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The story of Little City & Luke

The story starts with an empty coffin and an idea.

Luke has been here before and knows this is no scary story. In fact, Luke has always had a special way of making life out of death. Even from the moment he was born, Luke wasn’t breathing. So he was rushed to a Munich hospital with his parents – who met and fell in love through their mutual survival of concentration camps – and he was revived. Luke, born out of the ashes of war, had snatched life out of death.

That empty coffin doesn’t stay empty for long in Luke’s world. He makes it a beautiful piece of art and often a tribute to one of his favorite composers whether it is Beethoven or Mendelssohn. At 72 years old and after a lifetime of critical acclaim for his art from places such as the Art Institute and Northwestern University, Luke is still making something out of nothing and changing the morose into magnificence.

“He still has flashes of brilliance,” said Little City Center for the Arts Director Frank Tumino as he held up a recently completed painting of composer Anton Bruckner. “It’s just a little slower because he’s just a little older.”

It’s nearly impossible to tell the story of Little City and the potential it promises without telling the story of Luke, who is in his 51st year of living at the Palatine campus. After coming to America with his Polish mother and Czechoslovakian father, Luke and his family came to Little City in 1968. It didn’t take long for Luke to turn his mother’s love of music and father’s love of art into something all his own.

He was one of the first artists to gain recognition as part of Little City’s award-winning Center for the Arts, which didn’t start until 20 years after Luke arrived. Luke’s artwork has been displayed in major galleries across the nation – including a solo exhibit at Northwestern – and purchased by people around the world. He’s been featured in major publications and was part of a documentary highlighting the Center for the Arts.

Today, Luke is still a shining example of how Little City can help those with developmental disabilities reach their own unique potential. He not only creates tremendous art, but he uses other services such as Golden Opportunities, where he socializes and partakes in community activities with other seniors. He lives independently and by his own schedule, using only the support he needs. And after five decades, he is truly a face of Little City’s mission when it comes to life.

“For me personally and from an organizational standpoint, there is no doubt,” Frank said of Luke giving just as much to Little City as Little City has given to him. “I can’t imagine a better way to put our best foot forward.”

Like his art, Luke has given plenty of life to Little City and plans to keep creating art for as long as he can. But despite all the success and living through the growth of Little City from 1968 until now, the first word Luke uses to describe his time at Little City is simple.

“Home.”

Celebrate 60 years of Little City and support Luke’s home by donating to our Little City Day of Giving campaign.

“Little City uses an affirming message – that it’s a good world, there’s a place for my kids in the world and Little City will help them find it.”

Rachel, mother of children receiving home-based support services