Thursday, April 5, 2012

Snow City Arts

The problem: "Being seriously ill [as a child] means friends and school are replaced by machines and hospital." It means falling behind in school. The solution: "We use the arts to springboard them back toward their daily lives, and work to keep them as academically in-step with their healthy peers as possible during hospitalization."

Snow City Arts is an organization founded in 1998 by Paul Sznewajs through a grant from Ford Motor Company with a promise to "improve comprehensive health care for hospitalized children." Their goal was to provide them with educational outlets, while in the process, creating larger communities that are educated in arts and culture. As opposed to therapy or recreation, they focus on learning through advanced workshops. These workshops, run by trained professionals, are "benchmarked against 159 age- and skill level-appropriate state and federal learning standards." Children take part in not only art and music, but also have the opportunity to work in filmmaking, writing, and photography.

The founder of Snow City Arts, Paul Sznewajs, got his inspiration while working with children in a hospital in Washington, DC. He felt that these therapy programs simply weren't enough. Sure they were providing a happy outlet. Studies show art, dance, and music therapy (which are most often seen being utilized in hospitals) can expedite recovery; however what about the children's education? Combining the researched benefits of therapy and integrating an intricate educational foundation, Paul planted the idea for the types of workshops they use today. After relocating to Chicago, he decided to found Snow City Arts to implement this idea.

Snow City Arts relies greatly on collaboration with organizations such as Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Columbia College, Museum of Contemporary art, SMART Museum, University of Illinois Chicago, Young Chicago Authors, and many more. They are not only important for resources, but also aid in generating new ideas and educational backgrounds. "By working side-by-side with local arts organizations, performance groups, music ensembles, and prominent universities, [they] help ensure our children are learning from Chicago's brightest artistic minds."

Snow City Arts partnerships are also important to another way they are unique: the children's works get published or put on display. Their art has been featured in public spaces and galleries throughout Chicago, in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Sun-Times, and on every major television network. At these galleries, the artwork is displayed around the room, the children's poetry and stories are printed into booklets for distribution, and there is also a special showing of the videos the children created. The children's work has even been featured at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Chicago Children's Humanities Festival, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. They have been recognized in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and on every major television network. This organization hopes to show the children that they can be productive, valuable members of Chicago's cultural community. Snow City Arts is currently working on producing an "in-house" television series.

Snow City Arts' program is currently available at Rush Children's Hospital, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, and Children's Memorial Hospital. The children seem to love it. Many of them express that they are getting to do things they never thought they would be doing. They feel "more normal again." My younger sister was a part of the program for a short time last year. No words could express her visible joy, when she got the opportunity to do something she loved and get out of her hospital room for even that short time. She said it was like being in school, but more fun.

It appears many people in this field are great supporters, which is clear by their partners alone. To exemplify this acceptance, "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois honored Snow City Arts as the corporation's Community Organization of the Year. Simultaneously, Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago honored Snow City Arts Foundation as its Innovative Program of the Year. It was the first time in the more than 100-year history of the hospital the award was given to an outside agency." The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities honored Snow City Arts in 2007 with the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award, which recognizes Snow City Arts as one of the 15 best youth programs in the United States. National Endowment for the Arts recognized Snow City Arts as an “outstanding arts in healthcare” program and profiled them as a national Best Practices organization.

I don't think anyone can deny that this organization has kept their initial promise to Ford Motor Company. To date, Snow City Arts has taught nearly 15,000 children.

It is currently the only program of its kind in Chicago.

For more information about this organization:


  1. This is truly a creative and important organization! I am all for programs that help sick children feel more "normal" and help families get back into a routine. This organization took something that many organizations do - providing children with a happy or artistic outlet - and made it more meaningful. It definitely is a new idea that serves a purpose, and is therefore very creative by our definition. I am happy to hear that your family benefited from the program as well! If only this type of organization were more readily available to families all around the country and the world, parents' and siblings' sufferings would decrease knowing that their loved one is in capable hands, and that he or she will be able to lead a normal life instead of being trapped in the confines of a hospital.

  2. I find that in this case, the topic of class today is very applicable. As Bob talked about today in class, extrinsic motivation is often looked down upon, but not necessarily inferior. This is an absolutely prime example. In this case, the product of the creativity is something that directly affects other people's lives in a very positive way.
    For the children themselves, motivation could be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Because their work is often put on display, they could be extrinsically motivated. However, I really think that in these circumstances where they are often forced by their circumstances to grow up and get serious, children have the opportunity to learn so much more about themselves in a smaller span of time. In this regard, becoming more aware of themselves and what makes them happy, truly happy is a chance to find motivation within themselves to create a life that cherish. In this way, I think that an creative opportunity like Snow City gives these children what they need to find within themselves a motivation to do what they love.


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