Teen Arts Pass’ 1st Birthday – Meet the Teen Council!

Teen Arts Pass (TAP) launched in May 2018 to expand arts participation and equity for Chicago youth. With over 6,000 members and 26 arts partners to date, the program has made leaps and bounds since it got started – and we’re excited to watch it grow for years to come!

To celebrate, we wanted to share stories from a few of our 2018-19 TAP Teen Council members. Below, Brandon, Neenah, and Karol talk about how they got involved and why they’re passionate about helping more teens access the arts. Happy Birthday to TAP, and thanks to these and all of our Teen Council members for all their hard work making the program what it is! (Not to mention our members, partners, funders….all of them appreciated, all of them amazing.)

Karol, an 18-year-old senior at Lane Tech, is a member of the Teen Arts Pass (TAP) Teen Council this year – but she was deeply engaged in the arts long before that. She’s a musician, a visual artist, and the self- proclaimed student representative of her school’s music department; she even hosts Lane Tech’s monthly open mic, which has been going strong for a year now.

Karol’s involvement with TAP has allowed her to explore new art forms around the city, and has expanded her love of the arts into disciplines like dance and theater.

“The show that’s had the strongest impact on me was ‘Indecent’ at Victory Gardens Theater. The story was about a play written by a Jewish playwright from Poland who had managed to create somewhat of a [controversy]…he refused to assimilate and hide the fact that he was from Poland and a Jew. As an immigrant myself, this idea of not abandoning my roots and the struggle between assimilation and being true to my culture has been an inner conflict for a long time.

TAP is [also] the reason why I’ve come to like dance a lot more than I have before…After seeing some contemporary dance and ballet, I’ve come to not only appreciate it, but actually become fascinated by it. This was such a big moment for me as TAP expanded my horizons as an artist.”

-Karol, 18

A sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep, Brandon (16) has a full schedule – he’s a soccer player, a podcaster, and a cellist of 10 years; he is a member of the Nova Piano Trio and the Conservatory Program at Merit School of Music, and he has recorded for Chicago radio station 98.7 WFMT and has performed alongside the likes of Yo-Yo Ma.

He heard about the Teen Arts Pass (TAP) Teen Council from a friend who participated last year, and decided to make time for the group in order to help spread the word about TAP and get more teens engaged in the arts.

Check out Brandon’s podcast From a Teen’s Perspective on Sound Cloud.

“My favorite thing about Chicago is the opportunities that it offers to so many people. Ever since the city was founded, it’s always been a hub of opportunity and activity – and that’s also expressed through culture, theater, and performing arts. That’s one of the best parts of Chicago… [With TAP] there’s nothing quite like hearing you can get a ticket for only $5. I believe that makes live performance so much more accessible to youth around the city.

Right now on the Council we’re contributing ideas to the TAP app, which is coming out soon. It’s exciting, designing an app that makes the program even more accessible and captures the energy and enthusiasm of the Chicago arts scene.”

-Brandon, 16

At only 14, Neenah is already a veteran of our Teen Arts Pass (TAP) Teen Council; this is her second year as a member of the youth leadership group. An 8th grader at Walt Disney Magnet School, Neenah likes baking, swimming, water polo – and arts-going, of course. One day she hopes to become a marine biologist.

Some of Neenah’s favorite performances that she’s seen so far with TAP have included “Don Quixote” with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Auditorium Theatre, and “Breach” at Victory Gardens Theater.

“[Chicago is] such a big city with so many performances, but a lot of them are pretty expensive. There are a lot of people, especially teens, who can’t afford to see as much as they want to. [Signing up for] TAP is free and there are no requirements…if something sparks your interest, and you have the Teen Arts Pass, you can get in for only $5.

[Being part of the Teen Council has been] a good opportunity because I’ve learned how to professionally voice my opinion, give commentary. There are a lot of opportunities in the future where I will give my feedback, and I’ve learned a lot about that.”

-Neenah, 14

These testimonials first appeared as part of a gallery exhibition at Urban Gateways’ 2019 Art for All Gala. Olivia, a Teen Council member and Street Level program participant, was also featured – we blogged about her previously right here!

Want to learn more about TAP’s 1st birthday? Check out our press release.


Thanks to our Teen Arts Pass funders, including: