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. Tom is extremely proud to announce the launch of a new civic project, The CivicLab, a co-working space where activists, educators, coders and designers come to work, collaborate, teach, and build tools for civic engagement. The space is located in Chicago’s West Loop at 114 N. Aberdeen.
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.
Tom consulted with the Rockford Housing Authority on a local economic development program that combines the arts and creative enterprise.
On July 4, 2014 Tom launched the Public Defender Campaign, a crowd-led and crowd-funded effort to stop privatization and expand public service in Chicago.
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).
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).