Music, Art and Theatre

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Naperville Art League

Naperville Art League, established in 1961, is a nonprofit, volunteer organization of over 200 members dedicated to promoting and supporting visual arts and encouraging artists within the community. It offers hands-on art classes year-round for adults and children, and has a gallery where new “for sale” work is displayed each month.

Its Naperville Fine Art Center & Gallery is located at 508 N. Center St. The League plays an integral part in the Naperville community, offering classes in watercolors, oils, mixed media, fiber art, needlecraft, mosaics and much more, as well as open studios and a gallery/gift shop, said Executive Director Christine Banks. Each year, the League serves over 500 students of diverse skill levels and ages, from preschoolers through seniors.

Members are also dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of the arts for the cultural enhancement of the community. Naperville Art League has been involved in creating public art in Naperville since 1984 when it commissioned the striking 15-foot-high, red sculpture on the city’s Riverwalk entitled “Landforms.” The League also supports the Century Walk, Naperville’s public art project, as it advances in depth and magnitude. The colorful mural on the Naperville Art League building is part of the Century Walk.

The Riverwalk Fine Art Fair, founded and run for 33 years by the league, has earned the reputation of being one of the country’s top outdoor art fairs. According to Debbie Venezia, director of the fine art fair, this highly acclaimed event draws over 70,000 festival goers to downtown Naperville the third weekend of September.

League members are active throughout the year. Monthly “Fourth Friday” social gatherings, open to the public, include refreshments, entertainment and current gallery show award presentations. A Holiday sale runs mid-November through December. Guest exhibits and special events are ongoing. Naperville Art League welcomes new members.

BrightSide Theatre

Theater lovers seeking musicals, comedies and farces don’t have to leave Naperville to indulge their love of drama. Since 2011, BrightSide Theatre, Naperville’s only professional theater company performing in the heart of the historic downtown district, has been performing three mainstage shows and a BrightSide Theatre Youth Project production at the Theatre at Miley Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St., at North Central College, said Jeffrey Cass, artistic director.

This year’s mainstage season shows are the family-fun musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, the hilarious comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and a musical adaptation of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” These shows perform for three consecutive weekends, playing Friday and Saturday evenings with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.

The BrightSide Theatre Youth Project will present the “Fame the Musical Jr.” for children and families two weekends in March with matinees on Saturdays and evenings on Sundays.

Founded by three actors who sought a professional theater in Naperville to perform and bring happiness to the world through musicals, comedies and farce, the BrightSide Theatre continues to be led by Naperville resident and founding member Julie Ann Kornak.

Recently BrightSide Theatre added classes for beginners to professionals ages 4 to 104, Cass said. Classes are on Saturdays in Downers Grove and there are also special “school day off” sessions.

The MAC at College of DuPage

For the past 32 years, McAninch Arts Center (better known as The MAC) at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn has been providing the community with approximately 360 events per year, ranging from student performances to World Class professional touring companies, comedians and musical arts, to free movies as well as New Philharmonic Orchestra performances and plays and musicals performed by the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. The Arts Center is also home to the Cleve Carney Art Gallery, which houses the largest collection of contemporary art in Illinois, outside of the Chicago, said Diana Martinez, director.

The MAC is home to the 820-seat Belushi Performance Hall (named for Jim Belushi, a well-known former student), as well as the 200-seat playhouse and a 100-seat studio space. The outdoor Lakeside Pavilion space is where up to 3,000 can enjoy performances while sitting on the lawn for a Ravinia-like experience.

In addition to offering live performances, The MAC periodically offers live broadcasts from London on a large screen; master classes for students by touring artists like Stephen Schwartz, the lyricist and composer of “Wicked;” and lectures by notables like Michael Rezendes, a member of Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight team that investigated the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

By establishing The MAC as a central location in Chicago’s western suburbs to experience all the arts under one roof, COD has demonstrated its commitment to the arts, Martinez explained. The MAC has always remained committed to its mission—to encourage artistic expression through the creation of enlightened performance and educational opportunities; to establish a lasting relationship between people and the arts; and to enrich the cultural vitality of the region.

Wentz Hall at North Central College

Since its opening in 2008, the 617-seat Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College has been hailed as the premier destination in Chicago’s western suburbs to appreciate performances of classical, jazz and contemporary music. Its state-of-the-art acoustics were designed by the same firm that designed the acoustics at Chicago’s critically acclaimed Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. The venue is also ideally suited for recording.

Located at Chicago Avenue and Ellsworth Street in downtown Naperville, Wentz Concert Hall has hosted such notable classical performers as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma and Lyric Opera of Chicago soloist Elizabeth Futral; jazz legends Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis; and such contemporary artists as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Colbie Caillat and Los Lonely Boys. The hall is the west suburban home of the Chicago Sinfonietta, home of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and is an incomparable venue to showcase bands, orchestras and choirs of area high schools as well as the college musical ensembles and soloists.

North Central College is also the home of the 1055-seat Pfeiffer Hall (circa 1926) which regularly hosts dramatic productions and large-scale concerts; the 240-seat Swallow Hall with its thrust-theater-style stage; and the very flexible Madden Theater that can seat up to 150. Across all four venues, the college hosted approximately 600 wide-ranging performances during 2017.

“It is rare that we have a totally dark week and sometimes we have simultaneous performances in all four of our venues,” explained Brian Lynch, North Central College’s fine arts director.