Award for Artistic Excellence Recipients

Every year the Skokie Fine Arts Commission awards the Award for Artistic Excellence to a Skokie resident who has contributed to the visual, performing, musical or literary arts. Award judging criteria include:
  • Visibility in the Skokie community
  • Scope of artistic talents
  • Breadth of impact - number of people reached
  • Recognition and awards the artist has in Skokie and the entire region received
  • Demonstration of artistic excellence
All Artistic Excellence Award recipients received a plaque and enjoyed a reception that was hosted by the Fine Arts Commission in their honor. Additionally, their names were added to a perpetual plaque that is permanently on display at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie.

2014 Recipients

Leonid Osseny

Leonid Osseny is an artist, architect, designer, poet, painter and educator. Leonid was born in Russia in 1948 and began his formal education in art at the Ural College of Applied Arts. After returning to Belarus, the native country of his mother, he attended State Theater and Art University studying art and design. Following graduation, Leonid began work at the Belarussian Institute of Restoration where over the next several decades he participated in many important projects, including renovations of the Radziwill Castle in the Township Mir, planning and construction of the exposition space at the Vetka Folk Museum, and rebuilding of the Trinity Suburb, capital city's old quarter. After moving to the United States over 20 years ago, Leonid and his wife Sonya opened Lincoln Terrace Art Studio and Gallery in Downtown Skokie. Since opening the studio, Leonid and Sonya have taught and influenced hundreds of young and aspiring artists. Many of their first students now bring their children in for art classes. Leonid also continued to work as an architect and pursue his interests in painting, furniture restoration and design. His work is not only widely recognized in the United States and his native country of Belarus, but throughout Europe.

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park was originally incorporated in 1988 and is a vital cultural and recreational resource to Skokie and the Northern Illinois region. The land where the Northshore Sculpture Park now occupies is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and by the mid-1980s had become neglected and was an eyesore. The MWRD developed guidelines and sought suggestions for its improvement. The Village of Skokie came forward with plans to turn the area into a recreational park with biking and jogging paths and picnic areas. At the same time, a group of private citizens proposed using the park to display large scale contemporary sculptures. What evolved was the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park, Inc., a collaboration between these three entities. The Village cleaned and landscaped the area and created parking lots, pathways, benches and other amenities. The citizens incorporated as a private not-for-profit corporation with a mission to select, install and maintain a world-class sculpture exhibition and to provide educational programs to enhance the appreciation of these exhibits.

The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park now exhibits over 60 large-scale contemporary sculptures throughout the two miles of riverbank parkland. The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park is visited by over 100,000 people annually and is consistently honored as one of the top sculpture parks in the world.
Kevin Luthardt and Alan Heatherington receiving award

2013 Recipients

Kevin Luthardt (Individual Award Recipient)

Kevin Luthardt is a painter, muralist and author and illustrator of nine published children's picture books. Kevin is committed to using his work to teach and inspire students of all ages, with a special impact on local Skokie students. He began this endeavor years ago as the staff artist for the Skokie Public Library.

Each year, Kevin visits 40 schools, including many in Skokie, an addition to libraries and other venues as an author and illustrator. Kevin has created more than 60 murals in Illinois and beyond, including several large scale projects in Skokie at Devonshire School, the Skokie Public Library, Highland School and at Old Orchard Mall.

Kevin's pursuit of artistic excellence has profoundly impacted the Skokie community. Though his work is known nationally, his focus on his hometown of Skokie is evident. His books are in homes and libraries around Skokie and his murals can be seen any day inside and outside of Skokie buildings. Most importantly, his is continually active in teaching and inspiring artistic creativity in the residents of Skokie, both young and old.

Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra (Group Award Recipient - Alan Heatherington, Music Director/Founder)

Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1995 by Music Director Alan Heatherington and is composed of the finest professional musicians in the Chicago metropolitan area, including many members of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ars Viva has performed its five-concert season exclusively at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie for 16 years, giving Skokie residents extraordinary access to some of the finest musical experiences to be found anywhere in the Chicago area.

A big part of Ars Viva's mission and history is service to local youth and disadvantaged groups. Since its inception, the orchestra has reached out to the local community, providing concert tickets through residential facilities for senior citizens and persons with physical disabilities. Since 2007, Ars Viva has hosted concerto competitions for aspiring young artists, providing a showcase for the winners at a concert each spring.
Katherine Spreizter receiving award

2012 Recipient

Katherine Spreitzer

Katherine Spreitzer began her work as a volunteer in the 1980s at the Skokie Park District's Skatium. Spreitzer designed the sets for their annual ice shows. Spreitzer went on to parent-volunteer for the Niles West band program, designing the band t-shirts, creating handmade centerpieces for the annual receptions and designing the Niles West band logo which is still in use. Her parent volunteering also included theater programs and hand painted sets for the Niles West theater department.

2011 Recipient

Edward Berger

Edward Berger was best known for his commitment of 30 years to the performing arts in Skokie which led to the creation of "Devonshire Players." Through Berger's work, this complication of actors, singers and dancers performed at the Devonshire Playhouse in Skokie for many years under his direction. Berger received the award for Artistic Excellence in 2011. Berger passed on November 30, 2011, five months after receiving the Artistic Excellence Award from the Fine Arts Commission.
Mary Sass receiving award

2010 Recipient

Mary Sass

Mary Sass was the recipient of the first Artistic Excellence award, given in 2010. Sass's involvement in the Skokie art community began with her oil paintings and continues with her work with the Skokie Art Guild, whom she acts as an art show coordinator and writes a column in their monthly newsletter. Sass has illustrated and published a children's book and co-authored Autumn Dreams, which she received a grant previously through the Skokie Fine Arts Commission.