Earlier this summer, BMO invited Chicago students to transform the plywood covering BMO Harris Bank’s main Chicago branch during protests into beautiful works of art that communicate unity and hope. Two Chicago not-for-profits – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Lives and After School Matters – created murals that returned to BMO’s main branch windows as a visual reminder to continue our progress toward a more inclusive society.
Now, a group of high school students participating in Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia program have joined the initiative, creating their own mural at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The artwork is now on display at the bank’s windows before rotating to other Chicago locations.
Titled “Our City Is a Garden,” the mural was created by 14 teen artists from communities across the city collaborating with professional artists and mentors Dorian Sylvain and Jeff Phillips. The mural was inspired by the city’s motto, Urbs in Horto, which is Latin for “City in a Garden.” Each student expressed their own interpretation of unity and hope, captured within each flower.
One of the student artists shared this comment on the experience:
“I am honored to be part of this project. I am so glad that there are opportunities for teens like us to use our art to share our voice. Because we do have a voice and we have opinions about what’s going on around us. I hope that through this mural, people will only not see our art, but they will also listen to what we’re trying to say.”
— Cielo, 17, student artist
YOUmedia offers youth-driven, project-based learning to empower teens in exploring their talents in ways that open new opportunities for college, career and civic engagement. Each year, YOUmedia engages 6,000+ middle and high school students who reflect a diverse cross-section of the city.
With COVID-19 creating extra challenges, the role of libraries as a trusted community hub is critical. YOUmedia continues to offer comprehensive virtual programs to ensure teens have opportunities to express themselves, hone their craft and connect with their peers. Some of these offerings include Speak On it, a YouTube series featuring some of the biggest young adult authors in the country –chatting with teens on writing, books and finding your voice. There are also regular virtual workshops that stimulate teen creativity – from writing songs to painting and so much more.
Over the summer, YOumedia teens participated in a summer challenge, encouraging them to get creative at home with free grab-and-go kits from the Library based around encouraging activism and social justice.
The Chicago Public Library is the only major library system that has opened to offer comprehensive services and programs during the pandemic and continues to find innovate ways to provide accessible, equitable learning opportunities.