Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement

Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement is a pilot program targeting young adult audiences through dynamic discussions that utilize the visual arts as springboards to civic engagement. Project funding has been provided by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Engage! was piloted in summer 2010 in eight Chicago Public Library branches and the YOUmedia center at Harold Washington Public Library; in fall 2010 by Arlington Heights (Ill.) Memorial Library; and in fall 2010 and spring 2011 at Evanston (Ill.) Public Library. Images and program models from many of these sites can be found in the following pages.

This pilot project builds on the National Endowment for the HumanitiesPicturing America art initiative through the development of supplemental resources that utilize the visual arts as a springboard to civic engagement. The objective for these resources is be to deepen participants’ knowledge and appreciation of American art and its relation to American history and civic life, and to contribute to the development of informed and discerning voters. Through the thematic selection of visual arts resources as points of engagement, participants are led in facilitated discussions on and interactions with the depth and history of American civic life. Resources have been specifically designed for opt-in youth audiences in public library settings.

These pilot programs were implemented in cooperation with the Chicago Public Library, the North Suburban Library System, the Arlington Heights Public Library, and the Evanston Public Library. ALA thanks project consultants Sarah Alvarez, Associate Director of Teacher Programs, Department of Museum Education, The Art Institute of Chicago; Adam Davis, Senior Research and Teaching Associate, Project on Civic Reflection; and independent art historians Wendy Greenhouse and Lisa Meyerowitz for their work in shaping the project.