Chicago, IL: On Friday, April 24, Snow City Arts began rolling out its Virtual Learning initiative to fulfill its mission to “inspire and educate children and youth in hospitals through the arts” despite limitations created by COVID-19 and in May, Spanish language translations of workshops began to follow. Snow City Arts’ new virtual arts workshops are aligned with Federal and Illinois State Learning Standards and are designed according to the same best practices as the in-person trauma-informed programming the organization has delivered for over 22 years. The new programming will be delivered via HIPAA compliant tools; one-way lessons will be hosted on its site and available to the public in English and Spanish.

“Snow City Arts has been ahead of the curve on pivoting to virtual tools and content for HIPAA-compliant program delivery to our students in four Chicagoland pediatric hospitals, as the possibility of restricted access was apparent early on. We are proud to be able to share publicly and amplify the impact of the wonderful new workshops by hosting one-way lessons on our site for use by the millions of students ages 4-20 at home for some or the rest of the school year,” says Executive Director Carrie Spitler.

With Snow City Arts’ new virtual learning initiative, the circa 1,300 children ages 4-20 years old that the organization serves annually at their hospital partners, can still progress toward learning goals, improve their grades, discover untapped talents and interests, and engage in creative-decision making activities in severely restricted and sometimes scary environment. Disciplines taught include creative writing, dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts. Student work is still exhibited across Chicagoland and a virtual gallery will be established in conjunction with the launch of a Snow City Arts Youth Leadership Council in 2020-21.

Today, Snow CIty Arts begins rolling out publicly accessible learning modules as models of best practices for the arts in healthcare community, as well as for use by the general public, who are eager for trusted, accessible, quality resources as many begin to navigate education outside of school setting through the end of the current school year. The first four modules included workshops in visual arts from Allie Spicer and Jonathan Stein, creative writing from Eric Elshtain and theater/puppet design with Dan Kerr-Hobert, all veteran Teaching Artists with Snow City Arts. These and future virtual lessons can be accessed at: snowcityarts.org/virtuallearning/; all videos are hosted on YouTube. Each workshop is coded by discipline and by level: basic, developing, skilled.
In light of the recent announcements from Chicago Public Schools regarding extended school closures, SCA’s new virtual curriculum will be shared citywide with Chicago Public School’s hospital-based teachers via its Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services (ODLSS). From its inception, SCA’s new digital tools include ADA supports such as closed caption text and, as soon as possible, Spanish translations of written instructions.
At this time, pediatric patients are under difficult visitor restrictions making an already challenging situation even more isolating. Thousands more in and out of the hospital, and all physically distanced from school and in need of social connection will also benefit from the affirming, creative, social, and educational impact of Snow CIty Arts’ programming. These tools are needed more than ever right now, and the entire Snow City Arts team is determined to ensure that vital arts education remains accessible.

Access Snow City Arts Virtual Learning at: snowcityarts.org/virtual-learning/

Support for this initiative can be given online: snowcityarts.org/donate/