How did you become passionate about using art to help others?
My earliest memories of service are of working with disabled women at St. Mary’s on Austin Boulevard and with youth through the Chicago Police Department and the Reed Mental Health Center. Service, artistry and teaching became interconnected for me, which got me thinking about how I could use the arts to help people work through their problems. Serving others through art inspired what would become the Stockyard Institute
What is the Stockyard Institute?
The Stockyard Institute is a Chicago-based collaborative art and educational organization whose practices center on a variety of issues concerning youth, the city, visual art and education.
Since 1995, we’ve worked with thousands of kids, teachers, DePaul University students and alumni, and local and international artists.
Our projects have also attracted young, creative art students from Chicago, who often become future contributors to the Institute.
Tell us about some of the Stockyard Institute’s projects.
The first program we worked with was the Zawadi Program, and it remains a stalwart operation today, helping 40-90 children annually. Students develop lessons and apply their ideas, which all revolve around the arts and literacy. Participants take part in team-building, life skills, academic enrichment, arts and crafts and recreational activities. Some of these opportunities have included making a community mural, a video history and a booklet commemorating both Zawadi and the history of the Austin neighborhood here in Chicago.
One unique component of our work is that when we create a project or program, we are prepared to stay present in that neighborhood. Our successes are tied to staying involved in people’s lives and leaving a structure in the community for continued use.
Other projects have included:
- opening a tent school situated in the middle of Columbus Park on Chicago’s far west side that provided the community access to information, media development and free public radio;
- working with the Peace Warriors, a group of youth and teachers in the Lawndale community;
- exploring sculpture and land use in Eden Place, a three-acre nature preserve in the Canaryville neighborhood; and
- building a Pedagogical Factory inside the Hyde Park Art Center.
These projects support the youth and the communities we work with; the Stockyard Institute introduces those who have resources with those in the greatest need.
What’s next for the Stockyard Institute?
I have been talking to a major television station about an upcoming project in Chicago that will help our youth, and may feature a project we are developing in Canaryville with the University of Hip Hop. We are also working with a young documentary filmmaker who is creating a film on the Stockyard Institute's history and practice that should be completed soon.