And you hold power

Nia Easley

September 14, 2020 – March 13, 2021

collage image with text over that reads

Visible in the exterior Gallery 400 windows along Van Buren Street, Nia Easley’s text-based work And you hold power considers ideas of place and belonging in the midst of the ever-changing neighborhood around Gallery 400, as well as in our city of Chicago. Sited in public space, the work employs several languages (Ojibwe, Spanish, English and Greek) specific and important historically to the neighborhood around UIC. Across three panels, Easley’s text addresses viewers directly, encouraging reflection on one’s agency in/on a site, in both the past and the future.

And you hold power is grounded in a project Easley has developed over the last year in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, as well as in a workshop she gave at Gallery 400 in February 2020. In Avondale, Easley has been investigating the history of the neighborhood, engaging residents and visitors in questions about how a neighborhood is built, by whom, and what happens when community members change. Through intensive research, community interviews, and public tours, Easley’s work recreates a community archive that documents a story full of movement and transition. In the February 2020 workshop, Won’t you be my neighbor?—presented in conjunction with the Gallery 400 exhibition Turn the Light–Easley led an exploration of the archived visual history of the area around UIC. Workshop participants created collages using the archive images, underscoring and re-presenting what Easley calls “the sediment of succession” in the area.

Nia Easley is an artist and designer who addresses issues of visibility, accessibility, urban migration, social justice, and data visualization. Her artist books are currently in the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, DePaul University, Northwestern University, and the University of Iowa special collections. She has participated in exhibitions in the United States, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Easley was a 2017 recipient of the Threewalls RaD Lab grant, the 2018 Threewalls Outside the Walls grant, and the 2019 City of Chicago IAP grant. She is a vocal proponent of ethics in the professional design field, and her writing has been published in Interactions Magazine. Easley received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018 with a focus in Visual Communication Design.

Support for And you hold power is provided by the School of Art & Art History, the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.