About the Studio


ElevArte Community Studio is a social impact organization that uses the arts as a portal for Creative Youth Development. A dedicated cadre of teaching artists and youth inspire and support each other as art makers and active citizens.

We create youth-activated safe spaces through three core programs:

  • In-School Art Residencies
  • Out-of-School-Time Programs
  • Public Engagement Events

As an extension of our core values, ElevArte:

  • Honors tradition and innovation
  • Engages youth as change agents
  • Promotes critical thinking, resourcefulness and resilience
  • Listens and responds to the voices of our artists, youth and community

In our vision of the future, ElevArte animates and elevates the quality of life for every citizen in our community through equal access to the arts and technology.



ElevArte proactively creates a counter-narrative, intentionally choosing affirmative language when speaking about the community it serves. ElevArte’s asset-based methodology informs our choice to move away from misnomers like “at risk” and “poor.” We opt for “at-promise” and “underserved” because it positions our youth for success, reinforces the idea that provided with adequate support and services they possess the potential to prosper and succeed in life.  The "at-promise" youth we serve deserve access to a high quality education, ample opportunities for leadership development, and a safe environment where they can grow, thrive and be prepared to be our future neighborhood leaders.


1978 ElevArte is founded as Pros Arts Studio by artists leading an Arts-in-Education Residency at St. Procopius School (known locally as St. Pros, thus the name). That same year ElevArte begins its community collaborations with a Mural Poem Performance at the 16th street viaduct in partnership with neighboring community centers.

1979 ElevArte initiates its first annual cultural program for the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) including a procession through the neighborhood, with workshops and performances.

1980's ElevArte developes a wide-range of bilingual performance programming including a "Readers Theatre" for area schools.

1993 ElevArte, already known for its arts-in-education activities, becomes one of the first participants in the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) initiative.

2002 ElevArte moves into Dvorak Park as an Arts Partner and creates a Free Drop-in Studio.

2005 ElevArte responds to youth feedback and holds the first We Are Hip Hop Youth Festival. The youth-led festival uses the arts and urban hip-hop culture to bring the community together—ultimately, inspiring the restoration of existing community murals by the youth, as well as the creation of new murals during the summers of 2007 and 2008.

2008 After 30 years at the helm of the organization, ElevArte’s founding Executive Director, Jean Parisi retires and Giselle Mercier is appointed as the new Executive Director.

2010 ElevArte creates a five-year strategic plan to more eloquently communicate its commitment to youth development while mapping the way forward, through an economic recession and into a period of organizational development and maturation. A more focused mission, vision, and organizational values emerge along with the decision to re-name and rebrand to more accurately reflect the organization’s work and the community served.

2011 ElevArte is the recipient of the Grant for Good, a grant that includes a year of in-kind services. Over the year the organization begins the rebranding process, remodels the office space and computer lab and receives training in the areas of fundraising, social media and board development.

2012 The organization unveils its new identity as ElevArte Community Studio. 

2014 Muertos de la Risa, ElevArte’s Day of the Dead community procession celebrates its 35th year.

2015 The We Are Hip Hop Youth Festival celebrates its 10th Anniversary.  ElevArte stakeholders draft the next three-year plan (2016-18), it includes steps to further diversify the funding portfolio, continue as a thought leader and advocate for creative youth development, and deepen support for successful student transitions (i.e. high school, college and career.)