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1637 N. Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622


Street-Level Youth Media is a non-profit, media arts literacy organization serving Chicago's youth.  We teach audio engineering, mixing, video production, digital photography, online journalism, and more.  If you are between the ages of 12 through 24, all of our programs and services are free.

If you live in Chicago and are between 12 - 24 years old, come take part in one or all of our media arts programs, book a private studio session, use our computer lab or join one of our clubs.  We also host an open-mic on the first Friday of each month.  


Wizard World COMIC CON Fan Fest

Nancy M. Abbate

Wizard World COMIC CON Fan Fest

In March of this year, members of the Anime/Gaming Club attended the Wizard World COMIC CON Fan Fest. Members of this club were able to play test new and old games, view unusual merchandise and art, interact with professionals in the fields of graphic design and performance, and capture material to fuel one of their upcoming anime-themed music videos. Tragically, most of their footage and photographs from this event were lost, but there are other opportunities coming up for them to gain more! Their major fuelling event, Anime Central, is coming up this month (May).


Overall, Anime/Gaming Club feels that attending Fan Fest was a great experience. The best part was the actual bonding between the group members, as they reflected back to their favorite cartoons as well as superheroes. They were able to search a little bit about their past and why they appreciated the art.

Anime/Gaming Club attends Wizard World COMIC CON Fan Fest every year. This year 8 people from the group attended and stated that they would absolutely attend Fan Fest again.

Are you interested in becoming a member of the Anime/Gaming Club? These groups meet on Fridays from 4-7. Anime Club will teach you about different anime styles, and how to create your own anime. You will also watch and critique a wide range of anime and attend conventions. Additionally, various games (e.g., Vanguard) will be played and discussed with fellow members and other fans. Guests from the gaming industry will sometimes attend as well.

 Please enjoy some of the pictures from Fan Fest below! :) 


The Shane Calvin Show

Nancy M. Abbate

The Shane Calvin Show 


Street-Level’s young people build their professional development skills through independent projects that explore their ideas and interests, while making a stamp on today’s cultural and media scene. We recently sat down with the charismatic, multifaceted 20 year old Shane Calvin, to learn more about his project The Shane Calvin Show.

What is the show about?

The Shane Calvin Show is about today's generation, my generation. Dope poetry, and other forms of expression. Basically it will be a lot of fun randomness. Some shows are going to be deep and serious, fluffy and soft, and other shows are going to be hardcore turned up. Things are about to get real. Every episode is going to be different. I want this to be a show that is fixed on real people, with real problems, and stuff that they are passionate about. I want this to be the place where people can come to get stuff off their chest. Ultimately, I want to do something that really educates people.

 The show will start off with a panel and there will be a discussion of multiple topics. I want to bring up topics that people might be too scared to talk about and push boundaries. Having the difficult and uncomfortable conversations will heal us. Some topics and questions I want to explore include:

·      Do you trust people?

·      Should you check your man's phone?

·      Finding acceptance and how to deal with problems without it scarring you for life.

·      Top 5 signs that you could be a bitter ex.

·      Food porn. I want to have a whole food porn segment. Food porn is basically this thing I found out about on Tumblr. Food porn is basically these Tumblr pages with these wonderful pictures of food. It's like chocolate waffles, etc. We are definitely going to feed you on this show.

·      The ups and downs of our generation.

·      What is the craziest thing you've ever done in the name of boredom? My brother and I knocked down a refrigerator. But then we put the fridge back up.

·      Why scary movies are racist against White people. Why are they always going into the danger, when black people are running away?

·      LGBT misconceptions. That it's a choice. Something happened that made you gay.

·      Are we confusing lust with love?

 I want the panel to get into deep conversation. I want to be the type of person who really listens to his audience, so I will be asking the guests what they want to talk about. We need to really be telling our stories. This show will be putting it all on the forefront. We are going to laugh, cry, definitely scream and holler. We are going to take our voices beyond a Vine video, beyond a selfie. I want to give a voice to people who wouldn't necessarily be heard in mainstream media. I want to bring things such as underground hip-hop, anime, and poetry into the mainstream. There are not enough outlets out there for underground hip-hop artists. I want to use this show to bring this back.

This is not a generation that is full of people who don't care. This is a generation that really cares. A generation that understands that love is love. I want this to be a show that breaks barriers, that breaks labels. We are going to break all the masks that we are hidden under and help people realize that we are all the same.

