Art;________. (A Glimpse at CoCre8 2019)

Anyone who’s ever dabbled in artmaking knows the fact, both frustrating and inspiring, that creative process is dynamic: You may start out with a specific vision, but chances are the vision will shift as you work.

Today we’re introducing a program that embraces process and celebrates the fact that as you create, you grow – and so does your art.

CoCre8 is an experimental arts education program that brings together a cohort of students (8th grade through high school), educators, artists, and arts administrators to look at, talk about, and make art. Launched in 2013 by the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life Initiative, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and Urban Gateways, during CoCre8 program participants are invited to identify as artists, students, and teachers – simultaneously.

Everyone learns, everyone teaches, and everyone creates; traditional hierarchies do not apply.

The 2019 cohort kicked off their time together with a 3-part multidisciplinary arts workshop series on Saturdays in April through June, featuring a Smart Museum visit, performances at the Logan Center (Gingarte Capoeira Chicago, Babu Atiba of Muntu Dance Theatre, Free Street Theater, and the Social Justice Warriors youth poetry group from Rowe Elementary), and a day at the Arts Incubator to plan out final project concepts and supplies. From June 24-28 they participated in a week-long intensive, responding to their creative experiences and collaborating on multidisciplinary group projects that evolved organically as they worked. On Friday, June 28 they presented their final artworks during a reception at the Arts Incubator – naming the show “Art;_____.”

Get a glimpse of their processes and their final artworks below, featuring process photos by Alayna Kudalis and final exhibition photos by Lucas Anti. It’s amazing what can come of three workshops, one intense week of collaboration, and a perspective that centers process and organic growth as not only normal, but critical. ✨

More photos of the process and final artworks >>

Rage Remade

Multimedia piece by Charnice, Dara, Esi, LaQuana, Marya, & Nora

Wednesday, June 26, in progress: Drawing inspiration from the Smart Museum’s collection of works by contemporary artist Leonardo Drew as well as the Gingarte Capoeira Chicago performance that the CoCre8 cohort experienced at the Logan Center, this group started with the concept of “creation out of destruction”. Their process involved breaking/tearing/ripping items apart and putting them back together to make something new – and better. They also envisioned an abstract sun, representing a fresh start.

Friday, June 28, exhibition statement: “We started out with a question of rage: what causes ours, and what if we let it out? A dozen plates, 6 political signs, 5 found poems, 4 books, 3 pieces of video equipment, 2 broken bottles, and 1 dome later, our rage was remade – built from the foundations of frustration, and transformed by our collective choices.”

Words Never Hurt

by Chloe, Charles, Jean, Joi, Jerome, Nayah, & Raivyn
Saran wrap, packaging tape, wire, cardboard, spray paint, & light

Wednesday, June 26, in progress: This group considered the Smart Musuem’s piece Standing Man Smiling and the idea of smiling through a dark place, as well as a statement about the power of words from the performance by drummer Babu Atiba, how much words truly can hurt despite the old adage. They started by making a figure from plastic wrap and crafting letters/words from laser cutters and spray paint; as of Wednesday they were contemplating how to display the words with the figure. They chose words intentionally to showcase many impacts, negative and positive.


Friday, June 28, exhibition statement: “The purpose of this piece was to bring the artworks of Standing Man Smiling (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye) and American (Glenn Ligon) together to create a unique creation that showcases the importance of how words can be extremely impactful socially, mentally, and physically.”


by Andrés, Rhonda, Megan, Donovan, Rahs, Meknia, & Jalesa
Tree branches, black milk paint, jute twine

Wednesday, June 26, in progress: Influenced by Smart Museums artists who used wood and trees, this group opted for a found materials sculpture using tree branches. “It’s actually coming together pretty abstractly, because we don’t have a set plan on how it’s going to end up,” one group member explained. What they did know was that they wanted to prompt thought about the natural versus the manmade, using both organic and geometric shapes. They also opted to use organic paint for sustainable disposal.

Friday, June 28, exhibition statement: “What is the meaning of nature in the middle of a city? Drawing on the work of Leonardo Drew we were inspired by the different structure and order found in both nature and the city. This work is built out of fallen tree branches found just a block away in Washington Park. Tied together using a square lashing technique, the found objects become an archway to look at and move through.”

A Colorful Legacy

Photo collage by Guadalupe, Aniah, Kimani, Vanessa, Rosette, & Lional

Wednesday, June 26, in progress: The “Colorful Legacy” group incorporated color and structure from pieces they saw at the Smart Museum to create their own vision: A collage with pictures of themselves as well as people who inspired them, with the addition of words and lights flickering behind them to illuminate meaning.

Friday, June 28, exhibition statement: “Our project is a reflection of our ‘life experiences’ via our personal imprints. In that we explored color, its symbolic multimedia meaning, and the impact our creative work has on viewership. Your life is the color that paints a legacy. Life itself is art.”

More photos from CoCre8 2019 >>

Thanks to our CoCre8 partners! Learn more about CoCre8 and check out an informational video on the Smart Museum’s website.

Participating Urban Gateways Artists (2019):

Lional “Brother El” Freeman
Raivyn Jenkins
Gingarte Capoeira Chicago

Participating Schools:

Hyde Park Academy
ACE Amandla Charter School
Fiske Elementary School
University of Chicago Charter School – Woodlawn Campus
King College Prep
Simeon Career Academy