All posts filed under: Art Design Chicago

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 …

Archivist Dan Erdma plugs a wire into equipment at Media Burn. He is surrounded by various equipment used for digitizing and playing different video formats. Photo by William Camargo.

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Media Burn

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. The CA+AP Festival will take place at Read/Write Library on July 13-14. This interview has been edited for length. Click here to read the full, unabridged interview. Media Burn Archive, …

Searching for Our Ancestors: Mexican Artists at Arte Diseño Xicágo

Arte Diseño Xicágo, which is on display through August 19th at the National Museum of Mexican Art, traces our community’s art history in Chicago back to the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and up to the Civil Rights Movement. At a moment where we are being scapegoated nationally, targeted by white supremacist politicians, and pushed out by gentrification, this exhibition flexes a beautiful reminder that we have BEEN here. It can give solace to look back at the past and see our antepasados, those who have come before us, creating and dreaming of making the world a better place for those who come after, a sentiment we can draw strength from to do the same. I toured the exhibition with two artists from Mexican backgrounds, curious about what connections we would all see. In addition to feeling inspired by our history, we also all found ourselves questioning the role that the distinction between art and design has played historically in the marginalization of our art.  Those of us from marginalized communities find ourselves and our history in …

Inside Gertrude Abercrombie’s Mind – and Work

The dark gray-blue walls of the new exhibition at the Illinois State Museum of Chicago artist Gertrude Abercrombie’s work beckon the viewer to enter into the surreal rooms of her mind. With several standalone installations with painted furniture and a single pedestal with a column, doily, and cup Abercrombie actually used to paint the still life behind it, we are led even further into the depths of her mind. This exhibition not only gives us a look at work by Abercrombie in a variety of media from a variety of decades, but it also gives us a look at the woman behind the work. With pictures of her with friends like Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, pictures of her in her own home with her cat and surrounded by her work. Gertrude Abercrombie liked to think of herself as the “Queen of Chicago”, and among her circle, she surely was; hosting weekend jam sessions, evenings of revelry, and all night parties as well as being a creative spirit making work that won awards at the …