Harold Green (center), a poet and executive director of the Flowers for the Living Foundation, poses with four co-creators of a Bronzeville audio walking tour made through a creative writing workshop in partnership with Australian design firm Art Processors. Credit: Erin Morgan Taylor

HYDE PARK — Teens who live or attend school in Hyde Park can create an immersive walking tour of the neighborhood this summer while developing skills for careers in writing and the museum industry through a paid workshop.

The Flowers for the Living Foundation, a local arts and youth organization, and Art Processors, an Australian museum design firm, are recruiting five high school students to develop an audio walking tour of the neighborhood.

The incoming ninth- through 12th-graders will pick locations meaningful to them, write and record scripts for their tours and develop an app to help neighbors and tourists explore Hyde Park.

The three-week writing intensive workshop will help young people develop their voices and share “intimate” knowledge about the spaces they inhabit, said poet and writer Harold Green, executive director of the Flowers for the Living Foundation.

“Whereas things may have become bland, mundane or everyday to us [adults], they see things in new ways,” Green said. “It gives me fresh perspective and gives me a revitalized view on our world at large.”

Museum professionals and creative writers will mentor the students and take them on field trips to museums every week as they flesh out the walking tours.

“They get to see there are jobs in the museum industry that pertain to creative writing, research, curation and all these wonderful things — that there are possibilities for people like them,” Green said.

The participants will meet noon-3 p.m. June 27-30, July 3, July 5-7, July 10-14 and July 17-18. Students must be available for all session dates.

Sessions start at University CoWork, 6127 S. University Ave. in Woodlawn, but will largely take place “out in the field” as participants explore Hyde Park block by block, Green said.

Participants will be paid $1,500. Applications are accepted through May 26, and five applicants will be chosen for the program by June 1. To apply, click here.

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The creative writing intensive introduces youth to creative, sensory and directional writing skills, all of which are needed for an effective tour, Green said.

The program also helps students get comfortable with hearing their voices as they narrate their tour. Many youth “don’t mind the nuts and bolts of writing, but narration … that’s the most uncomfortable part,” Green said.

“The most narrative experience they really have is recording videos for social media, and that’s a different ballgame from recording narration,” Green said. “Once they hear their voice back, do multiple takes, use breath control, learn pace and variation … [they’ll develop] skills they can use later on down the line.”

Teens can challenge themselves and build skills through the program, and they’ll see tangible results from their efforts, Green said.

The students will own the final project, so they can include it as part of a portfolio as they apply to a creative major in college or a professional career, he said.

“To give that incentive early, to show that you can be paid for your writing, inspires students to pursue it,” Green said. “I want to inspire youth from an early point that if you put time, attention and detail into writing, there is a payoff.”

Participants in the Streets of Bronzeville walking tour program meet for a session. Credit: Erin Morgan Taylor

The Hyde Park tour is the second in a series exploring Chicago neighborhoods, following a tour in Bronzeville set to be released May 21 on the App Store.

Students from Wendell Phillips, DuSable and other local high schools contributed to the Streets of Bronzeville Walking Tour, which includes neighborhood spots where the students “spent a lot of time in their youth,” Green said.

One special location, chosen by tour guide Emmonie Jenkins, is a stretch of King Drive where she dances during the Bud Billiken Parade.

In the tour, “she talks about how nervous she was originally and how once she got out there, she felt like she was dancing on stage with Beyoncé,” Green said.

For the audio tour, the students edited in “crowd noise from one of the Bud Billiken parades, and … you feel like you are standing there watching her participate, cheering her on in this moment,” Green said.

The project explores Bronzeville’s deep history, from its monuments and landmarks to Pearl’s Place and the work of Gwendolyn Brooks.

But it’s personal touches like Jenkins’ which set Streets of Bronzeville apart, giving you a more “intimate relationship with the space” than a typical tour, Green said.

“There may be a corner store or there may be a park that, in driving or walking past it, you may not pay much attention to,” he said. “But this is a place where students spent a lot of time in their youth, and they will talk about these places with such affinity, it makes you pay attention to every little thing differently.”

Dancers perform along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive during the 92nd Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

With infrastructure already in place from the Bronzeville session, organizers plan to launch the Hyde Park tours in August, just a few weeks after the last day of the intensive and right before the start of the school year.

Hyde Park is a “world-class neighborhood” with “diversity, culture and life to it” that rivals any other community in the world, Green said — and he’s ready “to hear the youth explain it in their own words.”

“I’m a true believer that words are powerful, and if we teach the youth how to use words in more positive, affirming and descriptive ways, I think we may solve some societal issues as well,” Green said. “… I’m really trying to equip these students with the proper tools and words to enjoy the spaces in which they exist.”

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