In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, there were plenty of black artists making good work in Chicago. But there were a lack of spaces for those artists to show their work.
So, in 1970, photojournalist and South Side native Robert A. Sengstacke collaborated with the well-known Chicago Defender newspaper to create a place where black artists could be front and center.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in the Hyde Park neighborhood. In addition to more than 209 jury-selected works on display, there’s a retrospective of the exhibition’s early history, and an interactive, innovation studio for young people.
Angela Williams is deputy director of creative at the museum. Williams said after 50 years, Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition hasn’t strayed from its original mission.
“It was intended to be grassroots. It was intended to be welcoming to all artists,” Williams said, noting that includes recognizing amateur artists, some of whom have gone on to wider acclaim. Williams pointed to muralist and painter Hebru Brantley and sculptor Richard Hunt as examples of artists once featured in the exhibit who are now internationally-known.
Since its early days, the exhibition has attracted important artists and performers, like gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and the Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe, according to Williams.
But, the exhibition is also focused on providing a space for young, budding talent.“If you know anything about the art world, it can be somewhat closed,” Williams said. “This was every person’s opportunity to show their best work.”
This year’s works cover a wide-range of mediums. That includes Neko Harris’ Marveling Marvin, depicting a larger-than-life Marvin Gaye, and a digital photo collage by Andrea Coleman that shows two women, casually sitting on the couch staring at the camera. Their expressions don’t lend any clues to what they’re thinking at that moment. Many of the works are Chicago-centric, like Nick Fury’s Red Line Ghost Station 1, a mixed media picture taking the viewer up the steps of a CTA train station.
There’s also a floor in the exhibition dedicated solely to student artists.
The winners of this year’s juried art competition are expected to be announced in February. All the works will be on display through March 1 at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.