School Focus: Talcott Fine Arts & Museum Academy

Since 2004, Talcott Fine Arts & Museum Academy has been a partner of WITS. Located in West Town, the school serves 528 students from Pre-K to eighth grade. For 12 years, WITS has entered Talcott’s doors providing early childhood summer programs, kindergarten programs, mid-day mentoring, and after-school programs. Every Thursday, four of our community volunteers head over to the school’s library on the third floor of the building to read with their individually-assigned kindergarten buddies. The library is a prime space for WITS students to work on their reading skills. It is a comfortable site composed of glossy-wooden flooring and royal yellow walls that extend along shelves of endless literature. It’s a radiant space with several tall windows that captivate the outskirts of the city while expelling subtle rays of sunlight into every corner of the room.

Built in 1895, Talcott has been a unique gem in the neighborhood, and is known as Chicago’s first and only museum school. Museum-Schools have partnerships with other institutions to provide educational resources for families, students, and the community. Talcott has historic partnerships with the Art Institute, Northwestern Law School, National Museum of Mexican Fine Art, and the Field Museum, which is visibly noticed! The most fascinating visual quality of the school is its vibrant artistry. Captivating mosaics run along the outside walls of the building and pour alongside the school’s hallways. Student-created artwork is also suspended on the walls to demonstrate the creative minds that thrive at the school.

Before the Talcott kindergarten students arrive to program, the mentors pick out a wide variety of books such as Elephant and Piggie, Pete the Cat, and Todd Parr stories. After the books are chosen, they set up their book displays at robust-wooden tables, and proceed to read with their buddies in 15 minute rotations. Our volunteers include notable marketing managers and psychologists, who have mentored at WITS for several years. When asked about the WITS Kindergarten program, Bob, WITS Kindergarten mentor explained, “I always look forward to seeing my regular ‘book buddies’ every week”. Talcott kindergarten students are always eager to read with their literacy mentors.

“It has been a joy to get to know each of my readers and see the smiles on their faces when I greet them. I’ve loved watching them grow more comfortable and confident throughout the year, and it’s always exciting to watch them learn a new letter, word, or phrase. Plus, I’ll never get sick of reading about ‘Piggie & Gerald!’ I feel fortunate to be part of WITS!”
–Julia, WITS Kindergarten Mentor.

By Kevin Hujar, WITS Program Coordinator