Teacher Institute

The Teacher Institute is the MCA’s most immersive and collaborative professional development program for educators. This free, year-long program is designed to help you investigate, plan, incubate, and implement innovative, contemporary curricula. The emphasis of the Teacher Institute is on supporting teachers in developing socially engaged art projects for the classroom. Socially engaged art uses artistic strategies to respond to issues of importance within a local community and is collaborative and participatory.

Each year, the MCA selects 20 passionate teachers who wish to shake up their practice and make an impact in the lives of their students and school communities.

Applicants must propose a concept or question they want to investigate using contemporary art during the summer residency; implement during the fall semester in the classroom and at the MCA through a field trip; and reflect upon through writing and the production of a shareable resource in the winter and spring. Check out our new Teacher Resources website, developed by members of the MCA Teacher Institute, which serves as lasting documentation of teachers’ original projects.


People sit on the ground in an open-air structure made of long wooden beams and tape
Participants in our Summer Teacher Institute gather underneath a structure they built during a workshop with artist Faheem Majeed Photo: Gillian Fry © MCA Chicago


Support for teacher programs at the MCA is generously provided by the Polk Bros. Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by Crown Family Philanthropies and Discover.

How do I apply?

Applications are currently closed for the 2015–16 school year. Applications for the 2016–17 school year will be available in Spring 2016.

Why the Teacher Institute?

Apply to this program if you are:

  • Interested in integrating contemporary art into your teaching and learning.
  • Motivated to critically engage your students with the art and ideas of our time.
  • Excited to activate the community and engage students in a different way than you have been doing.
  • Open to experimentation and to being challenged to reflect on and push your current teaching practice.

By participating in the program, you will:

  • Make the MCA your haven, your studio, and your laboratory for a year while you develop a contemporary art–based classroom project. The MCA will provide support, including a modest budget for resources, to help make your project a reality.
  • Investigate the qualities of contemporary art and contemporary teaching and learning, paying close attention to the place of the creative process and inquiry in these pursuits.
  • Join a dynamic community and influence its conversation about contemporary pedagogy.
  • Deepen your students’ connection to the city’s cultural resources through a free, artist-led field trip to the MCA.
  • Intensify your students’ engagement with contemporary art through inquiry-based encounters with art objects.


  • The Institute is free.
  • As a full and active participant in the yearlong program, you will earn 45 CPDUs and 3 Lane Credits.
  • You will also receive priority in booking a free, artist-led field trip (with free busing) to the MCA.

What your colleagues have to say:

"To say that the Teacher Institute had an impact on my teaching is an understatement. The discussions with artists and educators passionate about [contemporary art] and about children, not just as students but also as individuals with needs that go beyond learning, made me feel like I could focus on the things I felt were important in the classroom. I thought this program might give my teaching a new edge and engage me in a new way. This has all proven true." —2014–15 Teacher Institute participant

Who can apply?

  • Chicago Public School art teachers are encouraged to apply in teaching teams. Teaching teams may submit one application, but must provide all parties’ contact information in Part II.
  • Some spaces may be reserved for teachers from other academic disciplines as well as non-CPS teachers.
  • Priority will be given to schools with “Developing” and “Emerging” Creative Schools Certification.
  • As this program requires work to be enacted in the classroom, applicants must currently be assigned to teach in a school for the 2015–16 academic year. Teachers must have a minimum of two years’ classroom experience.
  • Teachers who have participated in the program for more than three years are not eligible to apply.


Contact Lydia Ross, Programmer of Education: School and Teacher Programs, at [email protected].

How is the program structured?

The Institute is designed and led by a talented teaching team. Rachel Harper and Nick Hostert are artists and educators who see their work in terms of both contemporary art and contemporary curriculum. Invited artists and educators also support the arc of the Institute during the year.

Summer Residence

The Institute begins with an immersive, weeklong residence at the MCA, designed to be a time and space for you to recharge as a creative practitioner and dive head first into your project, with the museum and your cohort as resources. Sessions include exercises inside and outside the galleries focused on contemporary art and curricula as creative and social practice and independent and group work involving your individual projects.

Fall Seminars and Project Implementation

As you return to the classroom to implement your projects, the Institute continues with two seminars at the MCA. These provide you with time to continue your professional growth while bridging the experiences we have in the museum with what is happening in your classroom. Each Teacher Institute participant will receive one free field trip with busing provided. Starting during the summer residence, teachers will plan field trips in consultation with MCA staff and teaching artists so that it can align with classroom projects. Teacher Institute staff may conduct classroom observations. The semester culminates with a share-out/critique around your projects.

Winter and Spring Resource Development

During the winter and spring terms, the Institute’s emphasis shifts from project implementation to reflective writing and the production of a shareable resource for the larger teaching community. We will gather for an in-person work session to share documentation and collaboratively develop teacher resources.

Teacher Exchange

The Institute culminates in a public symposium to discuss your projects and the related resources produced during the year.