About CCAC

We believe everyone deserves access to Chicago's rich arts and culture.

Three panelists talk into microphones

Who We Are

Mission

Our mission is to empower Chicago’s cultural spaces to become more accessible to visitors with disabilities.

What We Do

Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) facilitates a dynamic community of cultural administrators and people with disabilities to remove barriers in the Chicago region’s cultural organizations. CCAC is entirely run by passionate volunteers.

How We Do It

Central to our work, we provide the following free opportunities to cultural organizations and visitors with disabilities:

  1. Professional Development – ongoing professional development workshops open to all cultural administrators.
  2. Equipment Loan – lending the required equipment and technology to cultural organizations to produce accessible events.
  3. Access Calendar – promotes accessible events and allows visitors to identify accessible events throughout the Chicago region.

“Many staff members have attended CCAC programs that provide both philosophical and practical information to help us transform our museum into a place that welcomes all.”

– Museum Administrator

History

2013: CCAC begins as a volunteer group.

2015: CCAC partners with the ADA 25 Chicago initiative to launch “ADA 25 for 25: Cultural Access Project” to advance accessibility in at least 25 area cultural organizations.

2017: CCAC incorporates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

2020: With funding from Illinois Arts Council, CCAC launches Illinois Cultural Access Network (ICAN).

Recognition

2016: Lifeline Theatre awards CCAC the Raymond R. Snyder Commitment to the Arts Award.

2015: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awards CCAC’s Steering Committee Co-Chairs (Christena Gunther, Evan Hatfield and Lynn Walsh) the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Emerging Leader award.

Definition of Terms

Cultural accessibility: ensuring that people with disabilities have full access (including physical and content access) to cultural organizations.

Cultural administrators: the paid staff and volunteers who work in cultural organizations.

Cultural organizations: a broad term for any organization that seeks to preserve and advance culture. Includes museums, theaters, zoos, parks, concert venues, historic sites and more.

Disability: CCAC follows the Social Model of disability – placing emphasis on the institutions and systems to remove barriers. One is more or less disabled depending on their environment. Learn more about the World Health Organization’s definition of disability.

Steering Committee Co-chairs

The CCAC Steering Committee sets the schedule and coordinates CCAC programs.
Learn more about Steering Committee members and its Co-Chairs:

Anna Cosner

Steering Committee Co-Chair, CCAC Board Secretary

She/her/hers

Anna is the Director of Retail and Events at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois where she oversees the Special Events, Facility Rental, Food Service, and Retail departments. She has worked in museums in both Chicago and Washington D.C. since 2006 creating memorable and fun experiences for visitors that connect them to the unique story of the organization.

Anna has been a CCAC Steering Committee member since 2015; she became a Co-Chair in 2017.

Childhood Museum Memory: Growing up in southern California, my mother took my sister and me to the Madonnari festival every year at the Santa Barbara Mission where dozens of artists used nothing but chalk to create truly stunning works of art on the pavement. Their skill fascinated me – especially when I compared their work to my own sidewalk “masterpieces.”

Christena Gunther

Founder and Steering Committee Co-Chair, CCAC Board President

She/ her/ hers

Bringing Chicago together around the intersection of disability and the arts was Christena’s main aim as she started CCAC in 2013. Having over a decade of experience in cultural accessibility from a variety of cultural organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum and Lincoln Center, she currently serves as Director of Education at the Evanston Art Center. Thanks to her brother who has Down syndrome, cultural accessibility became her passion as they visited museums and attended plays together. Christena speaks internationally about cultural accessibility, especially the importance of establishing a local access knowledge network in one’s own community.

Childhood Museum Memory: My fourth grade class studied From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which involves two kids running away from home and living in the Metropolitan Museum. Our class slept over at our city’s art museum (Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum). It was magical to live like the characters in the book for a night!

Risa Jaz Rifkind

Steering Committee Co-Chair, CCAC Board Treasurer

She/ her/ hers

Risa is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence. As Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing at ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, Risa propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities.

