Chi Arts Kerfuffle Celebrates Students and Supports Arts Education

Chicago enjoys world-class arts organizations. But surprisingly, until recently, it offered almost no arts education for its public school students. The arts were cut from the Chicago Public Schools three decades ago. Unlike most other cities, Chicago didn’t even offer a public school for the arts for youth with strong artistic inclinations.

Please see our photo gallery below.

Fortunately that changed in 2009, when civic leaders working with Renaissance 2010, foundations (like the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and Polk Brothers Foundation) and many Chicago arts organizations launched “ChiArts,” the Chicago High School for the Arts. With one deft move, artistic youth at last had a safe place to nurture their talents and the city opened a small pipeline of participants and audience for scores of its cultural arts organizations.

ChiArts now teaches 600 high school students working in five conservatories—music, theatre, dance, visual arts and creative writing—in a recently renovated building on the city’s west side. Students, faculty and staff must feel a strong commitment; they come from all 50 Chicago wards for the longest school day in the CPS system. Five hours of academics and three hours of arts training fill the 8 am to 5 pm school day.

A recent tour showcased piano students of varying abilities practicing and composing on electric pianos; a large brass ensemble playing in a room where sound richly resonated; a student art show of sculpture, paintings, and graphic arts in a sun-lit gallery and a large, elegant theatre with restored murals from the 1920s.

Guests found themselves deeply moved when they thought about what the alternatives would have been for each participating student. ChiArts is the only free high school for the arts in Chicago. Those students would not have been able to afford the high quality arts education they received. Each life was dramatically improved by their opportunity to attend ChiArts.

Although ChiArts operates within the CPS system, it is a separate 501c3, with a very committed board of directors who must raise substantial funds each year. It partners with almost 80 Chicago arts organizations, from the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra to The Second City and smaller neighborhood theatres, too.

Kerfuffle,” the annual gala,which was held on April 21 at the Art Institute, showcased more than 80 students with performances in multiple artistic areas from guitar to ballet. The event raised over $300,000 and every dollar raised will be put to very good use, transforming lives and growing future cultural audience for Chicago.























  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate