Just Released: Our Impact

News • Urban Gateways News

We believe that every young person deserves the chance to experience art, no matter what their zip code is.

As we enter a new chapter in our leadership, both our city and Urban Gateways are at a critical crossroads as we find ways to build a better and more equitable future. A sense of wonder and collaboration are key to building that future which is why our organization continues to provide a safe place for wonder and connection for young people. From increasing access to arts experiences for young Chicagoans with special needs to creating spaces for young people to explore and share interests with each other, Urban Gateways and our community of artists, educators, and supporters impact the lives of young people by facilitating connection through curiosity.

We continue providing the gateway between Chicago youth, artists, educators, and community partners. From Touring Performances and Artist Residencies, to Street Level and Teen Arts Pass, dive deeper into the impact of our programs and some of the exciting changes within our organization!

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61,524 Participants, 112 Partner Sites, 26 Teaching Artists, 26 Performance Programs

Leaderships and Partnerships

This year we welcomed new CEO Leslé Honoré, and our partnerships between Hansra Consulting and Rudd Resources began.

“What would Chicago be without the arts? I am honored to join a team that knows that the thread that connects us to each other’s humanity is a thread of creativity, a team that works purposefully every day to create opportunities for the youth of Chicago to be able to harness their own power and find their voices when they create.”

-Leslé Honoré, CEO

We also welcomed new appointments to our board: New Board Chair Kendrick Cox, board members Cate Hill, Rhonda Hawkins-Lyke, Angela Setwart, Jessica Madsen.In addition to new leadership and members of our Board, our Associate Board also welcomes a new chair, La Keisha Leek.

“I look forward to being able to share this passion more broadly and contributing to the ongoing mission of Urban Gateways to expand arts education and access to the youth of Chicago helping to inspire creativity and impact social change.”

-Kendrick Cox

To round  it off, we were joined by two new staff members: Christopher Rapisarda (Managing Director of Instructional programs) and Gabriel Chalfin-Piney. (Senior Manager of Instructional Programs.)


3,116 Youth Participants, 63 Instructional Programs, 25 sites, 20 zip codes

Leif Ericson Scholastic Elementary

At Leif Ericson, 80% of students had never had an arts class. This shocked Teaching Artist Nicole Beck, who has been teaching with Urban Gateways for over 20 years. Nicole specializes in creating permanent public art projects with her apprentice artists that are collaborative, and integral reflections of their communities. For the arts residency at Leif Ericson, she held the same approach. Held during Black History Month, the idea was to choose someone to honor and acknowledge their contributions to Black History so she worked with the students to do that and it turned out to be a very personal experience because they got to choose.

“The school had very high expectations for this residency, so therefore I needed to adjust my curriculum to accommodate these young artists by creating simplified projects that incorporated basic art standards like color and line, and to use media they had never handled like watercolor paint.”

-Nicole Beck, Teaching Artist

Special Olympics

560 Total Special Olympics Participants

In partnership with Special Olympics (through Special Children’s Charities) Urban Gateways provided Summer programming for persons with intellectual or physical disabilities. These programs were held across 14 Chicago Park District sites across the city, through 22 arts workshops for over 500 young people all throughout the summer.

“Workshops like these are important because (the art form) can be abstract. You’re teaching a technique and [the participants] can have fun with it. You can still make sure they learn the technique, but then you can be creative.”

-Yolanda Jean Pittman


47,808 Audience members, 251 performances, 87 sites, 50 zip codes

We are happy to connect Teaching Artists with any partnering organization that wants to share performance art with their community! Find out how you can host a Teaching Artist at your school or organization.

“I’m really just excited that we’re getting back to a place of providing live arts experiences similar to before the pandemic started.“

-Audrey (Performance Programs Manager)

This included performances such as Ayodele, and Korean Performing Arts Institute

It’s important that one of the things that we say in our performances is that we don’t come to show how well we can dance or play a drum or to sing. We come to show the greatness in people,”


Our mission is to develop and promote and provide the authentic Korean Performing Arts throughout the Chicago area” – Korean Performing Arts Institute of Chicago“

-Korean Performing Arts Institute


Street Level

2,300 youth, 99 original projects, 12 community partners

In 2023, Street Level’s diverse programs created a hybrid model for extensive youth engagement, featuring free membership, studio access, and equipment for personal projects. Street Level emphasized training, hands-on workshops, and community partnerships with a focus on workforce development.

Vaughn Occupational High School, specializing in students with disabilities, resumed in-person programming after being the first Chicago school to close during COVID. Residencies extended to schools like Noble School ITW David Speer, Urban Alliance, and Aunt Martha’s support center for DCFS youth. Street Level initiated a prototype for summer employment, addressing workforce challenges for teens on the spectrum.

I have been working with Street Level for I think 12 or 14 years… it’s always been a wonderful Journey. This session, coming back from the pandemic, it’s just been a joy to come into this space again and feel the sense of community and warmth that it brings.”

-Kelly Fischer (Teacher at Vaughn)

MILDSAUCE, a digital zine, showcased Chicago’s flavors and stimulated civic discourse. Workshops, including DJ Turntablism with Johnny Price, and community partnerships like the Proximity Documentary with the Lyrics Opera further enriched Street Level’s impactful initiatives.

“With this position you really need to be good at the leadership role and something new is going to happen every day. And because of that it’s always been giving me a new sense of adventure every day and a new sense of like something to be prepared for the unexpected.”

-Jubriel Chaparro (Creative Editor at MILDSAUCE)

Teen Arts Pass

8,300 TAP members, 3,860 tickets sold, 476 TAP members zip codes, 58 Chicago TAP members zip codes

Teen Arts Pass provides opportunities for cultural exchange through embarking on performance visits across the City of Chicago. During its 5th anniversary year, 8,300 members were registered for Teen Arts Pass. TAP Members can see and be seen through art forms such as opera, ballet, jazz, theater, musicals, and so much more.

“It’s allowed me to see some really fascinating performances that I would likely have been deterred from before due to the cost, and it’s been one of my most fond memories of living in Chicago. As a college student, TAP has been a really invaluable way to enjoy the fine arts without breaking our wallets.”

-Baeyoung, TAP Member


Bubbles, Boards, and Beats

In March, we held our annual Bubbles, Boards, and Beats fundraiser – the first in person event we’ve held in four years! One participant said “you can feel the love in this room,” and that was the highest compliment for our staff, sponsors, partners, board, and supporters! CEO Leslé Honoré emceed, DJ Duane Powell provided amazing beats, and Shall We Wine guided guests through fantastic wine tasting! There was also an exciting game of Heads or Tails, with Hamilton tickets as the prize. Youth performer Khalil recited a riveting poem, artist X’Avier Battles delivered an impactful performance, and Street Level debuted a dynamic commercial. Our silent auction featured art pieces from youth artists, teaching artists, and Street Level alumni- ALL of which found new homes by the end of the night! The event raised over $50,000 for our arts education programs.

Keep up with the latest from Urban Gateways and our plans moving forward! Make sure to connect with us on our socials (Instagram, Facebook)

We rely on supporters like you to help us continue to provide safe spaces for wonder and collaboration between youth and teaching artists. Support our work today! Scan or click this QR code to donate!⬇️

Click below to read more and to view the full Impact Report! ⬇️