20 Years of Impact


Connecting Lives and Cultures

Our programming integrates writing, oral history, drama, dance and visual art into uniquely designed curriculums to examine culture, family history and community. This dynamic approach helps participants explore their own backgrounds, promotes cultural understanding and strengthens academic and artistic skills. Our Teaching Artists and Literacy Specialists bring a wealth of professional experience to the classroom and after-school setting. They introduce students to unique cultural perspectives through their artistic mediums and approaches to writing. 


We offer three programming models across several disciplines: 



We partner schools with Teaching Artists and Literacy Specialists in the classroom. The ACL curriculum pairs art-making and writing to explore "Big Ideas" that enhance students' learning in the arts and other academic content areas. The ACL program is offered to 3rd-8th grade students and is designed to meet the academic, cultural and artistic interests of the school.

  • Residencies span 15 weeks, across an entire grade level and are aligned with Common Core Standards.
  • Residencies utilize the stories of students' lives and family histories to teach core concepts in literacy and the arts.
  • Program outcomes are identified through collaborative planning sessions with the classroom teacher and our Teaching Artists and Literary Specialists.
  • Classroom teachers are hands-on partners in all aspects of the residency.
  • The program culminates in an event that showcases student art and writing.



We partner community organizations and schools with Teaching Artists to explore culture through dance, drama or visual art during after-school hours. Our integrated approach provides students with rich exposure to one or more cultures while developing valuable artistic skills. The ACC program is available for 1st - 12th grade students and is customized to meet the cultural and artistic interests of the school. 

  • Residencies span 10 weeks to a year.
  • A field trip to attend a performance, cultural institution, gallery or studio provides youth with an opportunity to explore a professional art experience.
  • The program culminates with a performance or exhibit showcasing the students' work throughout the residency.




Family night enable families to discover unexpected connections through the celebration of family history, culture and heritage. Incorporating writing and story-telling experiences, each family will create a project that is meaningful to them. Past family night activities have included book-making, community dance, mural making and family storytelling. 

The event structure and activities are flexible to meet the needs of the school. Events can accommodate groups of 30-150, up to 3 hours in length.



Our traveling exhibit follows the journeys of Chicago immigrant and refugee families through their stories of change, cultural traditions and dreams for the future. These intergenerational stories were told by families from Poland, Cambodia, Iraq, Mexico, Somalia, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo and Puerto Rico. The exhibit provides viewers with a unique perspective on immigration, identity, family, opportunity and sacrifice.


Artistic Services



Each arts discipline offers a variety of mediums or styles to choose from. Please note, each option is subject to current program availability. 


Our dance residencies examine dance practices from around the world and inspire an appreciation for creative movement and cultural dance traditions. Our dance classes develop strength, coordination, flexibility and creativity. Every dance residency culminates in a performance for friends and family. The students also host a talkback with the audience to discuss the rehearsal process and the cultural elements they explored. 

Dance traditions include:

  • African Dance
  • Brazilian Dance
  • Hip Hop
  • Latin Dance


Our performance residencies encourage self-expression, ensemble building and critical thinking. Students learn to use their voices and bodies as creative tools to explore culturally relevant themes and tell unique stories on stage. Every theatre residency culminates in a performance for friends and family. The students also host a talkback with the audience to discuss the rehearsal process and the cultural elements they explored.

Genres include:

  • Hip Hop Theatre
  • Improvisation
  • Spoken Word
  • Storytelling Through Puppetry
  • Theatre Techniques


Changing Worlds' visual art residencies inspire creativity through the investigation of culture and techniques. Throughout the course of the residency, students develop portfolios chronicling the development of their artistic skills. Each residency culminates in an exhibition for friends and family. The students also host artist talks to discuss the art making process and the cultural elements they explored. 

Mediums include:

  • Ceramics
  • Comic Arts
  • Digital Photography
  • Mask Making
  • Mixed Media
  • Mural
  • Painting


Interested in learning more about how to bring Changing Worlds to your school/community? Please contact Joanne Vena at jvena@changingworlds.org or call (312) 421-8040.


Community Partners



Current School and Community-based Partners

 Academy of Global Citizenship
Alessandro Volta Elementary School
America SCORES Chicago
Ambrose Plamondon Elementary School
Anna R. Langford Community Academy
Barbara Vick Early Childhood & Family Center
Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy
Burlington County Library, Westhampton, New Jersey
Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language
Charles Evans Hughes Elementary School
Chicago Cultural Alliance
Chicago High School for the Arts
Chicago Literacy Alliance
Chicago Park District
Chicago Public Schools
Columbia College Chicago
Curie Metropolitan High School
Daniel S. Wentworth Elementary School
DeVry University Chicago Campus
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice
Edmond Burke Elementary School
Field Museum of Natural History
George Manierre Elementary School
Horace Mann Elementary School

Instituto Cervantes
Irma C Ruiz Elementary School
Jackson Park Advisory Council
James Weldon Johnson Elementary School
John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School
John Hay Elementary Community Academy
John W. Cook Elementary School
Jose De Diego Elementary Community Academy
Joseph Jungman Elementary School
Joseph Kellman Corporate Community ES
Lawndale Elementary Community Academy
Leslie Lewis Elementary School
Marquette Elementary School
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Nicholson Technology Academy
Orozco Fine Arts & Sciences Elementary School
Pilsen Elementary Community Academy
Rosario Castellanos Elementary
Robert J Richardson Middle School
Roswell B. Mason Elementary
Spencer Technology Academy
Walker Elementary School
William H. Brown Elementary School
William P. Gray Elementary School
Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), Evanston