Chicago Park District's Young Cultural Stewards (YCS) critically and creatively engage art, technology, and media to become advocates and caretakers of their parks, neighborhoods, and communities. YCS engages over 2,500 youth across 100 parks and 45 neighborhoods through community-based programming including TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Art, Community, and Environment), Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, YCS Fellowship, and ArtSeed Mobile Creative Play. YCS builds on best practices within the field of informal art education and creative youth development to cultivate. Young Cultural Stewards cultivate: 


  • Reframe public parks as sites for cultural organizing and creative capacity building

  • Preserve and contributing to indigenous, local, and global cultural practices

  • Build 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking


  • Cultivate the development of positive self-identity, community, and solidarity

  • Nurture the capacity to imagine change and the willingness to work for it

  • Practice culture making as a tool for social change


  • Foster trust, vulnerability, and the development of interdependent relationships

  • Utilize restorative and transformative justice to address harm and create accountability

  • Provide job training, career readiness, and building the capacity of youth as leaders and lifelong change makers

Young Cultural Stewards is made possible through the support of the Chicago Park District, Crossroads Fund, The Field Foundation, and the Kraft Foundation.

Photos courtesy of Irina Zadov.