CAPE Network Forum Newsletter: Volume I Issue 5 (Archived)

Originally Published: June 15th, 2020

In this issue of the CAPE Network Forum Newsletter we announce two exciting public events coming up, and we focus on recent work coming out of the partnership of Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 and CAPE. As Mark Diaz and the teachers he interviewed illuminate, District 163 administration and teaching staff have provided remarkable leadership through unprecedented challenges this past spring.


We want to call your attention to two upcoming public events on June 18 and June 24, both involving CAPE:

Gallery 400:  Pandemic Lessons: Challenges, Innovations and Re-Imaginings in Art Education

The current COVID 19 pandemic has necessitated a drastic reframing of how art education is approached and accessed.  Following the end of the first semester/ term of online learning, Gallery 400, in partnership with the BFA in Art Education program at UIC’s School of Art & Art History, hosts a series of presenter-led conversations to explore how art education has adapted to a virtual learning environment: the challenges, innovations, and ways forward.

We see these conversations as a valuable way to collectively reflect on the experiences of the last few months, share knowledge and resources, highlight our connectivity and interdependence, and brainstorm new possibilities for going forward. Interactivity and discussion encouraged. All events to take place via Zoom.

More information here:

What Just Happened?!

Thursday June 18, 4-5:30pm

Carolina Ibarra, Orozco Academy, Fine Arts & Sciences Elementary School

Jen De Los Reyes, Associate Director, UIC School of Art & Art History

Caroline Kent, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

Scott Sikkema, Mark Diaz & Joseph Spilberg, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE)

What are the various ways in which artists/art educators have ‘pivoted’ in response to the crisis? What worked? What didn’t work? What were/are the ongoing challenges? This first conversation will focus on the adaptations and the creative solutions, challenges, and failures teachers experienced and developed.

Register here:

CAPE Presents Artists In Dialogue Series:

Patricia Nguyen and William Estrada

Wednesday, June 24th, 3:30-5pm

Join Patricia Nguyen and William Estrada in conversation about changing arts practices, pedagogy, and community engagement in the time of pandemic and revolution. This conversation will be facilitated by Joseph Spilberg, Associate Director of Education at Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). 

RSVP on Eventbrite to receive the Zoom Registration Link (space is limited):

CAPE Presents Artists In Dialogue Series:

Patricia Nguyen and William Estrada

Wednesday, June 24th, 3:30-5pm

Join Patricia Nguyen and William Estrada in conversation about changing arts practices, pedagogy, and community engagement in the time of pandemic and revolution. This conversation will be facilitated by Joseph Spilberg, Associate Director of Education at Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). 

CAPE Network Forum Tumblr Highlight:

Following the Park Forest School District’s decision in March to close schools for the remainder of their school year, CAPE teaching artist, Andrés Lemus-Spont (, and several other teaching partners moved to create several enrichment activities in the form of videos or instruction packets with kits for art independently from the school district. 

In the video, Andrés asks viewers to try their hand at blowing a mass of bubbles from nothing more than a straw and a glass of dish soap, and then drawing the form the bubbles create. In the final minute, Andrés points students towards the work of Tara Donovan and Tomás Sarceno to show how they utilize repetition and scale in some sculptures some of which share a stunning likeness to the form of bubbles. See below:

CAPE Network Interview:

Park Forest Chicago Heights School District 163
—Mark Diaz

On March 13th, 2020, Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 took the precautionary measure to cancel classes as reports of possible COVID-19 infection hit the school community. As with many districts, the school closures were sudden and a cause of concern for sustaining students’ education. School District 163 was quick to respond to the closure and developed an action plan for remote learning activities.

CAPE partners with School District 163 on an Assistance for Arts Education Development and Dissemination grant from the U.S. Department of Education, supporting the development of STEAM integrated curriculum, working with 5 of its schools in Kindergarten through 5th grade in a program called “STEAM Ahead.” Blackhawk, Mohawk, and 21st Century are primary centers that serve K through 3rd, and Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts and Barack Obama School of Leadership and STEM serve 4-8th grades. At each of theses schools, STEAM teachers and visual arts teachers are paired with teaching artists to co-design and co-teach STEAM integrated curriculum. The teams have been working together in the classroom for nearly a year and a half developing their integrated projects.  This spring they had to pivot their instruction. I spoke with three teachers from Blackhawk, 21st, and Mohawk Primary Centers about their experiences teaching during the closure and how students responded to remote learning.