When does it start?

Season 1 will begin in July. Right now we are doing test shows. The test shows will then be compiled into a short documentary about what the show is about. We will be going out to youth media organizations to ask what they want to see the show talk about.

 Where will it be?

The Shane Calvin Show will tape at Street-Level Youth Media (SL) once a month. Eventually I want to tape the show once a week.  

What made you develop this show?

To really connect with people and give their voice a platform. James [Duke] and Manwah [Lee] suggested I do a talk show at Street-Level. I want to have a career as a talk show host.

Ricki Lake was a talk show host in the early 90s and connected with Generation X. She had the ability to go out there and discuss topics facing her generation. She is my inspiration because she really broke ground.

Do you have a direct website for your show?

People can go to to keep updated. I also have a Facebook page that people can go to for updates.

 How do you prepare for your talk show?

I like to do research on different talk shows to see how they interact with the guests. I try to get into the conversation myself mentally. I typically watch The Real and Bethenny.

 I also go to a lot of open mics. Young Chicago Authors have open mics every Tuesday, so I go to those.

 Who helps you develop and produce the show?

I am working with five people.

- Matthew Wrobel, a volunteer Scriptwriter

- Michael, a student in the multimedia workshop at SL. He will be in charge of the camera.

- Daniel, SL’s Production Manager

- Erica Street, a volunteer Producer

- Kristin Heinichen, a Digital Journalism instructor at SL

 Who will be your first guest?

The first guest is not yet determined but Lisa L.U.S.T., a Media Instructor at SL, will be making a rap appearance on The Shane Calvin Show.

 How long have you been a part of Street-Level?

Since the summer of 2012. I googled Youth Media Organizations. Six years ago I started going to YOUmedia. I tried to do a talk show back then but I was terrible. I forgot to turn off my phone during a show, and right in the middle of this conversation it went off. So this time I am turning my phone off!

 What do you want people to know about you?

I'm an introvert. But if I have the chance to connect with people, I love doing so. I want to be there to hear your story. I am black, gay, and a nerd and because of this I can speak from all different perspectives. I'm also the King of TMI [too much information].

 I'm a poet. Been writing since age 14, I am now 20 years old. Today's audience can't connect with just another talk show host. So, what is going to be this different about The Shane Calvin Show? What's going to make this different is that we are going to bring the dopeness, the realness, the fun and excitement, and it's all going to come out through young people expressing themselves and being able to tell the truth about who they are. Often times we push things down, and never really deal with it. We are going to get into debates on this show. My own audience might boo me, but this is how I feel. I want to be real and I want to have fun with this.

 What do you want to do after Street-Level?

I want to still be doing this show. I want to have a show that has done something for the community while having fun at the same time.

Click here to watch a teaser trailer for The Shane Calvin Show!  

The Shane Calvin Show is looking for volunteers and guests. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer or be a guest on the show, send an email to or send a Facebook message through the Shane Calvin Daytime page.

#talkshow #theshanecalvinshow #SLYM #selfexpression #communication #socialjustice #volunteer #Chicago #socialgood #passion #followyourdreams #community #truth #equality #breakingbarriers #poetry #mildsauce #shanetastic


SL @ Geek Bar

Nancy M. Abbate

SL @ Geek Bar 

On Sunday, March 15, 2015, some members of Street-Level’s Anime and Game Club spent some time at the Geek Bar’s all ages Funimation Brunch event. Our youth had the opportunity to meet with David Zoltan, the Fleet Admiral and leader of Geek Bar. In more common terms, David is the owner and corporate liaison at Geek Bar Chicago. He shared with Street-Level’s youth some insights into how he started and grew his business, as well as some helpful tips on the board game development process. 

Interview with David Zoltan:

SL:  What inspired you?

DZ:  Dr. Who. I thought why not open a place where people can come watch a show? I did six months of research, started doing fundraising, and learning about equity financing and debt financing. 

There is a lot that goes into creating, developing, and opening your own business. Pivot. If you can't keep going straight, pivot. You have to keep momentum going. Even when it seems like you are getting nowhere, or that your end goal will never be accomplished, just keep moving. Success does not always travel along a straight path; sometimes you will have to pivot in order to get to where you want to be. 

The key to making Geek Bar come to life was creating the space. Once the space was found, my team and I were able to open to the public in just nine days. I would recommend, however, not opening a business in nine days, but rather, to take your time.

