Northeastern Illinois University to influence art education in Chicago with $30k grant

Friday, December 19, 2014

Northeastern Illinois University Center for College Access and Success has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation titled Spaces for Possibility, an arts-based learning community for reflective teacher practice.

Over the course of this three-year project, the Center for College Access and Success (CCAS) will invite over 25 K-12 arts and content teachers from Chicago Public Schools to form a community committed to questioning, exploring, and expanding the possibilities of art education.

The introduction of the new Common Core State Standards and National Art Standards will require teachers to weave into their curricula new methodologies for teaching art.  Art teachers often report feeling isolated in their practice, rarely having opportunities to share their work. Spaces for Possibility will provide spaces for “complicated conversation” to break out of this isolation, as well as opportunities to disseminate teaching strategies.

The knowledge shared and new practices developed as a result of Spaces for Possibility will serve over 1,500 students, many of whom come from low-income households and underrepresented communities. Through the development of culturally relevant curriculum, students will not only learn skills to make artwork, but also begin to think in terms of contemporary art practices that generate a sense of meaning in their lives.

“Teachers are the ultimate agents for change in academic performance,” said Dr. Wendy M. Stack, Associate Vice President and Executive Director of the Center for College Access and Success. “It has been shown that students who are able to conceptualize abstract concepts through art will have a better foundation for math and science. You just have to get the student engaged.”

Founded in 1978, the Center for College Access and Success is the largest school improvement organization in Chicago. Their collaborative partnerships engage the entire community to help students succeed academically and socially. Spaces for Possibility is a continuation of CCAS’s three-year Studio Thinking project, previously supported by the Polk Bros. Foundation, a strong supporter of CCAS’s arts education programming since the 1990s.

The Polk Bros. Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for the people of Chicago through partnerships with local nonprofit organizations that work to reduce the impact of poverty and provide area residents with better access to quality education, preventive health care and basic human services.