Contact: tom at civiclab dot us – 773-770-5714
Tom Tresser is an educator, organizer, creativity champion, public defender and fighter of privatization. He has been doing civic engagement and grassroots democracy efforts for over 40 years. His first voter registration campaign was in 1972.
Tom has acted in some 40 shows and produced over 100 plays, special events, festivals and community programs. 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 was elected to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School’s Local School Council and served from 2004 to 2006.
In 2008 he was a co-founder of Protect Our Parks, a neighborhood effort to stop 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 teaches a number of classes on art, creativity and civic engagement for Loyola University, School of the Art Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University and for i c stars. 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. With Benjamin Sugar Tom co-founded The CivicLab, a co-working space where activists, educators, coders and designers came to work, collaborate, teach, and build tools for civic engagement. The space was located in Chicago’s West Loop at 114 N. Aberdeen and operated for two eventful years closing on June 30, 2015.
He is the lead organizer for the TIF Illumination Project that is investigating and explaining the impacts of Tax Increment Financing districts on a ward-by-ward basis. Tom and the TIF Illumination Project are profiled in the cover story of the July 22, 2013 issue of The Nation entitled “Chicago Rising!” He has presented on how TIFs impact neighborhoods all over the city.
These public meetings are called Illuminations and since February of 2013 we’ve presented at a staggering 51 public forums in front of over 6,200 people. Amazingly, no major daily Chicago media outlet or our public radio or public TV station has covered this work or attended one of these meetings!
Tom consulted with the Rockford Housing Authority on a local economic development program that combines the arts and creative enterprise.
In October of 2014 Tom was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by the Encore Foundation – which recognizes change agents over the age of 60 (sigh). He was named a “Best of Chicago 2015” as “Best activist in the interest of the public defense” by NewCity Magazine.
In July of 2016 Tom published a book of short articles by local experts on how we can save and generate MAJOR revenues for Chicago. “Chicago Is Not Broke. Funding the City We Deserve” was made possible by a crowdfunding campaign that attracted 203 contributors.
Legendary political organizer Don Rose calls it “required reading.”
From July of 2016 through October of 2017 we’ve done 55 public meetings around the book attended by over 2,300 people! Bring us to YOUR community! Meanwhile ALL of the major media outlets in Chicago have refused to review the book or cover any of the civic work surrounding it!
In June of 2017 Tom and Jonathan Peck launched The POWER Institute to offer training and advanced skill building for civic life and community work. Check out www.powerinstitute.us for the latest workshop schedule.
Watch the first eight minutes of this video to get an overview of my civic work and why I do what I do. [The TIF Illumination Project was in Woodstock, Illinois on October 20, 2015. The video is 1 hour, 11 minutes long and is followed by a display of the PowerPoint deck. Simple URL for this video = http://tinyurl.com/Woodstock-TIF-Forum. The video was recorded and edited by Ahoj Productions]
Listen to this 47 minute podcast where I am interviewed about my background, civic work and the connections between creativity and democracy.
Email: tom at tresser dot com
Over 100,000 have people viewed my presentations at SlideShare! You can, too. Listen to this August 7, 2014 Heartland Institute podcast interview with Tom, covering the founding of the CivicLab, the work of the TIF Illumination Project and more (39 minutes).