CAPE Classrooms: Printmaking as Community Building Among Parents

 In Michelle Green Arnson, The CAPE Blog

CAPE Classrooms is our series highlighting great work from our programs across Chicago.

CAPE’s SCALE (Supporting Communities in Arts Learning Environments) program provides before- and after-school classes for students, as well as classes for parents during the school day. We know that the arts are wonderful for helping to teach not just academic skills, but creativity, problem solving, and self esteem. This is true for children and adults alike, and our SCALE parent programs at four Chicago schools demonstrate this time and again. Recently, two of our parent groups from George Washington High School in Hegewisch on the East Side and Telpochcalli Elementary in Little Village came together to share art, conversations, and food.

GWHS Telpo parents 1 blog P1110593

While their high schoolers were starting the school day, 13 parents and two young children from Washington High were on a bus bound for Telpochcalli with Ellen Tritschler, a long-time CAPE teaching artist and Estela Giron, a parent worker who works part-time in the attendance office. The Washington parents, like their peers at Telpochcalli, have spent their time this year learning printmaking, as well as collage, painting, and computer skills.

GWHS Telpo parents 1 blog P1110608

The Telpochcalli families, with their CAPE teaching artist Jessica Mueller (who also works with the Washington parents) and teacher Xochitl Espinosa, welcomed those from Washington, and all the families then spent time exploring artwork and getting to know each other over an amazing meal prepared by the Telpochcalli parents. A few of the Telpochcalli parents wanted to present their prints and creative processes to the entire group of 30+ people.

GWHS Telpo parents 1 blog _1120725

Ramona, pictured above, is a Telpochcalli grandparent, and she said this SCALE class has been her first experience in her adult life as a student, her first art class, and her first chance to take time to focus on herself. She added, after presenting her work to the visiting:

“I was so scared to talk [about my art] in front of everyone and thinking what can I say that they’d want to hear, but after I did I realized that I do have important things to say.”

blog telpo gwhs parents sax print

Maru, a Telpochcalli parent presented her print in progress, above, and later explained:

“I used to have really bad self esteem. One day I decided that I have to change that, and that I am a mirror for my three children. I learned to accept myself the way I am and not to care what others think about me. Today when I spoke about my artwork in front of the parents from the other school, I had no nervousness and no fear. This was the first time that’s ever happened to me.”

GWHS Telpo parents 1 blog P1110751

At the end of their morning together, the Washington parents were excited to invite the Telpochcalli parents down to their neighborhood for two different events– first, an art exhibition featuring the Washington parents’ paintings from earlier in the year, and second, for a another day like this one, to come back together to make art and build a community.

“The GWHS parents were so impressed by the generosity of the Telpochcalli parents that they really want to do something special for them [when they visit in May].” – Ellen Tritschler, Teaching Artist

Though CAPE has been supporting SCALE parent classes for many years, there are always new moments of creativity and community that surprise and move us. It’s not every day that Chicago parents from schools and neighborhoods separated by 20 miles get to spend time together talking, laughing, and bonding over art, family, and food, and these sorts of experiences are a truly integral component of our SCALE program.

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