River West Gallery Blends Art With Social Justice | WBEZ
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Chicago Gallery Features Arts and Programming Around Surveillance

David Weinberg wants his new gallery in Chicago’s River West neighborhood to serve as more than a space to display art; he wants it to be a venue for civil discourse.

“I’d love to see Democrats and Republicans who are working on a given issue maybe come together in our space … and actually hack out some issues and resolve some issues,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg moved the Weinberg/Newton Gallery from River North to its new location to have room to partner with nonprofits to host conversations about issues that affect society. The gallery is noncommercial, which means sales from the work go to the artists and the nonprofits co-hosting the exhibits.

The inaugural exhibit at the gallery’s new location is a partnership with Human Rights Watch built around the theme of technology and surveillance called “The Way the Mystic Sees.”

Nabiha Khan-Giordano is co-director and curator at the gallery. She said the exhibit includes a range of media including video and photography. There’s also a Soundsuit sculpture by Chicago artist Nick Cave on loan from the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.

Nick Cave's <i>Soundsuit</i>, 2011.
Jack Shainman Gallery
Nick Cave's Soundsuit, 2011.

Khan-Giordano said works like Soundsuit will “create a launch pad for questions” at the exhibit, explaining Cave’s work was a response to the policing of race. “So as I thought about technologies that are now developing to counter that in certain ways, like body cameras, I felt that was an important moment in the exhibition,” Khan-Giordano said.

Weinberg hopes the gallery becomes an active space to experience art. To him, that means including ways for visitors to contact legislators or activists who are leading the way on the issues the art is exploring. It also means spurring conversation ⁠— something that was important at his previous gallery space as well.

“Like two lawyers will come together and they’ll say, ‘You know, we both could work together on this and make progress,’” he said.

Back to his vision of the gallery as a place where politicians can find common ground, Weinberg said they’re already planning an exhibit around the 2020 presidential election.

“The Way the Mystic Sees” opens Friday, Sept. 6 at Weinberg/Newton Gallery located at 688 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Carrie Shepherd is a news reporter for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @cshepherd.

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