CAPE Gallery Hosts First Classroom Arts Learning Experience

 In The CAPE Blog

5/13/23 UPDATE: Students at Ray Graham Training Center High School completed their works from this collaborative arts learning experience and we invite you to celebrate with them at the upcoming Convergence 2023 Exhibition– please join us for the reception on May 20, 4:00-7:00 at the gallery!

3/24/23 – On Friday, March 24, 2023, 15 students from Ray Graham Training Center High School visited the CAPE Gallery as part of their collaborative arts learning experience. This first inaugural CAPE Class to work on their art in the CAPE Gallery began their day at school and navigated the CTA to get to the gallery, then explored the exhibition and worked on their self-portrait projects and shared their work. Joining them were their teacher, Katie Kurisch, teaching artist Niema Qureshi, and a number of faculty from the school. CAPE staff and Executive Director, Amy Rasmussen, also joined together for this first initiation of the space with students working on art as a CAPE class.

Said Rasmussen, “I actually teared up to see them here, working in this space. This is what all of this work has been about — making sure students could use the space as their own. And it’s happening right here, right now, in front of our eyes.”

On 3/24/23, 15 students from Ray Graham High School worked on their art in the CAPE Gallery.

To plan their project, Ms. Kurisch and Mrs. Qureshi began with the question,“How can we empower students by celebrating them and their community through digital art?”
This point of inquiry led to curricular classroom discussions and activities rooted in the dialogue. At school, students took pictures of their classroom and took selfies of themselves there, but they felt limited by the size of the classroom and by the ordinary surroundings. To expand their ideas about photography and self-portraiture, Ms. Kurisch decided to bring the student to the CAPE Gallery to see other students’ artwork and also to use the space as a classroom itself. In addition, navigating the city independently is an important learning goal for Ray Graham High School students who struggle with learning differences and significant physical limitations. The group traveled to CAPE’s gallery space on the CTA. This provided students with a much-needed practical experience.

The group toured the full exhibition, getting familiar and comfortable with the space.


Ms. Kurisch then encouraged them to explore the space on their own, taking photos with their phones and iPads.

Ms. Kurisch (standing) prepares her students for moving independently in the space.


Mrs. Qureshi encouraged the students to use the full expanse of the space, and to think about background possibilities, looking at their photos from different angles. She encouraged students to collaborate on photo shoots.


The class reconnected to share photos and experiences informed by the space.

Said Rasmussen, who joined the group as they experienced the new space and exhibition, “This was especially moving because several students, when they first arrived at the gallery, were intimidated by the size of the space and cautious about interacting with the artwork. But after a little bit of time and with encouragement from the instructors, they began to utilize every corner of the space for their photos.”

By the end of the visit, the students felt comfortable in the space, and look forward to returning as exhibiting artists in their own show.


Upon returning to the classroom, the partners reflected with the students on the CAPE gallery experience.

Ms. Kurisch expressed enthusiasm on this first visit to the CAPE Gallery with her class, “It was amazing to be in the gorgeous and inspiring CAPE Space with all of our students!!! Brandon, Mark and Amy made us feel so welcome! The students enjoyed it so much and are thrilled at the idea of their very own artwork being on display there one day.”

Mrs. Qureshi echoed her teaching partner’s sentiment, “We asked the students today what they thought of their experience at the CAPE gallery. One of our students, Kevin, responded in such an insightful way. He said that it was an amazing experience because he got to visit an art gallery, and not only that but he also got the opportunity to make art in the gallery space with other students’ artwork in the background.” She added, “CAPE staff made us all feel so welcome in the space. I think this made the students feel very comfortable to produce beautiful photographs!”

The next step in the project will be to return to the classroom to continue their project with Mrs. Qureshi. Together, they will edit their photos using digital software and prepare them for the upcoming CAPE Convergence exhibition May 8 – June 2, 2023.


Through a program contracted by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) will engage with over 75 students with disabilities in Chicago Public Schools. In this project, CAPE will collaborate with 11 classrooms at high schools designed to serve special needs students who traditionally do not have access to arts education programs – Vaughn HS, Ray Graham Training Center HS, and Chicago HS for the Agricultural Sciences. CAPE’s teachers and teaching artists engage groups of students like this classroom at Ray Graham Training Center High School in and out of the classroom and in the CAPE Gallery, resulting in individual and collective learning achievements in academic, arts, and social/emotional areas.

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