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Chicago, Here We Go!

The Conference for Community Arts Education convenes organizations from across the country that are at the forefront of turning their arts programming into dedicated community service and engagement. Held this year in Chicago, IL, the Conference featured expert speakers, peer roundtables, program showcases, and professional development workshops.

Creative Action senior staff, two Teen Program ambassadors, and Executive Director Karen LaShelle attended this year’s conference to learn from like-minded leaders and share their insights. Not only did the experience provide an outlet for touting our work on a national level, it uncovered new ways to improve Creative Action programming for the future.

CLYTE Teen Ambassadors with Teen Programs Director Noah Martin

CLYTE Teen Ambassadors with Teen Programs Director Noah Martin

Many elements of the Conference, hosted by the National Guild for Community Arts Education, focused on developing and defining the emerging field of Creative Youth Development. Creative Youth Development (CYD) refers to a burgeoning segment of out-of-school time youth arts programming that envisions young people as active agents of their own change, where developing rigorous artistic endeavors and intentional life skills is integral to putting youth on a positive trajectory.

As a member of the Guild’s CYD Steering Committee, Creative Action Executive Director Karen LaShelle took part in a full-day planning meeting where educators from across the country collaborated developing resources and boosting funding to CYD programs. In her role as a Guild Ambassador for the state of Texas, LaShelle then led a conference session detailing the work Creative Action has done in the past year, highlighting a CYD sharing session held at the Center for Creative Action along with with San Antonio nonprofit Say Si and Guild Director of Marketing and Communications Heather Ikemire.

National Guild for Community Arts Education meeting held at the Center for Creative Action with San Antonio nonprofit SAY Sí

National Guild for Community Arts Education meeting held at the Center for Creative Action in May with San Antonio nonprofit SAY Sí

Finally, LaShelle took the helm of a session that examined Creative Action’s earned revenue model as an example of how to leverage organizational values to gain audience and donor support.

Elsewhere, Director of Teen Programs Noah Martin, Senior Director of Community Programs Alberto Mejia, and Director of Out-of-School Time Programs Mitch Bowman forged new professional bonds with likeminded artists and organizations. They attended sessions and interacted with New Orleans’ KID smART and Columbia College’s Teaching Artist Development Studio, who supplied forward-thinking avenues for marketing and teaching artist management.

“This was my second year, and it remains an incredible opportunity to reinvigorate our practices as educators and see the worth of the work Teaching Artists are doing throughout the country,” says Director of Out-of-School Times Programs Mitch Bowman. “By tapping into students’ cultural memory and connecting them to the rich heritage of the arts as a vehicle for both self-expression and community participation, we are helping youth to uncover their innate gifts and put them into service for the benefit of others.”

Our Teen Ambassadors from Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble also made loads of new friends with Chicago youth organizations like Kuumba Lynx and Little Black Pearl Workshop. And amidst it all, the whole group wound up downtown during celebration of the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory!

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