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Jitish Kallat Engages with Chicago Teens

We’ve heard from many museum visitors that they have enjoyed experiencing Public Notice 3 by Jitish Kallat, an installation made up of 68,000 LED lights set into the risers of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase. The lights spell out the words of an 1893 speech given at the Art Institute by a Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, about tolerance and understanding across religious and cultural boundaries. During the time the installation has been open, Kallat has been very interested in how Chicagoans respond to his artwork and has engaged in several museum education programs.

Teens in the Art Institute’s Teen Lab program had the rare chance to connect with both the installation and the artist firsthand last fall. Teen Lab is an after-school program run by the Art Institute in collaboration with After School Matters. Thirty dedicated and creative Chicago high school students meet at the museum three days a week to make art, learn about works in the Art Institute's collection, and meet the people who work behind the scenes at the museum. The teens create visual art and audio pieces, write, design museum guides, talk about art in the galleries, and experiment with new ideas and media. The teens viewed Public Notice 3 in the museum, discussed their ideas, prepared questions, and then used Skype to interview the artist in his studio in Mumbai, India. Kallat was incredibly generous in taking the time to speak to the teens, even though the interview took place at 4:00am his time! Speaking to the artist himself definitely expanded the teens’ understanding of the piece and their view of the world beyond Chicago. You can watch highlights of their conversation here.

Kallat participated in another exciting event last Sunday in conjunction with the exhibition called “The Museum Recoded.” High school students involved with the organization Young Chicago Authors read poems inspired by Kallat’s installation at the museum. Their writing grew out of workshops led by graduate students in the School of the Art Institute’s “Museum as Critical Curriculum Class” held during the spring 2011 semester. The poems touched on the pervasiveness of racism, intolerance, and violence in Chicago and around the world and included rousing calls for action. Kallat was present to listen and responded enthusiastically, saying that the teens’ words further refracted and amplified both Swami Vivekananda’s original speech and his installation. It has been truly exciting to work with an artist who is so interested in the public’s engagement with his work.

Click here to learn more about the Art Institute’s teen programs.

—Grace M. and Hillary C., Museum Education

Bottom image: Jitish Kallat (seated wearing white shirt and vest) on stage with teen poets and Young Chicago Authors Artistic Director Kevin Coval. Image courtesy of Rachel Harper.

Tags: Education