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the Belonging BBQ

  • Englewood Line W 58th St & S Halsted St Chicago, IL, 60621 United States (map)

The Arts & Culture Unit of the Chicago Park District announces a partnership with photographer and activist Tonika Johnson, for a new initiative called “Re-Imagining Belonging. 

This city-wide initiative will include: TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment), Young Cultural Steward (YCS) Fellows, Inferno & ArtSeed, the Park’s District signature youth program units. The effort is supported by TRACE community partner, Grow Greater Englewood, who will provide logistical and financial support for participating youth.

The Re-Imagining Belonging Initiative, inspired by the award-winning Johnson, most recently known for her “Folded Map” project, will engage 4,000 youth, across 100 City of Chicago parks, to explore questions around belonging, acceptance and interconnection. Youth participants will work with teaching artists to interrogate their parks and neighborhoods, and critically reflect on boundaries and barriers versus, places of welcoming and sanctuary, within Chicago’s hyper-segregated city.

Program Highlights:

ArtSeed will visit more than 50 city parks and playgrounds, engaging roughly 2,000 youth ages 5-10, through storytelling, movement, music and art-making. Youth will participate in a digital game of Telephone, posing questions and chronicling answers about “belonging”.

Inferno will visit an additional 50 city parks to engage 1,500 youth, creating videos about the spaces with which they identify and in which feel they belong. The Inferno documentary team will also present short digital stories on the elements of belonging and navigating society as a young minority in today’s social climate. 

YCS Fellows will operate three summer camps, located in Rogers Park, Little Village and Chatham. 45 youth, ages 12-15 will participate in weekly field trips to explore each other’s neighborhoods and visit cultural sites across the city. Teens will collect stories and generate artwork exploring welcome, belonging, and sanctuary.

Finally, TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) will operate in Englewood and Austin working with 25 youth ages 14-22. These young people will travel to all 15 of the Chicago Park District’s Cultural Centers where they will conduct research, collect oral histories, and document their experiences via photography and video to produce an exhibition exploring what it means to “belong” at a time of great transition in Chicago.

The Young Cultural Stewards Initiative will facilitate a culminating event, called the Belonging Block Party bringing together the exhibition and community BBQ at the Englewood Line Trail, on Friday, August 2, 2019 from 12:00pm - 7:00pm. The celebration will feature youth-generated multimedia content displayed alongside Tonika Johnson's works-in-progress in partnership with Grow Greater Englewood.  To learn more about the Chicago Park District programs and partnerships visit