Spotlight: Horner Park Advisory Council
Welcome to the third installment of our blog series Spotlight on PACs, where innovative PACs can share their best practices and discuss common issues facing their volunteer groups. Previously, Doug Wood from the Wicker Park Advisory council gave some advice on gardening techniques and mentorship.
This past week we sat down with Peter Schlossman and John O’Connell from the Horner Park Advisory Council (HPAC) to learn more about how they engage their community and how they organize their signature summer concert series!
The Horner Park Advisory Council (HPAC) was formed in 1989 after the Chicago Park District received a grant from the Kellogg Foundation. The PACs first treasurer, John O’Connell got involved after his son got hurt at the park’s playground. He went to the first meeting to discuss the broken play equipment and has been involved with HPAC ever since.
Now, almost 30 years later, HPAC oversees Horner Park as well as its four satellite parks: Buffalo, Jacob, Ravenswood Manor, and Sunken Garden. They are committed to bringing together a group of people with diverse interests to oversee their parks, support their parks with exciting events and needed projects, and maintain organization within the advisory council. HPAC awarded last year’s PAC of the Year Award at The 2015 PAC Conference.
Why HPAC is unique
HPAC has a dedicated board, led by President Peter Schlossman that are passionate about improving their parks to benefit their community. John Friedmann, HPAC’s vice president, successfully worked to save Horner Park’s 65 ash trees from disease. To learn more about this project click here.
The Horner Park Advisory Council has been producing free summer concerts for 21 years. John O’Connell has dedicated his time to making the Horner Park Summer Concert Series both an exciting community event and successful HPAC fundraiser. The event lasts the whole summer and features a wide variety of local acts ranging from student groups to salsa bands to theatre troops. With over 10 shows each summer, there is something to feed everyone’s interest!
HPAC has four main reasons for executing their summer concert series. First, it’s a great event to bring the neighbors together, out of their houses. It promotes HPAC, employs local artists, and is fun for the neighborhood children. This event is sustainable in that it brings in funds for park enhancements and other programs throughout the year.
So, how does HPAC organize this pronounced event
O’Connell starts early in the year. He outsources most of his graphic design and printing work to other HPAC members with experience or experts he knows in the community. By March, every HPAC neighbor has received a doorstep flyer advertisement along with a Horner Park trifold. In the early months of spring O’Connell is out and about in the community asking local businesses to contribute to the concert series ad book. This past year the ad book consisted of over 70 pages of local business ads!
Event calendars are mailed to subscribers and hung in the windows of local businesses for advertising, and the social media committee promotes the event online. HPAC has sponsored 10 years of free Shakespeare with Ground Up/Spectralia Theatre, and two years of shows with Theatre Hikes, Chicago. They have also produced 3 seasons of student piano recitals in Ravenswood Manor Park with the Narloch Piano Studio. O’Connell finds producers that bring in their own acts, and he has a sponsorship agreement with Old Town School of Folk Music which brings in other talented musicians. These local connections are what keeps the show going!
Advice to other PACs
HPAC encourages other PACs to build a strong group of leaders that are passionate about a wide variety of projects and have the momentum to complete them. When asked what the most important quality of a PAC is they said always have a project to work on. This keeps their PAC relevant and organized. Lastly, they use personal connections when in need of advice or help on a specific project like marketing materials for the concert series.