CoCre8: Coming Together to Reimagine Chicago

The annual CoCre8 program kicked off with 8 high school teachers, 13 high school students, and 5 artists gathered at the Smart Museum of Art in April, where they viewed the museum collection and posed the questions: Why…? What If…? And, What If We…?

The open-endedness of these Artful Thinking questions encapsulates the spirit of CoCre8, a program that encourages the breaking down of traditional hierarchies in learning and art making by bringing teachers, students, and artists together to create collaborative art.

This year as the 26 participants journeyed through springtime Saturday workshops at the Smart Museum, the Logan Center for the Arts (where they experienced performances by singer Crystal Wren, the Rebirth Poets, and DanceWorks Chicago), and the Arts Incubator in Washington Park, all the way to their week-long intensive in June, “What really resonated was the state of where we are right now, as a nation. The intensive focus on Illinois and Chicago was really present this year. So the participants questioned, reimagined, and manipulated perspectives,” said Urban Gateways Director of Programs Jill Potter.

On June 30 at the Arts Incubator, the 26 artists unveiled their final artworks. One large soft sculpture piece re-envisioned Chicago’s train lines and city center; another art piece featured the words “Coming Together” printed over the shape of the city. The artists installed this image on a public wall near the Arts Incubator, as well as screen-printing it onto tote bags; they completed the tote bags outside on the sidewalk so that passersby could observe their process, and then gave the final pieces away during the exhibition. The “Coming Together” piece came out of a conversation about gun violence – and the need to focus not only on the violence itself, but what people in this city are actively doing about it.

“Working with other artists, you have to learn to work as a group. It teaches you to take into consideration other perspectives about the art,” said Tamika Robinson, who taught at Perspectives Charter School and participated in CoCre8 alongside some of her students. “Another thing it helped me to do was open up and express myself. Prior to CoCre8 I expressed myself through writing outside of work. CoCre8 sparked the interest in wanting to create more art, explore more.”

The result is not only a new and collaborative creative experience for everyone involved, but a display of solidarity and a thoughtful opportunity to turn misconceptions of Chicago into beauty and promise.

Robinson was in the group that worked on the “Coming Together” piece. This summer was her fourth year in CoCre8; she moved to Memphis shortly after the program concluded. “I kept coming back because I really truly enjoyed it!” she said. “When you love what you’re doing, you want to keep doing it. I would love to come back next year, I may make the trip home just for that.”

Click below to see more images:

CoCre8 2017

This year’s participating schools included Perspectives Charter School Joslin Campus, University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn Campus, Hyde Park Career Academy, King College Prep, and Chicago Technology Academy.

Thanks to program partners the Smart Museum of Art, Arts + Public Life through UChicago Arts, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts for making CoCre8 happen!