Young Cultural Stewards critically and creatively engage art, technology, and media to become advocates and caretakers of their parks, neighborhoods, and communities. YCS engages over 2,500 youth across 100 parks and 45 neighborhoods through community-based programming including TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Art, Community, and Environment), Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, YCS Fellowship, and ArtSeed Mobile Creative Play. 

YCS builds on best practices within the field of informal art education and creative youth development. Young Cultural Stewards cultivate: 


  • Reframe public parks as sites for cultural organizing and creative capacity building
  • Preserve and contributing to indigenous, local, and global cultural practices 
  • Build 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking


  • Cultivate the development of positive self-identity, community, and solidarity 
  • Nurture the capacity to imagine change and the willingness to work for it
  • Practice culture making as a tool for social change


  • Foster trust, vulnerability, and the development of interdependent relationships 
  • Utilize restorative and transformative justice to address harm and create accountability 
  • Provide job training, career readiness, and building the  capacity of youth as leaders and lifelong changemakers


Social Distancing and COVID-19 Safety Measures 

Each team of teaching artists is equipped with CDC and EPA advised PPE, cleaning, and sanitizing products. These include child-sized face masks, digital thermometers, hand sanitizer, soaps, first aid kits, and disinfectants. Our socially distant curriculum aims to ensure the safety of all youth and their families in the parks. Each workshop begins and ends with a thorough disinfection of all art materials and supplies; every young person is given a mask and hand sanitizer. Youth are encouraged to remain 6 feet from all other participants and each teaching artist is thoroughly trained in best safety and wellness procedures as provided by the CDC and the Chicago Park District guidelines. We are in full compliance with city, state, and federal COVID-19 safety guidelines as they roll out. 




ArtSeed: Mobile Creative Play

ArtSeed engages over 2,000 young people (ages 3-10) across 35 parks and playgrounds evenly distributed across Chicago’s North, Central, and South regions. This bi-weekly pop-up program weaves together storytelling, music, movement, and nature play rooted in neighborhood stories. Children explore the histories and legacies of Chicago's community-based artists and imagine creative solutions to challenges in their own neighborhoods.  Learn more.


Young Cultural Stewards Fellowship
Yong Cultural Steward Fellowship 

Young Cultural Stewards Fellows (YCSF) engage 75 youth (ages 12-14) as caretakers of culture and agents of change within their parks and neighborhoods. With regional hubs in Willy B. White, Piotrowski, and Tuley Park, youth explore what culture and community mean to them while developing skills in cultural preservation, organizing, and building creative platforms for social change. YCS alumni level up as part of the Creative Core Leadership Council. This cohort takes on additional mentoring and leadership roles including hosting their own Creative Core Youth Summit. The Summit is an opportunity for YCS fellows to flex their civic imaginations and practice cultural strategies to address issues impacting their communities.   Learn more.


Inferno Mobile Recording & Media
Inferno Mobile Recording & Media 

Inferno engages over 1,000 young people (ages 6-18) across 80 parks to make collaborative music, produce documentaries and podcasts, and practice therapeutic sound recreation. Led by experimental musicians, media artists, and youth interns, Inferno facilitates opportunities for young people to tell their own stories and document their cultural landscapes. Learn more.

TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Community, Art & Environment) 
TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) is a civic leadership and curatorial job training program of the Chicago Park District headquartered at Hamilton Park Cultural Center in the Englewood community and Austin Town Hall Park in the Austin community. TRACE annually employs over 80 young people (ages 14-22) tasked with collectively re-imagining their roles as cultural producers and community builders. Using our practice of creative activism, TRACE shows teens how to leverage the arts to engage, inspire and persist for positive change within ourselves and our communities.. Learn more.



Attachment Size
The Art of Flocking Curriculum.pdf14.03 MB 14.03 MB
YCS Program Brochure-1.pdf44.72 MB 44.72 MB
YCS ANNUAL REPORT 2017-1.pdf13.68 MB 13.68 MB