Threewalls fosters contemporary art practices that respond to lived experiences, encouraging connections beyond art.
Art connecting segregated communities, people, and experiences together.
We believe that it is our responsibility to reflect not only Chicago’s racial, ethnic and cultural diversity but our society at large. In this vein, we believe that racial and ethnic inclusivity in addition to cultural equity is germane to our work.
We are committed to providing an environment that embraces risk, with the understanding that this is where the most fruitful and successful art and relationships are born.
Respect for Process
We believe that supporting process over time is integral to artistic and creative practices as well as relationship-building.
We value the practice of collaboration with our nonprofit peers, artists, community leaders, and others who are inspired to use art as a catalyst for change. We believe that without true collaboration, real change through the arts cannot happen.
Threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. The founders wanted to encourage a greater awareness of Chicago’s art scene by inviting emerging professional artists to share in the city’s rich histories, resources, and creative communities.
Threewalls transitioned from a bricks-and-mortar gallery to an itinerant model in early 2016 in response to contemporary discourse about the intersections of art, social justice, and community. We continue to support artists and collaborative projects, especially those that are best presented outside of traditional art spaces, thereby expanding the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition, and breaking down walls to contemporary art that are firmly in place in so many communities.
Threewalls, an evolving Blk-space, fosters contemporary art practices that respond to lived experiences, encouraging connections beyond art. As an arts non-profit in Chicago, we practice values that support our daily operations, guide our decisions, and ultimately tell our community who we are and how we move in the world. Threewalls provides support to artists, produces innovative programming, and creates a space for artists and creatives to thrive. The work of Threewalls rests firmly within a culture of care. A culture of intentionality, a culture of space, a culture of rootedness that centers humanity through the lens of art and relationship-building.
Value of art | artmaking | artist | creative process
We all know that the commodification of contemporary art, whether visual, performing or any other form, distorts its deeper value. This model challenges the commodity value placed on art and expands its value beyond the monetary. Additionally, this model centers artists, processes and people with the intent of demonstrating the impact of art on our daily lives and expanding the discourse on our lives, which are socially, politically and culturally nuanced.
Given that Chicago is comprised of 2/3 people of color, we are dedicated to the organization and its work reflecting a diverse Chicago, which means supporting more artists of color, recruiting staff and board members of color, and providing leadership opportunities, as well as providing creative, critical and vendor opportunities. We are also committed to being racially and ethnically inclusive with respect to our audience. This is an extremely important aspect of the model of working with artists and communities where they live and work.
We want to present contemporary art in such a way that makes it accessible intellectually and physically in everyday life. Of the many ways to accomplish this, there are two ways that we currently focus on:
We want to conceptually, physically and philosophically expand the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition—from three walls to the fourth wall to breaking down the walls. This is where itinerancy comes into play as our presentation model.
Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Jeﬀreen M. Hayes, Ph.D., a trained art historian and curator, merges administrative, curatorial and academic practices into her cultural practice of supporting artists and community development. As an advocate for racial inclusion, equity and access, Jeffreen has developed a curatorial and leadership approach that invites community participation, particularly those in marginalized communities. Her curatorial projects include SILOS (2016-18), Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman (2018-2020), AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People (2018), Process (2019) and AFRICOBRA: Nation Time (2019).
Jeffreen also speaks and writes about art history, Black art, and arts activism. She participated in TEDX Jacksonville and spoke about “Arts Activism in Simple Steps” and “Small Great Conversations on Race.” Additionally, Jeffreen has spoken at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Norton Museum of Art; ArtPace; Rollins Museum of Art; and Columbia College among several other arts organizations and institutions.
Her writing can be found in several independent online print art publications as well edited museum publications. Some of her books include Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People, and Etched in Collective History.
As the Executive Director of Threewalls, a position she has held since 2015, Jeffreen provides strategic vision for the artistic direction and impact of the organization in Chicago. Under her leadership, Threewalls intentionally develops artistic platforms that encourages connections beyond traditional engagements with art. These engagements help manifest the organization’s vision of art connecting segregated communities, people and experiences together.
Jeffreen earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, a MA in Art History from Howard University, and a BA from Florida International University in Humanities.
Lastly, Jeffreen’s leadership practice is rooted in her matrilineal connections to her West Indian heritage and love of Blk people.
Photo by Johanne Rahaman.
