by Maria-Isabel Allen-Cardona and Nick Joy
Student showcases at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) are a major part of the academic and conservatory experience for students. Students celebrate African American, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQIA+, and other cultures with performances throughout the year. The showcases are student-organized and student-performed, and both students and faculty anticipate them with excitement.
Most showcases take place second semester, so students have an opportunity to plan and practice. As showcase season nears, students look forward to the acts that are put together after months of practice and organization.
Although widely considered a success, the recent Hispanic Heritage Showcase allegedly had a few communication issues with the school during the planning stages. Student organizers cited problems with scheduling, booking rooms, and access to equipment (instruments, lights, microphones, and stage props).
One of the leaders of the Hispanic Heritage Showcase, senior Stephanie Galicia said, “There was a whole problem finding rehearsal space because teachers needed to be in the rooms.”
Any showcase needs rehearsals, no matter the scope of the performance. ChiArts showcases require students to have a teacher present in any room in which they’re working. The school says this is a safety issue, and that it’s against the law for students to be left unattended.
In order to book a room, students must make a request with the administration, then find a teacher willing and available during lunch to supervise.
“You gotta get through so much to get things together. I need an instrument, now I gotta go through this person; I need a room and now I need to get through this other person. The things like that were hard,” said Madeline Cardona, a frequent participant in all of ChiArts showcases.
Putting everything together is a tedious process to begin with; students who reported late or lack of follow-up from the administrative staff said the process is needlessly difficult.
The ChiArts Double Space spoke with a student who asked to not be named about these issues because they didn’t want to damage or strain relationships with staff members.
“It’s hard because a lot of times things get shot down and are said to be ‘too much.’ It’s easier for [the school] to say no. Or, ‘It’s too much work for one person to do,’ even though there is a person who is willing to help with whatever is proposed,” the student said.
If a student or a teacher proposed to help bring supplies or bring their own resources that were needed for the showcase, they might be told no by staff in charge.
This is an issue that has been brought up by other students that participated in showcases who also declined to be named in this article.
“The showcases themselves are student led programs, and we [the staff] try to support them to the best of our ability. It is up to the students to organize and schedule their dates,” said Mark Bracken, production manager and technical director at ChiArts.
Bracken noted that it it’s very important to the staff at ChiArts to provide “equity across the board” when providing time to student groups who want to stage showcases.
Bracken said that microphone usage, access to lighting, and movement of instruments is equal for all the showcases.
“Every showcase is supposed to get the same amount of materials. At least from my end. You get four microphones and an auxiliary cord,” he said.