TRACE: Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment


2019 Programming

TRACE is expanding our programming to two locations in 2019; Hamilton Park in the Englewood neighborhood and Austin Town Hall on Chicago’s far west side. This juxtaposition of locality within the city will be the foundation for 10 TRACE interns at each site to interrogate their sense of belonging throughout their city through a series of collaborative creative projects.

Spring will ask teens at both sites to re-imagine their understanding of “belonging” by curating multimedia exhibitions that draw from historical, contemporary and personal narratives. 

TRACErs at Hamilton will collaborate with co-Lead Teaching Artists Concitta Cavin and Zakkiyyah Najeebah on a project exploring the historical context and current impact of the meaning “belonging” can take amongst marginalized communities.

At Austin Town Hall, TRACErs will work alongside co-Lead Teaching Artists Leah Gipson, Nicole Harrison and guest curator Vanessa Stokes to produce an exhibition highlighting works from pioneering black photographer Dorell Creightney’s archives and featuring original work created by our teens.  

During the summer of 2019, each site will participate in robust field work to engage with Tonika Johnson’s “Belonging” project. In addition to documenting their own communities through photojournalism, TRACErs will conduct a visual ethnographic survey of the Chicago Park District’s network of “cultural centers” that considers the role this public trust plays in disrupting or sustaining Chicago’s history and present of cultural and economic segregation. 

Over 6 weeks, each site will visit 7 of the 15 designated “cultural centers” spread throughout the District. TRACErs will visually document the parks, conduct research about the surrounding community and people, get to speak with cultural workers and producers within those communities, and think critically about the distinctions they observe through their experiences visiting these places. This material will be used to curate a collaborative exhibition of images, texts and experiences which centers the voice of teens and challenges the audience to consider how this city welcomes or suppresses our youth.


2018 Programming

2018 marked the 10th anniversary of TRACE working within the Chicago Park District to bring teens together with some of Chicago’s most dynamic creative activists and educators. In celebration of this milestone, we launched an ambitious programming initiative bringing the organic, thoughtful evolution of TRACE full-circle using art and activism to look back on the journey while also creating dynamic new futures. Using our community curatorial toolkit, TRACE produced a series of artifacts and exhibitions throughout the year highlighting TRACE’s strategies for empowering teens as critical thinkers, collaborators and creative activists.

During the spring, TRACE partnered with Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) and Candor Arts Publishing to produce a community “art/cookbook” highlighting culinary and agrarian traditions alongside environmental activism on Chicago’s southside. TRACErs collaborated with co-Lead Teaching Artists Concitta Cavin and Zakkiyyah Najeebah to compose, design, and edit what will become a limited edition hardbound book. Programming was supplemented by workshops and field trips exploring issues of aesthetics, authorship, and representation within the literary canon and contemporary media.

Summer ‘18 programming engaged TRACErs by creating a collaborative art project exploring TRACE’s history as a teen arts organization over the past 10 years. Our network of alumni, guest artists, teaching artists and leadership were invited to bring in artwork, images and other ephemera from over the years to engage with current TRACErs through a series of “archiving days”, where teens scanned/photographed/catalogued those materials in addition to recording oral histories of those involved with the program. TRACErs also participated in a mural project in partnership with GGE underneath the Englewood Line at 58th & Halsted ( Programming culminated with a 10th Anniversary Gala & Exhibition held in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Commons August 17th.

Fall programming partnered TRACErs with Englewood-based designer Eric Hotchkiss to repurpose a non-functioning aquaponics system in our offices at Hamilton Park into a “healing space” incorporating creative and natural self-care design principles. 2018 programming culminated with a charette about perceptions of Chicago’s south and west sides facilitated by photographer and activist Tonika Johnson at Nichols Tower on December 11th.

In October TRACE launched the TRACE Community Curatorial Fellowship (TCCF). This dynamic program invited five veteran TRACErs for a one-week intensive in New York City to take part in a series of scholarly explorations and cultural excavations that disrupt traditional notions of what knowledge is valuable, who should be the authors of that knowledge, and how that knowledge is preserved and disseminated. Fellows will work with professional mentors over several months to translate this experience into accessible scholarship that will shared during a series of “show and tells” during the summer of 2019.


About TRACE: 

TRACE is a jobs-focused, teen leadership program run by the Chicago Park District’s Division of Culture, Arts and Nature. TRACE promotes civic engagement and strives to cultivate creative, environmental and community-based youth activists. Using the arts to engage, inspire and persist, TRACErs create, advocate and enact change for a better world.
TRACE is generously supported by the Chicago Park District, After School Matters, School of the Art Institute, Fay Slover Fund, Field Foundation, and Grow Greater Englewood. 


Check out the TRACE PHOTO GALLERY here.