 Ultimately I wanted to bring the geek community together. It is important to build a community with a bunch of people who make you feel welcome. Geek Bar is a community center with a bar attached.

SL: Favorite superhero?

DZ: Green Lantern, because of Jong's brilliant mind. I think the Green Lantern mythology is the best in comic world.

SL: Any future plans for Geek Bar?

DZ: I plan to expand nationally.

SL: What is the next big event for Geek Bar?

DZ:  Geeky Trivia takes place every Thursday from 8-10pm. Geeky trivia is actually pretty challenging because geeky categories really have no boundaries. The categories can range anywhere from anime to art history to chemistry.

 SL: What are your top five favorite board games?

1. Terra Mystica

2. Battlestar Gallactica

3. Puerto Rico

4. Settlers of Catan

5. Egizia

And I also enjoy playing

6. Helios

"If you play to learn, that's how you have fun."

- David Zoltan

SL: We are currently working on developing a board game. Do you have any suggestions for us?

 DZ: You've got to create a game that attracts the audience you are tailoring it to. What you choose will make a difference. Test it many, many times. Test it with your friends, then test it with people who aren't your friends and see how the game looks through their eyes. You can take people's advice, but you also don't have to. You have to weigh both options. Test, play, test, play.


Street-Level’s Anime and Game Club have been working over the past semester on developing an original board game. They’ve only completed about 12% of the development process and believe they have a long way to go, but have been super excited about the process! Once their game is developed further, they plan to host an event at Geek Bar to test it with a larger audience.

 You can keep posted on the activities of the Anime and Game Club, including upcoming dates for BOARD GAME TESTING by signing up for Street-Level’s Newsletter, where you’ll also get info. on program activities, showcases, and fundraising campaigns! You can also follow Street-Level’s Anime Club on Facebook and Instagram!

 To learn more about the awesome folks and events at Geek Bar, you can subscribe to their newsletter, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram.



Also, if you have any comments, questions, or words of encouragement for our Street-Level board game developers, we hope you’ll share with us. Thank you!


Nancy M. Abbate

 "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Often we can get stuck in our brains and overthink our creativity. Barriers to self-expression can include oppression by internal and external forces. As The Huffington Post suggests, we frequently consider whether we are "good enough, pretty enough, or fill-in-the-blank enough." But we are all good enough and our art matters. Self-expression involves revealing your thoughts, feelings, or ideas, through writing, speaking, music, art, or dance. Essentially, it is the way we interact with the world around us and this interaction holds great value, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

However, expressing your authentic self can give you a feeling of vulnerability. Vulnerability brings with it fear; Fear of making mistakes, fear of displaying quirks to the world, and fear of rejection by others. Vulnerability can act as a barrier to authentic self-expression. The wonderful thing about Street-Level Youth Media (Street-Level) is that it acts as a canvas for self-expression and offers a supportive environment. Classes resumed last week and they are a great way for youth to self-express because more than anything, Street-Level provides youth with a home, where youth can feel safe while being true to themselves. Street-Level currently offer the following classes: The Plug, NewsX, Anime Club, and Game Club.

The Plug and NewsX provide youth with the tools to express themselves in meaningful ways through journalism, photography, videography, and music. While Anime Club and Game Club provide youth with a space for communication. In terms of self-expression, communication always has an element of risk, such as misinterpretation of words, hurt feelings, or embarrassment. Here at Street-Level we think it is time to conquer fear. Street-Level provides youth with many outlets to self-express. As Toby Zbaraz from Vaughn Occupational High School says,

“Street-Level gives our students a chance to express themselves through music, video, and editing. They play many roles here: writer, rapper, cinematographer, photographer, actor, and artist. Since there are so many roles to play, everyone can find a niche either in front of the microphone, behind the camera or in the editing room. Watching our students open-up, express themselves, and have fun is a very rewarding experience. Our students are proud of the products they make here at Street-Level Youth Media.”

Today we challenge you, Readers, to be true to yourself by practicing your niche. Just remember, as long as you are doing something that you love, that's all that matters. How do you self-express? We'd love to hear from you below! :)

#selfexpression #selfdiscovery #support #trust #art #media #digitalarts #fun #2015 #purpose #beheard #education #musicmatters #artmatters #access #purpose #safeplace #getitdone #theplug #newsx #anime #games #selfempowerment #selfimprovement #blog #SLYM #empowermentofothers #students #readers #music #writing #rapping