Transforming the Arts + Minds of Chicago, One Student at a Time

ChiArts Visual Arts Mural Course. SOFA Chicago. 2018, Mural on Canvas.

A student posing with his artwork in a gallery

A Day in the Life

Walking through ChiArts classrooms and performance spaces, you can immediately sense a strong community-centered and exploratory environment. Scholar-artist art covers walls; jazz, classical, and theatre rehearsals echo the halls; you discover professional dance studios facing the skyline of Chicago, and ordinary classrooms radiate energy from creative writing spaces.

5 Tuition-free conservatories

2,500+ Hours of pre-professional training

80+ Arts & community partnerships

1,500+ Alumni since 2009

Creative Writing

The Creative Writing Conservatory integrates the ChiArts Core Values into rigorous study of the foundations of creative writing and the development of individual voice and polished work. The first two years of the program will consist of training in the elements of Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. The third and fourth year of the program will consist of advanced studies in Poetry and Fiction, and will also include production classes and professional development courses.  

A student reads her writing aloud to a crowd
Creative Writing Alumni Stories
Alumni Inti Navia

Inti Navia

Columbia College Chicago
Bachelor’s in Journalism
Alumni Damayanti Wallace

Damayanti Wallace

New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bachelor in Collaborative Arts
Pursuing writing fellowships in Hollywood


The Dance Conservatory leads with a student-centered, trauma-informed, and interdisciplinary approach that aims to empower young people to seek and share their unique voice, artistry, and leadership. The program is designed to give scholar-artists a strong foundation in a wide variety of dance styles that ensure all graduates are prepared to enter the professional field of dance and/or post-secondary education with scholarship opportunities.

Group of students practicing dance
Dance Alumni Stories
Alumnus Travon M. Williams in a dance pose

Travon M. Williams

The Ailey School Certificate Program
Company Member of internationally renowned Ailey II, and recently featured on HBO Max’s Legendary (TV Series)
Close up of alumna Imani English

Imani English

Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s professional training company, Encore!
Freelance Choreographer and Dance Faculty for The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), Visceral Dancer Center, and Extensions Dance Center


The Music Conservatory continues to be one of the most enriching and engaging pre-professional high school music departments in the country. The ChiArts Music Conservatory offers both Instrumental and Vocal programs featuring a vast array of courses including: Symphony Orchestra, Music Production, Contemporary Music Studies, A Capella Choir, and Guitar Ensemble just to name a few.

Group of students with musical instruments playing together in the hallway
Music Alumni Stories
Profile photo of Elijah Daniel Smith

Elijah Daniel Smith

Bachelor of Music in Music Composition, Boston Conservatory and Master of Music in Music Composition, Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University
Composer with work premiered by world-renowned ensembles, and PhD candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University as a President’s Fellow
Profile photo of Ravyn Lenae

Ravyn Lenae

Signed with Atlantic Records senior year of ChiArts, and opened for rapper, poet, and record producer, NoName on the Telefone Tour
Released debut album Hypnos with Atlantic Records in 2022, and announced a headlining tour spanning 16 cities


The Theatre Conservatory offers a joyful and diverse program of instruction at the highest artistic level in both Acting and Musical Theatre tracks. ChiArts Acting majors focus on a progression of study including acting, voice and speech, movement, history of theatre  practice and literature, stage production and design, periods and styles, and devising new work. Musical Theatre majors work with Theatre, Music, and Dance Conservatory faculty and follow a progression of study including acting, vocal technique, dance, music theory, keyboard, chorale, the history of musical theatre practice and literature, stage production and design, and devising new work.

Students on stage during a performance of Little Shop of Horrors
Theatre Alumni Stories
Headshot of Kiara Rivera

Kiara (Kairis) Rivera

Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Anthropology, Connecticut College
Chicago-based actor who is passionate about new work and storytelling, and a proud Indigenous q’eqchi Maya and Mexican artist
Headshot of Taylor Blackman

Taylor A. Blackman

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting, Oklahoma City University
Bicoastal actor, recently performed in 1st National Tour of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and a 2022/23 Ensemble Studio Theatre/The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Commission Recipient

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts Conservatory welcomes scholar-artists with a foundation of essential art-making skills and understandings, and then progresses toward more complex concepts including critical analysis of visual culture and the fostering of independent work. Each scholar-artist has the opportunity to “major” in a medium of their choice, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, illustration, and graphic design.

