News / Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Territory Teens Design Chicago 

What if teenagers had a say in the design of the city of Chicago? What if we treated teenagers’ voices as just as important to the urban planning conversation as others’?

Territory not only seeks to answer these questions, but elevates the voices of teens to have a say in how their city looks, feels, and functions. With previous support from the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX), Territory—a Chicago nonprofit where young people practice urban design, public art, and community planning in their neighborhoods—empowered a team of young people to take on an important project in the Austin neighborhood.

Territory applied for a $5,000 grant from CLX to lead teen workshops around urban planning and designing teen-friendly spaces in Austin. As a result of CLX’s $5,000 grant, the teens involved in the project created an audio archive in Austin and Albany Park where they recorded stories of the experiences of youth in public spaces. These youth conversations were the basis for further funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which awarded Territory a $15,000 Art Works grant in Design Arts for the organization to continue this teen-led project.

The NEA grant will support the Territory Urban Design Team, an urban design and planning program for teenagers in the neighborhood of Austin. Through Territory, Austin teens will have the opportunity to design, build, and advocate for safer and more welcoming public spaces in their community. This project is entirely youth-driven; Territory provides skill-building in community design and urban planning, and students involved in this program and the organization as a whole are empowered to advocate for better public spaces, ones that take into account a teen’s perspectives and needs.

Committed to seeding innovation, CLX is thrilled to have played a critical role in Territory securing funding for this important project. Because being an equitable city means considering all voices in the community, including teens and especially teens of colors, whose voices are often sidelined.