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Get to Know Us

RAAC 2024 Awards Show

Our Work

The Rockford Area Arts Council was established in 1969 as a four-county umbrella arts organization. The Arts Council provides Winnebago, Boone, Ogle, and DeKalb Counties with organizational resources, collective advocacy efforts, and critical arts and cultural resources for our communities, with a special focus on our disadvantaged and underserved populations. The Arts Council exists to support, promote, and develop access to the arts for everyone. We achieve this goal by funding artists and arts organizations that oversee programs for under-served communities; supporting arts education and programming; developing collaborative relationships with the City of Rockford, the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Transform Rockford, R1 Regional Planning Council, the Rockford Park District and Rockford Public Library, regional school districts—both public and private; overseeing events that showcase local talent; and advocating for the arts at the local, state, and federal level.

We Believe


Every person in our community deserves equal access to a rich and vibrant creative life.


can be strengthened and transformed by working collaboratively and creatively.


of all artists and affirm that artists deserve to be fairly compensated for their contribution to our thriving community.


civic engagement, stimulate the economy, and increase cultural empathy and respect.


preserve, and advance our shared histories and cultures.

Our Staff

Mary McNamara Bernsten

Mary McNamara Bernsten, Executive Director

Mary is an enthusiastic Rockfordian with more than two decades of experience teaching, creating, and promoting the arts in our community and beyond. Mary’s passion and commitment to community connection, public service, and justice in all forms make her a powerful advocate for the Arts Council’s mission: to support, promote, and develop access to the arts for everyone.

Christina Valdez, Operations Officer

Christina is the Arts Council’s newest staff member. Christina is a proud Rockfordian! She brings a wealth of financial and operational experience to her role as well as a huge network and experience operating in the Rockford area.

Jordan Dewilde

Jordan Dewilde, Community Engagement Officer

Jordan DeWilde spearheads youth programs and collaborates on the Rockford Region Cultural Plan. With over a decade of experience as a K-12 art teacher, Jordan advocates for art education through articles, professional development, and multimedia initiatives. He shares curriculum ideas online, leaving an enduring impact on arts education in our community and beyond.

Bobbie Stevens, Office Manager

Bobbie joins the Arts Council team as its Office Manager. Bobbie is a proud Rockfordian with over 20 years of office/administration experience including her expertise in Accounts Payable and Receivables…a crucial skill set as the Arts Council’s budget, and community impact, continue to grow. Bobbie’s passion is helping youth through her foster parenting experience and helping interested individuals understand what it takes to be and become a foster parent.


Arts Council Board Members contribute their time, talent, and treasure to enrich and expand access to the arts in the Rockford Region through their personal and professional networks.

Purple Bars
  • Armando Cardenas
  • Rebecca Francis – Treasurer
  • Dave Gomel
  • John Groh
  • Bryn Jakeway 
  • Yash Musabji
  • Vic Rivera
  • Bill Rose
  • Melissa Santillan
  • Thomas Weightman – Chair
  • Lynn Williams – Vice Chair
  • Janelle Vaiden – Secretary

Accountability and Tran$parency.

The Arts Council embraces the values of accountability and transparency as a matter of ethical leadership, as well as legal compliance. Nonprofits are required to disclose certain financial information to the public upon request, and board members must have access to financial information to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the nonprofit.

Financial transparency helps preserve the important trust community members and donors place in the Arts Council. Additionally, and no less importantly, conduct that is accountable and transparent earns employees’ trust and creates a positive workplace culture.