Student Perspectives: Tylor & Winter (Residency Program Participants)

At the Art for All Gala last Friday, April 5, Urban Gateways Board & Associate Board members, sponsors, donors, and advocates gathered to celebrate and support our mission – making the arts accessible to all young Chicagoans; creating art & inspiring change.

This year’s Gala featured a gallery exhibition of youth “profiles”, photos and testimonials from young people who have participated in programs including Street Level, Teen Arts Pass, and – featured below – residency programs in Chicago schools. Spring means residency programs are in full swing and teaching artists are at their busiest (we have about 40 residencies currently underway), so we thought we’d give you a glimpse into the artistic endeavors of two of our residency students – Winter from Randolph Elementary, and Tylor from EPIC Academy. Read on to get to know them.

At Randolph Elementary School, students are in their second year working with teaching artist Erika Valenciana for a residency program focusing on new media and video. Eighth grader Winter, 14, has been a part of the residency program both years; having first focused on personal narratives, the program is now moving into making videos about community, and Winter is thinking ahead to her final video project.

A step team member, yearbook contributor, and math lover, Winter has no doubt she’ll someday become a journalist. This program’s emphasis on interviews and incorporating community members’ perspectives is right up her alley.

“My favorite thing is to talk…We have to interview someone in our neighborhood [for our video project]. I was thinking about my downstairs neighbor, he’s been living there a long long time. I see him talking to everyone every morning. I’m going to ask him, What’s one thing you want to change about the neighborhood? How do you want neighbors and kids engaged in your community?

This program taught me to be more engaged in my community…If I wouldn’t have done it, I would’ve only said hey to my neighbors. Now I’m asking my neighbors for their perspectives.”

-Winter, 14, young journalist in Media residency at Randolph Elementary

The Four Layer Players, an after-school drumline program with Urban Gateways teaching artist Michael Riendeau, have been going strong at Chicago’s EPIC Academy High School for seven years now. 17-year-old Tylor, a junior, is the group’s drumset player; he’s been an active member since he entered high school.

Tylor started getting interested in drumming through church at a young age but has used the Four Layer Players as an opportunity to hone his skills under the guidance of an experienced teaching artist. He most recently performed as a special guest at the Urban Gateways Art for All Gala. Fun fact: His favorite drum lick is the inverted paradiddle.

“Music has helped me through a lot of situations…like if I’m having an off day I just play a series of songs in my head and it calms me down. I’ve also learned [through the drumline] to maintain communication with others. Communication in this program is very key.

The community is very consistent with participating every year. No one really has to contemplate, should I come back or should I try something else? They built a passion for this art…This program can help students find hidden talent they never knew they had. It can bring out the greatness in someone, a positive outlet. For me, for example, I never knew I could drum like that.”

-Tylor, 17, drumset player for the Four Layer Players at EPIC Academy High School (an Urban Gateways artist residency program)

Stay tuned for more stories about spring 2019 residency programs and for more perspectives from young people engaged in Urban Gateways programs!