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Who We Are

History of Firebird Community Arts


In 2020 we changed our name from ArtReach Chicago to Firebird Community Arts in order to better signal the rebirth of our organization. The symbolism is clear: The mythological firebird regenerates through flame and so did we. Our clients use two fire-based artforms, glass and ceramics, to reimagine and rebuild themselves. We all are shaped by that heat. Today, our offerings include trauma-intensive programs with robust wraparound services and healing justice initiatives that focus on cultivating well being and reimagining futures.

We deliberately relocated to East Garfield Park in an effort to be closer to, and of better service to, the Chicago communities most in need of affordable, high-quality arts instruction and a safe space within which to practice art as a tool for healing.

For us, that means offering arts instruction to people living in a variety of neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city. It also means bringing people together, who would not otherwise meet, to learn from and connect with one another.

Conscious Transitions

In 2012, Dr. Karen Reyes became our Executive Director and her vision and deep understanding of Chicago transformed the organization by focusing on social justice--using art as a tool for building and organizing communities. As a result of Karen’s leadership, we began serving Chicago Public Schools on the South and West sides, formerly incarcerated individuals, homeless populations and families dealing with cancer.

In 2015, we radically reimagined the mission of our organization when we joined forces with renowned glassblower Pearl Dick, who has been working with youth from the South and West sides of Chicago since 2006. We started offering programming out of our first brick and mortar building, the Firehouse Art Studio on the near West Side of Chicago. Prior to joining ArtReach as its Artistic Director, Pearl co-founded a program called Project FIRE with Healing Hurt People Chicago, which explores healing through glassblowing, mentoring and trauma psychoeducation for youth who have been injured by gun violence. Project FIRE led us to redefine our mission to focus on using art as a tool for healing.

Our Inception

Founded in 1990, our nonprofit began as an outreach organization of a for profit art center. Back then, the founders wanted to bring art resources to neighborhoods and individuals who lacked access. Over the last thirty years, the organization has honored the original legacy by expanding access to rarified artforms.