Launched in 2014, Ignition Community Glass (ICG) is committed to advancing racial equity in the arts by exposing Chicago youth to the dynamic and therapeutic elements of glass making. The program was founded specifically for students who struggle in traditional learning environments but do not have the resources to pursue their talents as learning avenues. “It’s experiencing those learning opportunities – but in a nontraditional classroom – that is the best way to learn,” says ICG Education Director Joe Waropay.
Students between the ages of 14-19 come from a variety of traditional and nontraditional education backgrounds. The students come to learn hot shop traditional glassmaking, glass blowing, fused glass making, mosaic making, and one-on-one flameworking. Students work on group projects to foster a sense of community and accountability. Students also learn important STEAM principles in a social-emotional learning environment. Several past students have returned to teach the new generation, evidence of the value of this program in their lives.
In the eight years since its founding, ICG has served almost 3,000 students by partnering with local nonprofits. They “didn’t want to replicate but wanted to enhance engagement” that these programs had already created, Waropay said.
Recently, ICG partnered with fellow VELA grant recipient The Firehouse Dream to bring 20 nearby students to ICG to learn the STEAM properties involved in the craft, create a unique paperweight of their own, and how to cut and assemble sheet glass for their own tile fusing piece of art. Students can keep their artwork, and ICG also has an online store.
“ICG and my peers have helped me gain confidence and be able to express myself the way I want,” said Anasia, a former ICG student. “My level of pride is high because I see the growth from where I started in this program. A message I hope to convey through my artwork is that with family and others you can do anything.”