Students in the visual arts conversatory talking with an instructor while working
Visual Arts Alumni Stories
Jane Manfredi drawing at an easel

Jane Manfredi

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bachelor of Fine Arts
Co-Founder and Owner of Good Postage, an independent illustrated paper goods company in Charlotte, North Carolina
Cam Collins standing in a gallery alongside framed drawing

Cam Collins

Rhode Island School of Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking
Exhibiting Artist, Freelance Editorial and Album Cover Illustrator, and Master of Fine Arts student at School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Unique Model of Arts Education

Student practicing dance

In the scope of pre-professional arts programs, ChiArts is the only arts high school in the nation that actively recruits novice students. Novice students have little to no prior training in their art form. On average, 68% of ChiArts incoming classes are novice level. By prioritizing novice students from all Chicago’s 50 wards, and offering four years of intensive, Foundation-funded arts training, ChiArts uniquely supports a more equitable model of arts education that directly removes financial and geographic barriers to entry.

Group attending a gallery exhibition

ChiArts opened in 2009 as Chicago’s first public arts high school. It is the city’s only high school offering tuition-free pre-professional training in the arts. ChiArts engages students from 8 AM-5 PM, including three hours of Foundation-funded arts education from 2-5 PM, and an additional one to four hours of practice or rehearsal per day. ChiArts has five Foundation-funded arts conservatories, and scholar-artists are dedicated to one chosen conservatory. The conservatories include Music (Vocal or Instrumental), Theatre (Musical Theatre or Acting), Visual Arts, Creative Writing, and Dance. ChiArts pre-professional arts instruction is led by working artists and arts educators from Chicago and beyond. The Foundation funds all salaries for ChiArts’ 85+ teaching artists and arts leadership. 

Posters on a classroom wall about Creativity and Community

ChiArts scholar-artists represent all 50 wards of our robust and diverse city. 2023 data shows 38% of scholar-artists identify as Hispanic; 34% Black;16% White;10% multiracial/unlisted; 2% Asian. More than 50% of ChiArts scholar-artists come from low-income families.  

ChiArts seeks to create a model of arts and academic instruction that serves the specific needs of its diverse student body. ChiArts strives to treat each student as an individual and understand the stories they bring with them to school. ChiArts prioritizes building meaningful and positive relationships with students and creating a courageous space that fosters the exchange of ideas, beliefs, viewpoints, and important conversations. ChiArts endeavors to engender a greater sense of belonging and ownership for its students and emphasizes, “The school doesn’t belong to our adults, it belongs to our scholar-artists.” ChiArts leads with practices that are trauma-informed, anti-racist, and restorative, as well as ChiArts Core Values, embedded throughout the everyday curriculum.

Post Secondary & Alumni Programming

Student playing piano for an audience

The five-day event connects scholar-artists to post-secondary opportunities with support from a range of well-loved local colleges, to nationally acclaimed universities, to conservatory training programs. Highlights include: a masterclass with the Music Director of Hamilton on Broadway, audition workshops with local universities such as Northwestern and DePaul, one-on-one portfolio reviews, professional development panels from working artists, and evening performances throughout the week.

Door and windows with "Peace Room" signs over the door

To support an inclusive environment within the school, anti-racism/anti-bias teaching practices, trauma-informed instruction, and restorative justice practices are central to ChiArts’ approach to professional development. ChiArts staff receive training on trauma-informed practices, utilizing the ACES model, anti-racism/anti-bias education through ChiArts’ partnership with Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training, and extensive training on building out restorative practices. ChiArts has focused much of their efforts on helping staff develop self awareness, as well as understanding and defining “privilege,” systems of oppression, and the norms by which we have been socialized. In an effort to support this work, ChiArts has established an Anti-Racism Working Group with staff across the building, to discuss and examine school policies and procedures.

Alumni hugging onstage during an event

The Foundation-funded ChiArts Alumni Network supports alumni professional growth while also continuing to build a community for meaningful alumni connection with the ChiArts family at large. We empower alumni voices to guide our work. Through alumni insight and collaboration, we create programs aligned with the current alumni community’s needs, interests, and values. Current programs include, the Alumni Ambassadors, exclusive apprenticeships and internship opportunities, an online networking platform at, and arts partner performance opportunities. To read more about the Foundation’s newly developed alumni programs, click here.

Student standing up and waving during graduation

You make it possible

With your help, the ChiArts Foundation raises funds to provide tuition-free arts programs and opportunities for scholar-artists to flourish during and beyond high school.