Our newest volunteer at the LAIP presents a fascinating overview of the Chicago Public Library’s arts-incubating partnerships in today’s feature. Read on to learn how reaching out has helped the CPL foster a sense of community and a greater appreciation of artistic expression in their city!~Erinn 

ChicagoPublicLibraryBridging the Arts at Chicago Public Library

Actors transform onstage. Libraries can do the same.

The Chicago Public Library shows how libraries can shape and, in turn, be shaped by their connections to the arts community. Numerous partnerships with local arts organizations to foster accessibility to the arts, creativity, and nonviolence. The need for these connections between library and arts community is crucial in a major metropolitan area that faces overwhelming challenges. There are issues that can only be addressed through art, and the Chicago Public Library allows countless voices to be heard through its partnerships .

Chicago Public Library’s partnerships not only foster a greater appreciation for the arts, but also a sense of community, and these connections are as diverse as the city itself.  CPL has partnered with Museums Work for Chicago, The Ravinia Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre, and these diverse organizations offer a variety of approaches to the larger goal of building community through arts programming. Speaking to Ruth Lednicer, Director of Marketing and Communications at CPL, I learned that despite Chicago’s big city feel, small-town connections forge these partnerships most successfully:

“It’s really the neighborhoods that make this happen, that span the size of the city to connect us all.” ~Ruth Lednicer, Director of Marketing and Communications at CPL.

6326012061_909476b610_zAn important focus of CPL’s arts partnerships is accessibility. Take their partnership with Museums Work for Chicago.  The Kids Museum Passport program allows children and families to check out a pass to any of 15 of Chicago’s world-class cultural institutions, including The Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Chicago History Museum, for an entire week. They just need a library card. The idea here is that all families should have the opportunity to gaze at the stars, wander galleries of paintings and sculpture, and journey back in time; through the library, they can, even if they can’t afford individual memberships to each institution.

In the same spirit, CPL has also partnered with the Ravinia Festival to offer the Words and Music program. Each summer, patrons may visit any library location to pick up free lawn passes to selected concerts from the Ravinia Festival’s summer season. Imagine sprawling under the stars in the summer, listening to music, thanks to the library.

In its partnership with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Facing History and Ourselves, CPL shows that the goals of theatre and libraries are not at all distant; ideally, both theater and library should be the most democratic institutions in our society, as both seek to inform and connect and both both offer a safe space to consider new and often controversial ideas through stories.  Now is the Time  is a joint effort between these three organizations to combat youth violence and intolerance in the 2012-13 school year; the program’s projects are aimed at promoting conversations about activism in the city’s youth, which will ultimately be part of a documentary.

These are the primary arts partnerships forged by CPL, and each one adds an important element of visibility, outreach, and access, enriching not only the community, but also the library’s programming.

CaelinCaelin Ross is a recent UW-Madison alum and a current AmeriCorps member on the Schools of Hope project. When she isn’t working as a Tutor Coordinator at Huegel Elementary and Orchard Ridge Elementary, she loves running, writing, and crafting.

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