At Street Level, Urban Gateways’ multimedia center, young people ages 13-24 are encouraged to make their art, express their ideas, and tell their stories through multimedia art forms. Street Level programs promote self-expression, communication, and social change.
In 1991, artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle wondered what would happen if young people documented the world as they saw it, and he initiated a media arts project in his West Town neighborhood as part of a public art program aimed at expressing the concerns of Chicago communities. This installation of 75 monitors was presented at a block party and brought to light issues that played out daily—from gangs to gentrification—as it engaged residents and informed fellow Chicagoans.
In 1995, the success of this project inspired the formation of Street-Level Youth Media, one of the country’s first nonprofits to offer technology access and media arts training to urban youth. Three years later the organization won the inaugural Coming Up Taller Award from President Clinton’s Committee for Arts and the Humanities for its innovative approach to arts education.
In January 2017, Street Level (later renamed from Street-Level Youth Media) officially became a part of Urban Gateways. Urban Gateways engages young people in arts experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change. Visit urbangateways.org and street-level.org to learn more.
Today, Street Level remains committed to engaging young people in creative self-expression and critical thinking through media arts programming. Programs now include video production, audio and music production, stop-motion animation, digital photography, graphic arts, and new media. Street Level instructors continue to lead classes and workshops in West Town, now at Street Level’s multimedia center at 1637 North Ashland Avenue, and at partnering schools and community-based organizations throughout Chicago.