Lasondra Kern (she/her/hers)
Co-Director of Programs
Lasondra Kern is a Chicago-born art historian and writer. In her practice she engages understudied histories of Afro-Asian artistic cultural exchange through research and writing. She studies the art resulting from historical interactions between Korean and African diasporic peoples.
Additionally, she works alongside residents, community members, and organizers in Austin, her home neighborhood, to strengthen arts engagement through public program development and collaborative exhibition making.
In all her work, Lasondra desires to cultivate a stronger sense of care and understanding amongst people. This is the driving factor behind her pursuit in multilingualism and cross-cultural sharing.
She received her BA in Art History with a minor in African and African American studies from Carleton College. She received her Dual MA in Art History and Arts Administration & Cultural Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Adia Sykes (she/her/hers)
Co-Director of Programs
Adia Sykes is an arts organizer and curator based in Chicago. Her practice seeks to center philosophies of improvisation, intuition, and care, engaging them as tools through which meaningful relationships between artists and viewers can be cultivated, while leaving space for the vernacular to mingle with constructs of history and theory.
As an administrator advocating for racial equity and sustainable ecosystems for creative practitioners, she has held roles with organizations like the Chicago Artists Coalition, where she started their SPARK Grant— a joint effort with the Joyce Foundation providing unrestricted grants to artists of color, not formally trained artists, and artists with disabilities. At present, Adia is also a Lead Organizer of the Chicago Art Census, a city-wide research project that collects, maps, and visualizes data that illuminates the lived experiences and working conditions of art workers in Chicago.
Her curatorial projects include Locating Memory (Chicago Mayor’s Office, 2018), Project Radio London (Centro Arte Opificio Siri in Terni, Italy, 2018), and The Petty Biennial.2 (Chicago, 2019-2020). She has also realized projects with the Art Institute of Chicago, Sullivan Galleries, Woman Made Gallery, ACRE, Material Exhibitions, Roman Susan Gallery, and Comfort Station.
Adia earned a Masters in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Photo by Leslie Frempong.
Lynna Tyler, MBA, MBE (she/her/hers)
Lynna Tyler is President and CEO of Tyler Bookkeeping and Management Services Inc., a consulting firm that provides accounting, bookkeeping, HR and CFO services to a variety of businesses and not for profit organizations.
Lynna worked in banking for over 20 years. She held positions as Accounting Manager and Assistant Vice President of Accounting Operations. When her position was downsized in 2006, she devoted 100% of her time to developing Tyler Bookkeeping and Management Services Inc. Lynna has worked with CPA firms as an auditor and accounting consultant.
She attended Roosevelt University where she obtained her undergraduate degree and Keller Graduate School of Management where she obtained her MBA.
Lynna is the founder and Executive Director of C&T Afterschool and Tutoring, an afterschool and training program and cofounder of Reinvent Life Treatment Center located in Chicago, Illinois. She also sits on advisory board for Sistah’s House of New Beginnings, located in Chicago, Illinois which serves homeless young women and women re-entering society after imprisonment. Lynna is also a Professional Affiliate member of Illinois CPA Society.
Lynna is the proud mother of two young men and enjoys cooking for her family and when time permits, enjoys reading and journaling. Lynna continues to improve her efforts in meditating, exercising, and being present in the moment.
Lynna has been working with Threewalls since 2016 and manages our financial policies, payment systems and leads our auditing process with outside auditors.
Renata Cassiano Alvarez (she/her/hers)
Spanish Interpreter and Translator, Collaborator
Renata Cassiano Alvarez is a Mexican-Italian artist and interpreter born in Mexico City and currently the Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Arkansas School of Art. Cassiano Alvarez’s artistic practice is based on a constant search for developing an intimate collaborative relationship with material and material language. Influenced by archeology and history, she is interested in the power of the object as survival – objects with a sense of permanence and timelessness, and language as transformation; specially how adopting a different language can affect the physicality of the human body, and how this translates into material. Educated in Mexico, Italy, Denmark and the US, she has had the opportunity to work in different artistic environments, a cross-cultural and multimedia experience which has lead to the belief that an artistic practice is a space in constant evolution and something that exists in motion. This practice extends to the interpreting and translation fields, where she functions as a bridge for non English speakers in different settings. Her work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in public and private collections around the world. She works between her studio in Veracruz, Mexico and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Renata’s collaborative role with Threewalls is as our Spanish translator and interpreter.
