CircEsteem’s mission is to unite youth across all backgrounds and identities by fostering self-esteem and mutual respect through the practice and performance of circus arts.
Founded in 2001 by retired Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey clown, Paul Miller, CircEsteem helps youth build self-esteem and create safe and diverse communities through the learning of circus arts. During the first half of 2017, CircEsteem worked with more than 750 diverse youth from 21 Chicago neighborhoods through academic enrichment, mentoring, and in-school arts enrichment programming. Youth are supported to build personal development and leadership skills such as self-esteem and teamwork through the training of circus arts utilizing social circus methodology. For the past 16 years, CircEsteem has provided its unique social circus programming throughout the City of Chicago to thousands of youth.
Social circus is an innovative social intervention approach based on using circus arts to impact social change. It targets various at-risk groups living in precarious personal and social situations including underserved youth. In this approach, the primary goal is not to learn the circus arts, but rather to assist participants’ personal and social development by nurturing their self-esteem and trust in others as well as by helping them to acquire social skills, become active citizens, express their creativity, and realize their potential.