The Miller Beach Arts & Creative District strives to be a diverse, welcoming and vibrant cultural destination for the visual, performing and culinary arts. Our aim is to use the arts as a catalyst for community regeneration, sustainability and enriched quality of life that transforms the unique community and environment of Miller into a vital part of the city of Gary and the surrounding region.
Founded in 2011 by a diverse group of passionate volunteers, Miller Beach Arts & Creative District is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, operating as a community development corporation.
The organization operates a 6,000 square foot facility, the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts, as a space for the presentation of a wide variety of visual and performing arts, along with an active schedule of other community events. A sample of events include hosting the performance by the Alvin Ailey II dance troupe from New York, a plein art festival, live music concerts, film screenings, dance performances, different art exhibits every month, our biennial public art street festival, annual sand mandala creation and cultural week with Tibetan monks, artisan fairs, holiday sing along, cultural documentary films, seasonal Farmers Market (June – August) and more. Many events are offered at no or minimal cost, and all are welcome! Our art center is also available for rent: birthday parties, weddings, receptions and community meetings.
Irene Scott-King, President, has been a life-long resident of Gary, Indiana and currently lives in the Miller community of Gary. She and her husband have been active in Gary and raised their three children in the community. (All graduates of Emerson Visual & Performing Arts School) She attended Roosevelt High School and Ball State University. Mrs. Scott- King is a patron and advocate for the arts. She has spent the last 15 years dedicated to public service and the arts.
Jenifer Vargo Okamura, Executive Director, has dedicated her career to the advancement of nonprofits and community-based organizations for
more than 25 years. Most recently, serving as the Director of Development for Hospice of Calumet Area
for the past eight years. Previous positions include Development & Marketing Director for Association
House of Chicago and Director of Development at Erikson Institute.
Kathy Long, President, is an accomplished commodity broker who enjoys hard work, new challenges and making a difference. Kathy is highly organized with demonstrated leadership and communication skills. Her career follows a lifetime of diverse, successful work that includes Sales, Sales Management, Operations Management, Systems Development, and Project Management. She is best known for troubleshooting and getting results. Along with her partner, Kathy started the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District’s Farmers Market, serves on the Events Committee, and is Chair of the Properties & Best Use Committee.
Nancy Hejna, secretary, is a recently retired pediatric occupational therapist, now a happy grandmother, and also a visual artist who’s work is largely inspired by the dynamic landscape surrounding the Great Lakes. Nancy’s work can be found online. Prior to moving to Miller Beach in 2017, Nancy served on the board of the Riverside Arts Center (RAC), in Riverside, Illinois for many years. To have the Marshall J. Gardner Center at the core of the Miller business district is an invaluable, precious asset that continues to culturally, socially, and economically enrich the larger community. The MBACD is the type of organization that requires and deserves wide community support. Nancy is happy to bring her previous experience with the RAC to the MBACD, including assistance with grant request, expanding exhibitions, and being an overall “team” player.
Wendy Petit-Prettyman, Treasurer, is a long-time resident of Miller Beach and is a local accountant. With more than 50 years of professional experience, Ms. Prettyman has served as the president of Pettit Accounting & Management Services, LLC, since 1990. A respected voice in her community, Ms. Prettyman has been affiliated with numerous organizations in her areas of expertise. She is a member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of Tax Professionals, and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, and she is the treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Miller Business Association. The former chair of the Business Advisory Council, she has also served as treasurer and on the board of directors of the Foundation for Peace, and she is a charter member and treasurer of the board of directors of the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District CDC, Inc. Throughout her career, Ms. Prettyman has been recognized for her contributions, including having been named Career Woman of the Year by Business and Professional Women. She has been featured in numerous honors publications,
including multiple editions of Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Who’s Who in Finance and Business, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders in America. In her free time, Ms. Prettyman enjoys singing, piano, cooking and the arts.
