Artists’ Congress Revisited

On Saturday, May 17, 2014 the Mary and Leigh Block Museum hosted “An Artists’ Congress.” Organized in conjunction with the exhibition The Left Front: Radical Art in the “Red Decade,” 1929-1940, this groundbreaking public forum re-imagined meetings of the 1930s American Artists Congress and took Left Front member Louis Lozowick’s question “What Should Revolutionary Artists Do Today?” as its inspiration. Joined by more than 200 attendees, this wildly successful event included a range of  perspectives from across the Chicago region – from artists and educators to social justice workers and students.

The Congress was the culmination of a series of conversations that took place over the course of four months, beginning in December 2013. Rather than curate a program for the day a priori, organizers Susy Bielak, Daniel Tucker, and Michael Rakowitz invited artists, activists, and scholars to gather together and identify urgent issues from which to build the event’s framework. In planning meetings at the Block Museum, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Intuit: The Center for Outsider Art, stakeholders coming from a range of perspectives, disciplines, and geographies joined the organizers to help the day take shape. On Saturday, May 17, 2014 the Mary and Leigh Block Museum hosted “An Artists’ Congress.” Organized in conjunction with the exhibition The Left Front: Radical Art in the “Red Decade,” 1929-1940, this groundbreaking public forum re-imagined meetings of the 1930s American Artists Congress and took Left Front member Louis Lozowick’s question “What Should Revolutionary Artists Do Today?” as its inspiration. Joined by more than 200 attendees, this wildly successful event included a range of perspectives from across the Chicago region – from artists and educators to social justice workers and students.

The program that emerged brought together historical perspectives, such as the presentations by John Murphy, Christina Kiaer and Romi Crawford; experiential discussions, such as Paul Durica and Eric Triantafillou sharing their work as artists/activists; as well as a participatory, politically-motivated project by Don Washington. These were complimented by Baraka de Soleil’s moving exploration of resistance as a physical force, musical interludes curated by Michael Kramer, and plenty of space for public participation during an Open Session facilitated by Nicole Garneau and Anthony Romero. The day also acknowledged artists working on the ground with social justice organizations.

The Congress was punctuated by lively audience involvement, both during Q&A sessions interspersed throughout the day and during the dynamic small group discussions that comprised the Open Session. Driven by audience members’ investment in issues in the here and now, topics of small group discussion ranged from public education to questions of wealth and inequity. These discussions served as a point of departure, carrying over into the closing reception and beyond the confines of the museum and the day.

We invite you to continue the conversation next month. See details below or join the Facebook event here.


PRESS RELEASE & PRESS COVERAGE

Download the Press Release here: “Block Museum hosts free Artists’ Congress on Evanston campus May 17

Revisit the Artists’ Congress here: “Red Decade Exhibit Reflects Future of Block Museum” Press Release  ]


ARTISTS CONGRESS ORGANIZERS, PRESENTERS & PLANNING MEETING ATTENDEES

Over the past four months, artists, activists, and educators have been gathering to discuss and debate what an Artists’ Congress should grapple with in Chicago in 2014. We’ve been asking: What are the stakes for artists invested in social change today? What are the possibilities and impediments of this moment?

There were many voices and perspectives that made this program possible. For the complete list click here.


ARTISTS’ CONGRESS RECOGNITIONS

In recognition of the work of artists collaborating with social justice organizations, the organizers of the Congress reached out to six such organizations working throughout Chicago to offer the names of artists making meaningful contributions to their work. Click here for the complete list of nominated artists and links to their work.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES & LINKS


DOWNLOAD THE PRINTED PROGRAM HERE OR VIEW IT ONLINE VIA THE LINK BELOW:

Artists’ Congress Program on Issuu.com

WATCH THE DAY’S PROGRAM HERE

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