CAPE Network Forum Newsletter: Volume I Issue 1 (Archived)

Originally published: April 7, 2020

Welcome to our first CAPE Network Forum Newsletter. CAPE program and research staff created this newsletter as a way to communicate with our network of teachers and artists, and also to connect with arts and education colleagues in other organizations.

There is an old adage about how in crisis there is opportunity. The current pandemic crisis prompted CAPE program staff to set up the CAPE Network Forum Tumblr page ( The Tumblr page was a response to the need to maintain the CAPE network as a vital and evolving entity engaged together in dialogue and investigation. Posts can include CAPE network thinking and debates regarding remote learning projects for students; instructional videos created for students (there are many wonderful examples up now on the Forum); photos and videos of remote learning CAPE student work; written recipes or instructions for at-home work; questions for other network members; reflections on the challenges and potential for remote learning in our communities; larger reflections about the meaning of art or education or community at this time. The response already to the Forum has been tremendous and invigorating.

The other opportunity coming out of this crisis is the launching of this newsletter. The CAPE program and research department, and the network itself, has not had a vehicle for regularly sharing information or news about our current pedagogical and aesthetic research and practices. This newsletter is that vehicle, and we will both draw from the great work of CAPE teachers, artists, and students past and present to share, as well as welcome contributions.

As Artist/Researchers, all CAPE teachers, artists, and students conduct their collaborative investigations and create their work through inquiry. They deconstruct content, form questions, and work together across artistic disciplines without knowing the end until they come to it.

In our present pandemic, schools and their external partner organizations are navigating the unprecedented terrain of remote learning. This is immensely difficult, and many are turning to overtly structured, step-by-step activities for individual students working alone that have set or predetermined results. In this way, it is known for certain what students are doing, and certainty can be comforting.

CAPE has never worked this way; we see uncertainty and the unknown as generative of learning and art making. CAPE’s questions are: can remote learning be inquiry-based and collaborative artistically and pedagogically? Can remote learning work towards unknown results that can still be publicly shared for further dialogue and questioning? Our artistic and academic research of these questions will form the CAPE network’s response to this crisis. I also believe our response can have a larger resonance for the meaning of art, education, and community collaborations beyond the life of the pandemic.

— Scott Sikkema


CAPE artists are likely aware that there is a relief fund grant available to individual artists under the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund (AIRF). The application portal for this grant closes Wednesday, April 8, at 5 pm: 

Individual Chicago Public Schools submit their formal remote learning plan on Monday, April 6, and enact their plans beginning the week of April 13. Park Forest Chicago Heights District 163 teachers and administration develop formal plans April 8 and 9, working together across grades and schools by video conferencing.

Both Chicago District 299 and Park-Forest Chicago Heights District 163 are implementing remote learning plans which encompass both digital and non-digital (take-home materials), require student engagement and teacher availability (but not taking student attendance), and only assign grades that improve student standing. Classroom teachers should soon be able to share details on these plans. To support online and take-home learning, CAPE program staff have been working with schools, teachers, and artists on distribution of art materials, and instructional videos on youtube.  Many schools will begin technology distribution the week of April 13, following CPS central office guidelines.  Be aware that CPS has new designations of food distribution sites, which might impact material distribution as well; see for details.

ISBE divides the remote learning day into periods of skill practice, projects, enrichment activities, and reading. CAPE arts integration work can fit into any of these categories, and CAPE teachers and artists have already demonstrated that across the CAPE Network Forum Tumblr videos. We would especially note the compatibility for arts integration in the project or enrichment categories, and it may be a good strategy for in-school partnerships to conceive CAPE remote learning within one of those categories.

To close on updates, we call attention to the ISBE website: State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala consistently posts messages that are helpful and direct. She recently announced the availability now in Spanish of ISBE’s very thorough and thought out Remote Learning Recommendations. 

Tumblr Highlight

This week’s Tumblr Highlight is on CAPE teaching artist Jordan Knecht’s first instructional video. See his video above and the accommpanying post below. For more content from teachers and artists, please visit our Tumblr page.

