Chicago Kids Can Express Pandemic Feelings in Public Art Project

‘Once Upon Our Time Capsules’ projects will be turned into art installations.

How have your kids changed during the pandemic? Can they describe what life was like before March 2020? What will life be like after the pandemic is gone?

Kids have a lot to say about how they’ve persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic, from their frustrations to their successes.

Students in grades K-8 from the 77 neighborhoods around Chicago are encouraged to think about the last year: the challenges they’ve endured, the little everyday joys they’ve found and what they hope for the future.

Then, they can turn those memories and feelings into some form of art — a drawing, a poem, a story, a video, a song, a sculpture and more — to join the Once Upon Our Time Capsule public art project.

How to Make a Time Capsule

The art can be submitted online or bundled with a token object from the pandemic to be sealed in a vault. These vaults with children’s art and wishes will be public displays located around the city at iconic institutions like Adler Planetarium, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago History Museum and DuSable Museum of African American History. They’ll be ceremoniously reopened in 2026. 

Chicagoans Stacey Gillett and Stephanie Hodges, who have backgrounds in urban innovation, developed Once Upon Our Time Capsule while the pandemic was still raging. Letting kids do the talking with their art, the pair developed the program hoping to make Chicago the first city to celebrate the resiliency of children during COVID-19.

“Chicago is known internationally for innovation, culture, the arts, and yes, its ‘big shoulders,’” Hodges says in a release. “Today, children are getting permission to climb and ride way up high on those big shoulders, where they can better see themselves, and for the rest of the world to see them. We hope the entire city will get behind this project, to make Once Upon Our Time Capsule a national model and show the world how Chicago came together and used the arts and creative storytelling to help its children unpack, heal and move forward from the past year.”

Art can be submitted all summer long, with drop-off boxes opening at select Chicago Public Library locations beginning June 1. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 15, 2021.


Once Upon Our Time Capsule

Through Aug. 15, 2021

  • How to submit: Submit creations online or at drop-off bins at select Chicago Public Library locations beginning June 1. Parents and teachers can check out online curriculum to help guide kids through the project, or download a fill-in-the-blank comic book page.


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