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Categories:  Campus

Nationwide tour inspires young multimedia artists

Lennon Educational Tour Bus

Bryce Quigg-Hartmann, Cheyenne Banks, Josh Jackson, Brendan Johnson,
Kaina Castillo, Peter Novoa and Maris Smith outside the Lennon Bus at UIC. Photo: Phil Chmalts

An original and catchy beat caught the breeze, coming from a big blue bus sitting outside Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

The vehicle: the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit multimedia studio on wheels that mentors young creators as it tours the U.S. and Canada, parked at UIC through Thursday.

The beat: created by five young members of Chicago Track, a nonprofit training program in music and film, with help and support from the three producers and sound engineers on the Lennon Bus.

The day’s goal: create an original song and video to represent the music and film industries in Chicago.

“The first thing these guys said to us was, ‘This is our home, welcome, but today it’s your bus,'” said Mariah Neuroth, production director for the Young Chicago Authors and one of the lead organizers of the Chicago Track. “Being able to come into a state-of-the-art space and have it feel like your own is great.”

The guys — Philip Chmalts, Bryce Quig-Hartman and Peter Novoa — help young artists with all the resources the bus has to offer. “It’s so inspiring to just do this,” said Chmalts. “We don’t get much sleep, but it’s OK because we just make music all day.”

The bus and crew have been working with Chicago arts groups since it parked here Sept. 6. It will be open to the public for free tours Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. before moving on.

“The Lennon Bus supports young people to produce projects reflective of their ideas, concerns and aspirations in these times, which intersect with efforts to end youth violence and work for peace and justice in our city,” said Lisa Yun Lee, director of the School of Art and Art History. “I knew it had to visit Chicago, the center of the most exciting youth movements.”

Nearly every day, the Lennon Bus hosts a different youth arts organization in writing and producing an original piece. “What they could do with their final product is market themselves,” said Novoa. “It’s the actual proof of what they’re capable of.”

Chicago Track, for young people ages 18 to 25, is funded by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust and includes the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for Chicago, Young Chicago Authors and Free Spirit Media.

“The bus is super cool,” said Kaina Castillo, 18, of Albany Park, vocalist for the track. “You can do everything here.”

The Lennon Bus began in 1997 as a product of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

“John was all about giving back to kids, and getting them involved in the arts,” said Chmalts. “This bus serves as his legacy to get kids to create.”

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