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Announcing “Learning Together: Art, Education, and Community”

June 30, 2021

A mural depicting a black man with a child in his arms on the left and a variety of images including a school bus, a CTA bus, a globe with a bandaid on it, a ladder, and a portion of a computer, in a grid pattern to the right.
Bernard Williams and John Pitman Weber, Urban World at the Crossroads, 1997, acrylic on brick, mural at Orr Academy High School

In a first-time partnership, the University of Illinois Chicago’s (UIC) Gallery 400 and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM) have been awarded research and development grants by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Together the grants total over $50,000 for the research and development of a joint initiative of work toward two linked exhibitions to be presented in Fall 2024 as part of Art Design Chicago, a TerraFoundation initiative exploring and elevating Chicago’s rich art and design histories and diverse creative communities. Gallery 400’s and JAHHM’s initiative, “Learning Together: Art, Education, and Community,” is a research and development project that explores Chicago’s rich history of arts education. Education settings have played a central role in the self-recognition, cohesion, and self-determination of numerous communities across the city of Chicago. The paired exhibitions that the Gallery and Museum are developing will examine how pedagogical art practices in Chicago have constituted a democratic practice, whether in small classroom and informal learning settings, or in neighborhood groups or communities.

The side of a brick building with three separate rows of eighteen different color-blocked grid-style images including a dragon, a figure working at a desk, a house, and a skyscraper.
Bernard Williams, Dragon Wall, 2002, acrylic on aluminum panels, at Healy Elementary School

Gallery 400’s research will center on the progressive art pedagogy of disparate Chicago artist-educators in the later 20th century, with additions by practitioners in the contemporary period. The exhibition tells the history of progressive art pedagogues and their relationship to artworks co-created by educators and their students and those educators’ studio works that informed their pedagogy. A key aspect of the research will center on the contributions of immigrant artist educators and the diasporic practices of African American, Latino/a, and Asian artist educators, as well as the exchanges across cultures. Gallery 400’s 2024 exhibition will present the history of the city’s art pedagogy and practice that has laid the ground for that capacity, while also pointing toward bright possibilities of the future.

JAHHM will present new research that places a network of women at the center of Hull-House Settlement’s historic arts and education innovations of the late 1800s and early 20th century, that continue to enrich communities in Chicago today. Hull-House Settlement is associated with the theory of art, education, and social reform of the Arts and Crafts Movement advocated by men like John Ruskin and William Morris. Lesser known is the role and impact of women, such as co-founder Ellen Gates Starr, who made pragmatic art programs and advocated for the role of arts and education in society. JAHHM’s exhibition will map the arts education legacy of Hull-House, placing Chicago at the center of the development of arts education.

Wide view of a mural on the side of a building. On the right is the mural described above and on the left is a continuation of that mural with more grid-style images along with a silhouetted figure and two large black faces on either side of the building’s door, facing away from the two sides of an open double door.
Bernard Williams and John Pitman Weber, Urban World at the Crossroads, 1997, acrylic on brick, mural at Orr Academy High School

“Learning Together: Art, Education, and Community” will utilize a process that prioritizes collaboration, reciprocity, and shared authority. Thus, a central element of the project is to convene arts educators, scholars, and practitioners to advise and guide how the research will unfold. The first of two such convenings was held remotely in June 2021. Through this grant, JAHHM has invited Annie V.F. Storr, a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center of Brandeis University to join Terra Foundation for American Art’s Research Fellows and support her decades-long inquiries into the early art education efforts at Hull-House Settlement and the life and legacy of Ellen Gates Starr. Author and oral historian Mark Larson will advise both a JAHHM oral history assistant and a Gallery 400 Terra Foundation for American Art Research Fellow on capturing the disparate histories that are critical to the project.

Rebecca Rugg, Dean of the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts, said of the grant awards and partnership: “Both Gallery 400 and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum are doing very important work in Chicago’s educational and cultural landscapes –and I am so pleased to see these two wonderful units in the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts partner for the first time on this timely shared initiative, made possible by the Terra Foundation.”Gallery 400 director Lorelei Stewart adds, “Gallery 400 is thrilled to be partnering with Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, the Terra Foundation, and Art Design Chicago on this critical research toward what will be a set of impactful exhibitions. Arts educators are a backbone of the development of our society and of our amazing Chicago community. Our plan is to develop these first ever exhibitions to tell the full story of pedagogy and art practice, rooted in the work of early progressive educators such as John Dewey and Ellen Gates Starr and then shaped and formed by the contributions of disparate educators who came to Chicago across the 20th century, to not only celebrate and educate historical work but to uplift and support the everyday work of Chicago’s brilliant K-12 arts educators.”