Art is one of the best ways to release stress caused by trauma, especially when living in urban settings like Back of the Yards. However, art materials can be expensive, and spaces dedicated to art are rare and can feel exclusive. A group of local working moms decided to take action and in the summer of 2016, armed with some scratch paper, broken crayons and white folding tables, set up a pop-up art clinic on one of the “hottest” gang corners, and the rest is history. They called themselves Amor al Arte.

Initially it was going to just be a one-time thing. They were going to do a series of pop-up art clinics in different parts of the community to give the youth something to do that summer, but after seeing the sustained interest and building a following of kids and families that summer, they decided to do it again, and again. 

Today, the collective of women, composed of Claudia Alvidrez, Priscila Gonzalez, Liliana Celso, Estela Flores, and Cynthia Alba continue to gather every Friday afternoon in various parts of the community, offering free art sessions to kids and families. This summer, with support from the Safe and Peaceful Communities grant, they were able to partner with the Holy Cross Marimba Ensemble to incorporate live music from neighborhood youth in the pop-ups.

The reason their work is so important is that they address an important tool for violence prevention that is often overlooked: creative spaces. Oftentimes, the response to violence is reactionary. Police are sent, show force, make a few arrests, and then they’re gone. This often creates more trauma and doesn’t fix the problem. Real nonviolence work takes a commitment of time and money for a sustained period of time. That is what Amor al Arte does. 

By bringing pop-up art sessions just outside their doorsteps, they’re providing kids and families an opportunity to lose themselves in their creativity and escape from reality, even if just for an hour. Art also helps them build on their imagination, and helps them imagine that another world is possible.

Through the support of the Peace and Education Coalition, the women are able to fund their work through small grants, fundraising and donations. As the saying goes, “it takes a village,” so while this may be one drop in the bucket, this program goes a long way in building a safe community. If you’d like to learn more about Amor al Arte, donate or check out their next pop-up.

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