Chicago Political Art @ Newberry Library

HaHa's Flood at Culture in Action

HaHa’s Flood at Culture in Action

Chicago Political Art – Winter and Summer 2014 – The Newberry Library

Instructor: Daniel Tucker

Cost for 6 Week Course: $180

We will investigate how Chicago emerged as a site for artists to advocate for social and political transformation. Through readings and discussion, participants will be introduced to a wide range of art practices focused on social engagement from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will study artists Ellen Gates Starr, Upton Sinclair, members of the Dill Pickle Club, Gwendolyn Brooks, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Chicago Surrealists, Artemesia Gallery, Kartemquin Films, Ray Patlán, Ellen Lanyon, Michael Piazza, The Pink Bloque, Theaster Gates, and others. Readings for the first session will be available electronically; please refer to your registration confirmation for details.

Further Details: Starting with the 1906 publication of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (held in the Newberry in Case 4A 362 Special Collections 4th floor), this seminar will look at how Chicago was established as a site for artists to use their tools to advocate for social and political transformation. The intersection of arts and crafts with early social work at Hull House will be traced through the African-American and Latino community muralists of the 1960s and 70s. More recent events such as Sculpture Chicago’s 1993 outdoor expo Culture in Action will be explored alongside of more activist public art like Department of Space and Land Reclamation in 2001.

Lavie Raven speaking at the  Department of Space and Land Reclamation (2001)

Lavie Raven speaking at the Department of Space and Land Reclamation (2001)

This course will address many artists (Ellen Gates Starr, Upton Sinclair, John T. McCutcheon, The Dill Pickle Club, Gwendolyn Brooks) that draw from reproduced materials or selections from the Newberry Library Core, Special Collections, and online exhibitions. Additionally, the students will be exposed to ephemera and publications related to more recent (1960s-Present) artists drawn together in the instructor’s newly organized “Chicago Ephemera Archives” ( Through a fellowship at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago, the Never The Same archive is being developed to document local political art since the 1960s. These materials will be made available to the students to provide hands-on connection with the source-material and printed matter related to these practices.

Calles Y Suenos flier

Calles Y Suenos flier

The artists and events covered in this seminar tell the story of the city, as well as the evolution of different aesthetic and artistic strategies and social movements. African-American migration to Chicago will be addressed through discussing early Jazz and the later Black Arts Movement. European and Latino history in the United States will be explored by the organizations and cultural forms associated with those waves of migration. Contemporary social issues like the environment, gang violence and the fragmentation of community will be explored through artists exploring those themes in activist art, street exhibitions, and documentaries.

Each week the course will begin with a short discussion of readings led by volunteer students and facilitated by the instructor. Following that discussion, the instructor will provide a slide show or screening related to the theme/time period. At the last meeting, students will be asked to do an in-depth presentation about one of the lesser-known art works or projects mentioned in the course. Drawing from the instructor’s extensive background researching these subjects, this 6-week course will provide a solid grounding in the themes, events and significant figures in this broad history for any student with an eagerness to learn.

AFRICOBRA's founding members

AFRICOBRA’s founding members

Artists and Events: Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, Bauhaus, Southside Community Arts Center, Michael Piazza, Haymarket, Art & Soul, Counter-proposals, Madhousers, Active Resistance, Culture in Action, Kerry James Marshall, The Department of Space and Land Reclamation, Temporary Services, Wafaa Bilal, Nance Klehm, Theaster Gates, Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann, Tom Weinberg, Jane Veeder, Dan Sandin, Jose Gamaliel Gonzalez, AACM, Chicago Surrealist Group, The Little Review, and more!

Authors: Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Dan S Wang , Carol Becker, Brian Holmes, Hesse McGraw, Gregory Sholette, Josh MacPhee, Nato Thompson, Jeffrey Arnold Shantz, Tom Finkelpearl, Naomi Beckwith, Mary Jane Jacob, Judith Russi Kirshner, Barbara Randolph, David Hemmings, Adam Brooks, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Donald Kuspit, Joyce Fernandes, Carolyn Faber, jonCates, Anthony Braxton, Rebecca Zorach, Haki R. Madhubuti, Gwendolyn Brooks, Franklin Rosemont, Jean Dubuffet, George Lewis, William Howland Kenney, Susan Platt, Thomas Dyja, Nicolas Lampert and more!

See the 6 Week Syllabus

Week 1 Readings and Slide Lecture

Week 2 Readings and Slide Lecture

Week 3 Readings and Slide Lecture

Week 4 Readings and Slide Lecture

Week 5 Readings and Slide Lecture

Week 6 Readings and Slide Lecture


One thought on “Chicago Political Art @ Newberry Library

  1. Hello. I am drawn to your gallery for the incredible work that you do. Your efforts to raise political consciousness while highlighting our rich history of political activism and public service is incredible. Right now I am looking for a space to hold a fundraiser, by chance is this something your gallery could accommodate? If so, I would love to discuss this matter further. Please reach me by email or phone 530-646-9447. Thank you very much for your time.

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