20 years of fostering inclusive communities through the arts



Changing Worlds exists to foster inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding.



Changing Worlds began in 1996 at Hibbard Elementary School located in the diverse Albany Park neighborhood. Striving to build bridges across cultures through story and arts, we partnered with school staff and parents to create an oral history and photography exhibit.

The project led to the development of an activity guide with ongoing family programs and classroom curricula that foster an inclusive school community. In 1999, a traveling version of the exhibit was created to share these family stories with other communities, giving a face to those too often seen through the filters of stereotypes. Building upon the enthusiasm and success at Hibbard, the Changing Worlds project became an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2000.

In 2011, the Shanti Foundation for Peace became a part of Changing Worlds. The Shanti Foundation for Peace adds over 15 years of experience implementing arts-based peace and non-violence programs in Evanston and Chicago. As a result of the merger, Changing Worlds expanded its programs, geographic reach and enhanced its core values to include peace building and non-violence methodologies. 

Our Founder

Kay Berkson is a documentary photographer who has photographed in Chicago communities for decades. In the 1980's, she became active in human rights work with Central American refugees who sought political asylum in the U.S. Her involvement with refugees who wanted to tell their stories led to her interest in oral history and to the idea for the Changing Worlds photography and oral history project.

She began the project in 1996 in collaboration with Hibbard Elementary School in Chicago's diverse Albany Park neighborhood. She coordinated its expansion into the nonprofit organization in 2000 and for many years managed its traveling exhibits and conducted its outreach programs for children and adults in numerous Chicago and suburban communities. 

Kay holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago. She worked with families of young children with special needs and consulted to day care centers before returning to school to study photography at Columbia College Chicago.  


Our Values:


Building inclusive and empathetic communities where people of all cultures, points of view, beliefs and difference are respected and valued.



Fostering a culture where learning is cultivated, supported and affirmed.


Advancing creative, reflective and strategic approaches in developing solutions to programmatic and organizational cultures.


Activating the voices and potential of all people in our practices and programs.


Maintaining transparency and ethical practices in all aspects of Changing Worlds.



Annual Reports




"Art allows me to be open-minded."