Participants from After School Matters in performance (photo courtesy of After School Matters).

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Designates 2018 The "Year of Creative Youth" in Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today designated 2018 as the “Year of Creative Youth.” This will represent an over $2 million investment by the City of Chicago, and will include a Creative Youth Festival across the Millennium Park Campus, performance opportunities for teens at city festivals and partner events, cultural grants and convenings for youth arts organizations and a marketing campaign, among other events.

“The Year of Creative Youth provides an incredible opportunity to support the creativity and growth of artistic children across Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I am proud to work with youth arts organizations and educators to launch new opportunities that will inspire the next generation of artists.”

Mayor Emanuel established continued investments for art and cultural affairs in the 2018 budget. Proposed amusement tax changes will close an existing loophole that benefited large live performance venues while cutting taxes for neighborhood theaters. This will result in additional revenue to support this expanded youth programming, as well as capital projects and cultural investments across the city. 

The Creative Youth Festival will take place across the Millennium Park Campus on September 22, 2018. The event will showcase teen artists in dance, theater, music, spoken word, the visual arts and more. Details will be announced next year.

​DCASE will collaborate with Chicago Public Schools and Ingenuity, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, the Department of Family and Support Services and other city departments to engage Chicago’s youth and youth arts organizations. As part of the Year of Creative Youth, the city will work with After School Matters, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Free Spirit Media, Marwen, SkyArt, Urban Gateways, Yollocalli Arts Reach-National Museum of Mexican Art and Young Chicago Authors and other organizations to inspire the next generation of artists.

“Chicago should be very proud of its innovative youth arts organizations—and the many cultural institutions that are committed to unleashing the creative potential of our teens and young adults,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “Today, we are pleased to announce IncentOvate grants for six of these amazing institutions.”

A $1.8 million investment will support the new Creative Youth Festival, expanding of existing City of Chicago cultural programming that engages youth, performance stipends for teens at City of Chicago festivals and partner events, convenings for arts educators and young artists and a marketing campaign.

An additional $200,000, amounting to nearly half of the Cultural Grants Program-IncentOvate funds awarded by DCASE will be designated to support creative youth. IncentOvate grantees organizing creative youth-focused projects include: At Institute of Chicago – Teen Empowerment Program; Chicago Children’s Choir – Long Way Home; Inner-City Muslim Action Network – Beloved Community Ceramic Arts Studio; and National Museum of Mexican Art – Year of Creative Youth Exhibition and Chill Set Series, among others.

​The complete list of grantees will be announced in the coming months.

The Year of Creative Youth is part of the Mayor’s citywide vision for raising up youth in Chicago, including the extensive One Summer Chicago jobs program, Mayor Emanuel’s Mentoring Initiative, Chicago City of Learning, the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan, Night Out In the Parks presented by the Chicago Park District, YOUmedia at select Chicago Public Library locations and more. For details, please visit

The Year of Creative Youth is aligned with “Art Design Chicago,” a citywide initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art—featuring over 25 exhibitions and hundreds of public programs in 2018. Arts education and youth engagement will be important components of the overall program, including art making workshops and field trips.

​​For more information about the Year of Creative Youth, visit