Speeches, Letters, and Publications
Elissa Tenny | January 15, 2018
Artist, activist, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) alum Elizabeth Catlett (SAIC 1941) made a striking portrait bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 20th century. As the United States recognizes Dr. King’s extraordinary leadership, deep humanity, and commitment to confronting injustice with today’s national holiday, Catlett’s sculpture reminds us of the vigilance and persistence in opposition to racism and oppression that we are called to by his example.
Dr. King, though closed-mouthed with eyes focused on a distant horizon in Catlett’s depiction, has furrows between his eyes—as if struck by a new truth—and along his cheeks—as if on the threshold of oration. With features slightly larger than life, the sculptural Dr. King sees farther into our world and further into our future than we can. His hearing is more candid, and his speech more global. It is as if this image of Dr. King is privy to the real Dr. King’s view from the mountaintop.
Achieving these dreams will require us to heed the lessons of Dr. King and to hear wisdom from our own students, faculty, staff, supporters, partners, and alumni, like the late Elizabeth Catlett, whose perceptiveness continues to nourish us. Only together can we make an increasingly inclusive place for everyone: a school in which our differences create strength, our artmaking and scholarship embrace diversity, and our achievements help affect positive change throughout SAIC and beyond.