art + technology = choices The Chicago Center for Arts and Technology

When ChiCAT opens in March 2017, Chicago will join the movement started by MacArthur Genius Bill Strickland and Manchester Bidwell Corporation over 40 years ago. Nationwide, Centers for Arts and Technology (CATs) successfully increase high school graduation rates and equip adults for life-changing employment opportunities. ChiCAT will activate a potent set of proven practices, including:

  • Demand-driven, sector-focused job training in partnership with employers
  • Digital skill-building and arts-enabled outcomes for youth
  • Human-centered design and program space that celebrates and elevates individuals
  • Commitment to serving the lowest income, most distressed families
demand-driven, sector-focused work readiness

At ChiCAT, unemployed, underemployed or transitional adults will receive industry demand-driven and sector-focused career training that leads to employment, a living wage and opportunities for advancement.

arts-enabled academic outcomes

ChiCAT’s classes and instruction in digital arts and design will support creativity, community building, and various pathways to employment. ChiCAT will be faithful to a model dependent on small teacher-to-student ratios, instructors who are practicing professionals, experience-based and human-centered design and learning, and celebration of student accomplishments.

national standard, local context

Chicago will be the largest city to establish a CAT and will marry proven national design standards with local need and relevance.

ChiCAT is located in the Illinois Medical District/University Village neighborhood of Chicago and will primarily serve the residents of the North and South Lawndale, Little Village, Pilsen, Austin, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Lower West Side communities.

fidelity to a proven model

Nationally, 90% of CAT students who attend youth arts courses during high school graduate. ChiCAT has learned what works from the other CATs nationally, all of which are open and doing well, and will focus its efforts on maintaining the highest fidelity to the Manchester-Bidwell model in Pittsburgh.


Play the video below to hear from Bill Strickland speak about the philosophy ChiCAT will follow.

art + technology = choices

Chicago Center for Arts & Technology is seeking $12 million from a diverse and diversified base of supporters to furnish the facility, fund immediate and ongoing programmatic and operating expenses, and begin serving students by early 2017.

Every human being is an asset and every life is valuable.

employer-ready ADULT LEARNERS

While the Chicago area currently hosts 23 community colleges and over 85 workforce providers with a variety of training opportunities for adults, much of the existing infrastructure does not align with industry demand for occupation-specific skill development.

Our adult curricula have been selected because employer demand for these occupations is high, they provide a living wage, and they are well matched to ChiCAT’s targeted group of lower-skilled individuals with limited work history.

ChiCAT has assembled a network of partners who will come together as a group regularly to review and inform ChiCAT curricula, provide resources to ChiCAT (space, technology, expertise, etc.), and aid ChiCAT in expanding its already impressive network of supporters and advisors.

strategic partners (as of august 2016)
  • Allied Health Care Network (AHCN)
  • Chicago Cook Workforce Partnerships
  • Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC)
  • Delta Institute
  • Forefront
  • Illinois Medical District

A subset of these ChiCAT partners additionally commit to hire ChiCAT graduates and provide feedback on ChiCAT students' performance in their organizations. ChiCAT has already secured commitments from six such employers, with several more to be announced soon.

Employment Partners (as of August 2016)
  • Mercy Hospital & Medical Center Chicago
  • Newly Weds Foods
  • Rush University Medical Center
  • Saint Anthony Hospital
  • Sinai Health System
  • UIC Circle Square

human-centered design solves human problems and expands human possibility.

ChiCAT will focus on transforming people and communities, directly addressing participants' skill and employment gaps. ChiCAT participants will work to transform themselves from unemployed jobseekers to tax-paying citizens.

The wages listed alongside the programs detailed below will increase upon increases in the mandated minimum wage.

MEDICAL ASSISTING, billing and coding: approx $1.4 million

Health care remains a growing sector. Cook County's public/private health care system continues to have intense need for medical assistants and those trained in medical billing and coding. As an institutional partner in the Illinois Medical District, ChiCAT will facilitate critical synergy between anchor demand and supply. Average starting wages for trained medical assistants, billers and coders are $33,000 to $36,000.

