capeprojects newsletter: Volume 1 Issue I

Originally published: July 20th, 2021

Looking back

We are re-launching our newsletter—or, to put it another and more expansive way, we are ending some things and beginning others.

In the spring of 2020, CAPE program staff set up the CAPE Network Forum, which was a tumblr site that provided a space for CAPE teachers and artists to dialogue, share work, and sustain the network. Springing from the immediate engagement of the tumblr site, the program staff was also inspired to create a newsletter in relation to the Forum; this newsletter was the first ongoing public sharing of the pedagogy and aesthetics of the organization. At its peak, the Forum had thousands of visitors, and the Forum newsletter had a higher-than-average percentage of openings compared to most non-profit e-newsletters. 

That said, all things have a life. Teachers, artists, and CAPE program staff became more acclimated with the continuous crisis navigation called for by the pandemic. As we became more adept at co-creating, co-leading, and sharing work in virtual settings, the need for the Forum dissipated and both entries and visits to the site dwindled. Concurrently, the impetus for a newsletter generated from the Forum receded.

Where are we now?

We concluded that the Forum site is largely done as of now, and that the CAPE Network Forum Newsletter is ended. Though we made these decisions, we also felt that there were things we didn’t want to lose. We didn’t want to lose this new thing that happened last year, the ongoing public sharing of our work and questions and pedagogical and aesthetic investigations and beliefs. We always shared these things within our network, but never had the opportunity to do so in any kind of a regular way outside of the network. Or, more directly—last spring and summer, we had a voice. We still want some kind of voice.

In addition to some kind of voice, two other realities loomed before us as we contemplated this. One reality is an old problem: the documentation created each year by partners of the work done in classrooms. In the mid-2000s, I worked with program staff members to initiate and develop formats for partners to document their arts integrated teaching and their students’ learning. Over the years, this documentation has taken on different organizational structures (some more readable than others), and it has been entered into different digital platforms as well. 

The curriculum and work being produced and documented is a potentially rich mine of art and pedagogy, but it has been many years since we’ve had any of this accessible to anyone other than our network of teachers and artists or our external researchers. We felt it was time to put this documentation back onto a venue anyone could find and look at, and to not do so would be a loss all around.

The other reality looming is our goal of establishing a physical, year round gallery. More will be shared on that later, but a contemporary arts gallery requires, in my view, a different sort of communication and communications vehicle.

What are we unveiling?

As a result of these events and deliberations, the program staff came to the conclusion that we need a new online site for the range of our network’s pedagogical and artistic pursuits, ideas, and questions, and that is one thing we are unveiling here:

For people both in and outside our network, capeprojects provides documentation of current curricula coming out of CAPE classrooms in and after school. We also are gradually working on formatting past curricula and art to include on this site, and we have an initial foray (spearheaded by CAPE artist Juan-Carlos Perez) into this effort for some past after-school CAPE work.

We have also archived the CAPE Network Forum on this site, which offers anyone who looks at it a clear testimonial to the struggles and discoveries of CAPE artists, teachers, and students during the first months of the pandemic and school closures. Also archived are our CAPE Dialogues, the public conversations we have conducted over the past year with members of the CAPE network and with artists, researchers, and educators outside of CAPE, now easily available to anyone who enters this site and wants to listen to the recordings.

The other thing we are unveiling here is this e-newsletter, which we are calling the capeprojects newsletter. The newsletter will share what the CAPE network is thinking about as regards to art, education, community, and research. Its function is an intellectual one; its desire is to challenge. 

Just like a network, our newsletter and the capeprojects site are not static things; look for them to evolve as we experiment with and add new features as time goes on. The newsletter will be primarily written by the CAPE program staff (Mark Diaz, Joseph Spilberg, Jenny Lee, Brandon Phouybanhdyt, AmBer Montgomery, Hannah Martin, and me), as well as CAPE teachers, artists, students, and researchers. Final oversight will be Jenny Lee and myself. We hope you enjoy it.

— Scott Sikkema

CAPE Chicago’s After-School End of Year Event

After a school year filled with challenging and triumphant pursuits, our staff organized a virtual celebration for CAPE After-School Chicago programs to commemorate our making it across a long awaited finish line. The intent was not only to celebrate our students and parents for the deeply personal and imaginative projects they were able to produce, but also our teachers, artists, and CAPE supporters for their tenacity and adaptability throughout the mass of uncertainty we were facing daily. 

We gathered, virtually, for another “Zoom party.” CAPE staff, artist partners, and the MC for the evening, Lionel Freeman (Brother L), welcomed all of our guests with a 90’s themed Zoom backdrop, and an original soundtrack produced by CAPE students played in the background. As we waited for our partners and families to arrive, we were immediately immersed in the originality, messiness, and audacious creativity that is uniquely CAPE. 

Our evening began with our Associate Director of Education, Joseph Spilberg, expressing gratitude for being a part of this supportive community: “Though this year has been extremely humbling, we always managed to have each other’s back.” Lional followed this up by sharing the first video of the evening, showcasing a series of stop motion video  projects created by students at George Washington High School along to a soundtrack created by students at Dyett High School. This project in particular was a great example and testament to how resourceful our instructors were while being able to create learning environments that were rich and provided our students with new skillsets. 

After a collective breath led by our MC, teaching artist Shenequa Brooks, who specializes in weaving and textiles, instructed folks to grab their art-making materials and led us all through a group project, created to be a meditative experience that culminated in our designing a mini-sculpture of a positive word of our choosing. 

Marceia Scruggs, teaching artist, chose the word “Dream.”

Lional continued the sharing with another video, this time featuring elementary school students at Telpochcalli performing dance choreography, more stop motion videos, and a bilingual interview presentation from the parent class at George Washington High School. Juan-Carlos Perez, a long-time and beloved CAPE teaching artist, then introduced us to the new CAPE archival project and reminded us of the value of the work that we do and the great importance of preserving it.  

Lional wrapped up the event by asking us each to reflect on “when we discovered our voices through art.” From 5th grade poetry classes, museum trips, after-school programs, and intros to break-dancing, we all shared the importance of the teachers and artists in our lives that helped spark our individual voices and creativity. Every person left the event feeling more connected to each other and the work we were able to accomplish this school year. Not only did the virtual nature of our gathering provide new opportunities for exhibition, but it also brought us closer to one another in our homes, surrounded by our loved ones who had spent the year alongside us, creating and learning together. Though this may have been the last time we host an event in this way, it was undoubtedly special and the perfect way to commemorate our journey together. 

View the full, recorded event here.

— AmBer Montgomery