Art writer Lee Ann Norman profiled four Chicago-based curators in her July 2016 article Chicago Curators Are Expanding the Cultural Conversation from the Inside Out. Focusing on Yesomi Umolu of the Logan Center at the University of Chicago, independent gallerist Erin Gilbert, and Naomi Beckwith of the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as Block Museum curator Janet Dees, the article explores the innovative ways that Chicago curators are working within their institutions to expand the geographic and social boundaries of the art world. The four women are united by the way they are each seeking to broaden the inclusivity and relevance of the city’s cultural dialogues. Norman writes:
Using skills and connections gained in places as far flung as the Southwestern United States, New York City, Africa, and the UK, Janet Dees, Yesomi Umolu, Erin Gilbert, and Naomi Beckwith have been expanding notions of what impact curatorial practice can have…Carving out niches across institutional terrain—each woman has drawn on her own experiences to broaden conversations about culture in the city, as well as expand ideas about who participates.
Dees spoke with Norman about her forthcoming exhibition If You Remember, I’ll Remember which will highlight the intersection of histories that are often spoken of in isolation. The show, which includes artistic explorations into Native American boarding schools and Japanese American internment camps, among other topics, seeks out new modes of dialogue between connected histories. Norman goes on to note the city-wide significance of such work:
These women are using curatorial practice to make their local work relevant and meaningful in the global context of contemporary art. Their work of affirms that Chicago’s visual arts scene can be nimble, vibrant, and global rather than merely stifling or difficult. By working within the institutions that make up the city’s cultural infrastructure, Dees, Umolu, Beckwith, and Gilbert have been able to alter the ways in which that infrastructure functions, in turn increasing the institution’s effectiveness as a steward of culture and history.