Creativity in Motion

Creativity in Motion

Connected to Our Core Values | Creativity

Isissia Drake first walked into Marillac Social Center two years ago after a peer alerted her to an open Art Instructor position. "I had worked with youth before, but never as an art instructor," she explained, “I didn’t know if I could do it.”

Drake, a Chicago based artist, decided to pursue the job anyway and was hired for her creative expertise. It quickly became clear to her that one of the biggest challenges was how to teach creativity. To do this, Drake had to get a bit creative herself.

"The way I learned art was not how I wanted to teach art," she explained. Drake decided to meet the youth where they were at by focusing on familiar artists. "I started by having the kids critique artists they knew. Especially famous rappers. I asked them to talk about what they liked and didn't like and why." It was this creative approach to creativity that got the kids' attention.

In 2019, after a year at MSV, Drake left to pursue a Masters in Art Therapy, but it was not long before she was back. This time, Hope Junior Program Manager, Deanna Hallagan, reached out to Drake to talk about a big project she had in mind: a mural.

Drake was intrigued by the idea and quickly got to work. "First, I talked to the students about what they wanted the mural to be about. They gave me a lot of their thoughts and ideas about it."

These talks began just several short weeks after the police killing of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter protests. It became immediately apparent that the students, all West Side youth of color, wanted their mural to focus on the current civil unrest and the treatment of black folks. The mural was not just a painting anymore; it became a creative outlet for the young people at MSV to process and express the pain they were seeing and feeling.

Drake guided the discussion about how the students wanted to express these feelings in a meaningful way. She incorporated talks about color and design in the conversations and explained the importance of thinking about where the mural would be placed.

From there, Drake got to work designing the mural itself. "While I designed the mural, I really did try to make it as close to what they described as possible. I wanted to amplify their Creativity. They painted more than 95% of it. I hardly picked up a brush at all. I mixed the paints and guided them, but I wanted them to feel like they did this." she explained. "They even came up with the title", said Drake. The Movement.

Over several weeks Drake and the youth worked daily to complete The Movement. "I was kind of surprised, but the kids really listened. Staying focused wasn't an issue at all." Drake said. "They knew what they wanted to do, and they did it."

In late August, the mural was unveiled at the MSV community garden in East Garfield Park. Drake, MSV youth, and community members celebrated the new art instillation over a socially-distanced evening of barbecue and music.

Drake was proud of the youth's creativity throughout the entire process, and the evening in the garden was the perfect way to cap it all off. "Art helps us develop problem solving skills and creativity and even relationship-building skills. In other words, community. That's the best part."

As Isissia Drake continues to make a career out of creativity, she never forgets why it's such a significant value to carry through life. "Creativity is necessary in order to create the life that you want to live. That's how I look at it," she explained. "You may not have all the resources or everything that you want in front of you, but creativity is all about imagining how you can get to where you want to go."

For more information about Isissia Drake and her art go to or follow her on Instagram.

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