Who We Are.

“What does the ‘simple good’ mean to you?”

This question has prompted insights, discussions, paintings, and murals in classrooms throughout Chicago. It also has launched a viral blog and inspired a following across various social media sites.

This question is the foundation of The Simple Good organization and the inspiration for our culminating documentary film, Project: Building Hope.

Since The Simple Good was founded by activist and entrepreneur Priya Shah six years ago, the Chicago-based non-profit has worked to uplift at-risk youth and foster positivity in classrooms not only in Chicago Southside neighborhoods, but also in charter schools and other community organizations in an effort to bring The Simple Good program to broader communities. Shah established this grassroots organization by going into Chicago schools — many located in neighborhoods identified as the most underserved and violent communities in the United States — with the goal of creating safe, creative spaces for students.

Chicago Artist, Brittney Leanne Williams, painting the TSG Logo at live art event

The program — that has now been introduced to numerous schools in the Chicago metropolitan area — begins by teaching students that ‘simple good’ is not a concept isolated to their classroom. The students interact with and learn from The Simple Good’s crowd-sourced photo blog to inspire their meaning of the simple good by learning from others. From that point of connection, the Chicago students are inspired to artistically express their version of simple good. Their expression is rooted in the good that surrounds them in various aspects of their daily lives; in nature, in their family relationships, in their school curriculum and even within themselves. This creative process eventually culminates in a gallery showcase in which elementary and middle school students are given a platform to share their take on the profound concept of universal goodness and positivity.

Student gallery showcase at Arts + Public Life Arts Incubator. Pictured to the right, Poet, Bryant Cross and Emcee, Add-2, viewing students artwork on their meaning of ‘the simple good.’, 2017.

Justin, a fifth grader and two-year participant in the program, shares his version of the simple good in his artist’s statement:

‘My simple good is Love, Me, Peace and Art. I’ve been in the Simple Good for 2 years now and I really enjoy it. I painted an image of myself with everything that is important to me inside. I painted flowers because I just have a thing for flowers. My simple good is love because I like to be loved and I think if there was more love than maybe there would be less violence outside. I will use my simple good to change the world by making people feel loved so that they feel safe.’

While this program certainly introduces an element of fun and creativity to learning about the world, The Simple Good curriculum is so much more than a break from traditional schoolwork or an exercise in feel-goodery. It has measurable impacts that improve the quality of the student’s lives and betters the communities that they live in. The crowd-sourced curriculum not only helps students discover a world beyond their neighborhood, it also challenges them to think about their own meaning of good; empowering them to leverage positivity to impact their communities.

This innovative curriculum incorporates SEL Standards, positive mindfulness, arts creation and experiential learning resulting in a profound art program that changes lives of youth. The union of these elements provides thinking tools such as pattern development, careful observation of the world and conceptualizing complexity. Development in cognitive thinking is critical for at-risk youth in order to express anger, communicate and cooperate with others. The combination of these factors results in decreased risk of delinquent behavior while simultaneously encouraging a positive mindset and productive behavior.

While the foundation of the organization is connecting at-risk youth to positivity of art and discussion through this specific program, the endeavors of The Simple Good organization are far-reaching and have taken the non-profit to new, exciting places in recent years.

Executive director, Priya Shah, speaking at Google art showcase.

The Simple Good partners with artists, galleries and innovative companies local to Chicago, exposing young students to the positivity and healing that art can bring to their lives. Although Chicago-based, the goal of the organization has always been to create a more far-reaching global hub to teach both children and adults about the universal connectedness of creative energy and goodness. The Simple Good has had a range of diverse partnerships with organizations for their youth art showcases such as Google, Raise, Zhou B Art Center, Arts + Public Life, Northwestern University Law School and Adler Univeristy.

Artist J. Ivy performing at City of Big Dreams, 2016.

A prime example of The Simple Good’s exciting new growth is its annual artist showcase and fundraiser, City of Big Dreams. The showcase features a talented slew of Chicago musicians, artists, poets and performers who tap into the same inspiration and principles as the students focus on in The Simple Good program. The headliner for this year’s performance is Roc Nation Emcee — Rapsody and hosted by GOOD Music Emcee, HXLT.

The Simple Good has already kicked off its summer with an exciting art-fueled citywide scavenger hunt. In March 2018, the non-profit’s documentary, Project: Building Hope, will premiere.

In addition to the initiatives described above, myriad exciting endeavors lay on the horizon for this young, ambitious organization. We will be sharing these endeavors, and more stories, with you through this blog.

Now that we’ve introduced ourselves, we just have one question…

What will the ‘simple good’ mean to you?

Follow our journey and share your #thesimplegood!

The Simple Good — Twitter and Instagram: @thesimplegood

Project: Building Hope — Twitter and Instagram: @ProjectBHFilm @projectbuildinghope

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