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Chicago high school students meet artists on Obama Foundation Futures Series field trip

A group of high school students with a range of light to deep skin tones pose around Gallerist Easy Otabo and artist Michael C. Thorpe. In the background, a monitor displays the Obama Foundation rising sun logo and reads, “Obama Foundation.”

Students at Dyett High School for the Arts are finding their voices through art. They were filled with creativity and inspiration during a recent trip to EXPO Chicago (Opens in a new tab), an annual showcase of contemporary and modern art. The future Obama Presidential Center will offer arts education programming for community members to explore their creative talents, bolstering initiatives like this.  

“I do photography, draw, and paint. Expressing myself is a large part of why I do art,” Nancy Kenney shared. “I feel like it's a good way to express my emotions when sometimes words can't describe what I have to say.” 

Nancy, a student at Dyett High School for the Arts in Washington Park, visited EXPO Chicago with 27 of her classmates. The experience was part of our Futures Series program, which introduces high school students to various career paths by engaging them in conversations with accomplished leaders. 

At EXPO, students interviewed Gallerist “Easy” Otabor, owner of Anthony Gallery, and artist Michael C. Thorpe before touring the fair. 

“It’s an inspiration to see things like this,” DaMon Dantzler expressed. This is my motivation to see different and creative ideas from other people. It just gives me a different outlook on life.”

Students shared that speaking to the artists allowed them to feel proud of their passions and motivated them to continue developing them after high school.

Here at the Obama Foundation, we are committed to inspiring, empowering, and connecting communities. This commitment begins by expanding our outreach to young people from the South Side and beyond, equipping them with the tools and exposure they need to make lasting change. 

That’s why last year, we partnered with 15 students attending Dyett and Chicago-based artist Brandon Breaux to create a three-panel mural dedicated to the South and West sides of Chicago. The art centers the students’ inspiring voices and represents the culture of the community that gave the Obamas so much. Over several weeks, students collaborated with Brandon to craft a piece that would resonate with passersby.

Eva Bradley, a young woman with a light medium skin tone, stands and points at a mural at the site of the Obama Presidential Center. Eva is wearing a flannel t-shirt and has curly brown hair with pink tips. The mural in the background features illustrations of young people.

For Brandon, this project was a tribute to the resilience and unity of the city. Eva Bradley attended EXPO Chicago and was one of the students who helped create the mural.

“I was honored to be a part of it,” Eva reflected. “It's kind of a big deal. It's amazing that somebody like me could help with a project like that.”

Just as those who painted the mural located along the fence on Stony Island Avenue at the site of the Obama Presidential Center, the young people from Dyett who visited EXPO Chicago discovered more than creative expression—they met their passions with endless inspiration and possibilities.

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