Silent auction raises funds for after-school arts group

Lily Leung

The Parent Teacher Association of Chute Middle School held a silent auction Sunday night to raise money for the school’s art program — with jazz music blaring in the background.

The event, held at the Firehouse Grill, 750 Chicago Ave., raised their minimum goal of $4,000 from ticket sales and the auction. Proceeds go to Soul Creations, a local nonprofit organization that heads Chute’s Artist-in-Residence program. The goal of the six-week workshop is to help students develop life skills through the performing arts.

Merchants from the community, parents and Chute alumni donated the items for the silent auction, including Chicago Cubs tickets and restaurant gift certificates.

“Soul Creations goes beyond art — they go into life and citizenship and other issues with the kids they work with,” said Richard Engling, co-chairman of the cultural-arts committee of the Chute PTA. “They have lots of enthusiasm for what they provide to the kids of Chute and the community in general.”

The after-school program meets every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Participants begin with a lap around the auditorium followed by breathing and visualization practices to help students prepare for the day’s choreography.

For most of the one-and-a-half to two-hour practices, the girls dance while the boys practice West African-style drumming.

To conclude the practices, students express their feelings about the day in “positive words.”

Some of the 38 students in the program said Soul Creations improved not only their dance skills but also their outlook on life.

“It’s challenging to learn the different moves, but once you get into the program, you learn discipline,” said Brandi Martin, 12. “You learn to do things without whining and I like learning about cultures different from mine.”

Gilo Kwesi Logan, founder and executive director of Soul Creations, said Evanston residents always respond when the program needs financial help. He said the majority of their expenses are supplies, and keeping the free program going is a “constant challenge.”

“It’s a very effective program,” Logan said. “We get evaluations from parents and the response is tremendous. We teach fitness, how to develop self-esteem, self-confidence for those who have no concept of culture or no appreciation for culture. So we make sure there’s development of the child.”