Written by: Jordan Knecht

Hey everyone,

I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to approach our instructional videos. It’s been so inspiring to see how everyone is thinking about and making their own!

I have plenty of thoughts on my philosophical approach to videos, but I’m going to keep this post brief, because this post is all about brevity.

I just made my first video for class. I made it really quickly, because I’ve been feeling myself tense up with the internal anxiety of not making a video correctly: not making it up to my own standards, missing something, being awkward, etc. I decided to use this first video to pull off the bandaid real fast to get over the awkwardness and move forward. It certainly isn’t perfect, but I knew that I would spend days hemming and hawing over it if I didn’t just make the leap.

In the video, I invite my students to respond something they appreciate having around that helps them fight boredom and provides them an outlet for creativity. That invitation is extended to you all.

Here is the link to the video:

CAPE Network Interview:

Ayako Kato, interviewed by Jenny Lee

Ayako Kato is an award-winning choreographer, dancer, improviser, and educator originally from Yokohama, Japan. Since 2012, she has also been a teaching Artist/Researcher for CAPE. In 1998, she founded Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape, which has been producing a large number of choreographic performances in collaboration with composers, musicians, and visual artists in the US, Japan, and Europe. Initially trained in classical ballet and later modern dance, she also went on to practice Tai Chi, Noh theater dance/dramaturgy, and butoh under Kazuo Ohno, one of the butoh’s founders. Influenced by Taoism and the traditional Japanese aesthetics of “furyu,” wind flow, she considers dance as an art of being which expresses “The Way” of nature within and outside ourselves. Within the CAPE network, she co-teaches with Vanessa Saucedo at Telpochcalli elementary school and with Marybel Cortes at Patrick Henry elementary school.

What has been inspiring for you during this time?

Every week since the beginning of this semester, my daughter’s drama teacher has sent us pictures. He’s always an inspiration for me. He communicates very well with us, and we start to know what’s going on in the drama class, and it raises awareness. It becomes more real.

I teach my own adult workshop for professionals and pre-professionals. When this all happened, I felt I was up against the wall. However, after I experienced my daughter’s online lesson, I was encouraged to try out one for mine. I watched a Zoom instructional video on YouTube, learned to share my screen, and figured out how to set up two cameras, one for conversation and another to capture my movement, suggested by my tech-savvy student. My musician husband set up a microphone to avoid feedback without me asking, and eventually even my daughter taught me how to use “gallery view” through Zoom. The first workshop went really well! Step by step, I found out I could do anything through Zoom! In some ways, it was better than a physical class in terms of being able to share some text closely and closely show the detailed movement of fingers and other parts of the body. 

What have been some challenges and positives to remote learning? 

It was difficult to hear that the schools were closed. I learned a lot about CPS guidelines: no direct communication, no text…I was not counted as an “essential” visitor, which made me sad. Then, who am I? How would I get in contact with my students?

The thing is as a teaching artist, although I try my best to guess, I don’t know how busy teachers are. I don’t know how much parents want to continue the afterschool program in this condition. I don’t know how much students are interested in continuing their artistic practice. I bet parents must be having a hard time keeping up even with students’ academic homeschooling. But through my own daughter’s remote learning experiences and online lessons, I could see that when parents, students, and teachers are all together motivated, remote learning can happen. So, after the first week of setting up Seesaw Application, reflecting on only five parents out of eighteen signed up for that, I asked Vanessa if she could reach parents and encourage them to sign up again. Then, thanks to her one more push, we got eleven students/parents signed up now. 

I started to see hope through Seesaw. So, with Marybel at Patrick Henry Elementary School, we started to use Seesaw as well as posting the same assignment contents on the Henry Home Page. We decided to set up the means to submit assignments in two ways: Google Drive/email and Seesaw. Again, after we posted our assignment for the second time, we started to get responses. Checking Seesaw two days ago, I noticed that if I click “See Translate” on Spanish, it becomes English. I could read the translation immediately. Then, using Google Translation, I responded in Spanish! So, I am communicating even better than I was in classrooms. I can write to parents even in Spanish. This is a great benefit and I feel magical!