Alice Berry (she/her/hers)
Alice Berry, an SAIC alumna (1980), has completed her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology (Counseling Practice) (2014) at Roosevelt University, has LPC licensure, and is currently engaging in this relational art piece as a psychotherapeutic practice. She has a 30-year background in the arts as a fashion, textile and installation designer, entrepreneur and visual artist.
A bit about Alice’s practice: “Seeking to create a “therapeutic moment” benefitting other artists as well as myself, I have decided to concentrate my counseling on working artists and creatives (individually, group or institutionally), looking for ways to connect and sustain a practice that would benefit this misunderstood and underserved population. My training included extended therapy with working creatives, and my experience with the piece TX~ART has shown me the majority of people who sought out that particular therapeutic moment tend to be artists, and/or people open to experience.”
Alice’s collaborative role with Threewalls includes being part of the Wellness Circle, in which she offers counseling sessions to our RaD Lab+Outside the Walls fellows and she has offered sessions during “Wellness Wednesdays” now known as “Culture of Care.”
Jonelle Demby (she/her/hers)
Graphic Designer, Collaborator
Jonelle is a Graphic Designer and photographer based in New York City. Jonelle’s creative approach is to weave innovative storytelling and visual branding through impeccable and purposeful design. Jonelle is a graduate of Howard University. Her recent designs for the AfriCOBRA exhibitions, curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D., allowed her the honor to come full circle with the heroes of her Howard University experience. The exhibition logos have been lauded by the original AfriCOBRA artists and from Hayes, who included and displayed Jonelle’s logo design as a mural within the exhibition itself as a nod to the continued presence of emerging Black designers today.
While she has spent years designing for museums, she also continues to pursue photography as passion projects honoring the beauty and forms of all women, and colorful patterns of strength and vulnerability in the Black community. Jonelle is also a major advocate in the global awareness, funding, research, and treatment for keloid skin.
Jonelle’s collaborative role with Threewalls is designing our RaD Lab+Outside the Walls Cohort II publication and building on the organization’s graphic identity created by BirkCreative. Jonelle developed graphics for Take Time for Joy, Response+Relief, and Culture of Care to name a few.
Lee Ann Norman (she/her/hers)
Managing Editor, Collaborator
Lee Ann Norman is a cultural worker and writer whose work highlights her interest in cultivating spaces that allow people to learn about themselves and each other through the arts. She currently services as Director, Leadership and Learning Programs for the League of American Orchestras where she manages the League’s $6.6 million signature re-granting programs. Previous work includes positions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, ArtPlace America, Creative Capital, EmcArts, Chicago Theological Seminary, and the Chicago Park District’s Arts and Culture division.
Lee Ann’s collaborative role with Threewalls is serving as Managing Editor for our RaD Lab+Outside the Walls publications.
Daviree Velazquez Phillip (she/her/hers)
Organizational Health Consultant, Collaborator
Daviree Velazquez Phillip serves as the Lead Consultant with together+through, a counseling and consulting organization dedicated to centering those at the margins by providing services that are anti-oppressive, collaborative + culturally responsive.
Daviree became an Organizational Health Consultant for Threewalls in October 2020. Daviree provides support to the team through one on one consultation and group facilitation, with the intended goal of providing guidance and care as Threewalls continues to evolve. Daviree’s approach to this work incorporates organizational change management, social justice pedagogy, and restorative practices.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chiblie Coleman, President
Internal Operations Blue Cross Blue Shield
Oren Lund, Secretary
Claire Ruud, Treasurer
Director of Curatorial Strategy
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D.,
Professor of Art History and Associate Dean of Equity & Excellence
University of New Mexico
Artist & Professor of Art
Architect & Founder
Jennifer Ling Datchuk,
Artist & Assistant Professor of Art
Texas State University
Director of Office Services/Facilities Management
Chapman and Cutler LLP
Artist & Professor of Painting and Drawing
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Juliette Bethea, Emeritus Board Member,
Retired, Financial Management
Gary Metzner, Emeritus Board Member,
Senior Vice President: Head of Office
Learn about opportunities to work at Threewalls.
Jobs & Interships
Threewalls is always finding new ways to share our artist’s unique voices through exhibits, talks, and gatherings. We would like you to be the first to know about these opportunities.