A Public Letter of Support for the Full Reinstatement of Lane Tech College Prep’s Ceramics Department
The success and expansion of studio arts-based programs in Chicago such as ChiArts High School and Marwen indicate that there is a hunger for in-depth arts education for our city’s youth, particularly for those who can’t afford out-of-school art classes. In addition, a CPS and city arts plan have both been created in the last 3 years, promising to position Chicago as an arts hub for our nation, with our schools as incubators for creativity. Until now, Lane Tech has been one such incubator, but the crown jewel of its arts program is now being threatened—its Ceramics Department. Students attend Lane Tech College Prep from all over the city and are offered state-of-the-art ceramics programming. The students cross economic and racial barriers to access the ceramics department at Lane Tech. 57.8 percent of students are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program. Many students come from first generation immigrant families. The program that has been built for over a decade at Lane is absolutely unique both in the students it serves and the rigor and high quality of its products—artists and artworks alike.
Lane Tech’s collective investment in the arts has been huge over the years, with administration spending, various grant funds, and donations totaling well over $100,000 raised and spent on the high quality equipment available to students in the Ceramics Department. World renowned artist, Theaster Gates, who graduated from Lane Tech and went on to get his college degree in Ceramics and Urban Planning says he wishes Lane had had the ceramics programming it now boasts when he was a student. In support of the department, he continues to be a visiting artist.
In addition, Lane Tech, and particularly the ceramics department, have garnered awards (both honorary and financial) such as, most recently in 2012, the College Board Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts that brought valuable resources to the Ceramics Department. The College Board said the Ceramic Department;
“uses a singular artistic discipline to teach and inspire a diverse community of students. We were particularly taken with both the high quality and large quantity of student art presented, and your innovative emphasis on cross-curricular integration… Your program is a testament to the kind of positive impact that high expectations for all students can have on their learning.”
The unique nature of this department in the city, and even the country should not be underestimated. Founder and CEO of Lillstreet Art Center, Bruce Robbins, has long worked with Amy Moore and her Ceramics Department at Lane Tech, donating free classes, clay, sharing resources and students, and participating in Lane Tech’s vibrant annual fundraisers such as Empty Bowls and ClayFest. Major, nationally known art centers like Lillstreet rely on dynamic programs such as Lane Tech’s to cultivate new generations of artist from diverse backgrounds with innovative artistic voices. A department like that at Lane brings new life to an art center like Lillstreet, which in turn invigorates our city’s arts community.
Since 2011, the non-profit, ArtReach at Lillstreet has worked in close partnership with Lane’s Ceramics Department. Each year, students from Lane have been given workshops by a professional teaching artist that supplement the already robust offerings of Lane’s Department. After the workshops, students take a field trip to Lillstreet to participate in loading, firing, and unloading the soda kiln, a process that is different and unavailable to them in their high school and that has often inspired budding ceramicist to further develop their art.
This academic year, Lane Tech has offered its 4000+ students a rich array of 10 ceramics courses, from beginner to advanced, from wheel to handbuilding, functional to sculptural. These courses were taught by teachers with decades of combined experience in ceramics, demonstrating that all students in our city, whether they can afford private education and outside art classes or not, deserve the highest quality of arts instruction. Unfortunately, as it now stands, Lane Tech has cut this robust offering down to a single class for academic year 2014-15. The remaining class is an AP level class that cannot easily be attained without the previous training that intro level classes can provide, thereby effectively cutting off the source for new advanced level students. Moreover, the remaining AP class is slated to be taught by a teacher with minimal to no wheel, kiln, or sculptural work experience.
As a student of the ceramics department attested in a letter of support distributed to faculty and online:
“Many students come to Lane Tech for our amazing Art Program. However their disappointment will be tangible when some of those classes they strived for are removed from the curriculum and from the course. Among these classes are Wheel Throwing, Ceramics, and AP 3D Studio Design. These classes have changed and improved many students’ lives, and for some this is their life long passion, and scholarships they are granted by participating in these classes is how they are able to afford college.”
The artists and educators at Lillstreet and ArtReach urge the administration and district to reinstate all ceramics classes at Lane Tech and reinvest in this successful department and the veteran staff that have built it to what it is. Please do not deprive future classes of Lane Tech students of the vital and full programming of the Ceramics Department. Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/dr-christopher-dignam-help-save-lane-tech-ceramics-classes to support the reinstatement of the full Ceramics Department and class offerings at Lane Tech.