Lessons from Youth, Art and Healing in Chicago
“Every beginning has an end and every end has a new beginning.”
21 Fellows, ranging from 15 to 24 years old across 9 Chicago neighborhoods have completed 6 weeks of SEARCH. Fellows had the opportunity to explore their individual and collective identity, through art, movement and circles, as a way of healing. These fundamental skills have not only enhanced Fellows self- awareness, but also a connection to their communities.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to be here on the first day because I had no idea what SEARCH was. I was just here to get me money. Now, I am sad it’s over because I wish it was longer. I had a lot of self-growth from the healing circles and having the space to practice art. I learned a lot from myself and would like to take it a step further and ask myself similar [healing circle] questions when I’m not feeling well, kind of like an inner healing circle.” SEARCH Youth Fellow
Final Healing Circle
The final circle focused on reflecting and recalling our time at SEARCH.
- Looking back at your time at SEARCH, what memories and moments stand out to you?
- Looking back at your experiences in our Racial Healing Circles, what did you think of the circles? What impact did they make on you or your SEARCH community?
- What will you take into the school year/future endeavors from our time at SEARCH?
“Compared to the first day at this program, I have seen a change in people’s facial expressions. Everyone is smiling more.”
“The [Racial Healing Circles] made me realize that it’s easy to talk to people, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to open myself up.”
In our close-out fellows were asked to describe SEARCH in one word:
SEARCH Art Exhibition
The art exhibition was curated to provide external audiences a comprehensive look into our 6 weeks together. Every room in the exhibition had a specific theme based on topics that were presented within the program.
Room 1: Self-Awareness
The first room of the art exhibition showcased fellows’ identity maps and ‘I am…’ poems. Similarly to the first week of SEARCH where we dove into the concept of self, this room allowed guests to get a better understanding of who our SEARCH youth fellows are. In addition, an audio recording of the ‘I am…’ poems and What does healing mean to you? were playing.
You can Listen to some of the I AM POEMS by Clicking Here
Room 2: Artivism
The second room was filled with original and digital renditions based on the Create a Campaign activity. The space was beautifully filled with youth fellows’ passions in taking action in the oppressive systems that want to change. This room allowed you to view similar and separate causes and see the possibility of our SEARCH fellows collectively creating a just society in the near future.
Room 3: Collective Awareness & Open Art
The last room of the exhibition displayed Self-Portraits, a mandala activity for guests, and the Wings project allowed visitors to create their feathers. This interactive exhibit gave our guests an opportunity to experience a small part of journey our Fellows took this summer. Additionally, several Fellows sold their art, which allowed fellows to see their value as artists.
On our last day of the program, we finished the way we started, as a group. Fellows and facilitators brought a dish or game from home to celebrate our last day of the summer in the program together. SEARCH youth fellows brought their art home to memorialize our 6 weeks of laughter, tears and creativity.
End of Program Reflection from Youth Participants
This week we sent out an end-of-the-summer survey to all youth participants. These were some of the questions asked:
- What is the most important thing you learned in your program this summer?
“I learned that rest, meditation, and self care are not indulgent activities but are important to maintaining good mental and emotional health. Making sure we as people take time to heal ourselves lets us continue to work hard and feel prepared for the struggles everyday.”
“I learned more about myself and my community, and how to be more confident in my skills/marketing/relationships. I also learned my worth with art.”
“I learned that art can help other people connect to a cause or ideas, art is a bridge that can bring awareness, healing, or even just a feeling of connection. Art is something that can live in people’s minds and hearts for the rest of their life.”
“The most important thing I learned this summer was communication skills. In the program, we shared a lot of vulnerable stories and it taught me to be more open. With that, I also learned how to step out of my comfort zone like I never had before.”
“The most important thing I learned in my program this summer was that I actually have many skills. I learned a lot about myself too and I will forever be grateful for what I learned. I’m very happy to be a part of this program and I will definitely be doing it next year.”
2. Please share a personal highlight or story for how the program impacted your life?
“In the program, I was able to meet and develop strong friendships with people I would not have otherwise met. It was cool to connect with people younger and older than me as all of my friends outside the program are the same age as me and are school companions. Rather than bonding over the stress and struggles of class, we bonded over family struggles, relationships, and social justice issues.”
“The moment the supervisors pulled me aside and started pouring opportunities onto me and gave me more connections. The supervisors and my friends all showed me that I am worthy of love and I need to get over my impostor syndrome. The gallery show also gave me more connections and showed me self-worth for what I should be doing with my art. I can’t thank this program enough for that.”
3. Share 1–3 ideas for how we can improve summer programs for next year?
“Ask them [youth] to bring some ideas to the table for what people should create.”
“More transportation aid. Doing more work that allows us to connect with the communities we come from.
“Offer a little bit more techniques when it comes to making art.”
“You should open more job opportunities closer to the several communities the people come from.”
SEARCH, unbounded by the traditional limitations of school settings, brought together arts, restorative practices, healing circles, movement, racial justice, and positive youth development. After two years of being mostly remote, we came back together in a safe, caring, and creative space. We connected with one another through open and honest conversations. The last day of gathering was a bittersweet ending for the summer but SEARCH is only beginning. We will continue to grow this program next summer and maybe sooner.
If you are interested in learning more about SEARCH please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.