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. 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 youth ages 5-15 across 20+ public parks and community gardens through storytelling, music, movement, and nature play rooted in climate justice and community healing. During the summer, we're offering programming in various community areas based on our relationships with park staff, BIPOC land stewards, and community organizers working towards climate justice.  Learn more.


Young Cultural Stewards Fellowship
Yong Cultural Steward Fellowship 

Young Cultural Stewards Fellows (YCSF) engage 75 youth (ages 12-14) as caretakers of culture and agents of change within their parks and neighborhoods. With regional hubs in Willy B. White, Piotrowski, 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. YCS alumni level up as part of the Creative Core Leadership Council. This cohort takes on additional mentoring and leadership roles including hosting their own Creative Core Youth Summit. The Summit is an opportunity for YCS fellows to flex their civic imaginations and practice cultural strategies to address issues impacting their communities.   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 and Austin Town Hall Park in the Austin community. TRACE annually employs over 80 young people (ages 14-22) tasked with collectively re-imagining their 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.


Climate Justice & Arts Teaching Artist Cohort 
Launched in 2023, the Climate Justice & Arts Teaching Artist Cohort builds on years of programming within parks and community gardens focused on building a more just and reciprocal relationship with the Earth through arts and community healing. This cohort features BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ teaching artists with backgrounds in community organizing, climate justice, interdisciplinary arts, and community healing. Through a year-long fellowship, teaching artists participate in a community of praxis in which they learn, create, and share by attending field trips, meeting climate justice advocates, participate in urban gardening and mutual aid, and create art inspired by their land stewardship and collective learning. Teaching artists co-facilitate the *small is all* and ArtSeed programs and co-create an exhibition featuring their art as well as the art of their youth participants. The program will culminate in an exhibition at Douglass Park on October 21st, 2023. 


*small is all* 
*small is all* is a virtual apprenticeship program centering BIPOC youth from the South & West Sides of Chicago. *small is all* was inspired by the writings of emergent strategist and Black liberation doula adrienne maree brown and Potawatomi Ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer. Building on years of racial and environmental justice programming, *small is all* supports young people in healing their relationships with one another and our more-than-human siblings. 

Youth ages 10-15 participate in weekly virtual workshops where they learn about climate justice, meet with visiting artists and organizers, create art, and attend in-person field trips to natural areas like Big Marsh Park and climate justice organizations like Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living. Youth create art using recycled materials, herbs, and art supplies which are delivered to them prior to the start of programming each season. This fall youth will participate in a camping trip at Big Marsh and youth exhibition at Douglass Park.  



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