Northwest Area Arts Council (NAAC) - Old Court House Arts Center (OCHAC)

...a volunteer agency dedicated to connecting the arts community in northwest Illinois.



Here is some background information about:

the Northwest Area Arts Council (NAAC) and The Old Court House Arts Center (OCHAC)...


NAAC's History:

Formation of an Arts Council research committee was initiated by unanimous Crystal Lake City Council vote in December, 1980 under the direction of Mayor Carl Wehde. After three years, in May, 1983, the Community Arts Council was established as a fully-sanctioned City Commission, with representatives appointed from the City, the Crystal Lake Park District, the community at large, local service organizations, visual and performing artists, and the corporate community. In addition, a separate group was designated to be comprised of representatives from local arts organizations.

The Community Arts Council was based in Crystal Lake's City Hall, acting as liaison to coordinate activities of various arts organizations in the community, promoting interest in programs in all phases of the arts, and aiding in program development. Steps were taken in 1991 for the Council to become a separate nonprofit organization. Working artists, some who also founded Women's Works, took over management of the group.

We've evolved over the years from a clearinghouse for publicizing events in the area to a facilitator for initiating broad-based arts programming, community outreach, and scholarships for the entire area. Members joined from McHenry, Kane, Lake, DuPage and Cook counties. In September, 1994, The Community Arts Council became a non-profit organization and adopted its current name, The Northwest Area Arts Council (NAAC), to reflect the impact and goals of the evolving organization. We had paid staff until 2005, when we became an all-volunteer group. Today, our work continues entirely through the dedication of our board and our volunteers.

Over the years, NAAC has successfully completed many art exhibitions and programs at the Old Court House Arts Center in Woodstock (owned for many years by Bev and Cliff Ganschow) as well as other area venues. Most notably, our key international exhibition, Women's Works, celebrated 27 years in 2014.

In January 2014, NAAC assumed day-to-day management for this classic venue, as the City of Woodstock seeks a new culturally-minded owner. More information is available on their website.

Our programming reaches out to the northwest area of Illinois, and lower Wisconsin in general and the McHenry County area in specific, with major events and activities in Woodstock, McHenry, Algonquin, and Crystal Lake.

Our Board plans coordinates exhibitions and programs, organizational relationships, and funding connections to continue our arts advocacy efforts.

"The Nortwest Area Arts Council is a volunteer agency dedicated to connecting artists of all ages with the community at large and to fostering creativity in all areas of life. NAAC accomplishes this by educating, informing, and inspiring the community through programs and events that encourage appreciation, participation, and support of the arts."

OCHAC's History:

The Old Court House Arts Center was constructed in 1857, a classic brick structure designed by one of the country's most prominent architects, John Mills Van Osdel. Thirty years later, the adjoining Sheriff's House & Jail building was added. After more than a century of serving as the center of local government, the deteriorating complex was vacated in 1972 and scheduled to be demolished to make way for a parking lot. It was saved from the wrecker's ball when purchased by Woodstock residents Cliff and Bev Ganschow, and an extensive renovation program was completed during America's Bicentennial. Because of their national architectural and historical significance, both the Old Court House Arts Center and the Sheriff's House & Jail were designated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of its historic space is now occupied by the Old Court House Art Center's unique galleries.  Throughout the building complex you can still see the original pressed tin ceilings... impenetrable jail ceils... massive iron vault doors that are beautifully decorated with hand-painted murals and floral motifs...old election tallies recorded and preserved on a giant chalkboard... beautiful arched doorways and handsome moldings...and an elegant winding stairway leading to the magnificent Grand Court Room.  Artists' studios occupy the south wing, formerly the jury sleeping rooms.

La Petite Creperie is housed in the building formerly known as the Sheriff's House, located in the Old Court House Arts Center complex. The building, which was constructed in 1887, functioned as the County Sheriff's House until 1972. The sheriff's family lived in this building while inmates occupied approximately a dozen cells in the back half. During the time of occupancy, it was customary for the sheriff's wife to prepare meals for the inmates. Now, La Petite Creperie is a cozy little place with a casual atmosphere where you will enjoy a wonderful meal and knowledgeable service, all at a great price.  The wine list is carefully selected for quality and value.

As stated earlier,January 2014 saw yet another transformation as the Northwest Area Arts Council took over operations of the Old Court House Arts Center. We are pleased with the progress of this new direction for NAAC and the arts community in Northern Illinois. If you have any questions or comments, please visit our Contact Page to get in touch with us.