Artreach: empowering and connecting people through visual art

What are the best ways to engage teenagers, children and adults alike? Sports is an activity that can unite these very diverse groups of people, but art can do the same and sometimes with better results. While sport makes people be healthy and teach discipline, arts can awake the creative child or person within each and every one of us.


Image courtesy of Tika Gregory at

Visual arts have a power of connecting people, taking them to a space where they can let their imagination fly and express themselves in very amazing ways. Also, to have a way to let personal expression be expressed or to have a creative outlet is a necessity that everyone feels.

ArtReach is that place where people can have that moment, that special moment of creativity in their lives even though they have had a hard and not so easy life.

ArtReach is connecting and empowering people of all ages in the areas where poverty has hit the worse and giving them a special moment in the day where they can think about other things and let their imagination fly.

Let take a look at their community work and how they are helping underprivileged Chicagoans.

The first thing we need to understand is that Artreach is Lillstreet´s little sister. Lillstreet was created in 1975 with the idea of providing an art center for artists and the community in general where they could express themselves and get deep into the world of arts.

Lillstreet Art Center works hand by hand with artists and the community to provide a very friendly environment where each person can grow and express their ideas without the fear of being judged and with the certainty that they will be motivated and encouraged to continue in the art path and continue with the artistic growth. Lillstreet Art Center is also behind many education programs, galleries, artist residencies, exhibitions and retail sales opportunities. They also provide studio rentals, professional development aimed at arts.

Artreach was born out of Lillstreet center in order to focus on communities that are underprivileged and do not have access to art as many others do. Artreach was Founded in 1990 as the non-profit sister organization to the Lillstreet Art Center to have the reach they wanted outside of their spectrum and to go directly to the communities, and not wait for them to reach the art center.  

Their mission is simple: they want to take art to underprivileged communities and not wait for them to go to the center. They aim at all Chicagoans from every background or identity, and they take the tools, the professionals, the spaces and the knowledge to them so they can acquire self-esteem, build confidence, and have empowered communities.


Image courtesy of x1klima at

Some of their core values in order to take this amazing idea to everyone are:

  • First, as mentioned before, they think everybody needs an artistic expression, a creative outlet, especially communities that don’t have access to such artistic tools.
  • Art promotes empathy. Through art, people can pay attention to different social approaches and issues.  
  • Art endures over centuries and should be part of cultural teaching. They think that Art-making is and should be a universal value, but unfortunately, it is not supported or recognized as it should be. Access to art, resources, and tools should be universal.
  • People should not be defined by their challenges or limitations. Art balances out this difference by making everybody equal to the eyes of creativity.
  • Art-making builds confidence and helps people through hard times.
  • Art is a questioning and discovery process.
  • Art embraces failure as part of life and as part of the process to be successful in life.
  • Art-making gives people joy and happiness.
  • Everybody learns in an artistic process. Teachers and students alike.

Artreach takes their tools directly to the community with programs for schools. They take their programs to the community using in-school residencies, after-school programs and field trips. In their in-school residencies they integrate arts approaches to the traditional subjects found in school curriculums, or they give tools to teachers so they can use them in their own classes; in the after school programs they teach basic skills for art, but they also teach about the principles of art and its historical context, critique, and collaboration; and in their field trips they take students to see and live art within a professional arts studio. Field trips take students to the ceramics department, galleries, shops and workshops, and many more. They also get to experience art production next to the real artists.

This charity is taking art to the communities that most need it and don’t have the means or the access to live it in their own spaces. Artreach is giving them those spaces and classes so they can have a creative outlet and forget about the real world for at least some hours.

Be sure to also read this post on this charity that is building confidence in teenagers through clowning