Monday, November 24, 2014

Time Capsules - Arts Lab: Better Boys Foundation

Impressive Teens  - Leading the Way
I recently had some eye opening site visits with Better Boys Foundation and Free Write Jail Arts.  Once again I find myself humbled by the experience.  I can't begin to express how exciting it has been to watch these students, create, evaluate and collaborate.  Many times during my visit I would think about the phrase "At Risk".  I use it all the time to describe the student demographic of the organizations in the Arts Infusion cohort.  I use it all the time and it has always bothered me.  Using the term "at risk" has a strong intuitive meaning and I wonder if by using this phrase am I actually applying a label that de-humanizes, underestimates and devalues the capabilities of your teens?
One could argue that all youth regardless of gender, race, community and family are at risk of engaging in dangerous behavior, dropping out of school, or becoming a teen parent.  If this is true why does “At Risk” become the leading descriptor for identifying Arts Infusion youth?  At risk implies a chance or probability but not a certainty.  As I left both site visits I realized, with certainty, because of the commitment and drive of you the, teaching artist the teens in your programs are indeed “At Risk”, at risk of becoming innovators, creators and leaders in their communities. 
I’m looking forward to seeing more of your programs in the coming months.  Have a safe and happy holiday. 
Ann Douglas
Arts Infusion Program Coordinator

Beats Lab: Better Boys Foundation



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dear Arts Infusion Teaching Artists and Program Directors:

I will be facilitating the next Arts Infusion Knowledge Share on Monday, November 10, 2014 from 10 AM to 2 PM at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation:

5114 S. Elizabeth St., Chicago, IL 60609

As we move into the 5th year of this initiative, it is important that our teaching artists all become familiar with the assessment methods we developed over the 2013 – 2014 Arts Infusion program year. This needs to include the many exciting new teaching artists that have joined our fold.

Implementing effective assessment methods to continually improve our work is crucial this year because this is the final year of the first round of funding for Arts Infusion work. We need to make the strongest case we can for sustaining this important program.

Please help your teaching artists become familiar with the assessment website created for your Arts Infusion organization to prepare them for the Knowledge Share.  Your organization’s assessment website can be easily accessed at this web address: It would be especially helpful if your program directors and your teaching artists reviewed together the 2013 – 2014 assessment data analyses done for your organization (or in a few cases, organizations have done themselves internally) BEFORE that knowledge share. Collectively, we have created some meaningful new approaches to assessment, and we have a lot to learn from each other’s work.

At the Knowledge Share we will explore together samples of each other’s assessment instruments:

in a Swap Meet / Speed Dating knowledge exchange activity. I have reformatted your instruments slightly for ease of reading. We will also look at the results of last year’s assessment data analyses:

to learn from last year’s data and to plan our most effective programming for this year.

Please bring a laptop or an i-pad to work on if you can. We will be sharing a lot of knowledge at this Knowledge Share, and electronic tools will make it easier to capture that knowledge.

Looking forward to seeing you on Monday, November 10th


Arnold Aprill

Arts Infusion Initiative Assessment Consultant

PS: In addition, I am more than glad to meet with any Arts Infusion organization that wants one-on-one counseling on deepening its assessment methodology for this year. Here again is my contact info:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

November Knowledge Share

Creating Meaningful Assessment

Knowledge Share

Monday, November 10, 2014

10 AM to 2 PM

Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation

5114 S. Elizabeth St, Chicago, IL 60609




9:30 AM – 10:00 AM:

Coffee, Pastries, Sign in


10:00 AM – 10:30 AM:

Presentation on Arts Infusion Assessment Methods

Arnold Aprill, Principal Investigator, Radical Compliance Arts and Learning Laboratory


10:30 AM  - 12:00 Noon:

Arts Assessment Swap Meet

Participatory dialogue between arts infusion teaching artists on existing assessment instruments


12:00 Noon – 12:30 PM:



12:30 Noon – 1:00 PM:

Analysis of 2013 – 2014 Assessment Results in Small Groups


1:00 PM – 1:30 PM:

Planning Assessment Needs and Methods for 2014 – 2015 in Small Groups


1:30 PM – 2:00 PM:

Group Reflection

What Have We Learned? What new actions do we need to take?



