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
Chuck Benya joined Artspace 304 as Executive Director in 2020 after decades of working in and for nonprofits across the United States, including Chicago and New York City. He has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The King Arts Complex, and the Illinois Alliance for Arts Education among others. Artspace 304’s expanded reach and its ability to provide more funding, resources, and opportunities to artists in the area is what excites him most about the future of the organization.
Chuck is actively involved in the visual and performing arts throughout Southern Illinois, working closely with regional organizations such as the Southern Illinois Music Festival. He enjoys the local landscape and the hidden gems of the Carbondale area, such as its small-town cafés and craft breweries, as well as the sense of individuality and pride which permeates the local creative industry.
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.
Communications & Engagement Manager
Southern Illinois Artists Council (SIAC)
The Southern Illinois Artists 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
President of the Board
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.