May 22, 2017

Smart Museum Rings in a Year of Belonging

The Smart sets up for "The Project(s)," a documentary theater performance presented by the National Public Housing Museum and American Theater Company.

Grace Hauck / The Chicago Maroon

This past Saturday, the Smart Museum hosted an all-day festival to celebrate the culmination of its 2016–17 Interpreters in Residence program, a yearlong partnership with community artists and educators. The event, “A Collection of Small Actions: Making a Place of Purpose,” featured a series of workshops, performances, tours, and shared meals—vibrant discourse for a dreary day.

“We select artists who are considering similar sets of questions that we’re thinking about as an institution to develop programming that addresses our joint concerns. This year, that was around belonging, which manifested through our collection this rotation,” Michael Christiano, the museum’s interim senior director of programs, said.

This year’s stock of Interpreters, known as the Belonging Collective, hail from four different Chicago-based initiatives: the Stockyard Institute, a community center fostering pride in neighborhood history; the Red Line Service, an organization working to provide cultural experiences for adults experiencing housing transition; the Arts Incubator’s Arts and Public Life Teen Arts Council; and the Smart Museum’s Sojourner Scholars program for local high school students.

The partnership kicked off last summer when each group took up residency in the museum’s central Gray Gallery for a short exhibition, In Anticipation of Belonging. The following months witnessed an expansive array of programming: a 24-hour arts festival and museum sleepover, a series of teen workshops, the creation of two mobile radio stations, gallery tours led by two Arts Council “dopecents,” and more.


The Smart hosted an all-day arts celebration on Saturday.

Grace Hauck / The Chicago Maroon

Representatives from each of the participating organizations attended Saturday’s event to lead workshops and interact with visitors. Three of this year’s nine Sojourner Scholars showcased their most recent group project—a study on the origins and legacy of hip-hop.

“We’re studying what hip-hop contributes to our culture. At an event like this, where there are so many people, and a variety of people, we want them to experience something new,” Sandra Swift, a senior at Harlan High School, said.

“We’re playing a Spotify playlist that we created to show people what we listen to. I added a variety of hip-hop from different countries, including Portuguese hip-hop,” Devell Jordan, also a Harlan senior, said.

Although the 2016–17 Interpreters in Residence cycle has come to a close, the work of this year’s Sojourner Scholars is already laying the groundwork for future programming at the Smart.

“Their research will be incorporated into an upcoming 2018 exhibition called South Side Stories that revisits the art-historical narrative associated with Chicago from the ’60s through the ’80s,” Christiano said.

Stay tuned for more information on the 2017–18 Interpreters in Residence.