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ElevArte Studio

ElevArte Welcomes New Executive Director

Youth Arts organization grows free arts programs on Southwest side

Maria Leon is the new Executive Director at ElevArte Community Studio, a creative youth development organization in Pilsen. Leon is poised to lead the growth of ElevArte’s free arts programs in Chicago’s Southwest communities including Back of the Yards and Brighton Park. 

A Mexican native who grew up in Back of the Yards, Leon brings over ten years of experience working in non-profit and youth development programming. She has served communities through her work at The Rauner YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, After School Matters and Mujeres Latinas en Accion.

Maria Leon is the third director to lead the organization. She follows Giselle Mercier and founding director, Jean Parisi.

Maria Leon is the third director to lead the organization. She follows Giselle Mercier and founding director, Jean Parisi.

“I am beyond excited to serve Chicago youth through this innovative organization and look forward to working with the board, and an outstanding and passionate staff to expand the panorama of arts programming and create more opportunities for young people in our city,” says Leon.

In 2015, ElevArte partnered with SGA Youth and Family Services and After School Matters to deliver Walls of Hope, a mural program in Brighton Park.  It also provided an arts residency at Lara Academy to create props for the Day of the Dead procession in Back of the Yards.

“We are delighted to welcome Maria to the ElevArte team and be able to count on her expertise as we continue to collaborate with partners to help fill the arts programming void in these communities,” says Elise Kerr, ElevArte’s board chair. “Maria brings the relevant experience needed to help advance the organization and widen outreach.”

ElevArte 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. ElevArte creates youth-activated safe spaces through three core programs: In- School Residencies, Out-of-School-Time Programs, and Community Celebrations.