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Celebrate Chicago’s Artistic Legacy in the Loop and Beyond

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1972. Gelatin silver print, 4 3/4 x 7 in. (12.1 x 17.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of the Foster Charitable Trust in memory of Reuben A. Foster, 1983.37 © 1972 Kenneth Josephson. Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago

Editor's Note: Amy Zinck is Executive Vice President of the Terra Foundation for American Art. Throughout 2018, the Terra Foundation is spearheading Art Design Chicago, a yearlong celebration of the city’s history at the crossroads of art and design. Over the past 12 years, the Terra Foundation has awarded more than $95 million in grant dollars in support of exhibitions and scholarly programs. 

Chicagoans need no excuse to throw a celebrationit’s in our DNA. Since the days after the Great Fire of 1871, Chicagoans have rebuilt, reinvented and innovated again and again. That’s part of the reason the city’s artistic legacy is so unique and offers much to discover.

That legacy, along with a desire to honor the vitality of Chicago’s art and design scene today, are reasons to celebrate.

With an expansive vision and scope ranging from art on museum walls to street murals, our 2018 initiative Art Design Chicago aims to uncover the stories of Chicago artists and designers, and introduce new audiences to their extraordinary works. More than 30 exhibitions and hundreds of talks, tours and special events feature everything from conceptual photography and Chicago surrealism to celebrations of the city’s trailblazing artist-activists and influential designers.

Jason Pickelman on Katherine Kuh, We can learn to look, but to see is another matter, 2018. Courtesy of Chicago Design Museum. Presented as part of the exhibition Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container.

The idea for Art Design Chicago came from listening to our community – to curators, educators, historians and artists. Colleagues shared their creative ideas for exhibitions and events that illuminate Chicago’s distinct art and design history. It all came together through the work of more than 75 partner institutions, including Chicago Loop Alliance, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.

One of the things we recognized in organizing this initiative is the pride and curiosity of Chicagoans who love to interact with our city’s vibrant culture, not just view it from afar. Many of the programs presented by Art Design Chicago encourage people to engage with art and design. From panel discussions and expert-led tours to intergenerational art-making and block parties, there is something for everyone.

Below are a few highlights taking place around the Loop this summer:

  • Flesh: Ivan Albright at the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, now through Aug. 5. Chicago native Ivan Albright (1897–1983) remains one of the most provocative artists of the 20th century, a “master of the macabre” famous for his richly detailed paintings of ghoulish subjects. Flesh offers a focused retrospective of the artist’s most enduring masterpieces, which even today retain the power to shock, move and fascinate.
  • Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the ContainerChicago Design Museum, now through Aug. 18. A reimagining of Chicago-based Container Corporation of America’s influential mid-century advertising campaign, Great Ideas of Western Man, this exhibition features works by contemporary designers inspired by the ideas of great thinkers past and present.
  • Never a Lovely so Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950 – 1980, Art Institute of Chicago, now through Oct. 28. Never a Lovely so Real addresses how Chicago's unique character influenced photographers, filmmakers and other image makers over a period stretching from the 1950s through the 1970s when the city underwent some of its most significant cultural and social transformations.
  • Art Institute of Chicago Block Party, Art Institute of Chicago, July 21. Join artists, historians, storytellers, performers and a crowd-sourced roster of community contributors of all ages and backgrounds for this daylong gathering highlighting the deep and lasting contributions of Chicago's creative communities.
  • A Home for Surrealism, The Arts Club of Chicago, June 7-Aug. 17. This exhibition offers an in-depth exploration of a select group of painters who planted domestic roots for the surrealist idiom in the 1940s and 1950s. Working with a team of scholars, The Arts Club, which was on the forefront of introducing surrealism in the 1920s and 30s, offers a focused and revelatory snapshot of Chicago surrealism.
  • Charles White: A Retrospective, Art Institute of Chicago, June 8-Sept. 3. A passionate mural and easel painter and superbly gifted draftsman, White powerfully interpreted African American history, culture and lives in striking works that transcend racial categorization. Together, the featured works speak to White’s universal appeal and continued relevance to audiences today. 

Whatever artistic tradition you’re drawn to, and whether you call Chicago home or are planning a visit, we invite you to explore these world-class institutions and Art Design Chicago offerings this summer.

I look forward to seeing you out there.

Amy Zinck


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