Risa was a Founding Steering Committee Member in 2013 prior to co-leading the Steering Committee as a Co-Chair beginning in 2017. 

Memorable Cultural Experience: I had to be about 7 when my parents took me and my younger brother to Madison Square Garden to see Crosby Still Nash and Young. I remember thinking that it was so cool and weird at the same time watching all these hippies and former hippies rock out all night (way past my bedtime). That didn’t stop me from standing on the chair and rocking out as well – minus the lighter and other hippy equipment, of course.

Steering Committee and Board Members

Matthew Bivins

Matthew Bivins (he/him/his)

is a web and software developer, actor and musician who moved to Chicago in 2008. He and brother Evan focus on designing and developing projects for nonprofits and other organizations for social good, and are responsible for building chicagoculturalaccess.org. Matt provides captioning for the D/deaf and hard of hearing community at Chicago live theaters with his project CaptionPoint, and loves dreaming up ways to help cultural organizations use technology to provide accessibility and inclusivity to patrons.

Matt has been a CCAC Steering Committee member since 2017. 

Memorable Museum Moment: Before living in Chicago, I visited the city with my band and happened to catch an incredible Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at the Art Institute. Inspired, my brother and I went home to Charleston, SC and put together a theater piece that was a collaboration of musicians, writers, dancers, actors, designers, and a shadow puppeteer. On that same memorable day, I asked a beautiful deaf girl to come see the exhibit with me, and she said “yes.” A few years later she also said “yes” when I proposed. Merci, Toulouse!

David Carrasquillo

David Carrasquillo (he/him/his)

is the former Administrative Operations Manager at the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. He began working in museums as a public programs interpreter when he was 16 as a participant in the Nature Museum’s T.E.E.N.S. program. The majority of his 18 years of museum experience has been in various operations roles at Chicago area children, art, history, and science museums. David holds a BA in Museum Operations & Management from DePaul University, and is a current graduate student pursuing his Masters in Public Service Management with a concentration in Emergency Management from DePaul.

David joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Memorable Cultural Experience: Whether it is in Detroit, Michigan or Bali, Indonesia, if there is a zoo or aquarium I will make a point to visit. Favorite moments include seeing a cheetah run at nearly full speed in San Diego, feeding a basket of apples to a hippo in Budapest, and possibly the most special was the opportunity to watch two rescued Hawaiian Monk Seals, a critically endangered species, swim around their enclosure at the Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Susan A. Friel

Susan A. Friel (she/her/hers)

is an educator, artist and lifelong learner who currently manages education and engagement programs for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Susan’s path along the way weaves in, out and around schools, museums and arts organizations across the globe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Spain, Ethiopia and LA. In 2018 she initiated the first exploration of the Chicago Cultural Center through touch and sound which inspired the installation of a touch gallery and Learning Lab which celebrates all the senses. She is honored to have contributed to the inspirational book that continues to feed her spirit daily: Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit. 

Susan joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Memorable Museum Memory: I remember falling fast asleep on the cold hard floor of the City Museum of St. Louis after a thrilling day of perusing exhibits that involve crawling, jumping, and sliding down a four-story chute. Thanks to Barb and Tim for hosting the best adult sleepover wedding reception ever!

Tsehaye G. Hebert

Tsehaye G. Hebert (she/her/hers)

is an award-winning citizen playwright. Passionate about accessibility, equity, and inclusion in the arts led her to ADA 25 Advancing Leadership first as a Fellow, a program committee member and now as an ambassador. The cultural architect is a volunteer artistic associate at eta creative arts foundation, and sits on the honorary board of the Piven Theatre Company. Her writing engages community from page to stage in an American Theatre and within a truly inclusive American cultural landscape. Currently a 2020 3Arts Residency Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago, she is exploring how Black American Sign Language and non-verbal communication express nuances in African-American popular culture’s funk music.

Tsehaye joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Earliest Cultural Memories: Memories of music, singing, and dancing in my family, neighborhood, and school. Seeing the opera Aida unfold in its final dress rehearsal remains a galvanizing moment in my history and one whose magic has enthralled ever since.

