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CHICAGO The Hyde Park Art Center is expanding access to art education with a ‘pay-as-you-can’ model for students.

From children to seniors, visual artists can thrive with a wide range of skills and experience.

“It’s one of the only places bringing together artists and communities at every level and every age from across neighborhoods where really anyone can tap into their creativity and be a part of a community, to help learn new skills and connect with other artists,” executive director Kate Lorenz said.

Typically for adults, classes can run for $300 for a ten-week session. Lorenz said that even with financial aid, cost remained a barrier for many prospective students.

The center is now shifting to a model where students can contribute what they can for classes, meaning some students may pay more while others pay less to help increase access.

“Some people will be able to pay full tuition or even more and support someone else. Others being here is a real contribution and may not be able to write that check but have a lot to contribute to the classroom, to the studio, to the creative conversation and we really want to value that participation as well,” Lorenz said.

The center recently surpassed its fundraising goal to help sustain the open-tuition model while increasing investment in students.

Lorenz said that Hyde Park Art Center may be the first of its kind to shift to the open-tuition model, a tend Lorenz said she hopes continues to other places across the country.

“I think there’s a challenge that’s really human learning, a new skill learning to do something new about, tackling that challenge. It’s really a big part of what makes us human. Humans create,” Lorenz said.