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The Block Party: Let’s Collaborate, Chicago!

We are thrilled to announce the Art Institute Block Party, a new event happening this summer on Saturday, July 21. This will be a day to gather, share unique local perspectives, and celebrate together the history of art and design in Chicago in and around the entire museum. The Block Party, part of the 2018 Art Design Chicago initiative, will recognize and showcase the talents, creativity, expertise, memories, and untold stories that have shaped our city and contributed to its history. There will be a dynamic roster of speakers, artists, musicians, and performers—which you could include you! 

We invite proposals for short talks, storytelling, performances, artistic responses, artist demonstrations, and whatever else you might imagine to contribute to the Block Party festivities. Contributors will be selected on the basis of their passion for the subject, its connection to art and design in Chicago, and the creativity demonstrated in their proposal. Why are we doing this? Well, we believe that art and culture in Chicago speaks with many voices and from different points of view. The museum seeks to expand definitions of what constitutes an expert, involving the community at-large. Objects have multiple stories; we want you to enrich our understanding of the histories of art and design in Chicago.

Why am I doing this? As a future arts administrator, I am looking to build communities, not audiences. I entered into Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) to champion and promote inclusivity, accessibility, and equity in such institutions. In fall 2017, I became one of ten students selected to participate in the Museum Education Graduate Scholars Program, a partnership between the Art Institute and SAIC.

My classmates represent a range of graduate programs at SAIC: arts administration and policy, painting, the low-residency MFA program, art education, photography, sculpture, art education, and art history. The yearlong program is an insider’s view of a world-class museum. It was like winning the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and the chance for a behind-the-scenes look . . . but not just for a day!

Our professor is the amazing and nurturing director of adult learning and associate curator of interpretation, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf. She led thought-provoking discussions on the museum’s history, theory, and practice. There were also plenty of opportunities to engage with guest speakers and staff from across the museum. In our first semester, staff from the Department of Learning and Public Engagement (LPE) instructed us on gallery- and studio-based teaching and taught us how to connect visitors of all ages and backgrounds with works of art. After observing programs and working closely with staff, I believe the museum cares about being an accessible and necessary space in your life.

This semester, the class is working with staff on a variety of projects. I’m proud to be working with the division of Public Programs on the Block Party. My main task is to crowdsource unique perspectives on art, Chicago, and the Art Institute. My heart is with the future of Chicago, and I think that this project has the potential to unite people through the arts.

But don’t wait! Capture your angle and use this web form to submit your pitch for leading a workshop, talk, or other experience at the museum.

Spread the word, and tell your friends! Tell your coworkers! Tell your mom! Submit your pitch by March 31. Selected participants will be notified by April 30.


Artwork by Angelica Villagomez.

Top photo: Top row (left to right): Paulina Fedotova, Daniele Vickers, Israel Pate, Ashley Freeby, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf; Bottom (left to right): Salim Moore, Alden Burke, Meghan Gieseker, Sovannra Yos, Maggie Wong, Kevin Demery.