Our Year in Review

Our fiscal year comes to an end on the 31st, and as we jump headlong into a new school year full of new arts experiences, it is also worth reflecting for a moment on all we’ve accomplished since September 1, 2014. In addition to a diverse array of teaching artist and performance-based programs that educate and inspire nearly 70,000 youth on an annual basis, Urban Gateways launched several new initiatives that hold important implications for future growth and reaching new audiences. Below are a few examples of recent program leadership and innovation:

World Weavers Project: Launched in collaboration with the Minasian Rug Company, 6th graders from Stone Academy researched the fine art of rug making, explored the cultures from where the world’s finest rugs are made, and examined the elements of art and principles of design. Students supplemented their learning with a field trip to the Art Institute to see the artwork of master weaver Ethel Stein, as well as Native American and African textiles and European Tapestries. Students then created their own rug designs that were sent to a jury of experts. Two designs were selected to be sent to Afghanistan to be made into actual rugs that will be gifted to the school – they will be unveiled in January. The World Weavers Project will continue for the new 6th grade students this school year. Read teaching artist Bill Eller’s take on this project on our blog. >>

Traveling Classroom Chicago: Artists Rena Grosser and Ariela Robinson set up a “classroom” complete with 12 student desks, a teacher’s desk, and a chalkboard in and around Chicago, engaging the public as students through discussion and writing activities. The Traveling Classroom set up shop at Navy Pier, Union Station, the Lincoln Square Farmers Market, North Avenue Beach, and other spaces that incited educational nostalgia and captured artistic expressions happening in everyday surroundings, utilizing the city as one giant classroom. The project culminated with a photo exhibition at the Cliff Dwellers Club on June 15. Due to the project’s success, plans for continued development of the Traveling Classroom are in progress. See photos of the Traveling Classroom here. >>

The Crosswalk: Our new creative aging initiative partnered 12 teens and 18 elders as part of an eight-week summer 2015 program between Urban Gateways and Montgomery Place, a senior living facility in Hyde Park. Participants collaborated on arts projects exploring the theme of Home. Students came from seven high schools throughout Chicago. One elder was also a former Teaching Artist for Urban Gateways. Both students and elders bridged the generational gap as they engaged in dialogue and collaborative art making, culminating in an exhibition on August 14. This is the first Urban Gateways program to specifically engage seniors. Stay tuned for more on this project at iamurbangateways.org, and read what the Hyde Park Herald had to say. >>

TASK Party: This is an improvisational event where participants of all ages agree to follow two simple procedural rules: write down a task on a piece of paper and add it to the designated “Task Pool”, and then pull a task from that pool and interpret it using a variety of props and materials provided (cardboard, tape, newspaper, markers, etc). Once the task is completed, the participant writes a new task, pulls a new task, and so on. Urban Gateways’ Auxiliary Board, the New Arts Forum, hosted the event on July 19. This was among the first TASK Parties to be held in Chicago and the first time it has ever been utilized as a fundraiser. See photos from the evening! >>

Photo by Alayna Kudalis

STEAM Initiative: Urban Gateways has partnered with the Scientists for Tomorrow program out of Columbia College Chicago to infuse art with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM to STEAM). South Shore Fine Arts Academy and Greeley Elementary students participated in The Physics of Sound & the Mathematics of Music learning module, where they constructed a simple one-string (monochord) instrument with frets, a 4-key wind chime out of copper pipes, and an idiophone, an instrument similar to a xylophone. On May 2, Greeley and South Shore students also attended the 5th Annual STEAM Conference at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago – we blogged about it here. Greeley students had the opportunity to share their projects as some of the youngest workshop presenters at the conference. An expansion of these STEAM residencies is planned for the new school year to reach four or more schools.

Photo by Nikki Lewis

The Children of Willesden Lane: On October 28-30, 2015, 6,000 students across Chicago will participate in The Children of Willesden Lane Chicago Read Project, a unique, multi-disciplinary educational experience about how the power of music helped one girl survive the horrors of the Holocaust. In collaboration with Mona Golabek and the Hold On To Your Music Foundation, Urban Gateways will produce five performances of The Children of Willesden Lane at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance as an opportunity for Chicago students to contextualize and better understand the realities of the Holocaust and the resiliency of the human spirit. Urban Gateways will also produce an evening ticketed performance on October 29, marking the first time the organization will promote a performance for the general public. Find tickets here. >>

As we embark on our organizational New Year, please consider lending your support to innovative arts education programs like these. Donate here. On behalf of Urban Gateways staff, artists, and especially students, thank you for your support of our mission!

THANKS to sponsors of Urban Gateways programs, including: