Hearts to Art :The Auditorium Theatre’s award winning summer camp- The Healing Arts

Theater performance: Hearts to Art camp; The Auditorium Theatre, Chicago
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The Auditorium Theatre’s award-winning summer camp for young people who have experienced the death of a parent, Hearts to Art, will be offered this year, 2020, in an at-home format, with online and home-based activities due to COVID-19. Through the exploration and creation of dance, theater, art, and music, Hearts to Art will still inspire communication and collaboration, foster emotional growth, and provide campers with a place to find friendship, compassion, and community.“We need to support our Hearts to Art community now more than ever, while also making sure that everyone stays safe,” says Rich Regan, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “Even though camp will look a little different this summer, we’re thrilled that we can still provide these young people with a place to experience hope, healing, and solace through the arts. Our Hearts to Art campers will still be able to be together, even while physically apart.”

The Chicagoland area is rich in arts organizations, dance schools and troupes, museums, music centers, and supports literally hundreds of theater venues, large and small. That they are all shuttered right now is, on one level, a tragedy for artists and performers alike. On a different level, the inability to observe and create art together has spurred an enormous amount of available content on-line from the very entities we cannot leave home to see. The Auditorium’s commitment to community outreach has been made manifest during the mandate to shelter-at-home, and will continue as the city “wakes up”; Hearts to Art embodies the organization’s vision to embrace and promote the power of art to heal.

Campers at Hearts to Art

The re-envisioned camp will be offered in two sessions: July 6-17 (session one, for campers ages 7-10) and July 20-31 (session two, for campers ages 11-14). Camp will run daily, with campers coming together online to participate in activities and music, dance, and theater classes while also working on projects on their own or with their families. Camp staff will work with Hearts to Art families to ensure they have access to internet and streaming devices so campers can engage in group classes, practice the performing arts, and gather as a community through technology — all from the safety of their homes. Additionally, group and family healing sessions will still be facilitated by licensed social workers and grief counselors, and a memorial celebration to honor campers’ lost loved ones will still take place. Camp staff also will send out or deliver care packages containing activities such as coloring books or other crafts for campers to do at home.

Why is it so important for everybody, especially young people and those who are bereft, to participate in the arts, particularly now, when we all have experienced social fear and isolation and are separated from the comfort of everyday routines and support? The answer is: because art is a bridge between cultures, between age groups, and a vibrant healing force of its own. Art fosters empathy, unfreezes “stuck” trauma, allows us to reach heights of emotional expression. Further, and targeted by Hearts to Art’s activities, viscerally creating art- whether dance, drama or music-making, can actually exorcise morbid emotional content and forge a channel into our very psychology: it’s a potent type of therapy.

Sarah Illiatovich-Goldman; photo by Sabrina Reeves

We were able to interview Hearts to Art Camp Director Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman who, along with her staff, developed the new program. “It’s a performing arts summer camp for kids 7-14 who have lost, through death, a primary caregiver. This is the 16th year Hearts to Art has been hosted by The Auditorium Theater, and each year we have seen firsthand how these young people have achieved empowerment- after tragedy- through the arts. The staff helps kids both create a community together and also own their personal voices and stories”. Illiatovitch-Goldman, herself a theater artist, has always taught the craft she loves, and years ago began working with “populations not highlighted”- such as homeless youth shelter work. During her tenure with The Auditorium, she’s served as an educator in their Arts Exchange program year round. “We do a lot of partnering with different social service organizations; we have a robust yearlong education department,” she notes.

“Even though we can’t be together in person this summer we still want to ensure that we are offering our campers a rewarding Hearts to Art experience, while simultaneously being accommodating and flexible because everyone’s situation is a little different,” says Illiatovitch-Goldman. “All of the things that make camp so special, such as our weekly camper talent shows, our final performance showcase, our guest artist visits, and our performing arts activities, will still happen. We create a program that harnesses the power of the arts. Healing is achieved through each camper’s own work- the sharing of experience and ideas lets them know that they are not alone. The power of community cannot be overstated. These people get a chance to just be kids- camp is not designed to create professional artists, but to give the participants expression and exposure,”

Illiatovich-Goldman stated passionately yet firmly, “Loss unites us but it’s not what defines us- the art defines us!” She added, “This year, although we may be separated,  we want our campers to know as clearly as in any other year that they are not alone. We want to use this as an opportunity to strengthen our community and support each other as much as we can.”

Hearts to Arts Camp Auditorium Theatre of Chicago

Hearts to Art Information and Registration Details

The Auditorium Theatre offers two Hearts to Art camp sessions: July 6-17, 2020 (for young people ages 7-10) and July 20-31, 2020 (for ages 11-14).

Registration for Hearts to Art is open now. Camp is offered at no cost to participants.

For more information, visit HeartstoArt.org or call 312.341.2353.

All photos by Julia Nash unless otherwise noted


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