Who We Are

Start a Reaction is a project of SAIC’s Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice. As a center for the study of processes undertaken by curators, the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice aspires to foster advanced thinking in the field, serving as an incubator for creative inquiry and future exhibitions. This project was supported by a grant from the Abakanowicz Arts and Culture Charitable Foundation.


Pedro Alonzo

Pedro Alonzo, a Boston-based independent curator, was the Senior Fellow of SAIC’s Curatorial Institute for 2020-2021. He developed the public art project Amnesia Atomica with Pedro Reyes and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Mary Jane Jacob

Mary Jane Jacob is a curator and writer who championed public, site-specific, and socially engaged art as a shared practice and discourse. She is Professor and Director of the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2018 she published Dewey for Artists with the University of Chicago Press. 

Alan Labb

Alan Labb is a lens-based visual artist currently working in Chicago. He is presently the chair of the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, he has recently served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts. His earlier work focuses on the dynamics between autobiography, body image, and gender, and his recent work explores historical contextualization through site-specific projects and installations.


Rachel Bronson

Rachel Bronson is the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. She oversees the publishing programs, management of the Doomsday Clock, and a growing set of activities around nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies. Before joining the Bulletin, Bronson served as the vice president of studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She also taught “Global Energy” as an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management.

Prior to moving to Chicago, Bronson served as senior fellow and director of Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Earlier positions include senior fellow for international security affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and adjunct professor at Columbia University. Bronson’s book, Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia (Oxford University Press, 2006), has been translated into Japanese and was published in paperback in June 2008.

Her writings have appeared in publications such as Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. She has appeared as a commentator on numerous radio and television outlets, including National Public Radio, CNN, al Jazeera, the Yomiuri Shimbun, PBS NewsHour,” “The Charlie Rose Show,” and “The Daily Show.” Bronson has served as a consultant to NBC News and testified before the congressional Task Force on Anti-Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, and the 9/11 Commission.

Bronson is a board director of the American University of Iraq Foundation and a board member of the Francis W. Parker School. She has served as co-chair of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Producer Guild, and as a board member of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Bronson was named by Today’s Chicago Woman magazine as one of 100 Women to Watch (2012), 20 Women to Watch by Crain’s Chicago Business (2008), a Carnegie Corporation Scholar (2003), and a Glamour Magazine “Wow Woman” (2002). She is a member of the International Women’s Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of Chicago and the Pacific Council. She earned a BA in history at the University of Pennsylvania and a MA and PhD in political science from Columbia University in 1997.

Pedro Reyes

Pedro Reyes (born 1972 Mexico City) is a Mexican artist. He uses sculpture, architecture, video, performance and participation. His works aims to increase individual or collective agency in social, environmental, political or educational situations. After studying Architecture, Reyes founded "Torre De Los Vientos", an experimental project space in Mexico City which operated from 1996-2002. In 2015, he received the U.S. State Department Medal for the Arts, and was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.

In 2016, he was visiting lecturer at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology program where he co-taught the course The Reverse Engineering of Warfare: Challenging Techno-optimism and Reimagining the Defense Sector (an Opera for the End of Times) in conjunction with Carla Fernández. The course explored the interplay of imperialism, armed interventions, the defense budget, the history of engineering and military technology, crisis management in environmental disasters, popular entertainment and the global imbalances created by the West’s fixation on technological advancement. The resulting performance included collaborative creative enactments of the actual facts and the (often unasked) ethical questions faced by society today. In 2017, he was the inaugural Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist at MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. Ad usum: to be used, a monograph of his work, edited by José L. Falconi, was published by Harvard University Press in late 2017.

Abakanowicz Fellows

Maysam Al-Ani

Maysam Al-Ani is a digital media artist, game designer, and filmmaker, and the lead artist for Atomic Chrysalis. Her work explores concepts of third-culture-kid and diasporic identities inspired by personal experiences. This includes narratives of fragmented relationships, memories, and identity surrounding the US invasion of Iraq, where she is originally from, and the influence of technology on media portrayals and language barriers, particularly between English and Arabic. Maysam holds a bachelor’s degree in Media Industries & Technology from Northwestern University, where she earned a Studio20Q fund to write and direct an animation “Where Are You Right Meow?” She is currently pursuing an MFA in Art & Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Elise Butterfield

