Environmental racism and its disproportionate impact on communities of color, in rural and urban environments, is the subject of this sub-chapter of Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and the MacArthur Fellows at 40. The impacts of environmental racism, exacerbated by infrastructural inequalities including limited access to healthcare, healthcare workers, food, and clean drinking water are realities shared by disinvested and disenfranchised communities across the globe. These realities are highlighted in the work of three artists: Mel Chin, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Fazal Sheikh.
This exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center is one of many exhibitions in multiple venues organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago under the umbrella title, Toward Common Cause. The expansive exhibition, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, will encompass a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice, including community-based projects realized in public spaces as well as solo and group presentations in multiple museum, gallery, and community spaces. The full list of participating artists is online at the exhibition website, Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and the MacArthur Fellows at 40.
The focus of Mel Chin’s Chicago Fundred Initiative: A Bill for IL is the latest iteration of his decade-long Fundred Project whose focus is lead contamination in water, soil, and housing. Lead exposure is an invisible, environmental health threat to children. The Chicago Fundred Initiative: A Bill for IL invites individuals to create their own “Fundred,” a facsimile of a hundred-dollar bill: a form of creative currency that affirms the right of each maker to equal protection against environmental hazard and demonstrates the value of the lives of children. Please download a fundred template, create your own, and bring it to Hyde Park Art Center to be presented in the exhibition before July 1, 2021.
Latoya Ruby Frazier presents a selection from Flint is Family, a project completed over the course of five months in Flint, Michigan documenting the now infamous Flint water crisis.
Sheikh’s Desert Bloom/Conflict Shoreline. These intertwined works were created in Israel’s Negev Desert where Sheikh documented government efforts to remove the Palestinian Bedouins from the northern threshold of the desert. Unlike other frontiers fought over during the Israel-Palestine conflict, this one is not demarcated by fences and walls but by shifting climatic conditions. The threshold of the desert advances and recedes in response to colonization, cultivation, displacement, urbanization, and, most recently, climate change. In his response to Sheikh’s “Desert Bloom” series (part of Sheikh’s The Erasure Trilogy), Eyal Weizman’s essay incorporates historical aerial photographs, contemporary remote sensing data, state plans, court testimonies, and nineteenth-century travelers’ accounts, exploring the Negev’s threshold as a “shoreline” along which climate change and political conflict are deeply and dangerously entangled.