Clare Killy

Clare Killy (she/her/hers)

is Director of Inclusive Solutions at Aspire and leads the non-profit’s inclusion consulting services by facilitating community engagements, cultivating relationships with partners and driving the development of high-quality, inclusion-focused resources. Clare is a licensed educator and child development specialist with experience as a teacher, advocate, inclusion consultant and program manager. Clare has over a decade of professional experience working with children, families and providers across diverse environments.

Clare joined the Steering Committee in 2019. 

Favorite Cultural Memory: My father is a professional artist and I recall my first time seeing his work in a gallery after having witnessed the lengthy artistic process that led to that point. Seeing the artist in action, and then the final result on such pristine display taught me to consider the process as much as the product – to this day, when I walk through a gallery space, I wonder about the idea that sparked each piece and the dynamic journey that brought it to life.

Kinneret Kohn

Kinneret Kohn (she/her/hers)

is the Associate Director for Students & Educators at the Art Institute of Chicago. She previously led the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Board of Trustees and has a wide range of museum education experience having managed, designed, and facilitated programs for diverse audiences at the New-York Historical Society, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Jewish Museum, and Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Kinneret earned an M.S. Ed in Leadership in Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education; an M.A. in International Education Development, focus on Peace Education from Teachers College, Columbia University; and a B.A. in International Studies from The Ohio State University.

Kinneret joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Earliest Cultural Memory: My earliest memory in a cultural space is being kicked out of Monticello. At 4 years old, I was unimpressed by the long lines and heat, so I simply walked under the velvet ropes to take a seat on one of the fancy chairs. I like to think this act was an early sign of my critical consciousness and interest in how cultural institutions address the content and accessibility of their spaces.

Emma MacLean

Emma MacLean (she/her/hers)

is an educator and artist living in Chicago and is the Arts Partnership Specialist at Communities In Schools of Chicago. When she’s not at her day job, you can catch her as a teaching artist and program coordinator at A.B.L.E. (Actors Breaking Limits and Expectations) making theatre with individuals with Down syndrome and other developmental differences. Emma is passionate about access especially in the arts sector, she believes that with the right accommodations arts can and should be for everyone.

Emma joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Favorite Cultural Experience: My favorite cultural experience was seeing Gatz, an eight hour experience where the theatre company Elevator Repair Service performed the entirety of The Great Gatsby. It was unlike any other show I had ever seen and made me think about what the bounds of theatre could be.

Kris Nesbitt

Kris Nesbitt (she/her/hers)

has been Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at Chicago History Museum since 2019. Prior to that, as Shedd Aquarium’s Senior Director of Exhibits and Experience Development, she spearheaded the kickoff and development of their award-winning Accessibility program. She is an avid traveler and museum-goer, having visited more than thirty countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and now loves traveling with her husband and two young daughters.

Kris was on the CCAC Steering Committee from 2015-2019. She joined the CCAC Board in 2019.

Favorite museum memory: was watching my daughters’ joy while they explored the Performing Arts Museum in Stockholm, filled with interactive and creative elements.

Hillary Pearson

Hillary Pearson (she/her/hers)

is the Manager of Operations at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, working directly with companies to ensure front of house set up needs are met and overseeing daily security staff operations in the facility. Previously at the Harris, Hillary worked on the part-time Audience Service staff (the orange scarf-wearing people if you’ve been to the theater) and had an opportunity to then become the full-time House Manager for the venue. Hillary is very excited for an opportunity to further the accessibility goals of the Harris as well as learn from and with other professionals from Chicago cultural institutions.

Hillary has been on the CCAC Steering Committee since 2017.

Memorable Cultural Experience: As a vocal performance major at Northwestern, a small volunteer group of singers had the chance to perform comedic opera scenes in English at the Kohl Children’s Museum up in Glenview a few times a year. It was a lot of fun performing opera for these kids in such a nontraditional setting (sometimes they even laughed with us instead of at us!), and it created a unique outreach opportunity for both the university and the museum.

