Connecting Arts Education and Violence Prevention: A New Arts Forum Discussion

The next meeting of the New Arts Forum, Urban Gateways’ Junior Board, is Wednesday, June 6 from 6-8pm at Columbia College (600 S. Michigan, Room 401). In addition to providing information about NAF and its members, the meetings also feature interactive, lively discussions led by artists and arts education professionals about the work of Urban Gateways and/or the world of arts education.

At our last meeting in March, NAF member L. Anton Seals presented a portion of the documentary film “The Interrupters”, with which he has been deeply involved, and led a conversation touching on the role of arts education in violence prevention. Read his comments below – and get involved! Join us on June 6 for another exciting, engaging NAF meeting. RSVP to and read all about it here.

L. Anton Seals (Senior Advocacy Manager, Illinois Network of Charter Schools) on NAF and “The Interrupters”:

I joined NAF upon its inception through a recommendation from the past executive director, Julie Simpson. She thought that because of my background in arts (film) and policy/advocacy, I would be a good fit. I have been a member since, and I have attempted to remain as active as my schedule will allow. I am appreciative to be amongst the artists who do the powerful transformative work Urban Gateways employs in schools and communities across Chicago. My ongoing collaboration with Kartemquin films, one of Chicago’s oldest documentary film-houses, has helped propel me into doing more story-telling and allowed me to use my creative juices to make an impact through story.

At the last NAF meeting, I had the opportunity to show [a clip from] the documentary “The Interrupters” and discuss how it could be used as a catalyst to approach art education and add another tool to the toolbox of art educators. I was excited to see all of the people gathered to see portions of the film and discuss how film/documentaries could be used to further deep dialogues within communities that many teachers and volunteers serve. It was a fruitful dialogue that helped our efforts grow beyond the screen, which was our intent from the beginning.

Since that screening at the NAF meeting in March, we have been busy further developing our trans-media project Here is a brief summary of our efforts to date:

  • ITVS, along with the Tribeca Film Institute is funding Interrupt Violence through its New Media Fund, which aims to explore “non-fiction, social issue media projects which go beyond traditional screens — integrating film with content across media platforms, from video games and mobile apps to social networks and interactive websites.”
  • This interactive space is newer for Kartemquin, so we’ve been thrilled to develop the project with ITVS and TFI, as well as our development partners at Kounterattack Design in New York. Our goal is to extend the impact ripples generated by the documentary and create tools where users can share their personal stories and also connect with partners and resources that can hopefully help staunch the steady tide of urban violence.
  • Audiences are important for documentary and narrative films, but user agency is critical to interactive projects (indeed, sections of Interrupt Violence won’t fully function without user-generated content), so we also spent a lot of time really thinking about core users, their needs, and how we might meet these needs through the website.

As we help chart new territory in this space, I am looking forward to collaborating with other projects that seek to tell stories in this integrated approach. There is much room for artists and supporters to connect stories and engage audiences to move towards action.