My Chicago: Students’ Perspectives on Their City

 In The CAPE Blog

At Hoyne Elementary in Archer Heights, music teacher Andre Porter is working with CAPE Teaching Artist Jessica Mueller to build on work he began with his students last year as part of CAPE’s ATLAS program for fine arts teachers. Currently, Andre and Jessica’s 8th grade students are in the midst of an expansive project that will help them express their own views and understanding of their neighborhood and Chicago in general though photography, sculpture, poetry, video, audio, watercolor painting, songwriting. 

To shape their creative concepts and consider different modes of expression and representation, the students are exploring the work of Chance the Rapper and lifelong Englewood resident/artist/activist, Tonika Johnson.  The students are also asking themselves and each other:

  • What is my daily reality of Chicago?
  • Is my reality in line with the often negative perceptions of the city?
  • Does my reality offer a different perspective that pushes back against those perceptions?
  • How can I express my Chicago through visual, digital, literary, or performative art?

The students are hard at work trying to answer some of these questions through a variety of art media. Two students are collaborating on a sculpture of a face that is painted on either side to illustrate how society unjustly stereotypes people based on race. Another student is documenting personally significant locations in the area surrounding the school, where he was born and raised. Other students are working in small groups to write songs, create music videos, and even learn to fly and record video using a drone!

These 8th graders are taking full advantage of the many options they have to express their ideas and creativity through this project. Rarely do students have so much freedom of choice and expression when it comes to what they want to ask, investigate, produce, and share, but that freedom is a cornerstone of CAPE’s work in our public school classrooms. 

The final artworks from this project and many others from our Artist/Researcher Partnership program will be on display in May and June as part of our Convergence exhibition.

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