Carly Bishop’s role at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC) kept growing since she was hired in 2012.
Now, she is taking on one of the most important positions at the BAC, 2407 W. 111th St.
Bishop, of Oak Lawn, was announced as the new artistic director on June 26. She succeeds Shellee Frazee, who was artistic director since 2013.
Bishop said she is proud of her accomplishments at the BAC and is excited to do more.
“I’m the kind of person who is able to think about an organization both on the whole and in parts,” Bishop said. “I knew that there was a lot of quick easy fixes that we could make to shore up our different disciplines in our organization.”
According to BAC officials, Bishop, an East Coast native, has worked at the center as a teaching artist, director of summer arts camps and as director of outreach.
At the start of her tenure, she taught Shakespeare theater, directed musicals and led improvisational comedy classes in working with students in Chicago Public Schools and suburban schools.
Two years in, she expanded a summer arts day camp from three days a week to five days, and two years later, she became the director of outreach, expanding a partnership that now includes over 45 schools and serves 12,500 students.
She also joined a diversity and inclusion committee last summer.
Now, her main priority is overseeing BAC programs during the COVID-19 crisis. With in-person programming not allowed or severely scaled back, she has been forced to improvise.
“My goal for the time being is obviously to keep the Beverly Arts Center relevant and afloat during this time of COVID-19 and the pandemic,” Bishop said, “and find alternative ways that we can serve our community now in our virtual world.”
The BAC is offering free Zoom programs that began on June 29 with a social justice theme. One program will focus on Rosa Parks, and another will teach older students about Chinese calligraphy and focus on peace and unity.
As Chicago is now in Phase 4 of the response from COVID-19, on-site children’s camps will begin July 6, with limited enrollment available, and Music Mondays, featuring live entertainment in the BAC courtyard, will also return that day.
An art gallery highlighting various women’s works is also open.
Live shows and plays with large audiences will not return until Phase 5.
In a news release, BAC Board President Ed Laginess commended Bishop’s work at the BAC.
“Carly has served the BAC wonderfully for many years,” he said. “Starting as a teaching artist, her passion and energy to support the arts and each student who steps foot through our doors is remarkable. That drive has helped her promote positive change in the organization, and we are thrilled to have her help lead our artistic vision.”
Bishop, a professional actress and director/choreographer, holds a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has worked at theaters including Utah Shakespeare Festival, Grand Ole Opry, McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton University, the John F. Kennedy Center, and the National Theatre.
Her plays have been produced at the Altarena Playhouse in San Francisco, the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., Raven Theatre in Chicago, and the Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine, Fla.
She has also been the resident choreographer at Moraine Valley Community College.
Bishop said she “accidentally ended up in Chicago eight years ago.” She arrived with plans to become an inner-city teacher as a way to “pay it forward” from all the great teachers she had, but when she submitted her resume to potential employers, the BAC was one of the first to respond.
She met her husband in Chicago and is now a mother.
Bishop said the BAC was enjoying a strong year before the public health crisis began, and it’s difficult not being able to entertain large audiences.
Still, she is optimistic about the future of the local arts scene.
“The arts industry in Chicago is thriving and just such a wonderful place that it felt like home, so I decided to stay,” Bishop said. “And, the Beverly Arts Center was kind enough to take me in. I found a new artistic home there, and I’m prepared to make a really big impact in the years to come.”