One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: Gallery 37, Chicago, IL
Contact(s): Cheryl Hughes, Director: (312) 744-7131
Purpose: To increase the employability of youth, coordinate mentoring relationships between youth and adults, and facilitate community outreach throughout the City of Chicago

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In early 1990, Block 37, a full city block in the heart of downtown Chicago, was undeveloped and suffering from the late 1980s economic recession. Mayor Richard M. Daley decided to make positive use of this space. Chicago's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Lois Weisberg, devised a plan to revitalize Block 37 and create Gallery 37. Gallery 37 became a reality in 1991. Gallery 37 was formed in response to concerns regarding the declining academic success of young people ages 14 to 21, as well as a decline in funding for the arts. Gallery 37 attempts to address concerns within the local community and national industry with regards to the job skills of youth entering the work place and the defacto segregation in the elementary and secondary public school systems. Gallery 37 offers an opportunity for thousands of young people each year to become apprentice artists and receive paid arts training and create art work in a diverse environment. Gallery 37 provides an integrated experience, attractive to young people from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, by keeping one variable constant: the ability to create art.

Program Operations

Each year thousands of young people become apprentice artists with Gallery 37 and work under the supervision of professional artists in such programs as architecture, woodcarving, African dance, textile design, and video production. The program engages young people in an experience that helps them to develop an increased self-awareness, broaden their horizons and perspectives, reduce their fears of human difference, and increase their comfort with diversity. Organized into groups, young people work three to five hours a day for eight to 12 weeks. The program enables its participants to develop valuable skills applicable to full-time employment and to produce quality art work that is sold or displayed in public spaces, while gaining a better understanding of each other. Gallery 37 seeks to demonstrate the ideals of urban education service delivery models for minority students of low socioeconomic backgrounds, disabled youth, and select participants.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

From its modest beginning in 1991, employing 260 students a year, the program grew to employ 2,500 youth in 1997. By bringing together the federal youth jobs program, the arts, the private sector, and a diverse group of students, Gallery 37 has created a unique and innovative solution to numerous social and economic problems. The young people involved in Gallery 37 have experienced an increased sense of self-esteem and empowerment.

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