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The Obama Portraits: Engage and Explore


We’re celebrating The Obama Portraits all summer long with free community events, virtual programs, and art making.

Deepen your connection through unique programs and resources that highlight Chicago artists and explore artworks from the museum’s permanent collection.

Don’t miss these events for audiences of all ages. Explore featured offerings below, and see all upcoming events on our calendar.

Explore All Events


Find inspiration in the artworks in our collection, and tap into your artistic side.

The Artist’s Studio: Paired Portraits

Explore a self-portrait by Beauford Delaney alongside a portrait of Delaney by Georgia O’Keeffe. Then work with a friend or family member to create your own paired portrait and self-portrait. Download the activity.


Listen to powerful poems written by Chicago high school teens in response to The Obama Portraits for the Portraits Teen Poetry Competition, a program created in collaboration with the museum’s Teen Council interns and open to all Chicago high schoolers.

Hebru Brantley
Brantley creates narrative-driven work revolving around conceptualized iconic characters, which he utilizes to address complex ideas around nostalgia, the mental psyche, power, and hope. See Brantley in conversation with Tempestt Hazel, curator, writer, and founder of Sixty Inches from Center, on August 3. Register today.

Brandon Breaux
Breaux, widely known for his iconic album covers for Chance the Rapper, is an artist and designer based in Chicago whose creative experience spans painting, sculpture, web, video, print, and interactive projects. Breaux joined Eric Williams in conversation on June 24. Watch the video.

Chicago Sinfonietta Residents Orchestrate Project
The Chicago Sinfonietta’s Residents Orchestrate Project is designed to bring the Sinfonietta experience to communities in the Chicagoland area that might not otherwise experience them due to economic, social, geographic, or other barriers. Chicago Sinfonietta performs live as a part of Portraits in the Park July 10 and 17.

Concerned Black Image Makers
CBIM is a collective of Black lens-based artists, founded in 2017, who wish to exchange ideas, photo methods, and concerns rooted in the Black diasporic experience. The group leads a polaroid portraiture project at Portraits in the Park July 10 and 17.

Theaster Gates
Chicago artist Theaster Gates makes works that engage with space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. His works focus on the possibility of the “life within things” and contend with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise—one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. Louise Bernard, founding director of the Obama Presidential Center’s museum, joins Gates in conversation on August 10. Register today.

Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble
Listen to tracks by acclaimed local music collective the Black Monument Ensemble and headliner Damon Locks at Portraits in the Park on July 17.

Victoria Martinez
Martinez is a transdisciplinary artist and educator from Chicago who explores installation art, site-specific experiments, screenprinting, and painting. Martinez leads a fabric and pattern art-making activity at Portraits in the Park on July 17.

Julian Otis
Julian Terrell Otis is a Chicago musician who explores the limitless possibilities of his instrument’s expressive capacity through song, improvisation, and theatrical works. For Portraits in the Park on July 10 and 17, Otis leads the interactive experience Self Care = Resistance. These jam sessions support community health by providing a safe space for collective expression and fostering dialogue about what we need in our lives to thrive.

Saleem Hue Penny
h.u.e is a Black creative and community builder with a vestibular disorder and single-sided deafness. He engages families through “rural hip-hop blues” poetry, early childhood programming, and hospital magic. h.u.e has created family portraiture kits that will be distributed at Portraits in the Park July 10 and 17.

Amy Sherald
Dive into the world of Amy Sherald, the artist behind the portrait of Former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Cauleen Smith
Drawing from structuralism, cinema, and science fiction, Smith’s work deploys the tactics of activism in service of ecstatic social space and contemplation. Amanda Williams joins her in conversation on July 22. Register today.

Kehinde Wiley
Explore the life and work of artist Kehinde Wiley, who painted the portrait of President Barack Obama.

Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Her creative practice employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of race, place, and value in cities. Williams joins artist Cauleen Smith in conversation on July 22. Register today.

Eric Williams
Eric Williams is the founder and creative director of the Silver Room, a retail space, community events hub, and art gallery located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Williams joined artist Brandom Breaux in conversation on June 24. Watch the video.

Sadie Woods
Woods is an award-winning post-disciplinary artist, independent curator, and deejay. Her work focuses primarily on social movements, cultural memory, and producing collaborations within communities of difference. She deejays under the moniker Afrodjia, focusing on diasporic Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music and culture. Woods performs alongside Chicago Sinfonietta at Portraits in the Park July 10 and 17.

Andrea Yarbrough
Yarbrough is a Chicago-based educator, maker, and curator. Her research asks how we might reactivate neglected spaces as sites of care through a blend of art praxis, civic engagement, and urban agriculture. Yarbrough moderated a conversation between Brandon Breaux and Eric Williams on June 24. Watch the video.

avery r. young
Renowned Chicago musician, multidisciplinary artist, and teaching artist avery r. young headlines Portraits in the Park on July 10.

Teaching Resources

The Obama Portraits Tour is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. 

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National Sponsor

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The Art Institute thanks the many supporters who have funded the Chicago presentation, as well as access, education, and programming.

Lead Corporate Sponsor for the Chicago Presentation

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Lead Individual Supporters 
Lester Coney and Denise Gardner

Corporate Programming Sponsor

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Leadership support is contributed by Illinois Tool Works and the Leadership Advisory Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Major funding is provided by the Blanchard-Nesbitt Family; Suzette and Ally Bulley; Francesca and Liam Connell; Anne and Don Edwards; Paul, Dedrea, and Ian Gray, In the Works Foundation; Guida Family Foundation; Cheryl and Eric McKissack; and Peggy A. Montes.

Special support is contributed by Julia Langdon Antonatos and Larry Antonatos, Ariel Investments, Caroline Brown and Cairy Saltwell Brown, Ann Collins, Kevann M. Cooke, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Nickol and Darrel Hackett, Mellody Hobson, Linda Johnson Rice, The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, the Langdon Neal Family, Fay and Daniel Levin, and Marisa Murillo.

Additional support is provided by Jozy Altidore, Azeeza, Chanel Coney, Javon Coney, Don and Kristen Crawley, Allison and Susan Davis, Andrea Ellis, Steven Galanis, Kyle and Ashley Gardner, Andre Iguodala, Olivia John, Jasmine Jordan, Deven Rand, Alexa Rice, and Sloane Stephens.


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