John Preus's "Adaptation" at the Keller Center at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.

South Side Gallery Showcase

Previews of current and forthcoming exhibits and festivals at unconventional South Side spaces

St. Paul & the Redeemer Episcopal Church

4945 S. Dorchester Ave. 

St. Paul & the Redeemer, an Episcopal church in Kenwood, is home to more than Sunday services. For newly arrived refugees, the church provides home furnishings, food, and mentorship; for forty neighborhood households a week, the church is an essential source of food through its weekly food pantry. The church’s chapel also fills another role: for the next two months, it will be home to an exhibition of photographs by parishioner Jim Wright.

Wright, the chair of the congregation’s arts committee, explains that this show focuses on “macro photography,” the close-up photography of small things. The photographs on display include larger-than-life prints of flowers and bees, which allow the viewer to examine the species’ intricate design. It’s fitting that Wright’s exhibit runs through the season of Lent, traditionally a period of repentance, reflection, and self-examination in the Anglican tradition. His work urges the viewer to pause and think more deeply about the beauty that can be found in even the seemingly mundane parts of the natural world.

The exhibition is titled “Who made the grasshopper?” after a line from a poem, “The Summer Day,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver. Like Wright’s photography, Oliver’s poem lingers on the image of a grasshopper, “who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- / who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. / Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. / Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.” Oliver’s poem forces the reader to take notice of the complexity of the natural world; by taking a magnifying glass to plants and insects, Wright’s photography does the same.

The work of the Arts Committee also serves a more practical purpose. Wright explains that every one of his prints is for sale at fifty dollars each, with all proceeds benefiting the church’s food pantry. Churchgoer Tom Irving, an avid bird photographer, has done three shows at the church; at his most recent, every print sold, generating $600 for the weekly pantry.

The Arts Committee focuses on promoting art by parishioners, which can be seen every Sunday in the chapel. The chapel isn’t able to accommodate sculpture or ceramics, but past shows have included a wide variety of prints and paintings, most by church members. With a smile, Wright explains that there’s no shortage of artists in the congregation. After his gallery wraps up in April, the church’s May show will be a group exhibition, with every parishioner who wishes to participate welcome to contribute work related to the theme of “joy.” (Sam Joyce)

“Who made the grasshopper?” St. Paul & the Redeemer Episcopal Church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave. Through April, on view Sundays after services. (773) 624-3185. bit.ly/SPRGrasshopper

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Mariano’s

3857 S. Martin Luther King Dr. 

Handmade jewelry, antiques, clothing, and artwork—these are just a few of the things that someone headed to the Mariano’s in Bronzeville might find outside the store’s entrance in the summer months. That’s because every first Saturday and Sunday of the month, from June through September, artisans from across the city will set up shop for the Bronzeville Art Market.

The market is now in its third year, but the organization behind it, Artworks Chicago, has been producing arts festivals—and concerts, for the likes of Roy Ayers and Marion Meadows—for decades. It’s part of a shift southward for Artworks. They started out running street festivals in the Loop and the near North Side in 1995, founder Carl R. McKenzie, said, and in more recent years have run festivals in Hyde Park and Washington Park

McKenzie is particularly enthused about the Bronzeville market because of the neighborhood’s historic arts scene. 

“It’s a loving and a cultural experience,” said Carl R. McKenzie, who organizes the market through his organization, Artworks Chicago. “And it’s education in one way—when you bring your children with you, seeing handmade jewelry, it’s kind of enthusing.”

And of course, the market is perfectly at home outside of the Bronzeville Mariano’s, which has committed to supporting local arts since its opening in 2016. Its walls have been graced by the art of Chicago-based artists Hebru Brantley (on the inside) and Dorian Sylvain (on the outside)—and through the end of the month, the grocery store is host to “Black is Beautiful,” an exhibit of photography by Tony Smith. (Emeline Posner)

Artworks Chicago is still accepting applications from interested vendors. For more information contact Artworks Chicago at (312) 642-4907 or at artworkschicago@aol.com.

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John Preus: Adaptation

Harris School of Public Policy, 1307 E. 60th St.

Built from the remains of furniture “bound for landfill” from forty-nine shuttered Chicago public schools, multidisciplinary artist John Preus’s “Adaptation”— on view at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy—repurposes and reimagines these abandoned materials to create an installation intended to support conversations about social impact, collective loss, public trauma, and public education. 

In 2013, the Chicago Board of Education approved the largest school closure in the city’s history, disrupting the education of thousands of students. These closures almost entirely affected predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods, and were justified by claims calling the schools “underutilized and under-resourced.” By repurposing the furniture left behind from these schools, Preus attempts to grapple with public memory and the grief that a community feels when its neighborhood school is closed. 

The installation itself is built to look like a stage or a classroom, with a blackboard-esque panel on one wall and chairs situated across the floor. These cubes and stoops were built by a variety of artists, designers, and architects who worked in collaboration with Preus. A music stand sits on the edge of the platform with the inscription “Chicago BD of ED,” referring to the Board of Education. The exhibit grew out of Preus’s role as the 2019 “Interpreter in Residence” at the UofC’s Smart Museum of Art, where one of his goals was to “build a functional structure…that in some way responds to the school closings,” according to the Smart’s website. The platform and stools are designed to allow for convening and conversation by students, faculty, and members of the community. 

The pieces of furniture used in the exhibit were reclaimed during the Smart Museum’s summer teen program, held in partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, in workshops held at the Sweet Water Foundation in Washington Park. During the workshops, young people deconstructed the furniture and enabled the reuse of the materials in a variety of different ways. 

“Adaptation” will remain at the Harris School through June 14. Until then, this site-specific installation can be used as a place to connect and reflect about the collective trauma associated with the school closures. It will also hopefully prompt conversations about how to reimagine public education in the future to ensure equitable access and support for education across the city of Chicago. (Ashvini Kartik-Narayan)

“John Preus: Adaptation,” Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, 1307 E. 60th St. Open to the public Monday–Friday, 7:30am–6pm, through June 14. smartmuseum.uchicago.edu

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Sor Juana

National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. 

Every year, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen helps the city pay tribute to seventeenth-century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—and the many Mexican women who carry on her legacy of art and feminism. 

Sor Juana, a poet, mathematician, and playwright, is thought by many to have been the first feminist on the continent. She declined to marry, wishing “to have no fixed occupation which might curtail [her] freedom to study,” opting instead to become a nun in the Convent of Santa Paula, where she would go on to write four hefty volumes worth of prose, Baroque poetry, criticism, and, notably, a defense of women’s right to the pursuit of knowledge. 

To celebrate the talented scholar and artist, the National Museum of Mexican Art devotes the months of March and April to a festival that is emphatically multidisciplinary, celebrating rock and opera musicians alongside house DJs, novelists, directors, and artists. 

The festival kicks off this year with a concert in tribute to operatic soprano Ángela Peralta (el ruiseñor de México). Some of the events to follow include a talk with photographer Yvonne Venegas, a screening (followed by a conversation with the cast) of Vida, and talks with authors Patricia Carlos Dominguez and Kali Fajardo-Anstine. 

And on select, not-to-be-missed evenings, you can dance the night away to the music of Mexican-American Rockabilly bands like Gizzelle and Cota, or to Selena. (Emeline Posner)

See nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org for the lineup and more information about the festival

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