Here are just some of the organizations in the Chicago area that offer programs, exhibits, competitions, and other arts learning opportunities for students.

Looking for information on in-school arts partnerships? artlook® Map maintains information on hundreds of community arts organizations and teaching artists offering arts programming for CPS schools.

Program Key

[C] = Program or organization offers student competition(s)
[S] = Program or organization offers summer programming

Visual Arts

  • [C] The Art Institute of Chicago (The Loop): Free exhibitions, programs, and workshops for youth under 18; for high school students, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers Early College Program courses and a Summer Institute Residency Program
  • The Black Creativity Program (at the Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park): Programs and events, including a juried art exhibition, that present the creativity of African-American artists bridging the arts and science
  • The Block Museum of Art (at Northwestern University, Evanston): Free exhibitions and programs for students and families
  • [C] Bridgeport Art Center (Bridgeport): Galleries and exhibitions; classes in ceramics, mosaics, jewelry making, and printmaking; open studios and demonstrations (on third Fridays) by painters, sculptors, photographers, fashion designers, and woodworkers; annual juried art competition
  • The Chicago Cultural Center (The Loop): Free exhibitions, as well as free music, dance, and theater performances, films, lectures, and family events
  • DePaul Art Museum (Lincoln Park): Free exhibitions
  • Gallery 400 (at University of Illinois Chicago, Near West Side): Free exhibitions, programs, and events
  • Glass Curtain Gallery (at Columbia College, The Loop): Free exhibitions, workshops, and visiting-artist lectures
  • [S] Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (West Town): Teen summer internships and free admission to exhibitions for children under 12 ($5 voluntary for others)
  • Loyola University Museum of Art (Near North Side): Free exhibitions and programs for students and families, including Push Pin Gallery of student art
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Near North Side): Free admission for students 18 and under; exhibitions, talks, workshops, performances, and other events
  • [S] The National Museum of Mexican Art (Lower West Side): Free exhibitions, performances, and educational programs, including arts classes and a summer arts camp for students age 7-12, and arts education programs for teens
  • The Smart Museum (at the University of Chicago, Hyde Park): Free exhibitions and programs, including art making for families with children age 4-12



  • [S] Adventure Stage Chicago (West Town): Programs include performances, Summer Adventure Camp, Trailblazers after-school mentoring program (free), and field trips with learning guides
  • Albany Park Theatre Project (Albany Park): Multi-ethnic youth ensemble that creates and shares the real-life stories of urban teens and others; free after-school Youth Achievement mentoring and tutoring program
  • Black Ensemble Theatre (Uptown): Musical theater and educational outreach programs that aim to eradicate racism by fostering dialogue, understanding, and acceptance
  • [S] Goodman Theatre (The Loop): Performances and educational programs, including the summer PlayBuild | Youth intensive, the summer Musical Theatre Intensive, Cindy Brandle Young Critics program for girls, and a student subscription series
  • [S] Hearts to Art Camp (The Loop): A summer performing arts camp at the Auditorium Theatre that enables youth age 7-14 who have lost a parent to experience the healing power of play
  • Illinois Theatre Association/Illinois High School Theatre Festival (various locations): Programs that enable students from diverse communities to showcase their creative efforts and experience different types of theatre processes and performance
  • [S] Lookingglass Theatre (Near North Side): Performances; studio acting and theatre classes (pre-K to grade 8); spring, summer, and winter theatre camps (K-12); teaching artists and in-school residencies; Young Ensemble (grades 4-12, by audition)
  • Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) (Lakeview): Art-based classes that help homeless LGBTQ youth address their struggles and celebrate their strengths through the development of a theatrical performance piece


  • Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra (The Loop): Music instruction for students age 6-18, including performance opportunities in orchestras and chamber ensembles
  • [S] Merit School of Music (Near West Side): Early childhood (ages 0-7) classes; instrumental and vocal music instruction (K-10), including summer camp sessions; private lessons; Music in Communities program (including in CPS schools); Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory for advanced students (by audition)
  • Music Institute of Chicago (and Chicago Suzuki Institute) (various locations): Music lessons, ensembles, and performances for students of all ages and abilities
  • Old Town School of Folk Music (Lincoln Square): Classes, private lessons and workshops in music, dance, theater, and visual arts for people of all ages and abilities; concerts, performances, and free jams
  • PianoForte Foundation (Near South Side): Piano concerts, festivals, competitions, education, outreach, and public broadcasts; piano donation program for schools

Media Arts

  • [S] Facets Multimedia and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (Lincoln Park): Film screenings; classes, workshops and library on film and filmmaking; summer film camps; films for children, including the festival; private screenings for birthdays
  • [S] Free Spirit Media (West and South Sides): In-school, after-school and summer programs for youth that build media literacy and provide hands-on media production experience; The Real Chi journalism learning newsroom; HoopsHIGH sports broadcasting program
  • Radio Arte (Lower West Side): Music and programming focused on Latino youth, including a comprehensive bilingual media and journalism training program that gives youth age 15-21 hands-on radio production experience
  • Street Level Youth Media (West Town): Free classes for students age 13-18 in digital photography, audio, video, and music production, songwriting, journalism, and computer arts; internships for high school students; an Urban Gateways program
  • YOUmedia (at 12 Chicago Public Libraries—see website): Digital learning space that enables teens to connect with mentors and express themselves in projects involving graphic design, photography, video, music, gaming, and 2D/3D design

Literary Arts

  • 826CHI (Wicker Park): A nonprofit center that provides tuition-free writing and tutoring programs to over 3,000 Chicago students each year;  including an After School Tutoring & Writing Program (grades K-8) and a Teen Writer’s Studio (grades 9-12)
  • [C] Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards (The Loop): A statewide contest run by Illinois Humanities and the Poetry Foundation that’s open to students K-12; deadline is in June
  • [S] True Star Foundation (The Loop): A youth-run media company that offers after-school and summer apprenticeship programs in writing, reporting, digital photography, audio and video production, and publishing; students produce two quarterly magazines, a blog, a YouTube channel, and a radio show  
  • [C] [S] Young Chicago Authors (West Town): Weekly free workshops in poetry and hip-hop/rap; a summer poetry apprenticeship, an open mic for youth, a journalism intensive, a monthly LGBTQ salon, and the competitive Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry festival

Multiple Arts Disciplines

  • [S] Beverly Art Center (Morgan Park): Age-appropriate classes for children, teens and adults in dance, music, theatre, filmmaking, and visual arts; summer art camps; summer mentorships for teens
  • [S] Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (Twin Lakes, Northern Michigan): Suzuki Family Summer Music Camp; summer arts camp for grades 5-12 in music, art, dance, and drama
  • [S] Camp Interlochen: Summer programs in Michigan’s north woods for grades 3-12 in creative writing, dance, filmmaking, general arts, music, theatre, and visual arts
  • Urban Gateways (The Loop): Residencies (in-school and after-school) and workshops in visual arts, music, theater, dance, digital media, and the literary arts for youth and families; performances of dance, music, and theatre
  • [C] YoungArts National Art Competition (Miami, FL): Application-based award up to $10,000 with mentoring, performance, and exhibition opportunities for artists, musicians, writers, performers, and filmmakers age 15–18
  • [S] YMCA of Metro Chicago Summer Day Camp (various locations— see website): Age-appropriate (5-7 and 8-14) activities, focused on skill development, reading, and creative learning, that include arts and crafts, games, skits and songs, sports, and field trips