Elise Butterfield is a curator, arts administrator, dancer, and disability advocate. Her work, often through co-creation with others, deals with the interaction between bodies, ideas, and space. Currently a student in the dual MA in Arts Administration and Art History at SAIC, Elise previously worked as Programs and Gallery Director at Art Access in Salt Lake City, Utah. There she worked closely with artists to curate myriad exhibitions, and helped to start Breaking Barriers, a state-wide cultural accessibility training program. Elise, a 2021 Magdalena Abakanowicz Fellow, currently works with the SAIC Dept. of Exhibitions and is a company member of The Space Movement Project. A native Seattleite, Elise holds BAs, magna cum laude, in Dance and International Studies from the University of Washington. 

Hugo Ivan Juarez

Hugo Ivan Juarez identifies as Mexican-American and as a representative of culture he aims to share the familial through the medium of art. He is a co-founder of Familia Printmakers which is a community and member based printmaking shop in his hometown of Dallas, TX. His curatorial work began with the organization of pop-up exhibitions in dorms, apartments, houses, small businesses, and Airbnb’s. These untraditional venues were taken over with the work by artist's who occupy the space in between the museums and galleries. Above all he believes that art is a force of power that can change the world.

Robert Pierce

Robert is an independent curator and art scholar in Chicago, Illinois. He is the recipient of the 2019 San Francisco Art Institute Masters Fellowship, 2020 La Mirada Cultural Scholar-in-Residence, and 2021 Magdalena Abakanowicz Fellowship. He has delivered lectures at the California Art of the State and Community Built Association Conferences and was recently the guest curator for Francis McComas: Rediscovering California’s First Modernist at the Monterey Museum of Art. His current research focuses on identifying gaps in representational knowledge and providing a generative framework for the inclusion of marginalized voices in the institutional art world.

Vince Phan

Vince Phan is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is primarily ephemeral. Using flowers and other short-lived materials, his work explores the nature of beauty in relation to time and beauty in culture. He is a Graduate Scholar at Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. He holds a BA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. He is now pursuing an MFA in Sculpture at School of the Art Institute  of Chicago.  

Sofia Sanchez Borboa

Sofía is an art historian and curator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Centro de Cultura Casa Lamm and a master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Visual and Critical Studies. In her curatorial practice, she works with ideas of kindness as a form of labor to make art more accessible and horizontal. She often works in a participatory environment. In her research, she focuses on issues of nation-state allegiance, ethnicity, identity politics,  postcolonialism, and feminism and how these are told through history and storytelling.

Taylor Shuck

Taylor Shuck is an independent curator and scholar based in Chicago, Illinois, and one of the co-lead artists for How do we trouble time? She holds a Bachelor's degree in Painting and Art History from Maryland Institute College of Art and a Masters degree in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Taylor is a recipient of the 2021 Magdalena Abakanowicz Fellowship to curate and assist in the development of a site specific augmented reality installation. Her current research focuses on the interdisciplinary enmeshing of art, technology, and science with an interest in embodied social impact through interactive art. 

Commissioned Artists

Judd Morrissey 

Judd Morrissey is a writer and code artist who creates poetic systems across a range of platforms incorporating electronic writing, internet art, live performance, and augmented reality. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago  and co-founded the performance collective Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r). 

Eiko Otake

Born and raised in Japan and a resident of New York since 1976, Eiko Otake is a movement–based, interdisciplinary artist. After working for more than forty years as Eiko & Koma, she now performs as a soloist and directs her own projects collaborating with a diverse range of artists. Eiko and Koma were the first collaborative pair to share a MacArthur Fellowship (1996) and the first Asian choreographers to receive the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award (2004) and the Dance Magazine Award (2006). Eiko’s solo project A Body in Places began with a 12-hour performance at the Philadelphia 30th Street Station. Since then, Eiko has performed variations of A Body in Places at over 70 sites. A Body in Fukushima, her collaboration with historian and photographer William Johnston, produced many exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances, as well as a publication of a photography book of the same title that includes artists’ essays. In 2016, Eiko was the subject of the 10th annual Danspace Platform, a month-long curated program that brought her a special Bessies citation, an Art Matters grant, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Co-presented by Performa 2017 and Met Live Arts, Eiko occupied each of the three Metropolitan Museum of Art sites while projecting a seven- hour video she created from A Body in Fukushima photographs.