It took a while for me to drop all the expectations I had in the first place when the school was closed. Letting go was important. Vanessa, Marybel and I just have to do what we can. We just hold on to even a tiny hope and find inspiration from other teachers, parents and our students who have the willingness to work together. Then, we can find ways to communicate and keep improving students’ potential.

Do you have any ideas or questions about what you, your teacher partners, and students might discover or encounter regarding dance integrated teaching, learning, and/or art making during this pandemic situation?

During this Stay at Home Order, I feel more people started to do running. I see their seriousness to get through this period, maintaining their health. Those people know how the body gets weaker and stiff if they don’t move. I myself once had severe pain in my sit bone. I diagnosed myself because I started to sit longer than usual. I fixed it by stretching and moving. This experience made me feel more serious about reaching students to keep them moving. What I mean is not necessarily dance, but moving your body contributes to maintaining your health. The question is what and how. Dance can give you the physically and mentally lifted state of being or the aligned flexible body with lifted feelings. Through dance, your mind and perspective open up more for creative ideas and actions. 

I hope parents from the After School program notice the difference in their children when they are having dance classes twice a week versus none. Vanessa was just kindly sharing with me how students had changed through the dance class. They increased more confidence, focus, and constructiveness. I also have been seeing their improvement through not only physicality but also creativity. 

Dance is very corporeal; it is an art form of and with the body.  Has working and teaching remotely changed any of your perceptions of dance itself?

I have nothing other than even more affirmation on dance or the power of dance during this time! What movement/dance can do to us, the living body, is amazing!! I have been imagining people, things and elements in nature moving at this moment synchronically somewhere in the world. All the things, living things and nonliving things are moving, shifting and transforming on and even inside of the earth. During my online Zoom workshop, looking at the people moving in each different location, I felt, “Wow…this is real. Moving/Dancing together, witnessing and sensing each other who are in other locations, is amazing!” Through my recent live-streaming concert, I noticed the audience can be on the other side of the globe! Live performance cannot be beaten. Yet, I am definitely starting to experience possibilities through “virtual” yet “reality” moments of dance.  

www.artunionhumanscape.netAyako Kato on Vimeo

Contemporary Recall

Each issue of the CAPE Network Forum Newsletter we will look back at a past example of contemporary arts practice in CAPE.

April 2nd, 2010: Chicago Arts Educators Forum Presentation:

How does our community leverage 21 st Century skills to promote art education?

Written by Mark Diaz:

As participants collected in the room, Mike and I played with the tinker toys and posed questions such as “what is technology?” and “what is collaboration?” While discussing ideas about the nature of technology and qualities of collaboration, participants slowly started to play with the materials in the room and started to interact with each other. They then, on their own, began assembling random arrangements in whichever space they decide to settle in.  All the materials, including the stacked chairs, were used in unexpected ways. As arrangements started to take shape and form, Mike and I posed questions about what they were making and how they were making. They began discussing the significance of their assemblages, making relationships with what they were making to larger ideas, and in relation to those idea, organizing themselves into smaller groups.

After forming groups within the larger collective, a few members from each group underwent a quick video and audio tutorial. They were sent off to take several random video clips and audio field recordings that were based on ideas that were developing from their installations. Teams reviewed these video clips and audio recordings and were asked how they could be used to embellish or enhance the physical work that was emerging in their spaces. The clips were arranged in a sequences and video were projected on to their installations. Their audios were also played within the installations.  

This was an atypical art making workshop where participants were presented with materials not commonly associated with art making. Rather, participants were provided with a situation to experiment with materials in a new way and to consider use of the space in which they create their installations. Participants grappled with the formation of collaborative relationships and through intermittent, timed questions and dialogue, they synthesized concepts and ideas emerging from their projects.

Installation art practice afforded participants to create and innovate without predetermined outcomes. By engaging in critical dialogue about form, space, and meaning, participants utilized technology to enhance their projects. Through minimal yet intentional direction, they self-organized to collectively problem solve the creation of  singular art installations comprised of multiple, interlinked parts. This approach engendered multidirectional participation for educators and administrators to deconstruct and reinvent the 21st Century skills in a way that opened up more thinking and ownership.