Introducing VG’s New Community Engagement Managers

Happy Holidays!

Before we get into filling our stockings and singing cheesy holidays songs, we wanted to take a moment to introduce ourselves.

Hello. We are Jaclyn Tidwell and Nikki Patin, Victory Gardens Theater’s new Community Engagement Managers. We started at the beginning of November, so some of you may already know us. Hi again.

As Community Engagement Managers, our goal is to connect all of the vibrant communities in Chicago with our work here at Victory Gardens Theater. However, that doesn’t just mean getting people here to check out our productions. It also means us showing up to support what’s happening outside of Victory Gardens. To that end, you might see us taking meetings at your favorite cafe or getting some planning done at your local library or applauding a performance of teen poets at a community event.

Connecting with communities is more than what we do here at Victory Gardens Theater. It’s been a way of life for both of us for a very long time.

Though Jaclyn was born and raised in central Illinois, she called Nashville, TN home for 10 years prior to moving to Chicago this past summer. During her time in Nashville, Jaclyn connected to the community in many ways. In the Nashville theat​er​ community, Jaclyn worked as an actor, writer, and organizer with Actors Bridge Ensemble, Nashville Children’s Theatre, and Nashville Repertory Theatre. Jaclyn also served weekly as an art studio mentor at the Oasis Center, a youth intervention program for teenage men caught in the juvenile justice system. In her past role at the Arts & Business Council Nashville, Jaclyn developed three year-round projects that connected business and community volunteers with low-income residents of Nashville to provide education, mentorship, and support. A highlight was designing Periscope, a small business incubation program to create business training and economic opportunity for artists. Jaclyn also managed partner relationships working with a range of community organizations including the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, The Land Trust for Tennessee, and the Center for Nonprofit Management. As a professional theat​er​ artist, Jaclyn produces high-level theat​er​ and contemporary arts exhibitions, creates community events, and co-founded the inaugural Sideshow Fringe Festival, a progressive four-day performing arts event. Jaclyn holds a B.A. in Political Science and Theatre Performance from Belmont University.

A native Chicagoan, Nikki first began to connect with communities in Chicago as a spoken word artist and educator. Nikki has performed, taught and spoken at elementary schools, high schools, colleges, universities and community events such as the University of Chicago, Adler School of Psychology, Northwestern University, Nancy B. Jefferson High School (located within the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center), Francis Parker High School, DePaul University, Chicago Humanities Festival, Beastwomen, The Black Women’s Expo and many others. Nikki is also an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She has worked closely with Rape Victim Advocates and Center on Halsted as an educator and case manager. Nikki has also supported numerous arts education organizations in their efforts to connect young people with arts, including Urban Gateways, the Chicago Park District and Free Write Jail Arts. In 2014, Nikki was part of a historic delegation of Black women who traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to speak on behalf of Black women sexual violence survivors before the United Nations. Nikki holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of Southern Maine and is the Executive Director/Founder of Surviving the Mic, an organization dedicated to creating safe and affirming creative space for survivors of trauma of all kinds.

With our experience and passion for engaging and supporting communities as well as a wealth of dynamic experience, we make an excellent team and we’re grateful for the opportunity that Victory Gardens has given us to collaborate with each other and with YOU, the beautiful people who make up the communities of Chicago.

So, keep an eye out for us. If you see us out and about, feel free to introduce yourselves or even snap a selfie with us!

We look forward to engaging and connecting with you.

Happy Holidays!

Nikki and Jaclyn