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Portraits in the Park with Damon Locks’s Black Monument Ensemble


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  • Free for all ages, no registration required

A colorful collage featuring Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble.

Courtesy of the artist

On the occasion of the Art Institute’s presentation of The Obama Portraits and presented in partnership with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out In the Parks summer series, we’d like to invite you to this free all-ages event that features live music performances, poetry readings, and art-making activities.

This event takes place in the Sunken Garden at the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 East 56th Place, Chicago 60637).

Please bring your own chair and observe our current health and safety guidelines: Wear your mask. Stay 6 feet away from others. Wash your hands. Learn more.


Chicago Sinfonietta Residents Orchestrate with Sadie Woods

Live performance by DJ and sound artist Sadie Woods and the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Residents Orchestrate, a project designed to bring the Sinfonietta experience to communities in the Chicagoland area.

avery r. young & de deacon board

Musician and artist avery r. young and his band de deacon board merge blues, funk, and soul for a unique performance responding to The Obama Portraits.

Youth Poetry Reading

Spoken work performance by Chicago youth written in response to the Obama portraits.

Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble
Headline performance by musician/artist Damon Locks and his multigenerational group, The Black Monument Ensemble, in a performance developed in response to the Obama portraits.


Saleem Hue Penny, Looking Out=Looking In
Saleem Hue Penny (he/him/friend) is a Black creative and community builder with a vestibular disorder and single-sided deafness. He engages audiences through ‘rural hip-hop blues’ poetry, early childhood programming, and hospital magic. Penny is designing portraiture kits that will be distributed at Portraits in the Park.

Southside Blooms, Chrysanthemum City

Southside Blooms is a farm-to-vase on florist on the South Side of Chicago, providing unique and fashion-forward arrangements while maintaining an uncompromising dedication to both the environment and our surrounding communities. Southside Blooms will be on site helping attendees plant their own take-home chrysanthemums, the Chicago flower featured in Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama.

Victoria Martinez, Re:Imagining Pattern

Victoria Martinez is a transdisciplinary artist and educator from Chicago who explores installation art, site-specific experiments, screen printing, and painting. Martinez will be leading a fabric drawing activity that draws inspiration from Gee’s Bend quiltmakers to reimagine Michelle Obama’s dress from her portrait by Amy Sherald.

Concerned Black Image Makers, Black Portraiture Polaroids
Founded in 2017, Concerned Black Image Makers is a collective of Black lens-based artists who wish to exchange ideas, photo methods, and concerns rooted in the Black diasporic experience. CBIM invites you to not only make your own polaroid portrait, but to reimagine it through mixed media and decorative materials.

Cultural Asset Mapping Project (CAMP) 
C.A.M.P. is a storytelling and data visualization project hosted by the Chicago Park District. Connect with C.A.M.P. producers and record your story!

Julian Otis, Self-Care = Resistance

Artist and musician Julian Otis leads this interactive experience, a jam session that supports community health by providing a safe space for collective expression and fostering dialogue about what we need in our lives to thrive.

About Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble

Originally conceived as a medium for Chicago-based multimedia artist/activist Damon Locks’s sample-based sound collage work, Black Monument Ensemble (BME) has evolved from a solo mission into a vibrant collective of artists, musicians, singers, and dancers making work with common goals of joy, compassion, and intention. Galvanized by Locks’s conceptualizing, poeticizing, and guiding vision, the contributors come from all facets of the diverse wellspring of Black artistic excellence in Chicago, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to uplifting, anthemic, and highly animated musical performance.

 Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble’s new album NOW was created in the final throes of Summer 2020, following months of pandemic-induced fear and isolation, the explosion of social unrest, struggle and violence in the streets, and as the certain presence of a new reality fully settled in. Set up safely in the garden behind Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio, the music was recorded in only a few takes, capturing the first times members of BME had ever played or sang the tunes. For Locks, the impetus was more about getting together to commune and make art than it was about producing an album. In his words: “It was about offering a new thought. It was about resisting the darkness. It was about expressing possibility. It was about asking the question, ‘Since the future has unfolded and taken a new and dangerous shape … what happens NOW?’”

About avery r. young

Interdisciplinary artist @avery_r_young is also an award-winning teaching artist who has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago. In the foreword of his most recent book neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press), Theaster Gates called him “one of our greatest living street poets … one of the most important thinkers on the Black experience.” Black Grooves referred to his album tubman. (FPE Records) as “brilliant” and “supremely funky.” Young’s poems and essays have been published in Cecil McDonald’s In The Company of BlackThe BreakBeat PoetsThe Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn BrooksAIMPrint, and other anthologies. His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid engages matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama Era. The artist’s work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in several exhibitions and theater festivals, notably the Hip Hop Theater Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the American Jazz Museum. He is the featured vocalist on flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Mandorla Awakening (FPE Records) and a director of the Floating Museum. His theater credits include co-writing and co-producing the soundtrack for Lise Haller Baggeson’s Hatorgrade Retrograde: The Musical and writing the libretto for the Chicago Lyric Opera’s Twilight: Gods. His current work/practice is co-mentoring Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble and planning to tour with his band, de deacon board.

About Sadie Woods

Chicago born and bred, Sadie Woods is an award-winning post-disciplinary artist, curator and deejay who has showcased her myriad of creative practices from academia to nightclubs, boutiques to museums. She is the co-founder and artistic director of the Petty Biennial, co-founder and creative director of Selenite Arts Advisory, and a 2020 recipient of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Esteemed Artist Award. Woods is currently faculty at the School of the Art Institute, and Residents Orchestrate project manager at the Chicago Sinfonietta. She has exhibited her work and performed nationally and internationally. Publications include Harald Szeemann Méthodologie Individuelle published by JRP Ringier with Le Magasin—Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, in collaboration with the Department of Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art, London.

About Residents Orchestrate Project

Chicago Sinfonietta’s Residents Orchestrate Project (ROP) is a collection of satellite residencies throughout Chicago under the direction of program manager Sadie Woods. ROP neighborhood residencies are designed to eliminate socioeconomic and geographic barriers while providing interactive programming and services. ROP utilizes CS personnel alongside South Side and West Side community partners to create unique opportunities for engagement and support. Free to the public, ROP focuses on investing cultural capital into the production of existing local culture through co-curating initiatives.

Portraits in the Park is presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series, supported by the Mayor’s Office and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Now in its ninth year, the 2021 Night Out in the Parks program presents cultural events year-round in neighborhood parks throughout the city. The Chicago Park District in partnership with over 100 local artists and organizations, present engaging events and performances that enhance quality of life across Chicago and amplify the artistic and cultural vibrancy in every neighborhood. For more information about Night Out in the Parks, please visit

 Night Out in the Park events hosted in a Chicago Park District location must adhere to the City of Chicago’s guidelines for park use, which state that all park users should continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing when in a crowd. Patrons who are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home and join us for an event when symptoms subside. For updates on health and safety guidelines, visit

Presented with the DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is the oldest independent black history museum in the nation. Our mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs, and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture, and art. The DuSable Museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and for more information on the museum and its programs, please call 773-947-0600 or visit us at The DuSable Museum of African American History gratefully acknowledges the Chicago Park District’s partnership.



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