TheGrio's 100: Monica Haslip, educating the next generation of emerging artists

Monica Haslip departed from her corporate marketing job to teach inner-city Chicagoans the trades of art and entrepreneurship. In 1994, the part-time painter launched the after-school workshops in Little Black Pearl’s Art & Design Center, a pioneering program that prepares children and young adults to market and sell the work they create, inspiring thousands of aspiring artists to forge a future as budding career creatives.

The after-school workshops inside Little Black Pearl’s 40,000 square foot studio have the lofty potential to change lives, giving inner-city students an outlet to pursue imaginative projects in a variety of mediums — wood-working, glass-blowing, and creative writing — along with the practical business skills to find commissions, like learning to retail their work in Little Black Pearl’s gift shop.

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Monica Haslip is making history … by making art education an integral part of underprivileged Chicago communities. Outside of the workshop, the studio partners with local outreach programs to supply student art to South Side redevelopment projects, organize music festivals and fairs, and offer in-school tutoring programs. At the same time, the studio’s Workforce Development Program gives 19 to 35-year-olds a platform to develop their works while interning with Haslip and her staff, which gives these up-and-coming artists access to resources like paints, clay, theaters, gallery spaces, and eventually, jobs.

What’s next for Monica?

The Little Black Pearl studio continues to expand its course offering; Haslip’s students are currently learning furniture design, silkscreen printing, mosaic painting, ceramics, photography, and African dances.

In her own words …

“We really do believe that art has a place in community development and economic development,” says Haslip of Little Black Pearl in a July profile in Chicago Art Magazine, “Hopefully in the future we’ll continue to be at the table where those discussions are taking place, making sure that art is being considered a very important aspect of community.”

A little-known fact …

A recent study by New York’s Center for Arts Education found that there is a direct correlation between art funding in public high schools and overall completion; the more art classes offered in a given school, the higher the graduation rate.

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