What We Do

Marwen Partnership

Marwen Partnership


Openlands believes art in our open spaces gives voice to landscapes and offers a unique perspective to appreciate nature. We integrate art with our preservation work at sites such as the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve or through our educational programs such as Building School Gardens

One of Openlands' most gratifying relationships has been with the youth arts education organization, Marwen. Founded in 1987, Marwen offers free visual arts courses, college planning and career development programs for underserved Chicago youth in grades 6-12. Each year, the program hosts more than 900 students from nearly 300 Chicago schools for classes taught by practicing artists.

While Openlands and Marwen have partnered for over 20 years, recently the partnership has particularly flourished. Over the past four summers, Openlands and Marwen have helped students explore the relationship between art, community, and nature through the Art at Work program, generously funded by Exelon.

Art at WorkMarwen's capstone career summer internship program for 11th and 12th graders, has served as a valuable means to connect young students with the spectacular natural beauty of the Chicago area. The first three years of Openlands' involvement with the Art at Work program focused on an annual art commission at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. The resulting multi-media projects have enriched the visitors' experience of the existing art at the Preserve, and the recent addition of three student-created, site-permanent murals has established a tangible legacy of the Marwen partnership. 

In 2014 Marwen student work expanded beyond the Preserve into other Openlands initiatives, marking an exciting evolution in the partnership. This year Art at Work students were asked to capture professional-quality photography and video of the work of the Openlands' TreeKeepers program, including interviews with youth volunteers and a family of three generations of Treekeepers. Adding to the richness of the experience, youth from both programs were encouraged to interact with each other to complete the project, and the resulting video represents an ongoing celebration of youth development both in front of and behind the camera.

Marwen provides a magnificent forum for students to appreciate art. It encourages creativity among their students, and allows its students to give voice to their beliefs. Openlands hopes that our continued partnership with Marwen will further increase student access to open spaces and deepen all of our appreciation for the environmental stewardship with which we have been entrusted. 


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