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AROUND TOWN: The Designs of African American Life

  • Chicago Cultural Center 78 East Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602 (map)

November 2, 2018, 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Opening Reception: African American Designers in Chicago

Chicago Cultural Center

78 East Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602

Where is design in the history of African American life? In many respects, it has been, and continues to be, everywhere. As artisans, mechanics, milliners, tailors, sign-painters, hair dressers, book makers, art directors, commercial photographers, architects, product engineers, and digital media specialists, African Americans have taken up design work and entered the design professions not only to earn a living but also to elevate the value of African American life over and against the racism that has devalued that life from the age of Atlantic slavery to our present moment of global capitalism. Yet, in several critical respects, we have only begun to reckon with design as a practice for African American life and as a mode for African American living.

Marking the opening of African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race, this symposium gathers scholars and design practitioners who address all aspects of design in African American life. While the exhibition celebrates the works of Chicago-based graphic artists in fields ranging from sign-painting to doll-making, the symposium goes beyond Chicago and beyond the graphic arts in order to take stock of current work in the field and to explore new directions for research and practice. As they advance new narratives and methodologies that grasp the history of African American design, speakers illuminate critical problems at the intersection of art, politics, and everyday life.

The symposium features keynote addresses by Jacqueline Goldsby (Yale University) and Adam Green (University of Chicago), along with presentations by Elspeth Brown (University of Toronto), Jason Chambers (University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign), Romi Crawford (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Joshua Clark Davis (University of Baltimore), Michelle Fisher (Philadelphia Art Museum/City University of New York), Brenna Greer (Wellesley College), Kinohi Nishikawa (Princeton University), and Michelle Joan Wilkinson (National Museum of African American History and Culture).