WELCOME to the World Weavers Virtual Gallery, a part of Urban Gateways’ 60th Anniversary celebration!

World Weavers is a long-term program partnership with Minasian Rug Company in Evanston, which began as a program of Art Resources in Teaching (A.R.T.) and was incorporated as part of the Urban Gateways visual arts portfolio when A.R.T. merged with us in 2013. The World Weavers program combines the study of world cultures with the study of visual arts and textile design, inviting Chicago Public School students to discover the magic of rugmaking. Every year, winning student rug designs are woven into reality by women in Afghanistan through ARZU Studio Hope.

Below, you can hear from the Minasians themselves about their company and our partnership; take a tour of the World Weavers Virtual Gallery, exploring virtual rooms to learn more and view beautiful youth-designed rugs from the last seven years; and you can browse student-designed rugs currently available for purchase, with proceeds supporting Urban Gateways programs.


**For the best viewing experience, we recommend visiting the virtual gallery from a desktop or laptop computer rather than any mobile device**

Please scroll to learn more about the World Weavers program!

Pictured: Students at Stone Academy during a World Weavers residency program in fall 2015 – as well as winning student rug designs woven into reality by ARZU Studio Hope. Scroll for more information about the World Weavers Project!

Thanks to our partners:

ARZU Studio Hope

More about the World Weavers Project:

After acquiring Art Resources in Teaching (A.R.T.) in 2013, Urban Gateways learned of the World Weavers Program.  In 1996, Armen Minasian (owner of Minasian Rug Company in Evanston, Illinois) learned of Tomie’ dePaola’s book The Legend of the Persian Carpet. Armen wanted to bring the book to life for the children of Chicago. Teaching Artist Bill Eller came up with the idea of having children design carpets to learn about different cultures while engaging in art, and arts residencies were set up in three schools in Chicago. Tomie dePaola visited each school and read the story to the students in conjunction with Bill teaching them the history of rug making throughout the world and how to design rugs. The students then competed to have their design made into an actual rug, with the winning rugs being showcased in the windows of Marshall Field’s Department Store. 

The program only lasted for one year, but Urban Gateways hired Bill Eller after acquiring A.R.T. and reinstated the World Weavers Program during the 2014-15 school year. It continues to this day.

Now-retired Urban Gateways Teaching Artist Bill Eller designed the curriculum for this innovative program that incorporates cross-cultural learning alongside the principles of art and design, expanding a school’s traditional visual art classroom into a school community gallery and interdisciplinary studio space. Students receive geometric art and textile instruction, closely examining the historical evolution, cultural heritage, and traditional skills of carpet weaving, tapestries, and rugs from around the world. 

Identifying rug design elements and symbols unique to each culture, participants create small-scale pieces to express their artistic vision and brainstorm ideas for creating their own rug. By the end of the program, one student’s design is chosen to be made into a hand-knotted rug by ARZU Studio Hope and given to the school at the beginning of the next school year. A field trip to the Minasian Rug Company occurs within the residency to support real world connections to artistic content. The program also includes ongoing professional development to support the classroom art teacher in expanding the school’s visual arts curriculum, as well as parent participation in exhibition events to sustain and celebrate artistic and cultural connections for the school community. 

For the past several years, Urban Gateways has been providing World Weavers residency programs for 6th graders at Stone Elementary Scholastic Academy (a school where 26 languages are spoken by the student body and the Parent Handbook is also translated in Urdu) in Rogers Park. The program recently expanded with 6th graders from McCutcheon Elementary in Uptown. The program is provided at no cost to the schools. 

During a field trip to Minasian Rug Company as part of World Weavers, a young girl from Stone Academy asked Carney Minasian if he knew of a small town in Turkey. When Carney said he knew it well, the young girl was delighted because that is where her grandmother lives. Stories like this showcase how the World Weavers Program helps build artistic and cultural connections for young people.

Thanks to our World Weavers Virtual Gallery sponsors:

We are grateful to the Alice Welsh Skilling Foundation for Sponsoring the Virtual Gallery in her memory; Alice was instrumental in the creation of the World Weavers Program when it began under Art Resources in Teaching.