South Side Stories Exhibits Feature SAIC Alums

Gerald Williams, Published by AfriCOBRA, “Wake Up,” 1971, courtesy of the artist, on view at South Side Stories: The Time is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960-1980. Photo courtesy of "Newcity"

South Side Stories: The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960–1980, a collaboration between notable Chicago institutions and spaces, has been featured by Newcity. A number of SAIC alums and their legacies have been highlighted in the piece.  

The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960–1980, the latest exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art, tells the history of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists); a Black artist collective that has been “dedicated to creating a unified, positive black aesthetic” since 1968 reports Newcity. Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell (SAIC 1959–62), Wadsworth Jarrell (SAIC 1958), Barbara Jones-Hogu (BFA 1964), and Gerald Williams (BFA 1951), founded the still-active collective. Rebecca Zorach, who curated the AfriCOBRA show in 2013 and is the curator of The Time Is Now!, reports to Newcity, “there was this desire to give a real sense to the full breadth of art practice on the South Side. Artists who were thinking of themselves as activist artists, artists who were experimenting in a lot of different stylistic approaches, people who were creating spaces for art to exist and thrive.”

South Side Stories: The Art and Influence of Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs  is concurrently on exhibit at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Margaret T. Burroughs (BA 1942, MA 1948, HON 1987)  founded the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), the first African American art center in the United States. 

Curators wanted to broaden South Side Stories beyond the historical moment to individuals who are currently working within the South Side community. Romi Crawford, associate professor in the Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts departments, has been singled out for her work as director for  the arts education program Art Moves: Chicago’ Innovative Structure of Address, developed by the Museum of Vernacular Arts and Knowledge (MOVAK).  MOVAK is a museum without a physical space, supporting the arts that do not fall within the institutional values of a traditional museum. Crawford aims to encourage interactions on the “human-scale,” reports Newcity, “to allow for access into the histories and ideas of artists that these community residents may not know influenced the cultural and architectural fabric of their own lives.” Sky Cubacub (BFA 2015), founder of Rebirth Garments, works with Art Moves to dress arts educators in rainbow garments—as they move through the streets and public spaces of their South Side neighborhoods.

To read more about the South Side Stories exhibits, go to Newcity’s online feature.