Lara Kastner has been teaching the Wicker Park after school art program for the past four years. In the past the program was funded through Around the Coyote (ATC). However, ever since ATC was dissolved in January 2010, the program has been looking for ongoing funding.

Once a week 18 children meet at the Wicker Park field house to learn about and make art in a free after school program. The children, who are six to eleven years old, learn under the direction of Lara Kastner (, a classically trained Wicker Park-based photographer. Some eighty neighborhood-children have participated in the program over the four years it has been under Kastner’s direction. Many enroll over multiple sessions, but there is always room for new students.

Says Kastner: “I want to give the kids what I didn’t have at their age and give them some of the basic foundations of art typically taught at the college level.” Last year the class’s ‘Journey for the Berries’, a film done in ‘claymation’, was featured in the Chicago Children’s International Film Festival. Young artists have also made self-portraits in the style of Vik Muniz; built and photographed the Wicker Park environment with pinhole cameras; built mobiles; brought the colors of spring flowers into their mixed media paintings; learned perspective drawing, still lives, drawing from a model, and gesture drawing. They have worked with media including: digital photography, clay, wire armatures, India ink, watercolor, found objects, pencil, oil pastels, charcoal, and printmaking.

Kastner assumed creative direction of the program in 2006, and from 2007-2009 the program was funded and administered by ‘Around the Coyote’, a neighborhood-based non-profit arts organization. When ATC was dissolved in January of 2010 The Chicago Park District provided emergency funding for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year. To support three twelve-week sessions; fall, winter, and spring, the program seeks additional financial support of $2400 per session.

If you are interested in providing support, please contact the Wicker Park Advisory Council at