Contact information for assessment support:

Arnold Aprill

773 627 – 6619


Thursday, September 25, 2014

For your Teens

Join us for The Chicago Track: Film Kickoff Event

Are you between the ages of 18 - 25 and
interested in breaking into the film industry?
Come to The Chicago Track Film Kickoff
to get the inside scoop from industry professionals
in casting, camera, special effects,
costume design, producing and more.
Learn all about our film workshop series that will grant
unprecedented access to the people behind the screen
who will show YOU how to get seen and heard.
*** All attendees will leave with a FREE headshot***
  This event is free and open to the public.
         Snacks and refreshments provided free of charge!
                                                  Thanks to our official partner and host,
The Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago

Follow us for updated information!
Twitter: @CHI_TRACK
The Chicago Track is an industry school for film and music, hosted by Free Spirit Media, Young Chicago Authors and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Have questions about The Chicago Track: Film Kickoff Event? Contact The Chicago Track: An Industry School for Film and Music
Chicago Artists Month
Chicago Artists Month Featured Artists, photo by Joe Mazza Brave Lux, Inc.
Chicago Artists Month Featured Artists, photo by Joe Mazza Brave Lux, Inc.
Welcome to the 19th Annual Chicago Artists Month, a five-week, 300+ event celebration of the creative pulse and impulse of our city. Drawing from visual art, dance, fashion, music, theater, culinary arts and every other genre of art-making imaginable. CAM is a non-juried program featuring events throughout October including open studio tours, neighborhood art walks + festivals, performances, learning/making and exhibitions featuring Chicago-based artists and arts organizations.

Kicking off this Saturday, September 27 and continuing through October 31, meet artists and see their work at venues across Chicago.

Crossing Borders
 CAM Featured Artists photo by Joe Mazza Brave Lux Inc. Chicago Artists Month Featured Artists, photo by Joe Mazza Brave Lux, Inc.
Crossing Borders means leaving your neighborhood, your physical comfort zone, to explore the environs of others around you. Crossing Borders means painting mixing it up with music, poetry in the kitchen - or dancing about architecture. Crossing Borders means immigrants from faraway lands making their homes in Chicago and transforming the creative soul of with a little bit of Africa, or South America, or...
Crossing Borders, the theme of Chicago Artists Month 2014, means you meeting us meeting others and, in the process, changing the way we see the world, our city and ourselves.
2014 Featured Artists and Events
Crossing Borders
Chicago Artists Month Featured Artists, photo by Joe Mazza Brave Lux, Inc.
Plan Your CAM
Crossing Borders
Start this Saturday at A Day in Avondale with featured artist Jorge Felix's Sofrito. Or take a trip through the lookingglass with featured artist Noelle Krimm's Alice, a roving production that turns a block in Andersonville into a wonderland every weekend. Nick Fury's Victorian Graffics will be unveiled at the CTA Green Line Ashland/Lake station, and  Jonald Jude Reyes is part of  Stir Friday Night, an Asian-American comedy group appearing late night at Theater Wit.
Pick up our Official Program Guide in this week's issue of Newcity, at the Chicago Cultural Center or at a participating organization.
See the complete event listings at
'Like' Chicago Artists Month on Facebook and follow @ChicagoDCASE on Twitter to stay up to date on all that's happening!
About CAM
Chicago Artists Month is presented as part of an ongoing collaboration between the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Chicago Park District. In-kind support was received from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises®, Inc. Media sponsors are WTTW and WFMT.

City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Chicago Park District

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Panel Traces Path from Childhood Trauma to Youth Violence

For decades, Americans have debated whether and to what extent violence committed by adolescents and young adults can be attributed to having had a bad childhood.

Evidence continues to grow that trauma like abuse, neglect and witnessing violence at an early age rewires children’s brains and thus adversely affects their mental health going forward, helping to explain the “reactive aggression” that prompts a range of anti-social behaviors, according to participants in a roundtable discussion hosted by LISC Chicago on Jan. 30, the second in the “Healthy Wednesday” series on a variety of topics.
Panelists Brad Stolbach (purple shirt), a pediatrician at La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and Eddie Bocanegra, a congregational organizer at the Community Renewal Society and a graduate student at University of Chicago, discuss the issues with audience members after the event.
Gordon Walek
The United Nations’ definition of a child soldier—in part, “any person under 18 years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity”—applies to those who have experienced multiple traumas and, in particular, witnessed violence, even if not actually during wartime, said Dr. Brad Stolbach a pediatrician at La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

And children experiencing such traumas in Colombia or Nepal, rather than Chicago or New York, probably would be routinely referred to as child soldiers, he said. “We need to understand what’s happening in context: That means developmental context, looking through a trauma lens, and using information … to understand how what we’re seeing makes sense,” he added. “If we see them in their developmental context, then we can understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and then we can try to help.”

