Gary Keller, Ms.B.

Melissa D’Lando

Clarisse Croteau Chonka – Director of Grants

Janelle Vreeland – Director of Social Media

Gary Trick – Director of Events and Public Relations



Ashurina Atto – University of Illinois at Chicago


About the Staff:

Gary Keller headshot_10_2012_f (3)

Gary Keller, Ms.B. , Vice President of Essanay Studios and Strategic Initiatives

Gary Keller is Vice President of Essanay Studios and Strategic Initiatives at St. Augustine College. He responsible for the restoration and reuse of the iconic entrance and Studios A/Charlie Chaplin Auditorium  of Essanay Studios as the Essanay Centers for Early Film and Cultural Performance. Keller served as President of the Uptown Historical Society based on his expertise in the history of film in Uptown, restored the John Ferris House in Sheridan Park, and has held numerous leadership roles related to the redevelopment of Uptown as an entertainment district.

Gary Keller is an executive leader in the technology business development, fundraising, corporation relations and strategic technology based partnerships. Keller has significant experience in intellectual property, strategic initiatives, the establishment of new organizations and companies.

  • Restoration of John Ferris House, Nickelodeon and Silent Film Theatre Owner 1996-2002
  • Founder and President – Uptown Historical Society – 1997-2002
  • Board Member – Uptown Chicago Commission – 1999- 2002
  • Board Member – Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts – 2001-2003
  • UPCORP Entertainment Planning Committee – 1997-1999
  • Wilson Yards Planning Committee – 1998-1999


Melissa D’Lando, Assistant to the Vice President, Essanay Centers & Strategic Initiatives

Melissa D’Lando is the Assistant to the Vice President, Essanay Centers & Strategic Initiatives. She graduated from Loyola University with a Master of Arts in Public History and has worked as a project archivist for MOST Consulting, The Historic Pullman Foundation, The Archdiocese of Chicago, Archives & Records Center.She has also worked as a museum consultant for the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society and a research assistant for the N.O.L.A. Oral History Project.


Clarisse C. Croteau-Chonka, Director of Grants

Clarisse C. Croteau-Chonka, Ph.D. is the Chief Executive Officer of And So It Begins, llc, a consulting firm with expertise in grant development for teams of nonprofit, education, and business partners. Dr. Croteau-Chonka is lead specialist in the design and development of new initiatives for underserved populations, education, employment training, technology businesses, and biotechnology innovation programs.  She previously served as Director for the Chicago Consortium of Higher Education, then one of the largest distance learning initiatives in the United States. She is a co-author with Dr. Patricia Felkins of The Nonprofit Factor: Gathering at the Table for the Common Good. In addition to serving on the Board of Africa Circle of Hope Foundation, Dr. Croteau-Chonka is also on the Board of Trustees of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine


Janelle Vreeland

Janelle Vreeland, Director of Social Media

Janelle Vreeland is Director of Social Media for Essanay Studios. She is responsible for researching, collecting and scheduling content for the Essanay Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as any outreach and networking done through the social space, and any other digital content that comes her way. Since 2011, she has been a Social Content Developer and Community Manager for the digital marketing agency lonelybrand, which was recently acquired by HY Connect. She also runs her own silent and early film blog, Curtains, in her spare time.


Gary Trick, Director of Events and Public Relations

Gary Trick has always had a love of history, and that love of history is what has brought him to Essanay Studios. Walking through the doors of the Chaplin Studio for the first time sealed his fate. He knew that Essanay Studios need to be renovated and reused and he wanted to be a part of it. He has always been in the hospitality industry and customer service, and worked as a volunteer to raise much needed funds for a variety of local charities. As Director of Events and Public Relations, it is his goal to have Essanay Studios renovated and reused for the betterment of the community, city and the film industry.

He welcomes any and all input regarding events and public relation to better the efforts of Essanay Studios.

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