Effective spring 2022, an art school just south of the city will be the first of its kind—offering tuition-free art classes for emerging and developing artists of all ages.
“People look out for you here.” When you’re here you’re family. That’s how art student Sheila Clay at the Hyde Park Art Center describes her experience and says it’s what keeps her coming back.
“It’s enriching. It enriches your soul and your spirit and takes your mind off anything else worrying you. It relaxes you and teaches you mentally to focus. You get clarity here. The workers and the staff, they show interest and are supportive. I’m supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be sitting at home.”
It’s a plan nearly five years in the making with the help of the art center’s $15 million Art Makes capital campaign. It’s with the help of donors that the art center will be able to offer a “pay as you can” option for all their art classes. From painting and drawing to textile classes to photography, there’s something for everyone.
“We don’t like to say the only, but as far as we know this will be the first tuition-free art school for folks of all ages to participate in in the country,” says Jeannette Chambers, deputy director of programs and operations of the Hyde Park Art Center. “This model will allow us to run classes more consistently. Offer new classes we couldn’t offer before. Be supportive of our teaching artists community.”
This includes teaching artists like Malika Jackson. I sat in on her ceramics course for seniors, many of whom are on scholarships, which will continue under the “Art Makes” campaign.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to create and not be limited because of lack of funds or access,” Malika Jackson says. “Through the arts, children and people can express themselves and you can see how they might need help through their artwork. They’re open more and more willing to talk to you without being put on the spot.”
Veda Fangi, a visually impaired student, who also makes use of the scholarships, agrees.
“I don’t think I could have taken this class without the financial help,” Fangi said. “They help me create the things that I’m seeing in my head since I can’t really see what I’m doing.”
Aside from a few niche experimental classes, the Art Makes campaign will also support artist residency programs, exhibitions and other art events hosted by the center.
“It allows people from all walks of life to come together in a space and make meaning together, be creative and build relationships and build their art skillset,” Chambers said.
The Hyde Park Art Center will continue to offer financial aid and the pay-as-you-can method for certain art classes until spring 2022, when this payment method becomes available for all art classes.
Registration for winter courses begins Nov. 30 at 12 p.m.
Check out the course list here.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.