Oli Rodriguez was born in Chicago and grew up in Humboldt Park. He attended Whitney Young High School and continued on to DePaul University where he double majored in Psychology and Gender Studies with a minor in Photography. While attending DePaul, Oli was a part of the Human Services track under Psychology and was also in a Stress and Coping research project, which focused primarily on education and learning in Chicago Public Students in at-risk living situations. This is where his decades-long interest in and passionate commitment to Chicago Public and Charter Schools began. He has worked in Chicago pre-schools, grammar schools, and high schools, including Schiller, Dvorak, Lawndale, Kelly High School, ACT Charter, and Amundsen High School, and he has also worked with organizations such as Urban Art Retreat, Uptown Hull House Center, Park West Cooperative, Public Allies, and Little Black Pearl. Oli has focused on traditional classes such as English and Math, but also on other progressive and creative contexts such as art therapy, immigrant rights, beautification of neighborhoods, activism, video and photography projects, music creation, and performance poetry.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Oli went on to graduate school at Columbia College for several years, and then completed his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, working within the departments of Film, Video & New Media, Photography, and Performance. Currently, he is Adjunct Faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Photography Department, as well as Harold Washington College in their Art Department. Oli is a teaching artist and interdisciplinary artist working in video, photography, performance, and writing, while exhibiting nationally and internationally.
Examples of Oli’s Urban Gateways programs:
One five-year-old student, Chase, asked if I would be with him forever. It is a highlight of this particular class that they are excited by my presence and want to engage.Oli Rodriguez, Teaching Artist