MAINTENANCE MECHANICS (mechatronics): approx $1.8 million

Mechatronics is a future-oriented discipline and skill and the occupation with the highest demand in the advanced manufacturing sector in the region. Successful mechatronics training and placement will transform the workforce development system in Illinois and across the country. Average starting wages for trained maintenance mechanics are $45,000 to $50,000.


ChiCAT will satisfy a wide gap between needed skills and a well-trained work force for these high-demand occupations in the advanced manufacturing food cluster. Average starting wages for food manufacturing lab technologists and quality control technicians are $35,000 to $37,000.

creativity fuels enterprise.

customizing educational support

ChiCAT will work with school counselors to receive one-on-one recommendations for youth participants. By partnering with individual schools, ChiCAT will establish rapport with staff and faculty, win students' trust to participate, and share data to measure outcomes including grade progression.

prioritizing social/emotional learning

ChiCAT will make social/emotional learning (SEL) a high priority within its youth curricula to support academic and career success. Moreover, according to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), quality SEL instruction can lead to:

  • improved attitudes and behaviors
  • improved emotional well-being
  • better academic performance
youth digital studio: approx $1.1 million

Our Digital Arts Studio will help youth to develop a personal mastery in working with computer technology for developing and enhancing music, art, videos, and photographs. Classes in this Studio explore digital photography, video production and editing, web-based animation, website design, graphic design, and music editing and production. For these young participants, the Digital Arts Studio will be a gateway to new environments, cultures, and experiences.

youth design studio: approx $1.1 million

The Design Arts Studio will expand a student’s ability to appreciate processes, enhance their creativity and provide a valuable opportunity to showcase personal successes. Students will explore various media including drawing, painting, textiles and printmaking. In addition, students will develop their ability to express themselves, both artistically and verbally.

environment shapes behavior.

tech suite: approx $400,000

ChiCAT's Tech Suite will be anchored by 3D printers within a maker lab. A high-tech, creative environment geared to the future of our regional and national economy, the Tech Suite will provide space for youth to design, create and advance transformational ideas and expand human possibility.

multi-use performance SPACE: approx $1.1 million

An earned revenue generator through rental fees, ChiCAT's performance space will be a home for programming ranging from performances by supreme young jazz artists to a discussion series on futurist thinking and predictions (e.g., the future of work in the age of robotics and globalization, ethics in the age of cloning and nanotechnology). The space will also provide a charming and inviting area for students, staff and visitors to break bread and foster a shared desire for communal gatherings.

We start strong.

applying what we've learned nationally

Among many programmatic and facility design lessons, Manchester Bidwell and CATs nationally have demonstrated and shared important guidance for ChiCAT's application. We learned that owning our own building is an important first step, and we have crossed that milestone. We also know we must build financial and organizational strength and sustainability before we launch.

five-year sustainabily fund: approx $4 million

Unlike most other start-up organizations, ChiCAT will start strong. Thanks to the pedigree lent by other CATs, its long gestation period with community leaders, and its visionary early donors, ChiCAT will possess many physical, financial and leadership assets normally found only in a much more mature organization. The importance of building a financial reserve from day one cannot be underestimated: in the current environment dominated by the State of Illinois budget crisis and shifting philanthropic priorities from funders, most nonprofits without a reserve are having to curtail programs and lay off staff with some even closing their doors.

art + technology = choices.

We have the opportunity to catapult an organization from a standing start to a stable, effective community anchor. ChiCAT’s strength and proven model make it an excellent philanthropic investment. With support from visionary donors, ChiCAT will create clear opportunities for young people and adults—opportunities to learn, to ask questions, to be inspired by each other and by their instructors, to be mentored, to gain confidence and skills, to transform themselves and impact positive change in their families and communities.

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