The JJs List Blog

Building Community Connections

Posted by on May 31, 2022 - 0 Comments

Visibility Artists Jimmy and John with City Elementary students

Earlier this month, our Search Inc. Visibility Arts Artists volunteered their time and talent to mentor the students at City Elementary, a private specialty school in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

City Elementary was founded by a small group of parents with a vision for a new kind of school for diverse learners. In 2014, City Elementary welcomed its inaugural cohort of students that year and currently serves students from kindergarten through the sixth grade. What makes the partnership even more special is that City’s roots are parallel to Search’s community roots related to the public schooling system as well.

It was a special day that benefited everyone involved. Tina Zemen, Visibility Arts Manager, shared more about the connection and this community-building experience.

Visibility Artist Henry shares his talents with students

Q: How did this opportunity arise?

A: City Elementary reached out to Search in an effort to make a community connection. We were happy to meet them and thought that our Visibility Artists would be the perfect ambassadors to represent Search at the school.

We first set up a virtual meet-and-greet to introduce our two neurodiverse groups. The students in City’s classrooms, and Visibility Artists, Vanessa, Anthony, Henry, Orman, Jimmy, and John V, met on a Zoom call. They each shared either a piece of their artwork or one fact about themselves in preparation for our visit in person.

Visibility Artist Orman mentors City Elementary students

After the Zoom call, I worked with staff at City Elementary to set a date for our artists to come to the school to teach an art activity. A few weeks later, the day came for us to actually visit the school and meet the students and staff at City Elementary face-to-face and share our talents.

Using a multi-approach learning process, including demonstrating, using visual guides, and hands-on support, the Visibility Artists supported the students while they created their mosaic pieces. Every student was engaged in the activity, which was great. They all turned out beautifully!

One of the best parts of the day was the positive impact it had on everyone involved. Connections were made between students and our Visibility Arts artists in a very short period of time. There seemed to be a comfortability factor in being surrounded by others who are neurodiverse that led to increased confidence, allowing everyone to share experiences, and knowledge, and to ask questions without fear of ridicule.

You could see how proud our artists were to share their artistic skills with the students. Henry, one of our Visibility Arts artists, shared, “Meeting the kids in person was the best part of the day.”

Grace L, Tina Z, and Visibility Artists, John, Jimmy, Henry, Orman, & Anthony, and colleagues Armando & Vanessa

Tina finished by sharing, “Overall, you could see the growth, confidence, and joy in the artists, as they shared their skills. The whole experience embodied the things we are working toward as an agency, as individuals, and collectively as a community.”

Both Search and City Elementary are excited for the future of this community partnership. Learn more about City Elementary here.

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