Welcome to Partner Spotlight! A highlight of the diverse and talented individuals in our Chicago Northwest region’s hospitality industry.
MEET JOE PODLASEK, Founder and CEO of Trickster Cultural Center
Joe Podlasek got his start in the not-for-profit world as a systems engineer at the Chicago History Museum. While setting up the computer systems for the museum, he spent quite a bit of time chatting with the Executive Director and discovered he was more interested in sharing history with people than he was working on computers. He left his position and became the Executive Director of the American Indian Center in Chicago where he served for 14 years.
In the early 2000’s, Trickster Gallery was opened on Roselle Road in Schaumburg and for a time Joe and the American Indian Center managed both facilities. When the decision was made by the board of directors to release the space in Schaumburg, Joe saw an opportunity, approached the Village of Schaumburg and was appointed the Executive Director of the Trickster Gallery, now known as the Trickster Cultural Center, in 2005.
“One of the most enjoyable moments that I laugh at now is when we first looked at the location at 190 S. Roselle Rd., I had one of my staff artists with me, and he looked at this huge 10,000 sq. ft. building and asked ‘Which part do we get’ which was funny because a building like this, we thought we would have a hard time filling, we now need a second building to share all the cultural arts and programs.” says Joe.
There are 70,000 Native Americans in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, making Schaumburg an ideal location to serve this diverse population. There are over one hundred tribes in Chicagoland with nearly 170,000 Native Americans spread out through the State of Illinois. Many are of the Ojibwe, Pottawattamie, Ho Chunk and Menominee Tribes.
Trickster Cultural Center puts on two events each month and rotates twelve exhibits annually. The Center also gets involved in advocacy. “I really enjoy helping veterans. My Dad was a Korean Vet who always helped too.” Of special note, Joe has been nominated for two Emmy’s with his latest documentary titled “D-Day Warriors: It Was Our War Too” and features the Native contributions during D-day. Native Americans continue to be the highest serving minority in the country at the rate of 22% and were even more so through World War I and II at the rate of 70%. Native women entering the service has quadrupled in the past twenty years.
Joe loves his work and states, “I get the honor of doing something very few people get to do, love the work you get to do everyday. Culture, and especially American Indian Culture, is who I am and I get to share, educate and continue to learn more each day.” He goes on to say how much he enjoys meeting people and learning about their work.
When asked what advice he would like to give to young professionals out there, he cautions, “to slow down and enjoy meeting the people you get to work with and spend time with. In this world of everything so fast paced, we jump into meetings, share our business cards and we’re off to the next meeting. Take the time to really engage culture and all it has to offer. Find your own cultural heritage too!”
Special thanks to Joe for sharing a little bit about himself! We hope you join us as we share Partner Spotlights each month.