All posts filed under: Art Design Chicago

Locating Your Practice in ‘Todros Geller: Strange Worlds’ with Curator Susan Weininger

Todros Geller, (1889-1949), was a Jewish-American artist born in Ukraine, immigrating to Canada and later Chicago in 1906, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a prominent artist during his time, having a hand in many organizations in Chicago and working with such artists as Charles White. The exhibition Todros Geller: Strange Worlds showcases the diverse work—in style, subject matter, and medium—that Geller created throughout his lifetime; and is hosted at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning, an organization that began as the College of Jewish studies, where Todros Geller taught for many years. Many of the objects from the exhibition come from the institute’s extensive collection of Jewish art and historic, ritual objects, a collection that Todros Geller began. Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Susan Weininger explains Geller’s interest in Jewish art, “One of the things that [Geller] pursued his whole life was the idea of a Jewish art museum. He knew that there was a history of Jewish art [and] he traveled to study that history.” Dr. Weininger and …

Locating Your Practice in ‘African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race,’ with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

A century’s legacy of Black designers working at the nexus of the quotidian, politics, history, and market capitalism is brought into focus through African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, on view at the Chicago Cultural Center until March 3, 2019. The show’s objects and design content show generations of Black designers fusing a shared past and visions of the future within their historical contexts. This chronicle highlights designers and artists producing in many mediums including Charles Dawson, Charles White, Jay Jackson, Zelda “Jackie” Ormes, Charles Harrison, LeRoy Winbush, William McBride, Sylvia (Laini) Abernathy, and Emmett McBain. Particular emphasis is given to how 20th century Black designers and artists in Chicago reframed the conception of the Black consumer within the market economy. By the same token, the concerns, aesthetics, pressures, and values of Chicago’s dynamic Black communities are embedded in each object. Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs expressed this responsiveness when discussing the origins of the South Side Community Arts Center, quoted in the exhibition materials: “As young black artists, we looked …

The Vessels that Marva Made: An Interview with Members of Sapphire & Crystals

“I am a strong woman; my strength as a Black woman pays homage to what I call the Sapphire Spirit. A woman who is sassy, jazzy, spiritual, brainy, the healer–she is Mother Earth in its grand splendor. I salute this spirit in all Black women everywhere. The recognition of my own Sapphire Spirit provided me with the knowledge I needed to speak. My name is Marva and I speak through my art, my voice extends all the way back to the first known human being who was a Black woman. Going forth, through my ancestors, I am creating new symbols and new directions, moving from my own individual voice to that of the collective voice. I now join with sixteen other African American Women Artists and form the Sapphire & Crystals group. As a collective we step forward to the world.” –Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly In 1986 artists Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly and Felicia Grant Preston started meeting in Pitchford-Jolly’s home to discuss how to continue supporting women artists after the group Mud Peoples Black Women’s Resource …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 3: Leah Gipson

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of re-orienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted just as much in ethics as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. And yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: What and who is art’s “community,” and what do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 2: Regin Igloria and North Branch Projects

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that …

Reflections on Pictures from an Exposition at the Newberry Library

Even 125 years later, we can’t stop thinking about the World’s Columbian Exposition, an extravaganza so large and dense that we continue to unpack its flaws and glorify its vastness. In 1893, Chicago introduced the world to collections of dancers, photographs, paintings, magazines, and yes, even a map made entirely of pickles. The fair influenced how we view and how we curate exhibitions today. It was a spectacle and its history is a labyrinth of stories and mystery, and even a bit of horror. The Newberry Library is looking at the visual aspects of the fair—exhibiting an extensive collection of ephemera and art—in Pictures From the Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair. The exhibition displays the way artwork influenced people from afar to visit Chicago, as well as those who were living the experience, and how these images served as a means of advertising as well as fine art. What’s always been so undeniably interesting to me as a Hyde Parker, living on the edges of where the famous fair was once held, is how …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 1: Nicole Marroquin

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that Addams …

Art Against the Flow and a Semantic Ecotone

As I walk into the gallery space, I’m greeted by vibrant and seemingly disparate groups of artworks. On one wall, there are bold, schematic line drawings of Chicago architecture. To my right are totem-like sculptures with intricate embellishments. Across the way is a collection of flat landscapes with skewed perspectives. This is Chicago Calling: Art Against the Flow, an exhibition on view at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art as part of Art Design Chicago. Throughout the show, it seems that the curators Kenneth Burkhart and Lisa Stone refrain from hand-holding me through a chronological, step-by-step development of an artist or artistic movement. As I trace my way through the space, pausing at each work, I soon realize that the absence of a consistent, linear narrative may be the point. Intuit’s mission is to celebrate the power of outsider art, which they define on their website as “the works of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead are motivated by their unique personal visions.” With this in …

Installation View: Up is Down at the Block Museum

This fall, Art Design Chicago is illuminating the legacy of art and design that’s embedded in Chicago’s history and culture through a full calendar of exhibitions, events, and other programs across the city. As editorial partners in this effort, we’re working with them to to elevate the stories of Chicago’s lesser-known artists, designers, and creators, past and present, through comics, essays, interviews, podcasts, and videos. For the videos we’ve teamed up with On The Real Film to present short profiles that highlight the exhibitions, projects, and people who are showcasing these legacies in various ways. The third video in this series, “Installation View: Up is Down” takes a behind-the-scenes look at the installation process for The Block Museum’s exhibition Up is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio. Co-curators Amy Beste and Corinne Granof discuss the legacy and impact of the Goldsholl Studio on design and advertising, and provide insight into the curating process for a multimedia show that includes a wide variety of mediums and formats. The Block Museum’s Dan Silverstein elaborates …

Image: Bri Beck leans into the frame from the right side, looking down at a tan mixed media garment piece on a white pedestal. Other works can be seen in the background. Photo by Ryan Edmund.

Locating Your Practice in ‘Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design,’ with Bri Beck

“I could have never expected this, it’s so exciting. It [makes me] feel like my story has been told for a very long time, and I don’t always have to be the one telling my story,” asserts Bri Beck while discussing the work in Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today at Gallery 400. The exhibition is a multi-generational sampling of the disability-centered artwork that has been coming out of Chicago over the last fifty-plus years. Artist and art therapy graduate student Bri Beck and I visit the exhibition to discuss her experience as a part of this rich history. As we make our way through the gallery, Beck points out artists she’s worked with, portraits of people she recognizes, and professors she’s been mentored by. “I love being a part of the Chicago disability community,” says Beck. A close-knit and interconnected community, she explains, “there aren’t very many of us!” The seemingly small circle of artists and activists doing disability work in Chicago is precisely what has made the city an epicenter for advocacy and …

Image: Laura Kina sits in front of a brightly colored painting of floral motifs. Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

The Virtual Asian American Art Museum: A Conversation with Laura Kina

Laura Kina is an artist and professor of Art, Media & Design at DePaul. She founded the school’s Asian American Studies program, which has since become a Global Asian Studies program. She runs the Asian American Art Oral History project, which collects oral histories of Asian American artists, organizers, and participants of Asian American arts and cultural organizations in the Midwest. She co-founded the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and has edited two anthologies, Queering Contemporary Asian American Art and War Baby/ Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. She is also the illustrator of the upcoming children’s book, which will be published in March 2019, called “Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos,” which is a trilingual feminist fairy tale set in set in Hawai‘i and Okinawa, written in Hawai‘i Creole by Lee A. Tonouchi and translated by Dr. Masashi Sakihara into Uchinaaguchi. Kina is the lead curator of the Midwest module for the Virtual Asian American Art Museum, which is a large-scale digital humanities project developed by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New …

A zine entitled "Black Queens" by Marissa B. On the cover, two young black people with bare shoulders and intricately braided hair stand forehead-to-forehead. A single braid of hair extends from each of their heads, curving forward to form a heart between them. Photo by Jordan Paige. Image courtesy of the Museum of Vernacular Arts.

Arts on the Move at Romi Crawford’s Mobile Curricula

If you found yourself in a South Side public space on a sunny Saturday this past summer, you may have found yourself in an open-air art class. Behind folding tables piled with original pieces, historic artifacts, and raw arts materials, educators delivered short, impromptu lectures on key figures in Chicago’s rich history of Black art and engaged students of all ages with the opportunity to make a piece of their own. This was “Art Moves,” Romi Crawford’s summer-long program to celebrate neighborhood arts in the neighborhoods that spawned them. The outdoor events may have passed, but you can still catch Crawford speaking at the Chicago Cultural Center this fall as a part of The Designs of African American Life (November 2 and 3). Crawford calls this approach to arts education the “discussion model,” and it really is a conversation more than a lecture. The educators and facilitators (including Wisdom Baty, Robert Earl Paige, Jennefer Hoffmann, and Scheherazade Tillet) make their arts and activities available to any passersby, an approach that lends itself to discovery. It …

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Angelique Power

I met Angelique Power while I was interning in the development department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2010. Although she wasn’t in that department, I can clearly remember the times I shared a room with her. The first time was during a meeting that she masterfully managed, keeping things clear and on-point, with everyone there leaving with their marching orders on how to move things forward. I never thought I could have such a transformative experience in something as basic as a staff meeting, but I was in complete awe. The determined spirit that led me to the office and classroom doorways of my Columbia College teachers and professors was the same spirit that helped me gather the confidence to step into hers.   Since then she has been a steady voice of reason and sound advice–which over the years has manifested as a consistent and piercing blend of love, logic, and honest but compassionate interrogation of self and others. And it is because of her guidance that I have stepped into …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Sherry Hazel

My parents, James & Sherry Hazel, are my first and continue to be, by far, my most influential and consistent teachers. What can I say about them? As a sometimes strange, incredibly sensitive, introverted, and creative child, I wasn’t the easiest one to parent. I was (and in many ways still am) stubborn, emotional, inward-focused, and constantly questioning everything–all traits that I undoubtedly got from my parents and also traits that can cause many sparks. But in addition to my inherited Hazel quirks, I also inherited all of my foundational strengths from these two–some born out of the fire of the child/parent head-bumping, but mostly born out of a deep, unwavering, and persistent love that they modeled for me and my siblings–love for friends, family, life, and work. I could write a book, paint the sky, and fill the ocean with the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn from my parents, and all of the loving wisdom they hold. But for now I’ll let my mother, a.k.a. Momma Hazel or Newma, tell you about her teachers. This …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Remembering Sabina Ott

I couldn’t come up with a short list of my teachers without including the beloved artist, educator, space-maker and force-of-nature, Sabina Ott. And since she is no longer here for me to pose this question to her, I’ll share, at length, how important she has been in my life and the life of Sixty Inches From Center. In addition to this being a space for my teachers, this piece on Sabina also serves another purpose. Although we are known as an arts publication, at the heart of Sixty’s mission is a deep passion for legacy-nurturing and legacy-keeping for Chicago artists—especially those most vulnerable to the erasure that happens so often within art historical narratives. It is also in that spirit that I write this. Sixty started in 2010 with incredible support from a group of artists, historians, and mentors out of Columbia College  whose commitment and investment in me and my co-founding partner at the time, Nicolette Caldwell, was bottomless and generous in a way that often left us speechless. Sabina Ott is one of …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Amy M Mooney, Ph.D.

Similar to my experience with Dawoud Bey and Cecil McDonald, Jr., I met Amy M. Mooney, Ph.D. because of relentless determination. While I was an art history student at Columbia College Chicago, I was set on meeting the person who had literally wrote the book about Archibald Motley, Jr., and who also taught all of the classes I wanted to take–although they were unavailable because she was on sabbatical at that time. Since then, Dr. Mooney has sparked so many things in my life–including my first published piece of writing, Freedom in the Fragment, which was a reflection on a seminar with historian Richard J. Powell, which I was able to attend through her invitation. Most recently, I’ve gone on to assist her with her most recent research on Black photo studios in early 20th century Chicago, and particularly the incredible work of photographer William E. Woodard. You’ll be able to catch her work as part of Art Design Chicago through the project Say It With Pictures, a series of programs that explore the impact …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Madeline Murphy Rabb

Where to begin? I first learned about the art of collecting Black art and supporting artists in that way from Madeline Murphy Rabb. I first learned the value and knowledge that a personal arts library–with an emphasis on Black and African diasporic art history–could hold. I met Madeline during an internship I held at her art consultant company, Madeline Rabb, Inc. She gave me the incredible task of organizing her book collection of over 1,000 books over the summer before my last year at Columbia College Chicago.  I have her to thank for my love of art books, for my deep love and appreciation of Martin Puryear, and for her being an example of how to occupy multiple roles within the cultural community at once–she has been everything from the Director of the Office of Fine Arts under Mayor Harold Washington, to a fantastic printmaker and jewelry maker, to an advocate for the collecting of fine art through her consulting work. She’s an example of how to do work on multiple fronts while always maintaining …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Barbara Koenen

I first met Barbara Koenen when I got my first “real” arts admin job at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in 2010. I was a coordinator for Studio Chicago, a yearlong collaborative project that focused on the artist’s studio. From this position and still alongside Barbara’s leadership, I went on to do work for more of DCASE’s large city-wide initiatives like the Creative Chicago Expo (Now Lake FX), Chicago Artists Month, and Chicago Artists Resource. It was from seeing her tireless work to provide resources, connections, and opportunities for artists that I was able to develop my own philosophy and advocacy for artists and the organizations that support them. Someone like Barbara Koenen, who lifts up so many people at once, obviously has quite a few teachers. Here are some of them, in her own words. Her response has been edited for clarity and length.   Barbara Koenen Mrs. Braun  lived down the block from my family starting when we moved in until after I left for college. She loved life and …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Dawoud Bey

I first met Dawoud Bey as a student at Columbia College Chicago. Somehow he was teaching a Photo I class alongside Cecil McDonald Jr.–such a powerful pair.  Even though I was an art history student and I didn’t need a photo class, I signed up as a way to spend time learning from two photographers I deeply admired. Since that class, Dawoud has been instrumental in my development as a curator, writer, and historian–influencing all aspects of my personal ethos and how I approach all of my practices. I’ve turned to him for advice countless times over the years and we’ve had impromptu catch-ups in coffee shops and on street corners in Hyde Park. I have looked to the perceptive and careful way that he talks about and practices his everything–image-making, writing, teaching, and life–as a guiding light and example for how to create and celebrate Black excellence while also remaining open to what can be discovered in the vastness of the world we’re living in, in addition to that Blackness. He’s taught me about the …

Who Are Your Teachers?: After Richard Hunt at the Koehnline Museum of Art

This summer the exhibition Sculpting A Chicago Artist: Richard Hunt and His Teachers Nellie Barr and Egon Weiner opened at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College, curated by Nathan Harpaz. Using his relationship with these two teachers, this exhibition taps into some of Hunt’s most formative years and the people he gravitated to as he moved closer to his calling–from adolescence to his college days. As an artist who has been making work in Chicago for over 60 years, Richard Hunt has had an incredible influence–not just on artists, not just on Chicago, but from coast to coast and throughout the world. In a way that is often quietly kept and unseen, this exhibition shifts our understanding of Hunt’s influence in a new direction that positions him as the influenced–something we aren’t often lucky enough to see in an exhibition space, but rather is reserved for the pages of books. His resonance and expansive presence first registered to me in 2009 when I attended the James A. Porter Colloquium at Howard University. Determined to find a quiet …

Who Are Your Teachers?: Cecil McDonald, Jr.

I met Cecil McDonald, Jr. at the same time that I met Dawoud Bey–which was during the Photo I class at Columbia College Chicago that I didn’t need to take but wanted to as a fan of both of their work. Since that day, I never imagined that Cecil would be the kind of person who would continue to offer me some of the most exciting and terrifying growth opportunities that I would have in my recent career. First, he asked me to write about his series Domestic Observations & Occurrences for the 2014 Contact Sheet, which is also known as the Light Work Annual. This marked my first piece of writing published on a renowned and national platform. I was terrified and honored–which I can feel between the words whenever I read back on that essay. Then, years later, when Cecil was working on his new monograph, In the Company of Black, he asked to use that essay for the foreword of the book, but I insisted on writing something new. After knowing him for …

Locating Your Practice in ‘A Johnson Publishing Story,’ with Samantha Hill and Krista Franklin

“We had so many good times. I grew up with Johnson,” a fellow visitor to A Johnson Publishing Story told me of the more than fifteen years she had spent working with the Johnson Publishing Company. As we took in the many books and objects on display from the Johnson Publishing Archive, she shared how she had started as a young secretary on Johnson’s executive floor, then worked as an executive secretary for the company’s children’s publication Ebony Jr., before going on to serve as a Midwest director for community relations, visiting Black churches and other institutions in Oklahoma, Missouri, and beyond to promote Johnson Publishing subscriptions and charity initiatives. And when we stopped in front of a zippy red alligator embossed vinyl-sheathed typewriter, I was surprised by how evocative such an object could be when she remarked, “Oh, I remember these! IBM at the time made these Selectrics in black, steel gray, and putty, but Johnson had them made custom in red alligator. I hammered away at one just like this.” John H. Johnson started …