They Smile Beneath Their Mask

In collaboration with the Chicago Parks District, our team was tasked with documenting two youth programs within the park district - Young Cultural Stewards and Artseed - over the summer of 2020, in between the COVID-19 pandemic and general unrest from the killing of George Floyd. During the 8 month commission, our team followed teaching artists to various parks and locations as they worked with youth on creative projects, mask and all. We created this work as a testament to the times, the work will stand firm as the light beneath dark times, the smile beneath the mask 

Our Flock - Pt. 1

In the middle of summer fire, my phone goes off. It’s Irina, alerting our flock of a meeting planned for tomorrow about protocol going forward, due to an increasing amount of COVID-19 cases appearing in some of the parks over the last week. 

Our time is short, though every moment has reminded me of summer. Exploring nature with three year olds, finger painting, hula hoop. The responsibility to care for a garden reminds me of chores I hated when I was young, and also provokes my anxious mind. Asking myself questions like Will my time be cut short? Is this it? Have I done my job? What is my job?. 

The 3pm Zoom meeting commences. Najee and Irina (our fearless Park District program leaders over the summer) are dancing as everyone enters the virtual scene. Everyone checks in and speaks: Today’s ice breaker, your pronouns and a plant you’ve been connecting with today. Me? A succulent. 

Everyone is always somewhat on the move. It is to feel a rush to produce this work, traveling to various parks throughout the city to connect and inspire. Young Cultural Stewards & Art Seed, entities of the Park District set on steering youth to become advocates for their parks and communities, have been the programs we are following this summer. Along with seven other very capable teaching artists, this is our team. The flock. 

Using Format