Everything that Street-Level is today started from a simple idea. What if young people had video cameras to document the world as they saw it? What stories would they tell? What could they teach us? And how would the power of media arts technology affect them and their communities?
In the summer of 1993, two artists and a teacher collaborated with teens from a local West Town high school to produce Tele-vecindario, forty video installations that documented everything from gangs to their families to the gentrification of the neighborhood. The videos were projected at a neighborhood block party, organized by the artists and sponsored by Sculpture Chicago to initiate dialogue and encourage action around challenges faced by the community. The success of this and subsequent community-based public art projects inspired the collective to formally establish Street-Level Youth Media as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. After acquiring a storefront space, donated computers and software, and the Internet, Street-Level incorporated in 1995 to become one of the country’s first nonprofits to offer technology access and media arts training to urban youth. Three years later Street-Level won the inaugural Coming Up Taller award from President Clinton’s Committee for Arts and the Humanities for our innovative approach to arts education.
Today, Street-Level remains committed to engaging young people in creative self-expression and critical thinking through our in-school and after-school media arts programming. Street-Level programs now include video production, audio and music production, stop-motion animation, digital photography, graphic arts, and new media. Street-Level instructors lead classes and workshops at our new multimedia center and at partnering schools and community-based organizations throughout Chicago.
In January 2017, Street-Level Youth Media officially became a part of nonprofit arts education organization Urban Gateways. Urban Gateways delivers high-quality, accessible arts experiences that educate and inspire Chicago youth, from touring performances to artist residencies and apprenticeships. Visit www.urbangateways.org to learn more.