Ann E. Rose is a native of Miller Beach and an artist/entrepreneur in her own right. Ann began designing unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry over 20 years ago. While pursuing her entrepreneurial passion, Ann worked as an executive assistant in the Finance and Banking industry in Chicago for 30 years and spent 12 years at Kirkland & Ellis as Attorney HR Assistant. You can find Annie Rose Originals on display at Lake Street Gallery in Miller Beach, Miller Beach Farmer’s Market, and various fundraisers and parties around NW Indiana and the Greater Chicagoland Area. Additionally, Ann donates jewelry sets to silent auctions for worthy causes such as UNICEF, Association House of Chicago, Crisis Center and the NW Indiana Humane Society. Ann is Co-Chair of the MBACD’s Events & Marketing Committee. Most of all, Ann is the proud owner of her Maltese/Bichon Dog, Junior!
John Cain is an advisor to our executive committee. He has served South Shore Arts as executive director since 1993 and has been instrumental in the organization’s rise as a leader in the cultural life of the Calumet Region. He has led South Shore Arts through an evolutionary phase, culminating in the opening of two branch locations and its designation by the Indiana Arts Commission as a Regional Arts Partner.
Terese Cooke Bottner grew up enjoying life on the beach as a third-generation Miller-ite. For 10+ years, she has been Principal and Executive Director of TCB Communications, a certified Women’s Enterprise Business specializing in developing mindful communication practices and career performance for professionals and at-risk youth in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
Terese has a strong network and is a natural connector. She is passionate about Miller and its significant creative pulse. She infuses visual and performance art into her youth development program, LifeWork, to improve self-awareness, confidence, creative expression, and community connection.
Terese earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, and trained at Chicago's Second City Training Center and Chicago’s Act One Studios. She has performed as a speaker, singer, actor, and is a devoted practitioner of yoga and meditation. Prior to coaching, Terese was a public relations specialist with the Chicago Board of Trade and an independent consultant for a variety of clients and industries providing services in public relations, marketing, sales, and recruiting. She has extensive volunteer experience with numerous organizations doing event production and fundraising.
Geneie Dilts is a long standing resident of Miller Beach with many ties to the community. She is a recently retired high school special education teacher and is very active in many organizations. Geneie’s love of her community, the beach, art, and people in general are infectious and are a great addition to the MBACD.
Karen Knezic is employed at Korellis Roofing as the Assistant Service Manager. Prior to joining the MBACD Board, Karen served as President of the St. Sava Dance Group for five years where she organized many events and fundraising efforts. Karen graduated from IU Bloomington with a Bachelor&amp;#039;s Degree in Art History and lives in Valparaiso with her husband Nick and their 15-year old son Lazo. Utilizing her past experience, Karen is excited to take part in planning some fun and amazing events while raising funds to support the community. Karen&amp;#039;s aunt currently lives in Miller and both she and Karen&amp;#039;s mother attended St. Mary of the Lake many many years ago. She has fond memories of her mother delivering cookies for the original Miller Bakery when she was a young girl and spending summers in Marquette Park on the beach. The Miller Beach community has always been a big part of Karen&amp;#039;s life and she is thrilled to serve on the board of the MBACD. Karen sees tremendous potential to create new ways to better serve the community and beyond.
Tim Petrites agrees that Dorothy said it best: “There’s no place like home.” For me, that’s Northwest Indiana. A lifelong resident, I am committed to my clients because I’m more than just their realtor, I’m their neighbor. We’re part of the same community and that means something to me. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s all about trust, and feeling confident, that no matter what, your realtor will have your back. If you’ll give me the honor of earning your trust, I won’t just work for you, I’ll work with you, holding your hand through every step of the process. I’ll help you navigate this ever-evolving market from the perspective of both a seasoned broker and a local, who with every successful closing, has been blessed with the dual privilege of having served his hometown and his clients.
“I fully love and appreciate art in ALL forms. From music and food to public sculpture. We are surrounded, if we take time to look.”
