Turnaround Arts: Chicago is off to a running start here in the midwest! The first two months of school have been busier than ever, but as we dive into our work we wanted to also reflect and appreciate the incredible journey our schools have taken in their second and third years with Turnaround Arts.
Those of you who attended the Summer Leadership Retreat will know that Chicago likes to show up and represent our schools, and that definitely doesn’t change when we get back home! Each and every one of our schools has shown themselves to be leaders and innovators in various ways. In an effort to share our work as a local program we have provided a few highlights from the last year, as well as a few things to look out for in the 2016-2017 school year.
Our Turnaround Artists have been instrumental in our work and we were so fortunate to have school visits from Keb’ Mo’ and Irvin Mayfield, as well as incredible field trips to downtown Chicago with Josh Groban and Kerry James Marshall. Students were able to sing and play along with their artists, experience a real live soundcheck at the Chicago Theatre, and visit Kerry James Marshall’s transformational show at the Museum of Contemporary Art multiple times. We look forward to welcoming our Turnaround Artists back this year and we know the students can’t wait to see them again!
Our schools have made great strides toward realizing their vision of an arts rich environment for their students. In each of our schools there is artwork on display in both physical and digital form, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) taking place in hallways during transitions with wonderful posters from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, music playing every morning presented by students and themed around specific instruments, new mural projects covering entire hallway walls, and additional performance opportunities for students in dance, theater and music.
Parent involvement is also at an all time high through events like Family Portrait Night, hands on arts activities during open houses and report card pick up, Arts & Literacy nights, family field trips to museums, and of course school performances. This year, schools have added an additional emphasis on parent partnership with new opportunities for parents to engage in the arts with their students and participate in school beautification projects within their buildings. Last year, students also took the stage for school talent shows, Black History Month assemblies, holiday productions, and of course their annual musicals where they performed the Lion King and the Jungle Book for their friends and families. We can’t forget the amazing experience our students, representing all four schools, had performing in the White House Talent Show this past May!
Our teachers continue their work with arts integration, focusing on the use of the arts as it relates to the instructional and social emotional supports needed to empower our students. Arts Leadership Teams are building new peer support models to support this work and partners in the building are delivering professional development and co-teaching with our staff. In addition to last year’s residencies and programs with Barrel of Monkeys, Columbia College, the Auditorium Theatre, Alvin Ailey, and a wonderful one week residency from Wolftrap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, we formed new partnerships with Focus 5, the ArtsXChange program, Play in a Book, Little Kids Rock, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
We can not wait to see what the rest of the school year brings, and we hope to see some of you in Chicago in the coming months – though you may not want to visit until it warms up again! We offer a huge thank you to Turnaround Arts: National for their support, and our wonderful colleagues in local programs around the country for their collaboration and partnership in this work.