From Pullman to Southside, Building Awareness One School Hallway at a Time

Most of our school-based programs have concluded for the year, but a number of our artist-in-residence programs left lasting marks on the communities they served. We thought we’d take a look at two such programs (both visual arts residencies with public art components) and show off the deeply valuable work of the students and teaching artists involved:


Southside Occupational Academy High School

As a school that is dedicated to educating students with disabilities, Southside Occupational uses its classes and programming to focus on key developmental skills that will allow students to thrive throughout their lives. Teaching artist Jesse Avina was able to incorporate this focus, as well as themes of unity, diversity, and community, in a mosaic project that resulted in a beautiful installation for a school hallway. Jesse and his 11th and 12th grade students discussed mosaic designs and settled on a project inspired by the stylized technique of artist Keith Haring; the completed design (seen in the photos below) features people of various colors and phyiscal attributes – including one in a wheelchair – holding up Chicago. Students learned to cut tiles in the school’s woodshop and installed the mosaic with Jesse’s help.

The mosaic isn’t finished yet, but Jesse has conducted professional development workshops with Southside Occupational staff showing them how to cut and install tile with their students. Work on the mosaic will continue this summer – and hopefully Jesse will be back there in the fall to help them wrap it up! Even in its incomplete form, this mosaic has offered skill-based learning for students and has allowed them to contribute meaningfully to their school community.

[Shout out to Residency Program Associate Kiara Sinclair for helping to put this story together, and to Southside Occupational’s Principal Long for his support of the project.]

Click HERE or on the image below for a full photo set from this residency:

George Pullman Elementary

Program Associate Erin Dunn sums it up best: “During an 11-week residency at George Pullman Elementary School, teaching artist Roberto Fereyra worked with 4th and 8th grade students creating a mural for the school’s front entrance. The mural centered on the history of Pullman and how it was critical for the development of Chicago during the early 1900s. The mural consists of eight completed panels that the students worked on with Roberto each Friday during the residency.”

In the photos below, you can see the sketches that kicked off the mural-making process, as well as completed panels depicting Pullman within Chicago, the community’s arts scene, its importance to the railroad industry, and more. It also includes an inspirational quote from Malcolm X: “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

Click HERE or on the image for a full photo set:

Thanks to Southside Occupational Academy and George Pullman Elementary for partnering with Urban Gateways to reach their students through the arts this school year!

And thanks to the sponsors who make Urban Gateways visual arts programs possible, including: