MILWAUKEE — There is a new and free summer club in Milwaukee. It's called Chess and Art Academics, and the club meets every Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. in Milwaukee's Metcalfe Park neighborhood.
“Well you can learn the lessons of life. Chess is called the game of life for a number of good reasons," Quan Caston, the club founder, said.
He teaches chess and offers arts and crafts to anyone who wants to join. The age limit is eight and up. If you already know how to play chess, you can come and play with a friend or meet someone new to play against.
But the goal isn't just to bring people together to play chess or make art.
“The end result is that we address intergenerational literacy, so art and chess are just tools to connect us to intergenerational literacy.”
Quan mixes reading into his chess lessons. Plus, he provides chess sets.
“Because it's one thing to be able to read, but it's another thing entirely to be able to comprehend. You know what you're reading.”
Furthermore, he wants to use art and chess as a tool to develop decision making skills and abstract thinking.
“It forces you to think about a situation, a dilemma, a conflict that you may be faced with and forces you to think about what are the best options that you have prior to making a move.”
Quan started on this journey decades ago. He dove deep into chess while serving in the Air Force. It was a way to keep his mind off the things going on around him. However, his community activism didn't start until he returned to Milwaukee.
“I realized after getting out of the military that I was listening and hearing more gunshots in my community than I actually heard in 8 years of military service.”
He had plans to move overseas, but instead decided to stay in Milwaukee.
"So it suddenly dawned on me that the war was right there in my community versus somewhere overseas."
In 1996, Quan began teaching chess at every Milwaukee Public Library. He was a roving instructor of sorts. He taught for a while and helped with other community efforts until July 7, when he started the Chess and Art Academics Club.
It currently meets at Metcalfe Park Rising at 34th and Center, but it may move a few blocks over to Butterfly Park at 37th and Meinecke.