By GINNY VAN ALYEA
Following 2017's many cultural milestones in Chicago, a new initiative to highlight the city as an international hub and crossroads of visual culture manages to set the bar even higher in 2018. On Thursday, January 11 Art Design Chicago officially kicked off at the DePaul Art Museum to a packed house. Many art world figures, as well as representatives from the City of Chicago and the sponsoring Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, were present to share why they think championing such an expansive and ambitious program is so critical to the future of not just culture in Chicago but the arts in general. The Terra provided $6 million in funding to the year-long event, in addition to a 1$ million donation from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and $1 million raised from smaller donors.
A city-wide partnership of more than 40 cultural organizations, Art Design Chicago is intended to gather cultural powerhouses and mass creativity and collaboration under a very big virtual tent. ADC will explore Chicago’s art and design legacy through some 25 exhibitions and hundreds of public programs. Amy Zinck, Executive Vice President of the Terra Foundation, spoke about how a program like Art Design Chicago can elucidate Chicago’s rich art and design history for all. The Terra's goal in mounting and funding such an extensive program is to make ADC a cultural game changer by offering deep, impactful support to a range of organizations. Spurring various groups to combine their efforts and draw large crowds over the course of an entire year has the power to show that art can lead the way in changing lives in the city. As Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Mark Kelly proclaimed, "Art is an essential not tangential part of our lives."
Despite Chicago’s thriving visual arts scene and those nearby who hold it in high regard, the city does not yet enjoy as high a cultural profile as the likes of New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Art Design Chicago hopes to change that for good, with ambitious and diverse programming that spans the calendar.
The simultaneous opening of exhibitions at DePaul Art Museum – Jose Guerrero, Presente: A Memorial Print Portfolio and Barbara Jones-Hogu: Resist, Relate, Unite 1968–1975, both thru March 25 – showed how printmaking in Chicago has been, and of course can continue to be, a meaningful vehicle for social change and experimentation, and it put on full view what a lasting impact artists can have on their personal as well as larger environments. The actual kickoff of the exhibitions on view was also bittersweet, as the artist Barbara Jones-Hogu passed away this past fall before she could see her own first solo exhibition. Jones-Hogu's family was in attendance at the opening, and DPAM Director Julie Rodrigues-Widholm said it was personally important to her to make sure that the exhibition would happen. Art Design Chicago was a crucial means for the dream to be realized.
ADC also just announced a new partnership with Chicago Athletic Association Hotel's Live Storytelling Series, a monthly podcast taking place throughout 2018 in the hotel’s Drawing Room Library - a fitting combination of historic architecture meets new design and new media. For the podcast each live recording will feature an Art Design Chicago exhibition curator in conversation with a contemporary Chicago-based artist or designer to discuss the city’s art and design legacy, focusing on the ways in which contemporary creative practice is influenced by the generations of artists and designers that came before. Storytelling events are free and open and to the public. All sessions are recorded and made available for download and listening at ChicagoAthleticEvents.com and on iTunes.
The first program takes place this Sunday, January 21 with Juarez Hawkins + Damon Reed from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Hawkins, curator of the exhibition Bill Walker: Urban Griot currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, will talk with artist Damon Reed about the legacy of Bill Walker and his influence on socially engaged art practice and street art of today.
Looking ahead, in April, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present Picture Fictions: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, a consideration of conceptual and contemporary photography from a iconic figure from the field.
The Art Institute of Chicago will be hosting a retrospective of African-American painter Charles White in June, through a partnership with the Museum of Modern Art, and they have also organized a highly-anticipated September exhibition about the Hairy Who, the comical and absurd cousin of pop art that became popular during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Additional exhibitions will be shown at the Dusable Museum of African American History, National Museum of Mexican Art, The Arts Club of Chicago, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, and more.
Elizabeth Glassman, Terra Foundation’s President and Chief Executive, says of the event that, “I would like people to recognize that Chicago has always been important and I would like them to think this is the first word on the subject.”
Uniquely drawing upon the cornerstones of Chicago’s visual history, Art Design Chicago will be the first word in a very long conversation of the city’s enduring and underrepresented arts culture.
More information at artdesignchicago.org
Top image: Barbara Jones-Hogu, Unite, 1969. Courtesy of Lusenhop Fine Art.
CGN intern Riley Yaxley contributed to this article.