Casey Peek

Casey Peek (she/her/hers)

is an advocate for inclusion in the arts and the world and believes we can achieve this through conversation and groundwork. The arts in Chicago have provided Casey self-discovery and a family of folks who want to change the world through art and inclusion.

Casey joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Favorite Cultural Memory: As a kid in central Illinois we would take vacations to Chicago. I remember being mesmerized by the Egyptian exhibit at the Field Museum and the beautiful creatures of Shedd Aquarium.

Brittany Pyle

Brittany Pyle (she/her/hers)

is the Director, Production and Audience Experience with the Chicago Humanities Festival. Her goal is to make the festival enjoyable, accessible, and inclusive in all its stages, from ticket buying to the presentation of an event. Since 2017, she has been a steering committee member of CCAC, and in 2020, took the helm as project manager for the Illinois Cultural Accessibility Network (ICAN).

Brittany joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2017.

First Cultural Memory: Growing up outside of Champaign, Illinois, many elementary and middle school field trips bussed us to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Being an artistic young person, I was enraptured by shows like King Lear and Ragtime, inspiring me to become a theatre kid in high school and a humanities devotee as an adult.

Bonnie Rosenberg

Bonnie Rosenberg (she/her/hers)

is the Director of Imaging at the Art Institute of Chicago. She worked previously as the Manager of Rights and Images at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Bonnie began her career in New York, where she held roles at Condé Nast Publications and the Art Newspaper. She earned an MA in journalism from Syracuse University and a BA in art history and English from Saint Louis University.

Bonnie joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019.

Favorite Cultural Memory: My love of nitrates and nostalgia came together when I became the first person to stay overnight in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. After a full evening of wiener roasting and some frankly awful puns, I slept inside a hot dog-shaped RV that’s been roaming the US since 1936.

Karen Tekverk

Karen Tekverk (she/her/hers)

is the Manager of Interpretive Services at Shedd Aquarium where she oversees programming including Behind-the-Scenes Tours and Private Personalized Tours, and works with over 150 interpretive volunteers. Karen is part of Shedd Aquarium’s Access & Inclusion Team, and has spearheaded work to train guides and volunteers in audio description and tactile tour facilitation. Karen has a BA in Geology from Haverford College and a MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Northwestern University. Previously she worked in interpretation at Chicago Botanic Garden, researched climate change with Respiratory Health Association, and taught geology.

Karen joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Favorite Museum Memory: There weren’t a lot of museums in my rural hometown, but we would visit New York each year. I loved spending Christmas Eve at the American Museum of Natural History. It felt like we had the place entirely to ourselves, and my sisters and I reveled in it. Our favorite thing was to find a 2 foot model of a mosquito, whom we had named Skippy. I visited NYC recently, and I was glad to find Skippy still going strong!

Andy Wilson

Andy Wilson (he/him/his)

is a House Manager & Accessibility Coordinator at The Goodman Theatre. Prior to his time at Goodman, he worked at the Shedd Aquarium as well as the Museum of Science & Industry. Early in his journey as a trans man, he felt like there was no longer a place for him in theatre, but realized that he could be a part of making the arts more inclusive for a much wider range of people.

Andy joined the CCAC Steering Committee in 2019. 

Favorite Museum Memory:My favorite memory in a museum is playing peek-a-boo with a beluga named Bella who spit all over me!

Founding Co-Chairs

Evan Hatfield

Evan Hatfield, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2018) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus

Lynn Walsh

Lynn Walsh, Founding Co-Chair (2013-2017) and Steering Committee Member Emeritus

Emeriti

Rachel Arfa (2013-2020), Founding Steering Committee Member

Yolanda Cesta Cursach (2015-2017)

Chauncey Alexander Davis-Mauney (2017-2018)

Jason Harrington (2013-2017), Founding Steering Committee Member

Robin Jones (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Lucas Livingston (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Theresa Pacione (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member

Jeanna Rathell (2015-2019)

Mike Shaw (2015-2019)

Jaclyn Wegner (2013-2015)

Sandie Yi (2013-2015), Founding Steering Committee Member