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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Parking-meter art to benefit youth homeless projects
2017-10-11

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CHICAGO—Ava's Change4Youth, a program of Pride Action Tank ( PAT ), is launching Oct. 11 as part of the Andersonville Arts Week on Chicago's North Side.

The campaign visually raises awareness of youth experiencing homelessness in Chicago while collecting small change in donation stations to make big differences in the lives of youth. This program also promotes community building through art and advocacy efforts.

Ava's Change4Youth is a project created by youth for youth. Ava Volpe-Santos, 13, brought the idea to PAT after seeing other cities using re-purposed parking meters to raise funds for the homeless. Santos-Volpe and her moms, Theresa and Mercedes, worked with nationally renowned Chicago artist Sam Kirk to create a model art meter for Chicago, with a special design, "Forward Focused," for the first meter.

That Art Meter will be unveiled at Women & Children First Bookstore Wed., Oct. 11, during Andersonville Arts Week kick-off party, 4-8 p.m., 5233 N. Clark St. The bookstore will continue to house the art meter after arts week.

"I heard about the high rate of homelessness among youth, including an estimated 40% who are LGBTQ," said Ava. "My friends and I really want to have an impact, even if that means 25 cents at a time, or larger donations to this important cause. My hope for Ava's Change4Youth is for teens to enjoy art and be a part of something that makes them feel good about themselves, knowing they're supporting others who might be going through tough times too."

Artist Sam Kirk, well known for her murals across the city of Chicago, will attend the launch, along with Ava and her family.

"I am so excited to be part of Ava's Change4Youth," Kirk said. "It is so meaningful to work with youth on this issue. As a lifelong Chicagoan and artist, I know we need many people, including artists, to be involved in helping solve these complex issues."

The art meter will be placed at the bookstore through Oct. 13, when there is a Friday night Stroll & Soriee art walk throughout the neighborhood. It will also be displayed during the City Made Handmade Market in the Swedish Museum's parking lot at Foster and Ashland Oct. 14-15. Arts Week attendees are welcome to donate spare change to the working Art Meter and learn more about the program from Ava and program volunteers.

The goal of Ava's Change4Youth is to have dozens of Art Meters, designed by artists and youth impacted by homelessness, across the city. In addition, Art Houses painted by youth will be available as donation stations in retail outlets. The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman were excited to be the first area to launch the Ava's Change4Youth campaign.

All of the donations will go to AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which is the parent organization for PAT. Program youth participants will serve on an advisory board to help decide how funds are allocated to applicants from youth homeless projects. When working in collaboration with PAT on decision-making, youth are empowered to be actively involved with solving a problem. They promote the program through sharing their stories, community building and leadership.

Ava's Change4Youth is a unique program because funds raised are directed toward impacting youth specifically, while actively engaging them to help with a problem affecting their lives.

Individuals, business owners, artists and politicians can support the project in the following ways:

—Alderpersons can assist in installing Art Meters in prominent areas in their ward.

—Businesses, groups and individuals can sponsor an Art Meter by funding the purchase, installation and upkeep of a meter. Install one near their organization or business to show support for the program. For sponsorship levels, contact Jackie Thaney, JThaney@aidschicago.org .

—An artist can donate their time to mentor a youth in the creation of a meter( s ).

—A youth can contact Thaney to volunteer to work with an artist or join the advisory board.

—A volunteer who wants to help can also contact Thaney.

Direct donations are accepted at PrideActionTank.org/ac4y-donate.

See andersonville.org/aaw/ for more information on the Andersonville's Chamber of Commerce's Arts Week .


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