Front Porch Arts Center (FPAC) was created in the summer of 2019 to meet the needs of Westside communities that although rich and vibrant, are also artistically and economically under-served. Our work reexamines African-American social and cultural history by creating spaces that explore our complex contemporary narratives. Because Westside neighborhoods like Austin have lacked public art centers for years, we intend to fill a much needed void by creating arts and cultural programming, such as workshops, classes, weekly performances, exhibitions, artist partnerships, residencies, neighborhood walking tours, public wellness events, and community fish dinners.
We intend to enhance our community by creating outlets for public discourse and community fellowship. By connecting with organizations that share resources, we will directly impact our community members, while building both individual and community self-image. Through weekly programming, we will help to build critical thinking, literacy and artistic literacy, while challenging the cycle of violence. Through this work, we intend to showcase community narratives, while bridging the Westside with the larger creative community to counter our neighborhood’s public perception. FPAC was founded by artists and residents, Vanessa Stokes and Keli Stewart.
Who We Are
Residents. Artists. Organizers.
Vanessa Stokes is an Artist, Community Organizer and a Resident of the Westside of Chicago. For the last 12 years, Vanessa has been building community around art and sustainable practices by building strong bonds with community residents, businesses and organizations. Also, Vanessa is the owner of VS Creative Consulting LLC an artist representative firm where her main client is Dorrell Creightney, Vanessa’s Father. Currently, Vanessa is planning the Fall 2019 Re-Awakening Vision exhibition at the Swedish American Museum of Chicago. Furthermore, she has created the Art & Culture Committee at Austin Town Hall Park on the Westside. Lastly, Vanessa volunteers on a number of committees on Chicago’s Westside, including The Hatchery Community Advisory Council, Advisory Circle at the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation and the Westside Cluster Lead for the One Earth Film Festival.
Westside native, Keli Stewart, is a writer and educator whose writing has appeared in Quiddity, Meridians, Warpland, Hip Mama, On Becoming, Calyx and other journals and publications. Keli received artist fellowships from Hedgebrook, where she was awarded the 2010 Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Award, and the Augusta Savage Gallery Arts International Residency Program. An alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Callaloo Summer Writing Workshops, Keli’s writing was selected first place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award from the Illinois Center of the Book, chosen by Illinois poet laureate Kevin Stein. She received her BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College in 2002, her MFA in Poetry from Chicago State University, and pursued doctoral work in Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Keli is currently a Leadership Lab Fellow with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. She is the founder of Westside Arts House, a writing residency and workshop space in Austin which was recently selected to join the 2019 Alliance of Artists Communities Emerging Program Institute. Keli lives in the Austin community with her two sons.