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Nurturing Tomorrow's Creative Educators

Updated: Feb 22

Marwen’s New Emerging Teaching Artist (META) Program is Singular in Chicago…and Perhaps in the U.S.

It's really important that we support the next generation of emerging artists of color in becoming teachers, and that we model for young people what it can look like to be an artist who looks like them. - Victoria Timpo, Manager of Emerging Artist Pathway Programs

In the vibrant landscape of arts education, Marwen has stood out as a beacon of creativity and inclusivity since 1987. A true advocate for fostering the next generation of artists, Marwen is proud to complete its pilot year of an emerging teaching artist paid program. It's certainly the first of its kind in Chicago, but could it be the only program like it in the nation? This initiative not only empowers up-and-coming visual artists, but it also cultivates a community that values the transformative power of arts education.

Marwen has long been synonymous with providing accessible and enriching arts education to young individuals, regardless of their socio-economic background. The Marwen Emerging Teaching Artist (META) program takes this commitment a step further by creating a pathway for emerging artists to become experienced educators.

What was once a Studio Facilitator role, then a META role has evolved into a year-long training program. "The concept of this program started in 2020 at the peak of the pandemic," shared Victoria Timpo (pictured left), Manager of Emerging Artist Pathway Programs. "Marwen was transitioning to virtual arts experiences at that moment in time, and we developed a program where a teaching artist cohort would support young people online." The year-long, part-time program is designed to equip participants with the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to become effective teaching artists. Participants receive professional development sessions led by seasoned educators and artists, including pedagogical approaches, classroom management, and youth-focused curriculum design.

META are able to experiment, make mistakes, and figure out their teaching style in a really supportive environment. It’s fun to see their growth, and see them start to believe in themselves and having a career in the arts. That's why I do this. To see that spark and confidence in them. - Victoria Timpo

The META program provides hands-on teaching experience through collaborative youth workshops and mentorship opportunities. This practical experience allows participants to refine their teaching techniques and build confidence in the classroom. "We learned that artists were craving more facilitation experiences, more leadership training, and how to build curriculum and navigate classroom management," added Timpo.

“Artists make up 2.2% of Chicago’s labor force, as compared to 1.35% for the nation.” - Measuring Chicago’s (Artistically) Creative Economy report, Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago

Recognizing the financial challenges faced by emerging artists, Marwen's program is a paid opportunity. This not only acknowledges the value of the participants' time and expertise but also removes financial barriers, allowing a more diverse group of individuals to pursue a career in arts education.

Jose Casales (25) was part of the pilot META program in 2023. A Chicago native and former CPS student, Jose graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Audio Design and Production. “I came across this opportunity out of necessity," said Jose. "I was a recent college grad in search of a job where I can continue my artistic practice – not just to serve me but to also serve the community. I wanted to perfect my printmaking skills and found Marwen as an exciting option. I’m not a public speaker, am quite anxious and shy, and never imagined teaching. The META program showed me that I was capable of teaching and gave me confidence around young people. It opened up new opportunities for me.” Jose will teach his first printmaking class this Spring at Marwen.

“My advice for someone starting the META program is to expect the unexpected and also don’t expect things to go your way all the time. Learning to accommodate is crucial.” - Jose Casales, META 2023 and current Marwen teaching artist

Marwen places a strong emphasis on inclusivity, and artists learn how to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that celebrates diversity and encourages self-expression. The program creates access for an intentional audience of 18+, recent grads, and second-career Chicagoans.

Erica Scott (31) participated in the pilot year of the program. A Chicago native who hails from Beverly and Hyde Park, she attended CPS and has a BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute. “Before Marwen, all I did was figure model," said Scott (pictured above and below right). "Since I had my child, I need to make money and have flexibility to be home. I am always searching for opportunities. Even in the [META] interview phase, it felt like a community. The META program taught me how to talk to and teach young people. It was the one thing that gave me confidence to take more risks, go for more opportunities. It gave me more art in my life, more art skills, and the ability to engage in creative conversations that I wasn’t able to before – it's had a big impact on my life!”

Since completing the program, Scott has joined a collective of artists called Studio Free Love Artist Collective. She recently led a teen artmaking workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago, which she learned about through Marwen. She also regularly vends her work at shows across Chicago and will be teaching a painting class this Spring at Marwen.

“My advice to a META is to work with different teaching artists and learn different approaches. Also lead with your heart and listen to the young people -- it’s their time, too. As much as you’re there to teach, they will teach you, too.” - Erica Scott, META (2023) and current Marwen teaching artist

The program also fosters a sense of community among participants, connecting them with established artists, educators, and professionals in the art world. Networking events and mentorship programs contribute to a supportive and collaborative ecosystem. In fact, most METAs learned about the program through a Chicago artist – many of whom are current or past Marwen teaching artists.

The META program is more than just a training ground; it's a transformative journey. Participants not only develop their teaching skills but also gain a deeper understanding of the impact art can have on young minds. Graduates of the program go on to become influential figures in the arts community, taking on roles in arts organizations, institutions, and classrooms across Chicago.

As of Spring term 2024, 14 METAs have become working teaching artists at organizations across Chicago, including five METAs who are teaching at Marwen for the first time like Erica Scott and Jose Casales. In the first two years of META program (2023-2024), nearly 42% of the participants are Marwen alumni.

"What is always deeply meaningful to me is…for alumni to come back and contribute to the ecosystem of Marwen. They are fostering the skills and building a community that they once were in themselves. It’s a beautiful full circle." - Akilah Halley, Executive Director

Marwen's commitment to nurturing emerging artists and educators is exemplified through its META program. By providing a platform that combines professional development, practical experience, and financial support, Marwen continues to shape the future of arts education – in Chicago and beyond. "I would love to see [the META program] be recognized not only locally but nationally," shared Halley. "It’s an amazing opportunity for people to get the most hands-on experience in what it means to be a teaching artist. You will learn from brilliant, practicing, experienced Chicago artists who are actively contributing to the field and to our communities."

This program not only benefits the participants but also contributes to a more inclusive and vibrant arts community. Aspiring teaching artists, take note – Marwen is here to guide you on your journey of creativity, education, and impact.

Applications for Marwen's Emerging Teaching Artist Program 2025 will open this Fall.

To support this program, visit

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