Tim Petrites is a full-time broker in Northwest Indiana and has closed millions of dollars in real estate in the Hoosier state. He is on the board of directors for the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, Miller Community Fund, Downtown Hammond Council and is an active member of St. Mary of the Lake. To contact Tim call/text 219-689-7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maria Burud brings over 25 years of experience in the professional services and technology industry, predominantly dedicated to sales and marketing. Maria is currently the Senior Vice President of ShowingTime, Inc. a technology company for Showing Management and Statistical Solutions for MLS’s, Brokers and Agents. Prior to ShowingTime, Maria was President and Founder of The Zanon Group, a sales and marketing training and consulting firm that helps companies increase revenues through sales execution and marketing programs. In her work with Zanon, Maria created custom, systematized programs designed to help companies grow revenues, create more strategic relationships, and develop their people into high quality execution oriented, differentiated teams. Maria earned a bachelors degree in Marketing from Loyola University of Chicago. She sits on multiple boards – Future Founders (a nonprofit that believes every youth can become an entrepreneur) and mTuitive, Inc. (a medical software solution provider) and is active as an advisor and mentor in not for profit organizations, including 1871.
Deidre L. Dixon was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. After high school Deidre enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps where she served for 10 years. After many years, Deidre has returned to her roots and resides in the Miller Beach community, pursuing her love of the arts while working as an executive administrative professional. Deidre is a gifted abstract artist who uses vibrant color and mixed media to create one-of-a-kind pieces with passion and depth. Her eclectic style offers a variety of creations to suit every taste. The hallmark of her work is the poetry she writes that shares her mindset during creation. You can see much of her visual arts on her Instagram page, www.intstagram.com/deidre_dixon_artist. Deidre has been an artist and prolific performer for much of her life. Her acting debut occurred in high school when she portrayed ‘Clara’ in the drama club’s rendition of “Porgy and Bess.” During that time, she also competed with the Northern Indiana School Band, Orchestra and Vocal Association (NISBOVA). Over a three-year period, Deidre sang with ensembles, quartets and in solo performances, earning 18 gold medals and three silver medals, taking 1st Place for all of her solos. Later, Deidre discovered a gift for writing. She has written hundreds of poems, some of which can be read on her poetry page, www.poemhunter.com/deidre-dixon. In 2005, Deidre published her first book, “Fitly Spoken Words: A Book of Poetry, Prose &amp; Powerful Revelations.” In addition, she is a talented songwriter, with over 50 songs to her credit (BMI – Aqua Lyrics). One of her songs, “I Worship You in the Spirit,” was published on the Shekinah Glory Ministries project, “Praise is What I Do” which earned a RIAA Gold award. Deidre currently serves on the Board of the Chicagoland Admin Awards, is a member of the American Society for Administrative Professionals, and she is honing her public speaking skills with Toastmasters International. The loves of her life are her son, Brandon, and her “Grandman,” Carter.
Larry Lapidus is from New York City and has made his living as a renowned portrait photographer in New York & Chicago for 30 years. In New York, Larry studied under universally known “Life” magazine photographer Phillipe Halsman.
Now living in Miller Beach, Larry is on the Board of the Miller Beach Art & Creative District. He has been instrumental in programming the documentary film series which he has initiated and for which he provides accompanying lectures. He has curated several art & photography exhibits and has implemented the “Moveable Wall Art” in the windows of MJGC. In another role he enjoys locating new and established talent for our galleries.
For over two decades Larry has volunteered on the Board of Directors for the Near North Chapter of Lyric Opera of Chicago procuring speakers and singers for fundraising events, as well as being a volunteer lecturer for community outreach. He is also on the Board of the Wagner Society of America.
Adding to his artistic repertoire, he has recently turned his eyes and hands to acrylic abstract painting, as this medium allows him to express himself in ways that extend beyond those available in photography.