Originally published: August 3rd, 2022

Volume 2, Issue I

Announcing the CAPE Gallery

Welcome to the capeprojects newsletter! In this issue, you’ll learn about our new gallery space, our gallery planning process, a brief look back at past CAPE exhibition efforts, and the Spring 2022 Convergence exhibits. The newsletter and photographs focus more on past Convergence exhibits, but look for upcoming newsletters on our after-school efforts as well.

CAPE Convergence 2012 at the Chicago Artists Coalition gallery.

Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) is pleased to announce our new, year-round gallery space at 1010 W. 35th Street in Chicago. The CAPE gallery will be open to the public in 2023. 

The gallery is a natural step in the evolution of CAPE’s approach to arts education, collaboration, and research. Why a gallery for CAPE? There are many good reasons, but here are some key points in understanding the purpose of the CAPE gallery:

The CAPE gallery will be the first public space in Chicago and the nation to be devoted year-round to student arts integrationCAPE proposes that student work should be seen as empowered artistic products putting forward ideas about society. Too often, student artworks are little seen, shown in undistinguished spaces for brief periods, discussed as charming or sentimental, or mounted as evidence of student compliance. Through extensive curatorial effort, substantial length of exhibition time in a major gallery space, and serious levels of communications for different audiences, the CAPE gallery forms a powerful argument that student arts integrated work be recognized as a major part of our culture.

The CAPE gallery will be a unique place that brings together research, art, and teaching Educational research is often separated from classroom educators. However, we believe that researchers, artists, teachers, and students are all part of one continuum: making art is making research is making learning. Thus, the CAPE gallery will display teacher, student, and artist projects as artistic research. Our research becomes part of public dialogue in the gallery, generating new questions for exploration.

The CAPE gallery will exemplify the belief that contemporary arts practice is essential in education today Contemporary arts practices (whether in visual art, music, dance, or theatre) emphasize ideas such as: art as a form of investigation in which the answers are not known ahead of time; non-linear narratives and paths of exploration; co-authorship of work; awareness of the site of creation itself (school or neighborhood) as a source of investigation and creation; and end results, which are open to interpretation, participation, and development of further questions. These qualities are essential for 21st century students in their learning and necessary tools for teachers to work with students. The CAPE gallery will steadfastly manifest CAPE’s belief that contemporary arts practices are essential for contemporary education.

The CAPE Gallery will feature collective curation by teachers, artists, students, researchers, CAPE program staff, and guests of exhibitions, performances, and events. Within arts institutions, curating can be a highly individual function in which the curator’s act of choosing and placing becomes a function of power in determining what is and isn’t worth considering. CAPE has for years pioneered a practice of bringing multiple voices into curating. Curation for CAPE becomes a collective process that results in a public articulation of how our network of partners are evolving and thinking about social, educational, and artistic questions and ideas. CAPE’s innovative approach to curation will be highlighted in the new gallery and serve as a model for arts organizations around the country in forming authentic collaborations with schools, teachers, and students.

The CAPE gallery will be an enlightening and galvanizing professional development space for CAPE teachers and artists, as well as outside educators and artists Ongoing professional development is integral to CAPE’s belief in the continuous evolution of our networks of teacher and artist partners. CAPE program staff members have created these professional developments with insight and input from our partners, meeting in many spaces around Chicago. The CAPE gallery will provide our teachers and artists with a convenient, central location to gather, experience, and debate arts and education questions and ideas. Further, the gallery will also function as a center from which CAPE program staff, artists, teachers, and students can regularly disseminate our work and engage in dialogues with other arts educators outside of CAPE, providing extensive and ongoing access to CAPE’s approach to arts education.

Convergence 2009 at the Illinois Institute of Technology River North gallery space.

CAPE has so far existed as more of an idea and not as a physical entity. The CAPE gallery is an opportunity for CAPE to physically manifest these key points in a very concrete way that embodies CAPE’s belief system.

CAPE After School Exhibition 2022 at Hairpin Arts Center with North-Grand High School.

CAPE Gallery Planning Process

In the coming fall, CAPE will undergo an exciting planning process that will bring in multiple voices, questions, and ideas that will help launch the CAPE gallery. Spearheading this process will be CAPE board members Margaret Koreman, Phil Cotton, and William Estrada. 

Margaret Koreman (right), with Carol Friedman and Hilesh Patel at Convergence 2011, Illinois Institute of Technology.

A Chicago Public Schools’ art teacher, Margaret Koreman was part of CAPE’s multi-year professional development grant, Building Curriculum, Community, and Leadership through the Arts, which brought together 120 arts teachers from 60 Chicago neighborhood schools. She also co-planned in the mid-2000s a documentation workshop with CAPE that looked at documentation and multiple perspectives and viewpoints; this event set the course for CAPE’s future documentation workshops.

