Here are just some of the organizations in the Chicago area that offer programs, exhibits, competitions, and other arts learning opportunities for students outside of the school day and/or school year. Note: Listings below are subject to change.

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


  • Dynamic Force Dance (Near South Side): Hip-hop, jazz, tap, and ballet classes for students ages 2–18 with opportunities to join a performance dance team 
  • Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater (at Northeastern Illinois University, North Park): Spanish dance performances and classes, including After School Matters for teens
  • [S] Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Near West Side): Dance performances and classes, including youth summer dance camps and intensives
  • [S] Hyde Park School of Dance (Hyde Park): Dance classes and workshops for all ages, including a summer program; dance performances and events
  • [S] The Joffrey Ballet (The Loop): Dance classes for CPS students, including an After School Matters summer intensive for teens and the Middle School Dance Club
  • Joel Hall Dancers & Center (Edgewater): Dance classes for all ages, dance performances, and a youth dance company
  • Links Hall (North Center): Dance performances, classes, and workshops
  • Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago (Greater Grand Crossing): African and African-American dance performances and classes; Arts for Community Empowerment (ACE) workshops and residencies in dance, music, mask making, and other arts
  • [S] Natya Dance Theatre (Old Town, Naperville, Downers Grove): Performances of Bharata Natyam (classical Indian dance), workshops, classes and professional training for students and adults
  • Red Clay Dance (Woodlawn): African and Afro-Diaspora dance performances and classes, including a youth ensemble for teens


  • [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
  • [C] Chicago Youth TheatreFest (varies): A yearly adjudicated event that brings CPS students in grades 6–12 together to observe, present, improve, and celebrate works of student theatre and connect students to college and career opportunities in the theatre arts
  • [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] Community TV Network (Logan Square/South & West Sides): Youth media arts organization that specializes in digital video and TV broadcasting. Offering classes in CPS schools, after-school programs, and summer programs around Chicago’s South and West sides.
  • [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
  • [C] Chicago Architecture Biennial: The CAB presents a biannual “ideas competition,” in which students in grades 7–12 share ideas about how design can play a role in creating shared spaces and improving communities; application deadline is in April
  • 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