Little Black Pearl
At the Intersection of Art and Education
At the intersection of art and education, the Little Black Pearl (LBP) works to increase opportunities for vulnerable students who may otherwise miss out on the chance to share their artistic talents with the world. LBP serves the youth of Chicago’s South Side, embracing the diversity of the students it serves and welcoming the idea that the complications that often accompany the urban experience are worthy of discussion and acceptance. LBP began as the brainchild of founder, Monica Haslip, who envisioned a community space which would provide support, love, encouragement and trust to children.
“Youth in our community are faced with a number of challenges that make it tougher for them to succeed,” says Haslip. “We wanted to show kids that creating art can be a refuge from troubling circumstances as well as teach them the business side of marketing their art.”
In two decades, the organization has expanded from a gathering in founder Haslip’s South Side residence, to a 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility. LBP is able to serve up to 1,500 pupils annually through in-school and afterschool programs, offering rigorous instruction based on core academics with an emphasis in fine arts and technology. The academy emphasizes, “project-based and problem-based learning addressing real world issues through the lenses of race, gender, culture, economic equity, peace, justice and the environment.”
As a partner with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and WKKF’s America Healing work, LBP has gained additional perspective on diversity and the importance of working to achieve racial equity in education as an economic and moral imperative. Many of Haslip’s students have helped inform her understanding of inequality in opportunities in the arts, but Haslip credits America Healing with providing “a platform to discuss the role race plays in education.” This year, Chicago Public Schools approved Little Black Pearl to offer education to post-secondary students and high school dropouts between the ages of 14 and 19.
“As an extension of our work with Little Black Pearl, we opened Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy to provide a cultivating environment for students who did not thrive in traditional Chicago-area schools,” says Haslip. “Moving away from overly punitive disciplinary systems, and putting programs in place to help students reach their full potential, we have seen that we can have a real impact on keeping youth in school and out of prison.”
In providing an environment that values the practical application of skills and nurtures the creative talents of children, Little Black Pearl is building a community of entrepreneurship and achievement.