Snow City Arts

Photo courtesy of Snow City Arts.

It all starts with a knock on the door and brief question, “Do you want to make art today?” At Snow City Arts (SCA), teaching artists aim to educate and inspire children and youth in hospitals through one-on-one instruction in the visual arts, creative writing, music and film making. To the teaching artists, they are students, not just patients.

Hoping to give back some of the independence children lose while hospitalized, SCA teaching artists engage the students in conversations about their interest. “We transform the hospital, the place full of machinery and white lab coats into an art studio,” explains Carrie Spitler, Executive Director for SCA, our 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards winner in the Arts category.

Often snowballing into larger projects, the child’s passions guide the teaching artist’s curriculum. Spitler recalls a favorite moment when a young woman’s interest in elephants turned into a full stop-motion animation film.

“We were working with a young woman who had come in from out of state for treatment. She had brought this big stuffed elephant with her,” reflects Spitler. Her passion for the animal was not hard to miss. “We created a storyboard, narrative, used green screen and by the end of her treatment had a complete film.”

SCA provides individualized instruction to patients at Rush Children’s Hospital, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County and Children’s Hospital University of Illinois. Documenting every interaction and piece of art their students create, the teaching artists compile a report to be sent to schools for potential credit.

“[Hospitalized children] have a burdensome amount of time,” notes Julia deBettencourt, Program Director at SCA. “We try to fill that time with one-on-one instruction and act as a bridge for the things they missed while sick.”

Every year, SCA hosts a Gallery Night where roughly 150 students showcase more than 300 individual pieces of art. All art is for sale and there is a silent auction as well. Parents, students and teaching artists gather to celebrate and fundraise for the organization.

Curating the significant bodies of work her students create over their time in the hospital is a “wonderful and big undertaking,” reflects deBettencourt. “This year was the first year we showcased long term student profiles. It was amazing to see how they created their own aesthetic [over time].”

SCA is more than art therapy — it’s art education.

Snow City Arts By the Numbers:

  • 1,000 students served
  • One-on-one arts education workshops for hospitalized kids in Creative Writing, Theatre, Media Arts, Music and the Visual Arts
  • 4 partner hospitals

Award Sponsor: Susan and Richard Kiphart 


This article is part of our 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards series. Find more of our winners here: