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Preservation Projects
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3 Chicago Public Schools Films

In 2015, Chicago Film Archives received funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve three short films in CFA’s collections that highlight three innovative programs introduced within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in the 1960s and ’70s by the Chicago Board of Education. These three films offer a picture of Chicago’s public school system in a time of transition. They incorporate and reflect the Chicago Board of Education’s response to an era when major institutions and social structures were being regularly challenged on a national basis.

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education [CPS General Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin C. Willis], 1964, B&W, Optical Sound, 27 min.

View the newly preserved print here.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, circa 1966, B&W, Optical Sound, 20 min.

View the newly preserved print here.

METRO!!!: THE SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS, Rod Nordberg, 1970, Color, Optical Sound, 18 min.

View the newly restored and preserved print here.

Each film introduces a distinct and newly implemented CPS program: summer school programs (From A to Z: The Story of Special Summer Schools), gifted student programs (A Soil For Growth: A Story of the Gifted Child Program) and the radical Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (Metro!!!: The School Without Walls). While the CPS has since cut many of these programs, the content and stories within these films still offer some food for thought for the re-shaping and re-evaluation of Chicago’s public school system today. The films also provide an inspiring slice of history of the often volatile and turbulent relationship among the City of Chicago, CPS teachers & staff, and Chicago parents & students.

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS (1964, Goldsholl Associates)

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS (1964, Goldsholl Associates)

Chicago-based Goldsholl Design & Film Associates produced two of the films for the Chicago Board of Education, while local filmmaker & editor, Vince Waldron, produced the third. The Goldsholl Associates’ films thoughtfully present the views of their client and subjects, while Metro!!! director Rod Nordberg offers a unique on-the-ground perspective of the newly formed Metro High School or “School Without Walls” — a bold experiment by the CPS that operated from 1970-1991.

The Goldsholls considered filmmaking a cerebral process that, if allowed, could thrive on serendipity. The firm’s two films made for the Chicago Board of Education are no exception, with the subjects at hand often mirroring the playfulness and experimentation of the Goldsholls’ own bustling studio. The films introduce viewers to newly instated programs within the CPS from the early to mid 1960s by simply presenting facts and quietly observing each program. Often the films present vérité-style footage of active classrooms as well as non-scripted voices of students, teachers and parents. The non-obtrusive camerawork and candid voices in these films give them a distinct humanist tone, a tone that is often absent from the sponsored film genre.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

Similarly, Rod Nordberg’s Metro!!!: The School Without Walls gives voice to the students and staff of the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies, or “Metro,” and more broadly introduces viewers to this progressive “school without walls.” Metro was a four-year high school that was part of the CPS system from February 1970 to September 1991. For Metro students, the city was their classroom. At its height, the school had 350 students from all parts of the city. Students took classes at Metro’s Loop headquarters, but also at such varied locations as the Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, and Second City. Unique in the CPS system, Metro sprung from the radical concept that students should take responsibility for their own education and that urban institutions and businesses represented countless and varied opportunities for educational enrichment. As former Metro history teacher Paula Baron states, “Metro was in the city, of the city and about the city.” Nordberg’s short film on the school offers a rare glimpse into this short-lived and ambitious program.

METRO!!!: THE SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

To the best of our knowledge, CFA holds the only copies (16mm composite prints) of the two Goldsholl & Associates films. Ownership of the films was unclear, since the films were made for Chicago Board of Education. After unsuccessful attempts to contact Communications/Public Relations staff at Chicago Board of Education, the films migrated into the “Orphan Film” territory.

CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection contains a rare 16mm composite print of Metro!!!: The School Without Walls. To the best of our knowledge, no other institution owns a copy of this film in any format. CFA contacted Metro!!! filmmaker and rights holder, Rod Nordberg, and discovered he had several 16mm composite prints of the films as well as original 16mm printing elements in his possession. In spring 2015, Rod donated all of his prints and elements of Metro!!!: The School Without Walls to CFA. Unfortunately, all previously existing composite prints of the film had color faded over time.

Funding from the NFPF and the hard work at Colorlab made it possible to create elements and strike new 16mm composite prints of all three titles. It also allowed us to print Metro!!! on more color friendly 16mm film stock, giving us access to an accurate color version of the title for the first time in decades.

metro_still_web3-FADED

Original faded print of METRO!!!

Restoration print with color restored

Preservation print with color restored