We believe the arts are essential.

Urban Gateways engages young people in arts experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change.

We envision a world where everyone’s creative spirit thrives. Our organizational values are the pillars that guide our work and hold us accountable to the people we serve:

We support artists.

Artists are the soul of our work and without them we would not be able to fulfill our mission; we hold ourselves accountable to their voices. We honor artists and their creative practice by centering the impact of the arts on local communities.

We nurture wonder.

The power of the arts lives in the exploration of possibility. We believe that the most provocative art and experiences begin with questions, and we honor the vulnerability and courage it takes to create and share. We encourage learning through curiosity to imagine new ways of expressing and being. 

We are collaborators.

We connect young people, artists, and arts experiences; these links lay the foundation for inspired art-making and for actionable social change through the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and resources. We aim to forge lasting partnerships built on integrity and reciprocity. 

We cultivate inclusion.

All people are full of creative promise. The arts are essential for cultural exchange, expanding our worldview, protesting inequity, and advancing social justice. We foster a sense of belonging by intentionally listening, and by supporting diverse voices, experiences, and stories to value every person and honor their contributions.

Our programs are delivered by experienced professional artists and staff who guide program participants through music, dance, theater, multimedia, literary, and visual arts experiences – engaging young people, their teachers, families, and communities with the power of creativity and the arts. We reach over 80,000 young people across about 250 locations annually. Programs are 100% free to participants.

Programs Include:

Explore the links above to learn more about what we do. Our residency, performance, and workshop programs have been inspiring young Chicagoans for decades (see the History tab for more details); Street Level joined Urban Gateways as our youth digital media center in 2017; Teen Arts Pass launched in May 2018; and in 2020 we’re now offering virtual arts programs. There’s always a lot happening!