America: A Hymnal

Tuesday, Apr 30 – May 28, 2019 8 pm – 11:59 am

The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood
Chicago, IL 60637

Location: Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior, Illinois Institute of Technology, 65 E. 32nd Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616

Free & Open to the Public

Guests may come and go as they please

Organized by artist Bethany Collins, this four-hour performance in Mies van der Rohe’s “God Box” presents a chronological retelling of American history, politics and culture through many lyrical variations of My Country ’Tis of Thee.

Presented in conjunction with Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, on view at the Smart Museum of Art through May 19.


Since the debut of My Country ’Tis of Thee by the Rev. Samuel F. Smith on July 4, 1831, the song’s lyrics have been re-titled and re-written at least one hundred times. Each re-writing in support of a passionately held cause—from temperance and suffrage to abolition and even the Confederacy—articulates a version of what it means to be American. In 1839 for instance, the familiar first lines of “My country ’tis of thee / Sweet land of liberty,” morphed into the mournful abolitionist verse:

My country! ’tis of thee,
Stronghold of Slavery,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Where men man’s rights deride,
From every mountainside,
Thy deeds shall ring.

Organized by artist Bethany Collins, this four-hour performance features all 100 versions of the song, sung by Madeline Aguilar, Katherine Davis, Steve Hetzel, and Keanon Kyles.