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South Chicago, East Side

‘Create And Paint’ Event Aims To Bring Southeast Side Teens Closer To Their Parents Through Art

Artist Antonia Ruppert will lead a family portrait painting Friday at the Salud Center in South Chicago, an example of the types of youth programs planned for the center's new "teen space."

Left: Community artist Antonia "Toni" Ruppert poses with her art at a gallery in South Shore. Right: Youth visit the Salud Center's new teen space as part of a meet and greet event Wednesday organized by the South Chicago Neighborhood Network's U.N.I.T.Y. Squad.
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SOUTH CHICAGO — Southeast Side teens and their parents can bond over art and their neighborhood experiences during a free painting session Friday, as a local group prepares to launch its youth center.

The Family Bridge Create and Paint event takes place 4-6 p.m. Friday at the Salud Center, 3031 E. 91st St. in South Chicago. To register, click here.

Artist Antonia “Toni” Ruppert will lead the session, during which attendees will paint a sketch of Ruppert’s that reflects the Southeast Side’s creativity. Visitors can also paint portraits of their own families on blank canvases.

“I’m praying that during this time, [the parents and kids] will walk away with something new in their relationship,” Ruppert said. “Art unifies us; it brings us together. Everybody deserves to have art in their community.”

Ruppert, who served as Austin’s artist-in-residence last year through the city’s Invest South/West initiative, said Family Bridge is her first time working on the Southeast Side.

Ruppert relied on library visits, local creatives and Southeast Side filmographer Kevin Murphy’s extensive collection of videos documenting community events to get familiar with the area as she sketched the piece attendees will paint Friday.

“I like to talk to people, I like to research images, I like to pray about my endeavors and I like to get a sense of a community just by listening,” Ruppert said when asked about her creative process.

Ruppert met Pamesha Robinson, Claretian Associates’ youth and family program coordinator, through a class at the Women’s Business Development Center Downtown. They worked together to develop Friday’s program, which highlights the artistry and diversity of Southeast Side life, Robinson said.

“Once we got out of that class, we knew we were going to collaborate on something,” Robinson said. Friday’s event became “the perfect opportunity to bring her artistry to the community.”

The Family Bridge event is organized through the South Chicago Neighborhood Network, a Claretian Associates-led group of residents working to improve the neighborhood’s health and safety.

The neighborhood network’s U.N.I.T.Y. Squad leadership program for youth ages 14-17 is rolling out a teen space, which will host interactive programs similar to Friday’s event. Kids will be able to register online for after-school restorative justice projects, entertainment, snacks and more, Robinson said.

“We now have an after-school forum for our young people to come to — a safe and therapeutic space to be able to express themselves,” Robinson said.

In addition to Friday’s art event, the squad will partner with this year’s One Summer Chicago youth program. Squad members will also host a mock trial Aug. 5, where Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx will serve as the presiding judge and take questions from the teens.

For more information on the U.N.I.T.Y. Squad, click here.

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