East Garfield Park program uses glass blowing as therapy for gun violence victims

Jasmine Minor Image
Monday, February 19, 2024
W. Side program uses glass blowing as therapy for gun violence victims
Firebird Community Arts' Project Fire Program in East Garfield Park uses glass blowing as therapy for child gun violence victims.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One West Side organization is getting millions of dollars to build a brand new art studio.

Firebird Community Arts uses glass blowing as therapy for kids who have been victims of gun violence.

The Project Fire Program isn't just a place where these students get to make art, but a place they find therapy, healing and a second chance at life.

"It was the only thing that opened me up to get back out," teacher Lavonte Kyles said.

The first time Kyles walked into the East Garfield Park studio was one of the first times he left his house after being shot.

"I was shot six times," Kyles said.

He didn't think he'd survive, but five years later, he's now a glass-blowing teacher at Firebird Community Arts.

"It just got my mind off of what I was going through. It brought hope to me," Kyles said.

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The Project Fire Program specifically works with teens and young adults who have been injured through gun violence.

"They started to learn responsibility, holding yourself accountable, because this is a job," program manager N'Kosi Barber said.

Barber said after the students learn to craft vases, jewelry or whatever inspires them, they can sell their art and start a new career as a teacher, with more job openings on the way.

Firebird Executive Director Karen Reyes said the organization just received a $2.5 million grant from the city of Chicago to build a new art studio from the ground up.

It means more students, more space, new equipment and even a healing garden.

"Young people's imagination is like, beyond and ahead of all of ours. So, you know, we just have to keep up with their dreams," Reyes said.

Those dreams become limitless during the program, through art and the support of professional counseling and therapy. So, these students can look to the future with eyes wide open.

"Knowing, like, this ain't the end, like you got a lot more living to do, a lot more learning to do," Barber said.

Firebird Community Arts said they're aiming to have the new studio up and running by January of 2026.