The undeniable existence of the potential connections between trauma and deteriorating mental health and aggression doesn’t fully justify the anti-social actions of any one individual, cautioned Dr. Elena Quintana, executive director of the Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice at The Adler School of Professional Psychology. But it does help explain the statistical likelihoods, she told the 40 or so attendees at the forum, many of them from LISC New Communities Program lead agencies.

“This is really about looking at trends,” Quintana said. “If your body is readying itself for war when you’re a kid, it’s really hard to calm down when you’re an adult because you’ve become wired in that way. … The need for modulation of that brain development leads to health-risk behaviors.” Trauma impairs social, emotional and cognitive development, she added.
Kathryn Saclarides Bocanegra (right), director of violence prevention at Enlace Chicago, the lead agency for Little Village in LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, talks with an audience member.
Gordon Walek
Ground Level View
As director of violence prevention at Enlace Chicago, the lead agency for Little Village in the New Communities Program, Kathryn Saclarides Bocanegra has seen at the ground level how exposure to violence leads to behavioral problems as a youth, which lead to increased risks for one’s own outcomes.

“If you’re a witness, you’re much more likely to be a victim or a perpetrator,” she said. “Trauma, in communities like Little Village … can become part of the common human experience. It’s just accepted: This is the way life is.” And residents have reason to think so, even if they’re wrong in the larger sense: “We can’t get angry at people for responding normally to abnormal conditions.”

Oversimplified media accounts of how and why violence happens lead to superficial and ineffective responses, such as harsh school discipline and incarceration, Saclarides Bocanegra said. She pointed to the November 2012 murder of 20-year-old Freddie Hernandez, a Little Village resident, as a case study.

The son of immigrant parents who was born in Little Village, Hernandez was exposed to domestic violence, his father left the family when he was in fifth grade, and his mother (as sole provider) needed to work unstable jobs due to her documentation status and couldn’t adequately attend to her children, Saclarides Bocanegra said.
Dr. Elena Quintana, executive director of the Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice at The Adler School of Professional Psychology, answers an audience member's question.
Gordon Walek
Hernandez experienced academic difficulties and bullying both from schoolmates and from the police, who sometimes picked him up and dropped him in opposition gang territory, she said. He became initiated into a gang in significant measure for the protection against his bullies that provided.

After dropping out of high school at age 16, Hernandez righted himself, attended mentoring sessions and left the gang at 18. He showed promise but still lived in the same community and had a certain reputation among his peers.

At 20, he was killed, and the Chicago Tribune reported that police suspected the murder was “gang related,” which Saclarides Bocanegra said is sadly typical. “Do you see how much is missing from the whole way in how we unpack the life of this person?” she said. “And that’s usually the most polite version we get.”

People in the community and elsewhere started blaming Hernandez or his parents for his killing. When in reality, “Freddie’s death was 20 years in the making,” Saclarides Bocanegra said. “It didn’t just happen that night when somebody picked up a gun, got in a car and was involved in a drive-by shooting.”

To interrupt such cycles, she added, community groups don’t have to collect data or design new programming, but it helps when they simply integrate this way of thinking into existing programs. “You have to get people to look at each other and reconnect to each other: ‘My well-being is connected to your well-being.’ ”

Where Research Points
Quintana presented research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – a collaboration between Drs. Robert Anda of the federal Centers for Disease Control, Vincent Felitti of Kaiser Permanente and Laura Porter of the Family Policy Council in Washington state – which has helped draw the connections between ACEs and mental instability in a vast sample of 17,000 mostly middle-class, college-educated patients.

The survey asked about childhood abuse and neglect (including physical, emotional or sexual), family experiences with mental illness, incarceration or domestic violence, divorce or parental loss, and substance abuse. Two-thirds of those surveyed had experienced at least one ACE, and 87 percent of those with one had experienced two; women were 50 percent more likely to have had at least five, Quintana said. “[Adverse childhood experiences] kind of travel in packs,” she said.
This "pie slice" chart shows the percentage of survey respondents who had experienced each of the following outcomes. “If you are able to prevent adverse childhood experiences, it’s like putting a giant sponge in the middle of this oil slick and sucking it up all at once," Quintana said.
Chart by Sasha Silveanu
Referring to a graph that displayed each ACE outcome as a pie slice, and the percentage of respondents who had experienced each as an oddly-shaped “oil slick” in the center (see graph, at left), she said, “If you are able to prevent adverse childhood experiences, it’s like putting a giant sponge in the middle of this oil slick and sucking it up all at once. You can prevent all of these things simultaneously.”

Without that sponge, the oil slick tends to spread, Quintana said. To stop it, those who work with youth need to approach them in a non-judgmental way to ensure they don’t “run away,” she said. “Shame and blame paralyze people. We really need to change the way we look at public health issues, where we put that shame and blame aside.”

