From the momentous invention of the wheel to The Lord of the Rings, the circle has always been an intriguing subject for mankind. As a part of October’s Chicago Artists Month, artists from The Little City Foundation explore the humble circle in an exhibit aptly titled Unbroken now on display in Rockefeller Chapel.
The exhibit aims to explore the universality of the circle, as well as to demonstrate the unique experiences and techniques of Little City artists. The Little City Foundation is an organization that works with developmentally disabled adults and children and provides them with residential care, job opportunities, and arts and athletics education. Their arts program gives residents the opportunity to work with a variety of local artists who also offer technical support and consultation for the residents.
“We don’t necessarily provide classes for the students,” said Frank Tumino, studio arts manager for Little City. “We provide facilitators who can help the artists create something they have envisioned.”
While Unbroken’s artists may face challenges unique to their disabilities, Tumino made it clear that they can capably translate their emotions into original art pieces. Unbroken beautifully communicates the artists’ sentiments and is indeed a testament to the collaborative effort made at Little City. The exhibit’s focus on the circle was chosen due to the shape’s universality and familiarity.
“The artists developed the theme of circles for the exhibit because it was something they all had worked on and could create in the future,” Tumino said.
Though not the most conventional place to house an exhibit, Rockefeller Chapel attracted Little City with its classic architecture and beautiful detailing. The first part of the exhibit hangs under the enormous vaulted ceilings and elaborate stained glass. These particular paintings explore more universal representations of the circle through the images of faces and geometrical figures. Infused with a multitude of colors, these works feature textures and bright hues that are rather pleasing to the eye. All of the faces in these paintings serve as reminders that different people can relate to each other’s experiences, images, and struggles.
The second display in Unbroken highlights the more individual and unique perspective of the artists as expressed through their interpretations of circles. Many of the paintings include photographs superimposed with bright circles and abstracted circular objects and people. Other works employ a graffiti style, which hearkens to types of circles that are found in our environment but are not natural. These pieces exemplify how objects can be viewed in an entirely new way through an artist’s eyes.
With a repertoire of artists from unique backgrounds to accompany their colorful, contemporary pieces, Unbroken demonstrates that individual challenges can be overcome through artistic expression.
“Although these artists may have physical disabilities that prevent them from verbally communicating, with this exhibit they now have the power of expressing their world through art,” Tumino said.
With multiple Little City exhibits opening on Friday, Tumino is both thrilled and anxious for the exposure these artists will be receiving. “There is a fashion show happening at the same time as this show,” Tumino said, “but I think we will have a good turn out for the [visual] artists.”
Archimedes and J.R.R. Tolkien may have utilized the circle to give us pivotal moments in mathematics and literature, but the artists from Little City have used qualities of the shape to create a positive mantra for life: Even when faced with exceptional amounts of adversity, it is best to stand resilient, strong, and unbroken.