August 28, 2013

Partners in Art

by Bridget Esangga

Inside Margaret Koreman’s (BFA 1988, MA 2002) classroom at Franklin Fine Arts Center, a row of mannequin heads model brightly colored wigs—part of the last academic year’s hair-cutting project. Shelves are lined with art books and bins full of everything from tubes of paint to bottle caps. 

For the past eight years, Koreman has taught kindergarten through eighth-grade visual arts at the elementary magnet school located in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. She is passionate about the arts, and by listening to the excitement in her voice as she talks about her own journey from the farm she grew up on in New Lennox, Illinois, to an urban art teacher with deep ties to SAIC, you can imagine that one day successful artists will credit her with fostering their love of the arts.

When she was 16 years old, a high school art teacher introduced her to Continuing Studies at SAIC program where she took an Intergenerational Program figure drawing class. Though she went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Art Education at SAIC and teach in the Art Education department for seven years, that first Continuing Studies course remains a core influence in her own teaching practice. It was where she learned the importance of bringing artists into the classroom, something she does regularly for her students. 

Beyond her classroom, Koreman is helping to bring arts programming to every Chicago Public Schools (CPS) classroom. Earlier this year Mayor Rahm Emmanuel pledged an initial $1 million toward an Arts Education Plan. A team led by school district Director of Arts Education Mario Rossero will sustain the program by raising money and creating partnerships with cultural institutions, including SAIC. 

"We’re working to increase equity and access to the arts for every child,” says Rossero. And while there are immediate wins, he notes that this is a long-term project. 

In the spring of 2013 Continuing Studies launched a new and significant partnership with CPS with the goal of supporting CPS students, teachers, and families. An Education Team of CPS teachers and SAIC faculty is working under the direction of Rossero and Rob Bondgren, Dean of Continuing Studies, to guide the development of innovative programs that will make this goal a reality. 

Koreman was an obvious pick for the team. "My person is so tied to [SAIC].... So when there was this email sent out saying ‘Would you get involved?’—how could I say ‘no?’ This is who I am. It’s where I came from,” she says. 

And while programming from this partnership with CPS has not formally begun, Koreman’s students have already benefited from the relationship. Cheryl Pope is a Continuing Studies instructor and Fashion Design faculty member who is also on the Education Team. When Koreman’s students were studying SAIC Fashion Design faculty member Nick Cave’s work this spring, Pope helped Koreman envision her entire school building as a potential runway and orchestrate a fashion show in the hallways and classrooms. 

The kicker for Koreman’s students was 15 complimentary tickets to the SAIC Fashion Show and a private meeting with Nick Cave. "To have a one-on-one discussion with Nick Cave—I know [that] changed lives this year.” she says.