The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the widespread insecurity in our most disenfranchised communities. History has taught us that in moments of crisis, innovative community intervention can move us forward. While no one solution will solve the complexity of generational harm in the impacted communities, we know that safe spaces and arts education for our youth are two powerful pieces of the puzzle. Studies continue to prove that arts education increases civic engagement, unlocks greater empathy and compassion for others, and enhances racial equity. Sustained arts education is a necessary building block for personal development and for the overall health of our communities
SOCIAL + EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Ignition Community Glass’ (ICG) students are curious, resilient young adults from Chicago’s most vulnerable communities. Every young adult who walks through ICG’ doors is striving for a nurturing, safe space to be seen, heard, and valued.
ICG’s curriculum is grounded in SEL. Its unique approach to engagement focuses on the critical role communication and trust play in healthy emotional development. Supported by teaching artist mentors, students engage in challenging interactive activities to strengthen skills such as perseverance, resilience, patience, and how to express and manage emotions constructively. Student growth is vividly on display through the process of the collaborative art they create and in the public showcases held throughout the year where students perform glass blowing demonstrations, and talk about their art and themselves as artist.
LEADERSHIP + SOCIAL JUSTICE
In the United States, studio glass making has historically been a medium of art accessible only to those with social and economic privilege. Driving ICG’s work is the desire to dismantle the power structures that created this inequity, and build opportunity for those missing from this powerful, healing art form. Since welcoming its first group of young adults to the studio in 2014, ICG has hired five former students to our teaching artist team. These emerging leaders are pivotal voices behind its curriculum development and guide their decisions on how to effectively serve BIPOC students and disenfranchised communities. They are the driving force of ICG today.
ICG team projects and reflection circles scaffold connection and community and encourage students to push beyond their comfort zones. As they work together on collaborative glass projects, they find an outlet to share their experiences and voices. Through these connections and their artwork, ICG students are driving cultural equity in the Chicago arts community, and actively developing and strengthening a culture of participation and inclusion.
ICG curriculum encourages students to experiment, incubate ideas, and explore STEM concepts as it engages and strengthens abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills.
STEM naturally threads through the process of glass making, offering a unique and relevant learning dynamic that enlivens academic growth. From the molecular design of glass to the power of potential, kinetic, and thermal energy to how different elements on the periodic table interact with one another in the glassmaking process, the artform offers a 3-dimensional engagement with the natural world and, with it, the endless possibilities they contain.
Community partnerships are pivotal to ICG’s mission and impact. In the last seven years, ICG has partnered with 15 Chicago Public Schools and 25 nonprofit partners, serving hundreds of young adults each year. One of ICG’s most groundbreaking partnerships is with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Center. This program engages court appointed youth and their parole officers, offering collaborative glass art projects that build new relationships of trust and connection with the goal of reducing recidivism.
“ICG’s workshops engage students in so many ways. From glass demonstrations that connect art, physics and chemistry to hands-on learning opportunities where students are empowered to create their own piece of art. ICG’s student-led learning space is a key element of their programming .”
— Emma MacLean, Arts Partnerships Specialist, Communities in Schools, 2019