| Courtesy SAIC Homan Square

This summer, five teens from North Lawndale public schools will be working together to figure out how to improve and empower their community through art.

The Teen Art Council is the new internship program by the School of Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square. It is open to high school students who live in North Lawndale and attend Chicago Public Schools. 

Israel Pate, the school’s outreach coordinator, said the program is designed to be led by teens and to empower community members, particularly young people in North Lawndale. 

At the moment, the application period is closed, but the school is still interviewing students who applied. The Teen Art Council will officially kick off on June 15 and meet every Saturday until Aug. 17.

SAIC Homan Square is based on the 10th and 12th floors of Nichols Tower, the original Sears Tower and one of the surviving portions of Sears’ original North Lawndale corporate campus. 

According to the school’s website, in 2013, the Foundation for Homan Square, an organization that works to redevelop the site, invited SAIC to open classes. In 2015, SAIC officially opened the Homan Square facilities, launching an artist-in-residence program, classes and free community workshops. Since then, the programming has continued to expand.

According to SAIC spokesperson Bridget Esanga, SAIC Homan Square already offered courses and open studio hours for teens. Some of the past courses included design, printmaking and coding. Esanga also said that the school works with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s Arts & Culture subcommittee to develop programs. 

“I and our administrative team and instructors were interested in ways that we could have a deeper and more sustainable impact on the students that we are serving.” she explained. “One of the main questions driving this program is, ‘What does it look like when teens are empowered to be leaders and change-makers in their own communities? What can come from that?'”

According to the recruitment flier, the interns at the Teen Art Council will learn how to “build supportive creative partnerships,” host piece circles and community conversations, and “develop arts and cultural events based on local community voice.” They will go on field trips and connect with West Side artists. The interns will receive a $300 stipend. 

Pate said that the ultimate goal is to have teens put together events and/or workshops that would reflect “their vision of what’s most relevant to young people in arts and culture in North Lawndale.” 

Pate said that the “goal for the program is to trust and believe in our youth and know that, if provided with the necessary support, they have the answers for their community.” 

When asked what kind of outreach SAIC did to recruit local youth, Pate said that they reached out art teaches and councilors from North Lawndale neighborhood schools, and they tried to spread the word through the community organizations they work with. 

Every applicant had to fill out an online questionnaire to gauge their interests and experience with art. The in-person interview process involved students bringing a “selfie presentation that they made themselves using a medium of their choosing” and presenting to a panel about “why they were a perfect fit for this program,” Pate said.

Pate hopes that the Teen Art Council will have a long-term impact in the community. 

“Ultimately, I hope the program continues to support the community as whole in providing space for teens to have a prominent voice in all of the amazing things that are coming out of North Lawndale,” she said. 

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...