Chicago Academy for the Arts Opens Prodigy Institute Next Week

Chicago Academy for the Arts Opens Prodigy Institute Next Week

The Chicago Academy for the Arts, a Kennedy Center School of Distinction, launches its latest innovative program, The Prodigy Institute. Recognizing that The Academy is an incubator of incomparable artistic talent situated in the heart of one of the nation's most venerable arts communities, The Prodigy Institute facilitates students' access to professionals working in the field as well as the community's access to the some of the most promising young talent in the country. The Prodigy Institute continues to advance The Academy's position as a nationally recognized leader in arts education.

"The Prodigy Institute engages Chicagoland's world-class institutions and the world's most exciting and relevant artists of the day to provide experiences to our most promising young artists," says Academy Head of School Pamela Jordan. "The Institute's professional experiences enable our students to elevate their creative potential to the highest level possible, and attract those students with the greatest potential to Chicago and to The Chicago Academy for the Arts."

The Prodigy Institute increases professional development opportunities for Academy students by expanding the number of master classes and artistic residencies; formalizing partnerships with premier international, national and Chicago-based arts organizations; and creating outreach programs that allow students to serve Chicago communities. The Goethe Institut, Harris Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Lyric Opera of Chicago are among the partner arts institutions in the Institute's inaugural year.

Prodigy Institute founder and principal donor Dan Epstein of the Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation remarks

"To me, the Prodigy Institute is an innovative and dynamic platform which provides talented emerging artists unique access to excellence which will help them realize their ultimate artistic potential. The concept of establishing alliances between The Academy and professional arts organizations and master classes through the Prodigy Institute offered a rich platform for raising Chicago Academy for the Arts education to a new and exceptional level. By providing gifted students (and faculty) the opportunity to experience professional-level performances, exhibits, master classes and similar activities, emerging young artists can truly cultivate and maximize their artistic vision."

To celebrate the launch, The Academy is hosting an event Tuesday, February 25 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The event will highlight the Prodigy Institute's vision, and showcase the Institute programming in the dance and visual arts departments.

The Institute's programming will enhance the curriculum in each of The Academy's six arts disciplines: dance, media arts, music, musical theater, theater and visual arts.

As part of the Prodigy Institute, The Academy's dance department is bringing in three different professional choreographers to set works on the dancers. Acclaimed choreographers include Autumn Eckman, Rehearsal Director and resident choreographer at Giordano Dance Chicago, Owner and Artistic Director of Visceral Dance Studio and Company Nick Pupillo and Academy alum Jonathan Alsberry, a Lar Lubivitch dancer and Azure Barton dancer and choreographer who's danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Madonna, among other luminaries. From the beginning of February through the end of April, each choreographer will have a maximum of 10 days to work with the dance department. The works of all three choreographers will be performed by The Academy dance department Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for student and are available at

Media Arts
California-based Menlo MacFarlane will facilitate a workshop on creativity for the media arts students of the Academy. The workshop will include experimental activities designed to provoke a fresh perspective on the generation of ideas for student films, poetry, fiction and animation.

The Academy's music department has implemented master classes, residencies and initiatives in its Prodigy Institute program, which encompass composition, jazz and classical music. Chicago-based composer and performer Chris Fisher-Lochhead will serve as a composer in residence throughout the semester, working intensely with the department's composition class throughout the semester and writing directly for The Academy's instrumentation of a new music youth ensemble. The ensemble will perform this work in May. New York City jazz pianist Ben Patterson, who has worked as a pianist for NEA jazz master Von Freeman, will serve as a guest artist for jazz students. Contemporary music specialist Greg Bayer and pianist Mabel Kwan will serve as classical music guest artists for the Institute. Both Bayer and Kwan are member of Chicago-based cultural music collective Ensemble Dal Niente. The acclaimed Ondas Ensemble will also be involved in the classical music teachings of the music department's Prodigy Institute program.

Musical Theater
Known for his work with the American Theater Company, Million Dollar Quartet, Bohemian Theater Ensemble and Chicago Children's Theatre, among others, Nicholas Davio will serve as the Musical Director for the musical theater department's spring production of The Spitfire Grill. The production opens Friday, March 21 at 7 p.m., and two additional shows Saturday, March 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at The Chicago Academy for the Arts blackbox theater.

As part of the Prodigy Institute, the Academy's theater department has developed a partnership with legendary comedy enterprise The Second City. A Second City school of improvisation faculty member will teach Academy theater students the fundamentals of improvisation taught and practiced at The Second City for eight consecutive weeks. The students will perform their class-generated work during A Taste for the Arts' gala performance May 13, 2014 at 6 p.m.

Visual Arts
Expanding on the "home" theme from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) exhibition "HomeBodies" and the Academy student exhibition of "HomeWork," the visual arts department will incorporate both museum and show visits and various artist residencies and workshops as part of its Prodigy Institute program. Artists Cheryl Blanchard and Matthew Woodward will come to the Academy for short residencies. Professional welder and visual artist Shannon Kerrigan will hold a studio visit and demonstration. Contributing critic to Art Ltd. Magazine and Visual Art Source, among others, Robin Dluzen will hold a statement workshop for Academy students.

In collaboration with the Academy's media arts department, the visual arts department is bringing in contemporary artist, film maker and cartoonist Lille Carre, whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Best American Comics and Sundance Film Festival, for an artist lecture and master class at the Academy.

The Prodigy Institute program will help position The Academy to advance toward its Vision 2020 goal to set new standards in arts education.

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