About Tom

Tom Tresser

Tom Tresser is a civic educator, community organizer and public defender. He has woven innovation, creativity, grassroots democratic practice and education into a wide range of public programs and enterprises over the past 40 years. Contact Tom: tom at tresser dot com.

In 2007 he designed and produced training programs for the provincial government of Saskatchewan on how to use the arts and creativity for local economic development. He was director of cultural development at Peoples Housing, in north Rogers Park, Chicago, where he created a community arts program that blended the arts, education and micro-enterprise. Tom has acted in some 40 shows and produced over 100 plays, special events, festivals and community programs. He was an arts activist, having organized support for pro-arts candidates and developed a cultural policy think tank at Roosevelt University in the early 1990’s, where he taught “Arts & Public Policy.” Tom was elected to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School’s Local School Council and served from 2004 to 2006. He was a co-founder of Protect Our Parks, a neighborhood campaign that stopped the privatization of public space in Chicago. He was a lead organizer for No Games Chicago, an all-volunteer grassroots effort that opposed Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid. He has taught workshops on “The Politics of Creativity – A Call To Service”for arts service organizations in six states.

He has taught a number of classes on art, creativity and civic engagement for Loyola University, School of the Art Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and DePaul University. Tom also consults with arts organizations on strategic planning, audience development and peer-to-peer marketing. Tom has published a web-based project, “America Needs You!” – about the need for artists to get involved in politics. Tom was the  Green Party candidate for the position of President of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County in November 2010 election. Tom teaches “Got Creativity? Strategies & Tools for the Next Economy” and “How To Be A Social Change Agent” (IIT Stuart School of Business), “Introduction to the Creative Economy” (online for Project Polymath), a114 Aberdeen-croppednd “Acting Up – Using Theater & Technology for Social Change” (online for DePaul University’s School for New Learning). Tom also teaches for the online Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program for the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2013 with Benjamin Sugar Tom co-founded a  co-working space for activists and educators to collaborate on enhancing civic engagement initiatives – The CivicLab. The Lab was  located at 114 N. Aberdeen Street in the West Loop.The CivicLab operated for two years and brought hundreds of people together for civic work!

He is the lead organizer for the TIF Illumination Project.Since February of 2013 he has presented at 45 public meetings in front of some 4,600 people.

He is the editor and organizer for a new civic education project – a book called “Chicago is Not Broke. Funding the City We Deserve.”

Chicago Is Not Broke+skyline
In 2014 Tom was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by the Encore Foundation. He was named a “Best of Chicago 2015” for his public work by NewCity Magazine.

In 2015 Tom taught a new class on community organizing for Roosevelt University. He continues to teach “Civics 101” for the awesome tech and leadership training organization i c stars. Tom developed and is teaching a new online class on nonprofit advocacy for Adler University’s Nonprofit Management Master’s Degree Program.

Tom was on “Chicago Newsroom” with Ken Davis on April 7, 2016. This 46 minute interview covers No Games Chicago, the TIF Illumination Project and the “Chicago Is Not Broke” Book Project.

Listen to this wide-ranging interview with Tom from July of 2014 where he discusses his background in the arts, the connections between creativity and democracy and the details behind the establishment of the CivicLab and the TIF Illumination Project.
ADMCI screen-Tresser

Tom’s blogs:


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