Kenwood Academy students among 35 outstanding artists selected for city’s 2018 Rising Star Honor Roll

Contributing Writer

Seven Kenwood Academy High School students were among the 35 young artists recognized as the 2018 Rising Star honorees by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) for their creative leadership and artistic talents at a ceremony on Aug. 8. The event was held in conjunction with the City of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth, which celebrates the contributions of Chicago’s very own young artists and the mentors who inspire them, presented by Allstate Insurance Company.

“Through the Year of Creative Youth, we are shining a light on the immense artistic talent of Chicago’s young people,” said Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in a statement. “We celebrate this year’s Rising Stars as the artists and arts leaders of the future. They inspire other young people to take a creative path.”

The young artists were nominated by their mentors from art organizations, school arts programs and community organizations areas including music, theatre, dance, visual arts media arts, literary arts, and culinary arts.

Ciara Evans, who graduated this year from Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., was nominated by After School Matters’ Chief Program officer Melissa Mister for honor in Dance. Evans founded the Dancing Toward Success, a performing arts education initiative devoted to helping public school kids thrive and share a passion for dance and living an active lifestyle; performed and choreographed her own piece as a rising senior at Kenwood Academy Dance and participated in Forward Momentum Chicago, a dance education non-profit founded and led by Pierre Lockett.

“Dancing Toward Success was inspired by one of my dance instructors at Forward Momentum Chicago,” said Evans. “Pierre Lockett, the founder of that program, wanted to encourage youth across the city to live a healthy lifestyle through active dance programs. I wanted to continue this platform by creating a project that helped kids be healthy, share a passion for dance, end childhood obesity and save performing arts.”

The program, founded in 2015, advocates for participating students to be scholars, displaying discipline in and out of school, having fun, and being active each day. DTS not only includes dancing genres such as modern, hip hop, ballet and jazz; but also allows teen volunteers the opportunity to earn service learning hours toward their Public School graduation requirements.

“We want to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity by inspiring young people with a fun way to get moving,” said Evans. “The program is open to all students, no matter what their level of dancing is.”
Dancing Toward Success is currently at Shoesmith Elementary, 1330 E. 50th St., and New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois.

Other Kenwood students nominated for Rising Star award include Noah Wilson, a rising senior who was nominated by Todd Osborne, media arts teacher at the high school, for his dedication to Visual Arts. Wilson, a member of the school’s National Art Honor Society, is looking forward to expanding his career in animation once he graduates and is thankful for Osborne’s mentorship throughout his years at Kenwood.

“I feel like this is a very huge honor for me,” said Wilson. “I’ve been creating art since forever, always with a pencil in my hand. These last few years, I have been defining my artwork thanks to the motivation of my mentors.”

Wilson said that he owes much of his interest and growth as an artist in the visual arts to his experiences at Kenwood Academy.

“Growing up, I would create my own comics. I’ve always been interested in exaggerated animation that breaks boundaries that are set by reality. Through art, I can create what I want – define my characters, and construct unique storylines. At Kenwood, I’ve learned how to develop my skills as an artist, obtained abilities such as texturing balance for comic strips, and built my portfolio.”

Wilson met his mentor in the eighth grade, through an animation club where Osborne introduced students to stop-motion, visual media, and digital editing. Wilson later enrolled in a unique three-year Digital Media program, which he will complete this year.

“I’m glad to have had Mr. Osborne motivate me to apply to different awards throughout the years. He’s also a traditional artist, so he has always been available for guidance when I wanted an opinion on my art.”

Wilson added that it’s important for students to have that kind of encouragement from faculty when defining their interests growing up.

“When young people believe in themselves and are encouraged to bring their ideas forward, we know they’ll create the kind of society that uplifts us all,” said Vicky Dinges, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Allstate in a statement. “That’s why Allstate is focused on empowering our next generation of leaders by investing in programs like the arts that help young people build critical social and emotional skills. We care about the future of Chicago and our youth and are proud to recognize them as problem solvers, change agents and artists.”

The artwork and creative talents of young artists from a diverse set of Chicago cultural organizations and programs will be on display during the Creative Youth Festival, the new youth arts showcase event on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 11a.m. to 7:30 p.m. throughout the Millennium Park Campus. For more information and the most up-to-date festival schedule, visit

The complete list of Kenwood students honored as 2018 Rising Stars includes:

• Noah Wilson, nominated by Kenwood Academy High School teacher Todd Osborne for honor in Visual Arts
• Ania Weller, nominated by Kenwood Academy High School teacher Todd Osborne for honor in Media Arts
• Jessica Ross, nominated by Kisha Taylor from Chicago Park District Kenwood Park for honor in Literary Arts
• Adero Johnson, nominated by Kisha Taylor from Chicago Park District Kenwood Park for honor in Visual Arts
• Steven Bowman, nominated by Jazz Institute of Chicago for honor in Music
• Ciara Evans (graduated), nominated by After School Matters for honor in Dance
• Georgia Pauley (graduated), nominated by South Chicago Dance Theatre for honor in Dance