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A vibrant quilt depicting seven schoolchildren dressed in many different colors. The children stand together in a group, and one boy, a member of the Safety Patrol, stands in front with his arms outstretched in a protective gesture.


Making a Difference: A Tour for Families


What are things you do to make a difference in your family, in your community, and in the world?

In this tour of the collection, you’ll find five works by artists or featuring subjects who are envisioning peace, imagining new futures, and creating safe and just spaces. Explore them together with your family and friends and enjoy the suggested activities together. Then think about what you can do to help others and make your mark in the world.

This highlights tour accompanies The Obama Portraits exhibition. All featured works are on view at the museum during the exhibition.

Shepard Fairey’s Barack Obama “Hope” Poster (2008)

On view in Gallery 285

Shepard Fairey

This iconic image of Barack Obama was designed as a poster for his 2008 presidential election campaign. How do Obama’s pose and facial expression suggest the idea of hope? The artist who made this, Shepard Fairey, is a graphic designer. He transformed the original photo of Obama taken by photographer Mannie Garcia into a stenciled image using flat areas of red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag.

If you could make a poster of yourself or a friend in a style inspired by Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster, what word would you use? How would you pose? Create your own free digital poster using your phone camera or computer at

Amanda Williams’s Color(ed) Theory: Flamin’ Red Hots (2014–15)

On view in Gallery 285

Amanda Williams

This photograph by Amanda Williams comes from a project titled Color(ed) Theory that she created in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. The artist worked with community members to paint abandoned houses that were set to be demolished using colors associated with products marketed to the black community. The house in this photograph was painted bright red-orange, the color of a processed snack food. As the artist has noted, processed snacks are often the sort of food you can find most in food deserts, areas of the city where there are no grocery stores in which healthy food choices are available. 

After the buildings were demolished, Williams returned to the sites to discuss how the buildings’ absence felt and what could take their place. Picture this site without the building. Describe what you imagine could be created here to make a positive change for this neighborhood. Share your thoughts with your family and friends.

Yoko Ono’s Mended Petal (2016)

On view in Pritzker Garden

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono is an artist, musician, and peace activist, and many of her artworks are meant to bring awareness to the need for peace and healing in the world. This sculpture is the shape of a lotus petal, a flower that symbolizes hope and rebirth. Ono has said, “I see the lotus as a universal symbol of peace and embodiment of all of our greatest hopes and aspirations.” Look for the raised lines on this sculpture, the visible signs of mending called out in the title of this artwork. What do you think needs to be mended in the world today? How would you help to repair it?

Use your body to copy the shape of this sculpture. Stand tall, raise your arms, and put your hands together. Feel the healing energy flow upward through your legs and body and then up your arms to the sky. 

You can find Skylanding, the companion piece to Mended Petal, in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago.

Elizabeth Catlett’s Sharecropper (1952)

On view in Gallery 263

Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett’s portrait is a powerful image of an everyday hero. Notice how we are looking up at her face, while she has her eyes set on the distant horizon. Her wide-brimmed hat shields her from the sun, and her simple jacket is fastened with a safety pin. Catlett said that she wanted to “present black people in their beauty and dignity.” What else do you think she wanted us to know about this woman? 

Catlett used printmaking, an inexpensive way to make and share large numbers of her activism-inspired images. This work is a linocut, a type of print made using linoleum, which Catlett chose because it was cheaper than other materials and because it produced distinct forms and lines. Look at all the shapes and textures that make up the woman and the background. See if you and your family members can describe all the different kinds of lines the artist used.

Bisa Butler’s The Safety Patrol (2018)

On view in Gallery 215

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler creates works of art by layering and sewing together carefully chosen pieces of brightly colored and patterned fabric, her stitching both holding the pieces together and adding decorative designs. In this quilt, she depicted a group of children clustered closely together. Butler included many small details that tell us something about their identities and relationships to one another.

Pose like the boy in the center of the artwork—stand tall, look straight ahead, and raise your arms to your sides. How does that stance make you feel? What role does the boy play for this group of children? Look for clues in what he is wearing that emphasize his role in keeping others safe. Each person in your family can imagine they are one of the children in this artwork. What would that child be saying? Make up a story together that tells what is happening here.  


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