Then, to promote healing and resilience among the “walking wounded,” they must find “a trustworthy person to talk to about their true situation or feelings,” gain “the ability to reframe their life” and realize that, for example, their parents’ drinking problem is not their fault, Quintana said. That leads to the ability “to have hope for your future,” she said, which is aided by such factors as intelligence, talent, skill mastery and the opportunity for creative expression. “We have to address trauma if we really want lasting community safety,” Quintana concluded.

Based on checklists given to kids and adults about what adverse experience they had experienced and when, the ACEs study helps to put violence in a larger context, Stolbach said. Yet public policy tends to put it only in a narrow criminal context, and governments spend millions on prisons without adequately addressing the underlying issues, he said, which disproportionately affect people of color and poor people.

Research has shown that multifaceted trauma—of the sort that particularly affects prison populations, youth in juvenile detention and children in foster care—impacts numerous developmental capacities, such as the ability to understand one’s own emotions, self-soothe or to feel empathy toward others, Stolbach said.
Jim Alexander compares notes with LISC Chicago Executive Director Susana Vasquez.
Gordon Walek
According to “violence interrupters” from the anti-violence group CeaseFire, he said, many youth with whom they work had multiple self-reports of violence in their family and communities and ongoing trauma as a result. The average age of the first exposure was 6, he added, while the average age at which participants first saw violence was 8. “It starts early.” Multiple types of maltreatment produces hair-trigger “reactive aggression.”

Institutions like Adler and La Rabida are providing training on recognizing and dealing with ACEs, Stolbach said. “Any time a child experiences a trauma, it’s an opportunity,” he said. “We would save billions of dollars” if public health was handled more pro-actively and comprehensively.

Solutions for Engagement
Eddie Bocanegra knows all of this first-hand. He has worked with the University of Illinois and CeaseFire to mediate conflicts and stop the violence in Pilsen, Little Village, the town of Cicero, and occasionally Gage Park, and he was among those whose violence prevention work was featured in the 2011 film, “The Interrupters.” Bocanegra also was formerly incarcerated for 14 years for “taking someone’s life in my community” during his years as a gang member.

Now a congregational organizer at the Community Renewal Society and a student at University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, Bocanegra talked about a number of programs in the neighborhoods he works that attempt to address the causes and/or effects of violence. “I was left dealing with the aftermath. What happens to these families when they have to bury their son” or constantly be visiting him in the hospital, he said.

Once such effort, Grupo Consuelo, rallies parents who lost children to shooting, stabbing or suicide but don’t necessarily have the “luxury” to take time off work to grieve for an extended period. “What do we do with these families? How do we support them afterward … through this process of grieving?” he said. “How do we stop their remaining kids from becoming victims—or from becoming perpetrators?”

Randall Blakey, LaSalle Street Church executive pastor, chats with Stolbach.
Gordon Walek
That’s where LuchARTE comes in: The community arts group engages gang-involved youth and uses art to process their life trauma; an ACEs survey of participants showed that all had experienced physical abuse and witnessed violence, and 75 percent had witnessed homicide, among other findings, Bocanegra said.

Another program called Urban Warriors specifically targets combat veterans and other young men with a need to process trauma. The program tries to educate these youth, who have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as their parents. “Why is it that they get high?” he said. “Why is it that they have these maladaptive behaviors or coping mechanisms?”

Finally, Bocanegra talked about FORCE, a/k/a Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality, which works with ex-offenders, many of whom committed their crimes at a very young age, and attempts to help them overcome the obstacles that having a record creates. “I am discriminated against because of my background,” he said simply. “People constantly ask me, ‘Eddie, how did you make it?’ ”

His answer: a supportive family, friends who invested in him, professors from his undergraduate days at Northeastern Illinois University who believed in him. Now, as an organizer, Bocanegra focuses on creating systemic change.

“It’s one thing to work with these individuals, but if their home environment doesn’t change, if their community doesn’t change, then we haven’t done anything,” he says. “How do we build bridges between people who need these services … and the clinicians that are often from streets [in places] like Roselle, or Michigan Avenue, or Skokie, or Evanston?”

To learn more about the cyclical connections between mental health and violence, Saclarides Bocanegra recommended the book “Changing Places: How Communities Will Improve the Health of Boys of Color,” edited by Christopher Edley Jr., and Jorge Ruiz de Velasco.

For further details on the presentations at this “Healthy Wednesday” session, download this Powerpoint.
LISC Chicago's health work is funded in part by The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute.
Posted in Health, Little Village