Phil Cotton (right), with Margy Stover at Peter Jones Gallery, Convergence 2007.

Phil Cotton is a retired art and design teacher. Phil first began co-teaching via CAPE with artist Margie Stover in 2002. Their work together—utilizing design and design processes to empower students to challenge societal constructs and determine their own questions and courses of investigation—proved transformative for CAPE as a whole. Phil is currently an artist and designer working on two and three dimensional projects.

William Estrada has been an artist/researcher with CAPE since 2002, teaching both in and after-school, at Telpochcalli Elementary School. William’s collaborations with Telpochcalli teachers, students, and parents frequently engage powerful questions of community and identity in socially engaging ways. William is also on the art education faculty at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and he regularly presents around the city and nation.

Margaret, Phil, and William are planning casual and fun gatherings to introduce attendees to the CAPE gallery. People at these events will also be invited to a series of planning meetings to follow, on the following topics: Exhibitions/Events and Communications; Physical Needs and Staffing; Identity of the Gallery and Development/Fundraising. These meetings will include CAPE staff, board members, teachers, artists, students, and outside guests from the contemporary arts, non-profit gallery field.

Laura Tan Paradis and Marina Lopez at the Chicago State University Gallery Convergence, 2008.

The CAPE Gallery: A Brief Look Back

CAPE and our partners first began mounting exhibitions of arts integration work from our schools in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Spiritual Passports at the State of Illinois Building art gallery, Indivisible: Stories of Chicago Communities at Gallery 400 and Beacon Street Gallery, and Exchanging Symbols at the Terra Museum of American Art. Shortly after this, we began working with our long-term partnering teachers and artists (now called A/RP, or Artist/Researcher Partners program) on developing Reggio Emilia-based approaches to documentation, and CAPE exhibits switched to an emphasis on Reggio-style documentation panels. These exhibitions (which we named Convergence) were primarily held at the Homan Square Community Center.

In the mid-2000s at a program advisory meeting, CPS art teacher and CAPE partner Marina Lopez challenged us to move beyond the documentation panels and instead have real, curated exhibitions of student art works. This was enthusiastically received by the partners, who were also interested in creating joint installation art pieces that connected student art across schools via ideas and audience interactives. The Convergence exhibit went up at the Peter Jones Gallery, and was incredibly well attended. 

Following this, we began mounting cross-school exhibitions on our after-school work (the first one at Macy’s!), and special program exhibitions, such as Connecting Chicago at Gallery 37 and Origins of Now at the Japanese American Service Committee. CAPE in-school and after-school exhibits from various programs in the mid-and-late 2000s until today have transpired at the following (partial) list of sites: Chicago State University Art Gallery; Illinois Institute of Technology River North gallery; Chicago Artists Coalition Gallery; the Arts Incubator; Co-Prosperity; Instituto Cervantes; Experimental Sound Studio; the former Overton Elementary School building; Mana Contemporary; University of Illinois Great Space gallery; Bridgeport Art Center; Intuit, the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art; Hairpin Arts Center; and many more.

Convergence 2016 at Mana Contemporary.

Spring 2022: A Cross-Neighborhoods Connecting of CAPE and Galleries

After leading a series of brilliant, co-curated online exhibitions of the Artist/Researcher Partners’ student work, CAPE Associate Director of Education Mark Diaz quickly pivoted to lining up a series of in-person Convergence exhibitions in multiple neighborhoods across the city. With Program Coordinator Brandon Phouybanhdyt, Mark met with non-profit gallery leaderships at ACRE, PO Box Gallery, Ignition Gallery, and Hairpin Arts Center and secured dates at each of these spaces. The student projects to be shown at each space were determined by the proximity of the schools in relation to the site of the gallery.

Mark and Brandon consulted with each A/RP artist and teacher team to get their drawn-out plans of how their students’ work should be installed, and many teachers and artists joined at the galleries to put up work. Teachers and artists also wrote their didactic labels, and each gallery had its own public reception.

This tremendous effort by Mark and Brandon, with the A/RP teachers and artists, had an energizing effect on the network. It also created a kind of “cross-town current” of energy and exchanges via the diversity of neighborhoods and the different qualities of each gallery. The dialogues and the spirit from these spring exhibitions will be fruitful as we embark on establishing our permanent gallery.

Convergence 2022 at ACRE.

This issue of the capeprojects newsletter was written by Scott Sikkema and edited by Jenny Lee.