Helping the Chicago Department of Arts Education Make a Huge Difference.

June 11, 2014 - 7 minutes read

The views and opinions expressed here are my own.


Chicago’s focus on the arts is being extended into the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in a very significant way via the newly created CPS Department of Arts Education and the attendant CPS Arts Education Plan. It kicked off in early 2012 and supports an unprecedented level of information and access to parents and the public. At Birk.Creative, we are honored to have been asked by the CPS Department of Arts Education to be its creative consulting firm and engagement strategist. We have a long history of supporting the arts in Chicago, beginning with our ongoing creative relationship with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Chicago Office of Tourism (now CHOOSE) dating back to 1997. Now, we’re focused on helping CPS Arts by designing and creating fresh digital engagement strategies.

Arts education has been proven to create smarter kids with higher executive-level functioning, and it teaches kids how to think outside of a traditional math and science curriculum and engage in creative expression. Statistics show that students with an arts education have better graduation and college entry rates. Not every kid had access to arts education in the past, so the efforts of the Department of Arts Education are to make sure every student has an arts education. The way to do that is through the Arts Education Plan that the City of Chicago, CPS and Mayor Emanuel developed. For some kids, art is emotional survival. Some kids are artists but don’t know it; others don’t know how to express themselves creatively and want to learn how. My opinion is that the new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum should really be STEAM, with an “A” for art.

The Department Of Arts Education Team: Vibrant People Creating The Future

We’re proud to work with the Department of Arts Education and Mario Rossero, the Director of Arts. Mario and his diverse team have a vibrancy and confidence that are a pleasure to see in the public sector. They have a seemingly unshakable positive outlook and are laser-beam focused. They’re driven, ambitious and motivated. They’re working so hard we can’t resist joining them! Their working chemistry is strong, too. Mario is a dynamic leader and encourages members of his team to be leaders, use their voice and contribute innovative ideas. He fosters collaborative working, and that collaboration includes Birk.Creative. We love working with teams that value excellence like Mario’s team. “My own career is, in part, a result of CPS. My mother (of course) was my first arts teacher, but formal arts education is the reason I’m an entrepreneur and have a thriving business. I had art teachers from elementary school all the way through college who believed in me and encouraged me to create, think creatively, problem solve, take criticism, speak publicly about my work, and above all not give up or give in. I believe that all kids need this kind of arts education, it’s as simple as that. Now we have it here at CPS.” JinJa Birkenbeuel, President and CEO, Birk.Creative Birk.Creative has been working with Mario and his team almost since the beginning of the initiative. We created an infographic that encompasses the full sweep of the Arts Education Plan and is the basis for all ensuing graphic materials and content campaigns. The infographic symbolizes the art education plan in a digestible way. It’s a visual standard showing what the Department of Arts Education does. We’re taking that infographic and using it to establish their social media channels. We’re also developing new imagery, photos, videos, hashtags, events and art contests.

We’ve already created a digital public awareness campaign that you can follow on all the CPS_Arts channels, including

Branding the department and making people aware of the work they’re doing helps parents and the public feel good about the work of CPS. The arts department in particular is engaged and interested in exchanging knowledge and ideas with national arts education influencers, Chicago’s creative community and the City of Chicago. We’re proud to help them do it. With the Arts Education Plan as a foundation for our engagement work, we’re leveraging partners of CPS and contributing an active presence to get more people engaged in lively and positive conversation. Eventually, through providing social media training to the team, we’ll pass the baton and they’ll learn how to manage their digital engagement internally. But we before we turn over the keys, we’re going to measure success using specific analytic processes, data reporting and ongoing research so the team has a successful and proven foundation to build upon. Throughout the process, Birk.Creative has put an emphasis on imbuing the Department of Arts Education team with the ability to update their own artwork and have control of their own creative assets. So far, we’ve developed over 100 different visuals for ongoing use in print and digital materials. We’re not in the business of chaining a client to us–we want them to have the tools and be empowered to continue the work.

Learn more about CPS Arts

Take the time to learn more about our work and the CPS Arts Education Plan. Contact the Department of Arts Education. Discover real time CPS Arts news on Twitter/CPS_Arts. Experience and share the vitality of youth and art on Instagram/CPS_Arts. Share and re-pin arts education information and ideas on And make sure to use these hashtags so we can all celebrate art in our public schools in Chicago together: #cpsart and #cpsart4all. Contact us at