Anawim Arts Board of Directors

Clockwise from the Top Left

Karen Hurley Kuchar is President of the board of Anawim Arts and facilitates the Wisdom Writing Circles in collaboration with Tao Center. As a life-long writer and reader, she is fascinated by both the power and beauty of words. A time of transition in her life was the source of many poems, which are published in a collection entitled, Consider the Lobster. Karen’s professional career included both counseling and administrative roles in nonprofit social service organizations.  During her time as executive director of Family Shelter Service, she worked with a volunteer group to encourage clients to write about their experiences. She lives with her husband in Downers Grove.  In addition to her work and writing, she enjoys her grandchildren and spends time in nature, which provides inspiration for many of her poems.

Arlene Ashack, IBVM, is the founder and director of Anawim Arts. She is a lifelong artist and spititual director. In addition she is deeply involved in promoting peace and justice.  Until recently, Sr. Arlene served as the chairperson for the 8th Day Center and as liaison to the IBVM UN NGO office. She is currently is a board member for the Institute for Communal Contemplation and for Dialogue. “I approach creation with an insatiable curiosity and a keen sense of the sacred, viewing each painting as an expression of my spirituality.”  In all she does she interweaves the threads of art, spirituality and justice.

Cari Shields coordinates the work on our website and newsletters. She is a self-proclaimed “dabbler” in the arts. She considers the time that she takes to write, draw, sew or take photographs as part of an exercise of living mindfully in the world. Professionally, Cari is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who spent most of her career working in clinical supervision and program development in a non-profit. Currently she works as an individual and family therapist in a group practice. Cari is married with three grown children and two grandchildren who bring her daily joy. She loves being outside with her husband and their dogs, spending time with family and friends, and helping lead the Taizé worship at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn.

Pat Irr, OSF is a Wheaton Franciscan engaged in Spiritual Direction and retreat work. She is a photographer who sees it as a source of joy and delight.  “In photography I am engaged in the colors and subtle tones of the energetic field caught by my eye and the lens of the camera.  A natural landscape provides an opportunity to work with the many hues it provides, always displaying new wonders.  It becomes a portal into the world of Spirit as it both creates things of beauty and allows for disintegration in our midst.  Reality seen with Spirit’s eye is a work of art.”

Gail Hoffman retired in January 2019 from a rewarding career working with youth who survived trauma. That same month she spent a week  participating in a retreat entitled “Entering the Chaos”in Santa Barbara California.  She left that week believing that this next phase in her life would be spent resting in the open presence of the divine through creating space to flourish with others. The remainder of year was spent traveling.  The combination helped her see that her art / spirituality connection was not limited to playing with food and creating hospitable environments.  With  increased play time Gail has tried bud-to-blossom photography and joined a memoir writing class that has given her a new set of colleagues and supportive environment. Gail enjoys her three adult children and treasures her six grandchildren. You can find her strolling the nearest body of water be it a river or something much larger.