Washington Park Chalet

2018 Smart Museum and CHA Summer Teen Program

A small, boarded-up building in Washington Park that once served as storage space for a lawn bowling league was at the heart of our 2018 Summer Teen Program.

Participants in the program worked with artists, architects, arts professionals, and community members on a project to reimagine the Washington Park Chalet as a community art space.

The Chalet was built in the early 1900s, sits less than a mile west of the Smart, and has been vacant for more than a decade. When the rehab is complete, it will provide space for teen-led cultural programming on Chicago’s South Side and will be capable of hosting a variety of events, including poetry readings, film screenings, theatrical performances, and visual art displays.

The 2018 project was an ambitious follow-up to a program piloted by the Smart Museum and the Chicago Housing Authority in 2017. Structured as an intensive, paid summer internship, the program cultivated leadership skills while encouraging teen participants to think critically about social and political issues through the lens of artistic practice and from the perspective of their own lived experiences.

During the summer of 2018, a new group of teens joined peer mentors to begin planning and started the multi-year renovation work. Over six weeks, they worked with professional partners to organize community meetings, host design charrettes, and do mock build-outs. At the end of the summer, they hosted a celebratory event during the Bud Billiken Parade to showcase their work and vision for the Chalet.

The Teen Program is presented by the Smart Museum of Art and the Chicago Housing Authority. Additional Chalet reactivation partners include the Chicago Park District, Open Architecture Chicago, Sweet Water Foundation, The University of Chicago Institute of Politics, Arts + Public Life, and the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for Minority Architects.

This program is made possible by funding from the University of Chicago Women’s Board, Chicago Housing Authority Springboard to Success, and by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.