Artspace 304 was established in July 1987 under the name of Carbondale Community Arts as a joint effort between artists Kathy Sanjabi and Bonnie Moreno, along with the support of local artists and community leaders who shared the common interest of broadening access to arts opportunities for the people of Southern Illinois.
With the goal of a community arts center in mind, they began by organizing a multidisciplinary festival, the first of which was Arts in Celebration 1988. The recurring festival was held as a biennial event for more than a decade, and established the foundation for Artspace 304 as an arts organization focusing on cultural diversity in the creative sphere.
Since October 2015, Artspace 304 has occupied its current location at 304 Walnut St. in the heart of Carbondale, where we continue to develop and encourage cultural expression and creativity in the many communities which make up the Southern Illinois region. We routinely liaise with other organizations in the area, such as the Southern Illinois Hospitals–Cancer Institute, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and regional high schools in order to implement our mission of exhibiting and cultivating our region’s creative talent.
304 W WALNUT
Originally built in 1957 to house the Carbondale Public Library and subsequently converted into a Christian Science Reading Room, 304 Walnut St. is a wonderful example of mid-century modern architecture by architects Lee, Potter & Smith of Paducah, KY. The building, with its iconic facade, was later acquired and renovated by Artspace 304 (then known as Carbondale Community Arts) with the aid of an anonymous donor and finally opened to the public in 2015.
The renovated space showcases the original wooden ceiling and concrete floors and large glass windows allow natural light to flood the space, making it an ideal location for exhibiting and viewing artwork. The uninterrupted views from inside and the double entrances underscore the multidisciplinary nature of Artspace 304’s mission by extending the gallery beyond the interior of the building.
Besides the main gallery space, the building houses the multi-functional Neil and Mary Ellen Dillard Media and Performance Gallery, designed specifically for theatrical, performance, and projected works. Our space at 304 Walnut St. also houses Shop 304 where the public can browse the work of artists throughout the region and is equipped with a professional kitchen.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND ARTSPACE 304
CEO & Executive Director
Chuck Benya is the CEO and Executive Director of Artspace 304, a multi-disciplinary creative hub and cultural space dedicated to providing top-notch cultural arts programming, expanding the regional arts economy, and ensuring access and support to artists in Southern Illinois.
Before joining Artspace 304 in 2020, Chuck had HR, advancement, marketing, and programming roles with arts organizations across the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the Guggenheim Museum, The Kings Arts Complex, Performing Arts Chicago, and the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education.
He serves on the Carbondale Arts and Entertainment Commission, Illinois Local Arts Network, and Arts Alliance Illinois Advisory Board. Over the past three decades, Chuck has been a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Greater Columbus Arts Council, and Illinois Arts Council Agency and led steering committees to strengthen arts economies, funding, education, advocacy, and policy.
Chuck’s extensive nonprofit experience includes over 25 years of human services leadership within Heartland Alliance, CARE USA, and Vital Bridges. His service to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and her Institute for Caregiving led to her blueprint for a national caregiving network. Former clients include the ISS Center for Advancement of Science and Space, Eat Right, SOLV, and the Michigan Community Service Commission. Chuck has helped steer and broker over $500M in funds for organizations.
He holds a BA in English and Literature from Nazareth College, an MPP from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Quantic School of Business. Chuck is midway through his leadership and organizational theory doctorate at Vanderbilt University. He is the recipient of academic and public honors and awards, a proud dog dad of the best rescue in the universe, and an avid cook and reader.
Kari Woolsey began her involvement with Artspace 304 as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University before eventually becoming the organization’s Assistant Director.
Kari received an MFA in Ceramics from Southern Illinois University in 2018, and afterwards completed several artist residencies around the USA. She divides her practice between the creation of functional pottery pieces and installation work, and is active in the artistic community of Carbondale outside of her studio.
Southern Illinois Arts Council (SIAC)
The Southern Illinois Arts Council (SIAC) is an auxillary board formed in 2022 to increase arts, access, and advocacy throughout the Southern Illinois region. Learn more >>
Board of Directors
Marsha Ryan has been a part of Artspace 304 since its inception, having been approached to join the board by founding members Bonnie Moreno, Kathy Sanjabi, and Nancy Stemper. She is especially interested in the revitalization of the Carbondale Arts and Entertainment District and the expansion of community arts sites throughout the Carbondale area.
Marsha’s artistic endeavors lean towards performance, as she danced and taught ballet for a number of years and attended theater and improv classes at Southern Illinois University. Besides her studies at SIU, she has been involved with the university as a member of several university boards including the SIU Foundation, the SIU Women’s Club, and the SIU Board of Trustees. Her experience underscores the many cultural opportunities offered by the collaboration of the university, the City of Carbondale, and Artspace 304, and the accessibility to theater, music, film, and visual art afforded to the area’s many communities.
Camille Davidson, Secretary
John Patterson, Treasurer
Darrell Bryant, Member
Carolin Harvey, Member
Matt Kupec, Member
Fern Logan, Member
Antonio Martinez, Member
Jay Needham, Member
Dr. Kirk Overstreet, Member
Kathleen Pine, Member
Elaine Ramseyer, Member
Kristina Scott, Member
Jak Tichenor, Member