Meet the Teen Artists from The Street Arcade

The Street Arcade
Working collectively as new media group The Plug-In Studio, artists and 2015 A Blade of Grass Fellows Steve Ciampaglia and Kerry Richardson collaborate with young people and adults in Chicago communities to make video games, interactive kinetic sculpture, augmented reality graffiti and other art with technology. Over the summer of 2015, they collaborated with thirteen teen artists from Chicago’s South Side to create a series of art video games on social issues such as white privilege, racial profiling, immigration, peer pressure, and bullying.

The teen artists’ unique, 8-bit style games were presented at The Street Arcade, a public event at Hyde Park Art Center, in which arcade-style consoles were set up along the street and the games were projected onto the exterior of the art center building. As family, friends, neighbors and passersby gathered along the sidewalk to play the games, the teen artists engaged them in dialogue.

Joelle Te Paske spoke with four of the teens via email to learn about their experiences with the project. Read on to hear their perspectives.

Many thanks to Carris Adams, Teen Programs Coordinator at Hyde Park Art Center, who helped facilitate these interviews.



Joelle Te Paske (JTP): What made you want to get involved in The Street Arcade?

Osaze Pettaway-Smith: I love two things: art and videogames.

JTP: What was your game like?

OPS: My game was deep in meaning, with a harsh twist. My favorite moment was when we designed the sprites and scenes.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.57.53 PMTHE CLEANSING by Osaze Pettaway-Smith – “Prejudice can lead to harming someone because you get the wrong idea about them — something that’s not even true.” Click here to play.


JTP: How did you get involved in The Street Arcade project?

Atieno Hope: My mother was browsing around for summer activities nearby that were also affordable, and came across The Street Arcade program at Hyde Park Arts Center.

JTP: What made you want to do it?

AH: The program was involved with computer programming which is something I have a background in. The end-of-session payment [to the teen participants] and the fact that it was free also intrigued me when I heard about it.

JTP: What was your game like?

AH: My game was a catch-and-dodge game that was timed. My favorite parts of the game are the artwork and the dimensions used.

JTP: Had you made anything like this before?

AH: I had never made a video game but I had used a computer program similar to Scratch [a free programming language used for The Street Arcade] on the website Since I had worked with a similar program many of the commands we used were the same, so it wasn’t difficult for me to pick up.

JTP: What was your favorite moment?

AH: My favorite part of the whole project would have to be when we began to make artwork for our games. In fact, I was so into it that I went home and started making my own designs for fun.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.21.02 PMBAD HABITS by Atieno Hope – “Kids my age today battle obesity because [things like] social media target them the most.” Click here to play.



JTP: What was your game like?

Brooklynn Howard: My game was a catch-and-dodge game, and you had to get to 1,500 points in 2 minutes. I had never done anything like this before. The hardest part was the coding but after a while it got easier.

JTP: What was your favorite moment?

BH: The Street Arcade event itself. I liked watching people play my game, and having fun playing it too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.17.03 PMYOUR CHOICE by Brooklynn Howard – “I was interested in the fact that a lot of teens choose the wrong things because of their friends or because of peer pressure, and a lot of people don’t tell them, ‘It’s your choice.’ They don’t know they have a choice to not do something if they don’t want to.” Click here to play.


JTP: How did you get involved in The Street Arcade?

Kendall Mensah: I got involved through an announcement from my last Plug-In Studio class. The fact we had the chance to showcase our game with the public made me want to do it.

JTP: What was your game like?

KM: My game was like a “pick your path” game where you make a decision based on peer pressure. My favorite part was picking the right path in life in the game.

JTP: Had you made anything like this before?

KM: I never made anything like this and it was hard to learn at first but, but it was easier the more I worked on the game.

JTP: What was your favorite moment?

KM: My favorite moment from the whole project would be showcasing the game outside the Hyde Park Art Center to the public.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.12.44 PMLIFE CHOICES by Kendall Mensah – “Let’s be honest. Teenagers are stupid. They want to drink and hang with the wrong people. But you could hang with the right people, get a good score on the ACT and have a bright future.” Click here to play.


Images: The Street Arcade graphic courtesy The Plug-In Studio. Public event images: Courtesy Robert Banke/Northern Illinois University. Teen portraits: Atieno Hope, self-portrait. All others courtesy the Teen Photo Studio Program at Hyde Park Art Center, and Teaching Artist Lisa Lindvay.

Correction: This post has been edited to include an updated artist description for The Plug-In Studio, and image credits for Robert Banke/Northern Illinois University.

See more articles tagged:  
ChicagoDesignRacial JusticeThe Plug-In StudioThe Street ArcadeYouth
More Articles Like This One
  • Growing Food and Self-Determination in North Omaha
  • Crafting a Space to Write, Cook, and Celebrate Black Women’s History
  • Innovating Art Pedagogies as Radical Activism