Arts Opportunities for Young People in Chicago
Through a citywide survey, the research team identified 498 programs that offer arts experiences during out-of-school time. Many more opportunities are offered by parks, social service agencies, and recreation centers than by museums, theaters, and other institutions devoted solely to the arts.
In discussions with 153 staff and young people involved in arts programs, researchers often found a striking depth of experience. Children and adults spoke of how participants gain not only skills in ballet, music, computer graphics, theater, and painting, among other art forms, but also a means to understand who they are as individuals or in relation to others; to appreciate the sounds, images, motions, and values of their cultural heritage; to enjoy their own creative expressions; to envision a future and cultivate the discipline and organization to get there; and to experience warmth, support, and challenge from other kids and adults. Informants spoke about these and many other benefits that some said school experiences do not or cannot foster.
Researchers also found that young people participated in arts programs more often for internally motivated reasons (their interest in learning art, being with friends, having fun) than for externally motivated reasons (pressure from parents or other adults in their lives.) And while their interest in these programs was strong, their ability to physically reach them was often limited. Distance and safety issues impeded many kids' attendance. Other findings included that support from parents was vital to kids' attendance and that organizational operations and the strength and existence of arts programs often hinged on the diverse talents and energies of one or two staff members.