UG Launches Blog Focused on Arts Education & Its Impact

News • Press Releases, Urban Gateways News

Blog Features Experiences of Six Chicago-area Teaching Artists

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS –Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education is launching a blog to bring attention to the importance of arts education. The blog, entitled Urban Gateways Artists Wired (, features six Urban Gateways’ teaching artists, who will post regularly about their experiences in Chicago-area classrooms.

“We want to chronicle their journey with the students, in hopes of drawing attention to the importance of the work these professional artists do and the impact they have on the children, on the schools and on the communities where they work,” said Julie F. Simpson, Urban Gateways Executive Director.

Founded almost 50 years ago, Urban Gateways is one of the largest and most comprehensive arts education organizations in the country. Each year, the organization provides in- and out-of-school programming in the literary, performing, media and visual arts to more than 100,000 young people in the Chicago-area.

The six teaching artists contributing to the blog are all part of Urban Gateways Artist-in-Residence program, which brings professional artists into the classroom – before, during and after school – to engage students in the complex and dynamic study of art and to provide a creative approach to learning.

Each residency is customized for the community, school and classroom, in which the artists are working. The artists collaborate with classroom teachers to identify major ideas students will be exploring; and then create an original and engaging curriculum that uses art to dig deeper and find meaningful connections between those ideas and the world around them.

The teaching artists who are blogging represent different art disciplines, including music, literary, dance and visual arts (see bios below). They hope that the blog will shed light on the importance of arts education, as well as create an open forum for teaching artists. “Blogs are an excellent way to share thoughts, best practices, and insights. Online communities like this will help artists get better at what we do and ultimately achieve our goal, which is to get students excited and engaged in the arts,” said John Knecht, one of the Urban Gateways teaching artists and blog contributor.

For more information about the blog Urban Gateways Artists Wired or to interview the artists involved, please contact Becky Schneck Allen, Urban Gateways Communications Manager, at 312.445.2749 or


BIOS – Urban Gateways Artist Wired Bloggers

Kevin Brown is a company member of Be the Groove, a rhythmic dance ensemble that performs at theaters, schools, and community events throughout Chicago and provides educational workshops and masterclasses to students of all ages.

John Knecht is a professional percussionist who has traveled to over 25 countries to master the art of drumming. He has studied and performed with legends in jazz, rock, funk, classical and African styles, with an emphasis on drum set and African percussion.

James “Casper” Jankowiak is a painter and installation artist, whose work has been exhibited at the MCA, Northwestern University and the SAIC’s Roger Brown Gallery. He has also been commissioned to paint murals for such entities as the Chicago White Sox, Leo Burnett and Nintendo.

Rachel Javellena is a poet and teaching artists, who facilitates workshops in poetry and performance through nationally recognized organizations such as The Poetry Center of Chicago, Words@Play, Urban Gateways, and Gallery 37 Center for the Arts.

Maia Morgan’s critically acclaimed plays and monologues have been produced throughout Chicago. Her work has been featured numerous times in Live Bait Theatre’s perennial Filet of Solo Fest and was selected Critic’s Choice in the Chicago Reader back to back in 2006 and 2007. A founding member of Running with Scissors, Maia appeared in their award-winning production, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon and wrote and performed in Breathing Underwater.

Stephanie Paul is a co-founder, artistic director, teacher and ensemble member of Be the Groove, a rhythmic performance/education ensemble that focuses in dance and percussion. She is also on staff at Dance Center Evanston, Lake Forest Dance Academy, and Urbanbeat Dance, teaching hip hop dance at all 3 locations.