SAIC scholarships make art available to Chicago Public Schools students.
An array of drawings lined the walls of a third floor classroom at SAIC’s Columbus Building one Sunday December afternoon. It was the final critique of the Early College Program Figure Drawing course and students were proudly showing their work to friends and family members in attendance. Among them were Luz Miranda and Gabriel Marcos, two Steinmetz College Prep seniors who traveled to SAIC every Sunday to improve their techniques as artists and further their practice.
Both Miranda and Marcos are enrolled in art classes in their high school but say recent cuts in staff have affected the instruction they receive. Seeing the motivation of both students to improve their art, their art teacher encouraged them to register in the Early College Program (ECP)—a program through Continuing Studies that provides high school students with art instruction across multiple disciplines. However, paying for the classes wouldn’t be easy for either of them. Fortunately for Miranda and Marcos, they qualified to receive the ECP Chicago Youth Artist Educational Scholarship, an award established by attorney and president of Adoption Advocates of America, Barbara Sereda, to help Chicago Public School students attend SAIC’s Early College Program.
"We talked about it as a family and we felt very strongly that we should start a fund so that other kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the Early College Program would have that type of access,” Sereda says. "It might plant a seed of inspiration such that they become artists or find a sanctuary through their art.”
Sereda’s two eldest daughters attended the Early College Program when they were in high school and credited that experience with helping them decide their careers. "Every class that my girls took at SAIC throughout high school was inspiring and the teachers were amazing,” Sereda says. "So I just felt like we’ve been so blessed with our experiences and there are maybe other people in our community that don’t have that opportunity.”
In fall 2013, the scholarship gave Miranda and Marcos that opportunity to grow as artists—which wouldn’t have been possible without financial assistance. "The classes allowed me to mature my thinking, explore new ideas, and find new ways to make art,” says Marcos. "I learned that it’s not just about making pretty art, but about making art that makes people think.”
The ECP Chicago Youth Artist Educational Scholarship isn’t the only SAIC award geared to assist Chicago Public School students in attaining an art education. SAIC offers a number of scholarships specifically for students in the city, including the Kenneth and Jean Watson Scholarship Fund, which awards a need-based scholarship to an undergraduate freshman student who has graduated from a Chicago Public School and has completed at least one full semester of an After School Matters class, and the Walter and Shirley Massey Chicago Scholarship, which awards need-based scholarships to students from Chicago.
Antonio Miguel Morales, a graduate of Benito Juarez Community Academy in the city’s Lower West Side, was among five students who received the Walter and Shirley Massey Chicago Scholarship in 2014. Already familiar with SAIC—having attended the Early College Program and the Ox-Bow Pre-College Program—Morales had dreams of attending SAIC but was sure he wouldn’t be able to afford it on his own without piling on a heavy amount of loans. He concentrated on his portfolio, putting together high quality pieces he created during his art classes, and received the full-tuition scholarship. Now, after his first semester at SAIC, he is taking his art to another level. His current work is a mix of media, incorporating acrylic plastic stands as sculptural elements to his paintings. "The work coming out of SAIC is really great and I want to be part of that,” says Morales.
And that is really the purpose of these scholarships: to motivate and make art accessible to any student in the city—especially those with the passion but not necessarily the resources to pursue an education in the arts. "Though there is an effort by the city to increase funding for the arts in Chicago Public Schools, it’s just not going to go far enough if these kids don’t get exposed to it in high school,” Sereda says. "High school is this critical time where you could become inspired by art.”