The Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago (BGCC) members walked onto the Chicago Bulls court at the United Center, all wearing custom-made, designer sweatshirts as they met Bulls rookie Julian Phillips.
The kids had designed the clothing items through a new program at the James R. Jordan Club with BGCC partner Stitch Lab.
Stitch Lab, which strives to empower young people to explore their creative potential through design, is a 6-week program that has seen an increase in the number of teen boys participating, excited to design their own logos.
In the first session alone, Club members learn how to use computer software, design their own logo based on their school mascot, screen print, and how to use heat to transfer their designs onto apparel. They even got to take their garments home at the end of the day.
“Especially with teens, when you give them the tools to create something that they like or are interested in – the possibilities are endless,” said Kortnee Quiza, BGCC Arts Manager. "Whether that tool be design or entrepreneurship, the take-aways can be applied in their everyday lives now, and well into the future. I think some of them have even surprised themselves and each other with what they’ve been able to create.”
The program is hands-on and has the Club members make the shirt from start to finish, learning how to use all the technology and tools to create the shirt and then transfer it onto a clothing item.
The program has attracted many teen boys, who initially may see it only as a fashion class, but once they jump in, they see it as a digital arts program to encourage their creativity.
“My favorite part is customizing the sweaters,” Club member LaDarius said. “Just to make something that is unique is fun.”
Subsequent sessions have encouraged the Club members to make their own Bulls logo without knowing they would get to sport their designs at a game. Some of the creations manipulated the Bulls' mascot or wrote the team’s name in Japanese.
The surprise was a reward for those who had attended every session and those who had worked hard. They watched the Bulls pregame warmup courtside, and then had Phillips sign some of their gear. For many Club members, it was an experience they said they’ll never forget.
“I really like doing new things and discovering the new apps during the program,” Club member Kennedy said. “Just designing new clothes and stuff is fun.”
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