled with countless creative residents. Here are 5 that truly stand out.
NAPERVILLE–A recent graduate of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Max Martin has enjoyed most of his high school life in the arts. He has been involved in a number of shows for the school, the community and some professional productions as well as performing in the school choir. When he has the opportunity, he also heads down to the city for acting auditions and voice lessons.
Max comes from a very creative and eclectic family. His mother is an artist and does a lot of volunteer work with theater in the schools and community. His father is a musician and a photographer. “Musically, my roots come from my parents,” says Martin, “but my friends have definitely expanded my music taste and style.”
While many of Max’s friends will be heading off to big university campuses this fall, Max will be attending The Chicago College of Performing Arts, studying acting and living in the loop. “My campus is the city and my quad will be Grant Park,” states Max. “It is very different from many of my friends. It’s non-traditional, but I am very excited to go down this path as an actor.”
Although he will be majoring in acting, he is also incredibly involved with music and graphic art and plans to keep himself involved in those areas as much as he can throughout his career. “I think I prioritize my art over everything while others put it to the side,” explains Max. “When it comes to this type of lifestyle, it’s really all or nothing.”
GLEN ELLYN–This west suburban resident has been a cartoonist and illustrator since he was eleven, keeping sketchbooks and drawing as often as possible. Geoff wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a professional artist.
In 1992, Geoff met Phil Yeh, the founder of Cartoonists Across America. “He asked me to ‘join the circus’ and travel the U.S. and the world using comics and cartoons to support literacy and the arts,” recounts Geoff. “I’ve painted nearly 100 murals on three continents and have been inspired by Phil to expand the boundaries of what I think I might accomplish.” It was Phil that urged him in 2001 to join a friend, Jamie Wirt, to become creative director of his toy company, Tekky Toys. Over the next five years, Geoff helped design and oversaw manufacturing and sales of the toys. In 2006, he sold his interest back to Wirt and bought into another marketing firm, Custom Direct. He spends much of his time now writing copy for ads and working with art directors. He is also working on developing a lifestyle brand for clothing set to debut in mid-summer; The STRAY HOG™ - not just a place, but a state of mind.
Being able to share his interests and abilities in cartooning with others is what inspires Geoff. “I’ve worked with kids to create and paint murals, taught kids in France about writing and illustrating books, and have volunteered with Bridge Communities to teach art to kids,” says Geoff. “It’s rewarding to watch kids create.”
NAPERVILLE–Kristy Meza feels she has always led a creative and eclectic life. She did everything under the sun if it made her feel creative- sing, dance, make clothes, decorated cakes, went to beauty school, and took piano, voice and guitar lessons. “My grandfather always gave me the courage to be anyone I wanted to be,” says Kristy. “He told me I didn’t have to stick to one thing, just as long as I work hard and own it.” In college, she chose dance as her major because it challenged her both physically and mentally. She worked three jobs during college so she could afford her tuition. Kristy had to wake at 4 a.m. every morning to go to work, but she loved her jobs. She worked as a full-time cake decorator, taught dance, piano, voice lessons, and fitness classes.
When Kristy graduated college, she moved to the city to make dance her full-time career, but there wasn’t a lot of work. She ended up landing a full-time job in retail, but she hated it. “What I hated most was I allowed myself not to dance or teach or express myself artistically anymore,” explains Kristy. “After my grandfather passed, I reminded myself it wasn’t money that motivated me, practicing what I love, did.” Now, Kristy manages a dance program, performance dance company, teaches dance through the Naperville Park District, teaches fitness classes through a couple of different studios, and gets booked to sing at different events. And yes, she still decorates cakes as well. This is the career she knows she was meant to live.
ST. CHARLES/MARENGO–Even when Donna Chipp worked her “corporate job” in the direct marketing field for Donnelley Marketing, she had always loved jewelry and purchased a lot of it. She even went as far as designing small pieces for herself. At age 56, when she and her company parted ways, she was left with a year’s severance package and a path to follow her passion.
“I make natural gemstone jewelry and started selling some pieces at the Kane County Flea Market,” says Donna. “Some flea market customers asked if I had a store, and Donna’s Jewelry Box was born.” She opened a store in St. Charles in 2009, but three years later the building was purchased by the restaurant next door for their expansion. She moved her operation to her personal home. A few months later, Donna joined a jewelry co-op where she was one of eight featured jewelry artists selling at Crystalline Velvet in Geneva until that closed two years later.
Not to be deterred, she re-opened Donna’s Jewelry Box in the summer of 2014 in a joint venture with one of her sisters, Glori Wilson who owns The Marengo Emporium. “We now have adjoining businesses in the same building,” states Donna.
Donna, along with her eleven-year-old adopted daughter, Angie, live together with Donna’s younger sister, Char, and her three adopted children. With such a busy household, creating jewelry at home became difficult. Donna finds her quiet time to create now right in her store.
WHEATON–Growing up in Japan from birth to 9 years old, Margaret Bucholz began drawing at a young age, as many young girls do. She loved drawing on the sidewalk in chalk, drawing dresses and fancy gowns and dreamed of one day becoming an artist. In high school, in Hawaii, she began sewing her own clothes. “I must have had a new dress each week,” says Margaret. “In Hawaii, the fabrics are all very bright geometrics and flowers.” She ended up with her Bachelors in Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting from the University of Hawaii.
While working full-time for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Margaret continued dabbling in her passions. She would spend her annual vacations studying art. She has traveled to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Costa Rica and San Jose, California on different trips to study watercolor with Jan Hart. She headed to North Carolina twice to study under Sterling Edwards. “It is wonderful to pick up different ways of handling watercolor from a variety of artists and make them into my own style,” explains Margaret.
Now retired from USNRC, she fully embraces a creative life. She teaches art classes at the DuPage Art League in Wheaton as well as displays art there and Gallery 200 in West Chicago. “Most of the time I have a work in progress,” says Margaret. “I love to bring the work to my classes to inspire the students as they watch my progress with the piece. My favorite thing I like to do all day is sit and draw with my colored pencils.”