Beginning next spring, the core art education programs at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) will become tuition-free, thanks in part to $13.8 million fundraised since 2018 in a capital campaign.
HPAC, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., has been piloting free programming in recent years and collecting data for the first-in-the-nation, pay-what-you-can, all-ages art school. The pilot expanded during the center's remote-learning period during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which executive director Kate Lorenz said returned a great deal of good feedback.
In all, she expects that around a third of students are expected to keep paying the sticker price, another third will pay less than that and the remaining third will pay no tuition.
"There are certainly lots of amazing free youth programs in the arts much like our teen programs, but we don't know of any program here or even nationally in the visual arts that is working on a contribute-what-you-can model for youth and adults," she said. "Our hope is that we're really changing how arts education and access in this community can happen."
HPAC's Oakman Clinton School & Studios serve nearly 2,000 students a year across 200 courses; the core courses in ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, digital photography and other mediums make up two-thirds of the offerings. Lorenz said they are designed to function cohesively and linearly, so that students can move throughout different learning experiences as they develop as artists.
(Specialty courses will remain tuition-based and include courses like pet portrait painting or a specialized Japanese woodblock printmaking class; offerings evolve over time.)
Lorenz said capacity exists for the full rollout over the core programs, with a plan to scale up where there is need. "We wouldn't be doing it if there weren't options there," she said. Some classes will have more students, and HPAC will also be offering more classes.
"One of the things that we've seen happen is that it makes classes run with much more regularity, which is really great for teaching artists and for students, because it becomes more stable across the board and a more robust student and learning community generally," Lorenz said.
"It opens the door and makes it accessible to a far greater degree than, say, a financial aid application. It really does change who gets to be here. We hear from other students and teaching artists that it really does change the community. It makes the classes more interesting, more full, more robust, more dynamic — and an overall richer community of makers."
"Art Makes," the capital campaign, intends to raise $16 million total, which will also create the center's first endowment. HPAC's board of directors has donated a quarter of the campaign's total funds raised to date. More than $2 million came from Builders Initiative, a philanthropic organization headed by Chicago-based Walmart heir Lukas Walton, $1 million from the Chicago-based Guida Family Foundation and $500,000 from the Chicago-based David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, established by longtime HPAC supporters Biff and Buzz Ruttenberg.
“As we found ourselves planning, we heard that people value Hyde Park Art Center’s legacy, our support of Chicago artists, and how the institution contributes to the local community’s identity. Importantly, we heard that our programs are making an impact — teens are developing their voices, artists are tackling bold and ambitious projects, and families are finding a creative home. Our neighbors, artists, students and volunteers reinforced the unique role the Art Center plays in bridging social networks, sparking civic dialogue and exemplifying the best of our city," said Justine Jentes, HPAC's board chairman, in a statement. "We also heard that we can do more, and the campaign is allowing us to do so.”
Money from Art Makes will also be used in HPAC's Pathways Programs engagement with mid-South Side elementary schools and its arts and professional training for 18- to 25-year-olds. HPAC's artist development program serving 50 faculty members will also get additional funding.
Donations can be made at www.hydeparkart.org/art-makes.