We are people with and without disabilities creating an artistic culture to realize our full potential.
Arts of Life is two professional arts studios that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to explore the arts.
Arts of Life open in 2000 on Chicago’s near west side and was the first Alternative Day Program in Chicago for people with disabilities that focused on artistic vocational opportunities.
Arts of Life is guided by Four Core Values, which encourage the personal and professional development of our artists. Each artist works with the studio team to create individual goals around these values.
• Building Community- Our primary purpose is supporting each other as professional artists in creating a thriving arts community based on cooperative decision-making and mutual respect.
• Inspiring Artistic Expression- Our model uses art facilitation to support creative decision-making and experimentation, increasing the artists' self-confidence. Because there are no mistakes in art making, each artistic decision creates a new problem solving opportunity.
• Developing independence- Our environment naturally encourages our artists to develop their sense of independence. Through their artwork and as members of the community, they gain a sense of inner freedom enabling them to take risks and trust their own judgment.
• Promoting Self Respect- We encourage our members to accept themselves for who they are and develop a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. The artists grow to understand that they are as unique as their works of arts and learn the value their differences.
The studios grow organically based on the needs of their current membership, so each studio environment functions as an independent artistic collective.
The primary hours our artists join the studios are Monday through Friday between 9 and 3. We often hold events, exhibitions and performances outside of these times and we assist our artists in joining these events as well.
Our artists work in many mediums, including painting, drawing, mixed media, and fiber art. Through our internship programs, our artists also have access to more specialized art forms such as animation, performance, and photography. We also have several artists who combine visual and language arts in the form of poetry, graphic novels, and bookbinding.
This year our community voted to implement a printmaking initiative, so we have been working to give each artist the skills needed to take their ideas from sketch to final screen-print. Artists at the Chicago Studio have been working collaboratively to learn the process of transferring their drawings to a screen using photo emulsion and then pulling their own print editions.
Keeping in line with our mission, our music programming brings together musicians with and without disabilities to create original songs.
Arts of Life Band (Chicago Studio) makes danceable party music with a rock edge. They have been rocking the bar scene for over five years, playing at The Empty bottle, The Hide Out, The Whistler, and Navy Pier. They have also participated in the North Coast Music festival and a variety of disability advocacy events.
Van Go Go (North Shore Studio) collaborates on various musical projects. With generous support from Tower Guard Productions, the NSME completed its very first rock Opera Get the Dinosaurs on the Phone! this year and is scheduling a summer tour of the opera and other new releases. Another new NSME initiative is a variety show that incorporates music, performance, and readings. The show debuted in December of 2012 and will develop into a community partnership in 2013.