Chicago has always had a multifaceted and complex identity —perhaps never more so than in the decades between 1950 and 1980, as urban renewal projects, the civil rights movement, and an increasingly influential art and music scene transformed the city. A new exhibition—drawn primarily from the museum’s collection—takes a look at this turbulent and transformative period through the work of photographers and filmmakers who focused their lenses on the city’s many distinct neighborhoods and communities, capturing them with immense pride, defiance, and nuance.
For the audio tour that accompanies Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980, we had the unique opportunity to interview several of the exhibition’s artists as well as other figures associated with the works on view. Below you’ll find a few samples of the tour featuring photographers who worked in the South Side in the mid-1960s through the 1970s—pivotal years coinciding with the rise of the Black Arts Movement, during which artists explored black history and celebrated black identity, aesthetics, and beauty.
Ozier Muhammad. University of Islam School Assembly, 1966. Courtesy of the artist; Darryl Cowherd. Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) at Dunbar High School, 1967. The Art Institute of Chicago, through prior gifts of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation and Michael D. Francis; Roy Lewis. Untitled (Gwendolyn Brooks Speaking at the Wall), 1967. Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.