Snow City Arts was founded by Paul Sznewajs in 1998 through a seed grant from Ford Motor Company with a commitment to improve the healthcare experience for children in hospitals. These children are unable to get to the classroom because of illness — so we provide them with the educational outlets they definitively lack, and broaden their exposure to arts and culture.
Being seriously ill means friends and school are replaced by machines and hospital. We use the arts to springboard children in hospitals back towards their daily lives, and work to keep them as academically in-step with their healthy peers as possible — all of our workshops are bench marked against 159 age- and skill level-appropriate state and federal learning standards.
The White House and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities underscored the importance of our programming in 2007, honoring Snow City Arts with the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award and recognizing Snow City Arts as one of the 15 best youth programs in the United States. Additionally, in 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized us for our “outstanding arts in healthcare” programs and profiled us as a national Best Practices organization.
In 2002, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois honored Snow City Arts as the corporation’s Community Organization of the Year. Simultaneously, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago honored us as its “Innovative Program of the Year.” It was the first time in the more than 100-year history of the hospital that the award was given to an outside agency. Soon after, we expanded by establishing partnerships to serve pediatric patients at Stroger Hospital of Cook County and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. In the fall of 2012 we started services at our fourth hospital, Children’s Hospital University of Illinois.
Snow City Arts has partnered with numerous cultural organizations, including the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Columbia College Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and many more.
Our children’s work has been featured at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Chicago Children’s Humanities Festival, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. It has also been recognized in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and on every major television network.
The first hospital based Artist-in-Residence Program began at Duke University Hospital in 1975. There are currently about 200 hospital-based arts programs in various forms around the United States — but Snow City Arts is the only program of its kind in Chicago.