Handcrafted Community + Full of Character = Kara Kesselring


Photo by Joel Gonzalez of WeOurStory

Who is Kara?
I was born and raised in Southeast Iowa on a family farm.  I started performing when I was little and graduated with a music degree from the University of Iowa.  I immediately moved to Chicago and started freelance gigging.  My husband and I lived in Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village for 6 years before purchasing our first (and only) house in Berwyn 17 years ago.  At the time, I was traveling from the city to Berwyn to take jazz piano lessons from a teacher who lived in North Berwyn.  The commute and parking were easy and his brick bungalow was really cute.  The homes in Berwyn were very affordable and the neighborhood was safe, so we bought a house that we “de-grandma-fied” on a corner lot.

We started playing music at Oliver Twist on Tuesday nights.  They had a piano in the front window and had just opened. I was walking by with my dog, saw the piano and I marched in, sat down and played a 45 minute set in my sweat pants with my dog Sammy at my side.  Our jazz trio proceeded to play there for many years and we met lots of folks in the community through that venue.


Why do you live in Berwyn?
My husband and I are both professional musicians, so we like that Berwyn has lots of live music venues.  Friendly Tap, Harlem Ave Lounge, Fitzgerald’s, Wire, Cigars & Stripes, The Outta Space—all of which we’ve performed at over the years. The work at 16th Street Theater is some of the best live theater in the Midwest and we try to get to as many shows as we can. Our daughter is in public school in District 100 and we have had great experiences there and love that the school is so diverse.

If we were to have a “Berwyn Day,” where would we go and what would we do?
If we were to have a Berwyn day, it would consist of Breakfast at Connie’s or Jelly Jam (we like them both).  We would walk my dog through Proksa Park (love that she can join us there in the park now!). We’d either eat at Zacatacos for lunch or Conga Cuban Cafe which has the best Cuban sandwiches! Then we might take the dog to the dog park, which we have a pass.

Then we’d take a trip to Costco which is super close, or bike through Riverside to the Brookfield Zoo. So close!  Then on to Flapjack for a pizza dinner if with my daughter.  If it’s a date night,  Autre Monde for fancy drinks! Then we’d stick our head in to Friendly Tap, Wire, or Fitzgerald’s.  All walkable.

Why is Berwyn #NothingLikeASuburb?
Berwyn has lots of live music venues and talent. We’ve met many interesting people in the arts that have moved to Berwyn and we have collaborated with them creatively over the years. Berwyn is rock and roll!


What is the Why Berwyn? Campaign?
Since 2007, the City of Berwyn has actively promoted its rich history and forward momentum. The campaign’s objective is to pique the curiosity of Chicago area residents and to create a driving desire to visit and live in Berwyn.

The 2018 campaign continues its storytelling under the “Nothing Like A Suburb” tagline that has been used for the past four years. This year’s messaging carries over from 2017 and reflects Berwyn’s core values and assets—our individuality, genuine community and unabashed self-awareness. Outdoor advertising and social media will again focus on two themes, Full of Character(s) and Handcrafted Community. This year, the BDC collaborated with local photographer Joel Gonzalez of WeOurStory to capture the campaign images.

Each theme highlights specific local “characters” to help illustrate our message. Our characters – whether they are homegrown or have seen Berwyn as a beacon for their craft – have made an impact on our cultural landscape.

The 2018 campaign runs from June through September and includes billboards in Chicago neighborhoods, posters on CTA el platforms, direct-to-consumer outreach through special events and social media engagement. The responsively designed WhyBerwyn.com blog provides visitors with a stream of information on the area’s real estate, businesses, schools, parks and recreation, cultural hot spots and special events.

For more information, continue here.

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