Young Cultural Stewards critically and creatively engage art, technology, and media to become advocates and caretakers of their parks, neighborhoods, and communities. YCS engages over 2,500 youth across 100 parks and 45 neighborhoods through community-based programming including TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Art, Community, and Environment), Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, YCS Fellowship, and ArtSeed Mobile Creative Play. 

YCS builds on best practices within the field of informal art education and creative youth development to cultivate. Young Cultural Stewards cultivate: 


  • Reframe public parks as sites for cultural organizing and creative capacity building
  • Preserve and contributing to indigenous, local, and global cultural practices 
  • Build 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking


  • Cultivate the development of positive self-identity, community, and solidarity 
  • Nurture the capacity to imagine change and the willingness to work for it
  • Practice culture making as a tool for social change


  • Foster trust, vulnerability, and the development of interdependent relationships 
  • Utilize restorative and transformative justice to address harm and create accountability 
  • Provide job training, career readiness, and building the  capacity of youth as leaders and lifelong changemakers




ArtSeed: Mobile Creative Play

ArtSeed engages 1,500 youth (ages 3-12) across 18 parks through storytelling, music, movement, and nature play rooted in neighborhood stories. Children explore the histories and legacies of Chicago's community-based artists and imagine creative solutions to challenges in their own neighborhoods. In 2018, ArtSeed will expand its focus on Chicago-based artists by focusing on artists whose practice ties directly to public engagement, street-based practices, and community narrative. ArtSeed will develop individual and collective projects exploring the works of Pilsen-based muralist Hector Duarte and Sapphire and Crystals, Chicago’s first and longest standing Black women’s artist collective. 

View ArtSeed Events


Young Cultural Stewards Fellowship
YCS Fellowship 

Young Cultural Stewards Fellows (YCSF) engage youth (ages 12-14) as caretakers of culture and agents of change within their parks and neighborhoods. With regional hubs in Willy B. White Park, Piotrowski Park, and Tuley Park, youth explore what culture and community mean to them while developing skills in cultural preservation, organizing, and building creative platforms for social change. Youth work in partnership with teaching artists whose practices are instrumental to Chicago’s cultural organizing landscape. YCSF operate spring, summer, and fall sessions; each six week fellowship builds on content from the last. Youth explore organizing tactics and cultural strategies connected to issues impacting their communities such as immigration, gentrification, and re-imagining community safety.
Learn more.


Inferno Mobile Recording & Media
Inferno Mobile Recording & Media 

Inferno engages over 1,000 young people (ages 6-18) across 80 parks to make collaborative music, produce documentaries and podcasts, and practice therapeutic sound recreation. Led by experimental musicians, media artists, and youth interns, Inferno facilitates opportunities for young people to tell their own stories and document their cultural landscapes. Learn more.

TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Community, Art & Environment) 
TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) is a civic leadership and curatorial job training program of the Chicago Park District headquartered at Hamilton Park Cultural Center in the Englewood community. TRACE annually employs over 80 young people (ages 14-22) tasked with collectively re-imagining their as roles as cultural producers and community builders. Using our practice of creative activism, TRACE shows teens how to leverage the arts to engage, inspire and persist for positive change within ourselves and our communities. Learn more.



Attachment Size
The Art of Flocking Curriculum.pdf14.03 MB 14.03 MB
YCS Program Brochure-1.pdf44.72 MB 44.72 MB
YCS ANNUAL REPORT 2017-1.pdf13.68 MB 13.68 MB