Mark Diaz (MD):  At the onset of school closures, how did you adapt to remote learning in general?  

Eileen Ward (EW): At the onset of school closures, there was quite a bit of planning to do in a relatively short time period, which was overwhelming at times. 

Annmarie Zarlengo (AZ): [We] adapted by connecting through Zoom and emails to create projects for students at home both involving paper based and online learning resources. 

MD: Can you describe the process of transitioning your STEAM curriculum into remote learning activities? What were some things you gained and lost through that transition?  

Lori Mitchell (LM): I think, in general, the STEAM teachers and CAPE artists came together in a positive way to give students a comprehensive and creative experience in creating [these remote] art activities. But, some of the experiences that were lost were the human factor and the direct instruction from the artist and STEAM teachers.

EW: Since STEAM and CAPE activities are hands on and require specific materials students would not have at home, we had to drastically modify our lessons. We also were required to collaborate among three schools so we had one set of lessons to offer all students K-3. This was a big change because each teacher/teaching artist pair originally had their own distinct direction in which they had been heading and we had to abandon that in order to put our heads together to create a consistent focus. One thing we gained by doing this is each artist contributed interesting lesson ideas. For example, Andres’s bubble lesson was super fun and interesting! One thing we lost is the ability to create our art installation at the end of the year.

AZ: This process was difficult at first to decide how we would move forward since our students do not have access to the types of materials we were using in our STEAM projects. We were able to continue some of our objectives and goals through different mediums and basic resources to still create a STEAM experience for the children. Unfortunately, not all students are able to have the same experience since some do not have internet access or parental support at home. 

MD: The students have been responding to the remote learning activities. Their parents are documenting their work and sharing them with the school. After seeing those images, what do you think about your students working on the projects on their own at home? Any new thoughts you have about student learning? 

EW: The students who DID turn in pictures of their work had very strong parental support, but too few students did the activities. I spoke to many parents who were overwhelmed with life, struggling to keep working and also keep their children learning.  

LM: I think that the students that participated were able to express themselves more freely because they were not limited to the confines of the materials given. One example was a student at Mohawk that used fabric to complete one of the projects.

AZ: I think through students’ work I have been able to see their interpretation of the STEAM goals we set for them and they have been able to maybe have more freedom to express art including their interests and collaboration with their families. 

Unfortunately, learning was impacted during this process. Some of it was better for some students but for a majority of students I think the stress on parents and the guidance of teachers and artists was lost. 

MD:  As you look through the documentation of student responses, are there new ideas you have about remote learning that you could try next school year in the event school starts remotely?

EW: Next year, we are hoping to create more videos to instruct students. I hope that seeing their teachers will inspire more students to participate. STEAM teachers are exploring use of an interactive Google slide that students can visit and click on links to take them to lessons.  

LM: Something new I thought after seeing those images is that students are more creative and can express themselves more freely when given the opportunity.

AZ: It might be interesting to see if art kits could be created with unique challenges and materials for them to experience monthly to move them past crayons, paper and markers, along with engaging more through an online platform of live teaching and learning.

MD:  What are your thoughts about working with teaching artists on STEAM curriculum before and after COVID-19?

LM: I think there was more unity after COVID. We were able to put our own specific thinking of art aside and work collaboratively to make meaningful activities.

EW: Kim [Kim Moore, teaching artist] and I work very well together. I don’t feel our ability to work together has changed.  

AZ: [The teaching artists] have been nothing but helpful and focused before and after this experience. They have done so much beyond what they did in the classroom to try and give students the best experience they could. 

See Molly Cranch, a teaching artist at Blackhawk Elementary School in Park Forest, incorporate her big idea of change in the video above.