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By: Vee L. Harrison

American rapper, actor, community activists, philanthropist and writer Common is at the core of the opening of a new art school on the Southside of Chicago. He and Pastor John Hannah of New Life Covenant are both co-founders of Art In Motion (AIM). AIM will be opening its doors to 7th and 8th graders this upcoming Tuesday, September 3rd.

The school is specially designed for students who are expressive in the arts. AIM is destined to be an asset for the neighborhood. The school is located at 7415 S. East End Ave. AIM hosted its back to school event yesterday, August 31st and Common came out to show his support of the school and the incoming students starting next week. Families swarmed the parking lot that morning to celebrate the new school and a new-found hope for hundreds of youth in their neighborhood.

The Southside of Chicago struggles with escaping the violent and negative stigma that local news often blares through tv screens, Facebook newsfeeds, and radio waves. The neighborhoods out south face an enormous amount of shooting and domestic disputes ending in body bags. There is not just one explanation as to why the southside neighborhoods face such trials. However, there is a method to the madness. And Common, Pastor Hannah, and an entire team at Distinctive Schools has come up with a masterplan. Distinctive Schools is a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the work of charter schools, specifically focused on traditionally underserved neighborhoods.

“This is where I come from,” said Common. “I know we deserve this. We deserve a forward way of education. We deserve places where our kids can go and really benefit in a wholistic way. Where they can learn about themselves and be inspired and aspire to do great things and feel like they are welcome in the school.”

Common said that he wants students to walk through the hallways of AIM and see their own artwork, in addition to other things that motivate and inspire them like quotes, and photos, and expressions centered around love of art and love of self.

“I want them to know that their dreams, and their hopes, and their abilities are infinite,” said Common.

Thirteen-year-old Charisma Boler is one of those young people whom dreams big dreams…beyond infinity. She’s entering 7th grade and will start at AIM next week. Her excitement is indescribable.

“This is like a dream school. If you want to do the arts, this is just a blessing and a big opportunity.”

Boler grew up on the southside. She said she hopes to grow as a singer in the music industry and eventual branch out into other things.

“Art means so much to me because we’re the next generation, so we need to know and be involved in arts to keep it all alive,” said Boler. “We could change the world by using art.”

This is the vision that was at the table a few years ago when a crew of individuals came to the table with a common thread: to save our young people in Chicago.

“Our communities deserve healing. We deserve the love, we deserve the opportunities,” said Common. “AIM is built for that. That is why it brought it back home. This is less than two blocks from where I grew up.”

AIM is distinctively designed for the young, artistic mind. The classes are bright, the walls are covered with artwork, above the doors are beautifully scripted quotes, photos of late great artists. It’s a utopia for any mind dreaming to emerge as a painter, a designer, a singer, a dancer. Students will walk through those doors on Tuesday with so many possibilities.

A few schools and programs have emerged in Chicago, including ChiArts, a high school in Humboldt Park. However, the fact that AIM will cater to 7th and 8th graders is something special. Those are the perfect years to cultivate a young artist and their gifts. AIM will indeed be a crucial destination for young people with those gifts.

“To be able to walk in here and know that this school is here, like this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve done different things, but this is one of the greatest.”

To learn more about AIM and how to enroll, visit their website at https://www.aimchicago.org.

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