Exhibition, Website, and Symposium trace colorful legacy of the Wall of Respect

Northwestern joins Chicago-wide effort in commemorating mural’s 50th anniversary

We Are Revolutionaries: The Wall of Respect and Chicago’s Mural Movement,” a student-curated exhibit inspired by a mural that grew out of the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s, will opened April 21, 2017 at the Block Museum of Art. The exhibition will be on view through June 18, 2017.

“Art, Publics, Politics: Legacies of the Wall of Respect,” a related two-day symposium, will be held April 28 and 29 at the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

Controversial from the start, the “guerrilla-style” mural was created in 1967 by a group of visual artists on the South Side of Chicago, including Jeff Donaldson who later earned a Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern. Referred to as “The Wall of Respect,” the mural inspired a community movement that went on to reflect the politics of the times in vivid colors painted on walls across the city and beyond.

Events throughout Chicago will mark the Wall’s 50th anniversary, including the current exhibition, “The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power,” at the Chicago Cultural Center.

'Wall Of Respect' At 43rd & Langley
View of members of the community looking at the ‘Wall of Respect’ mural (at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue), Chicago, Illinois, 1968. (Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

Northwestern contributions to the anniversary include an exhibition and symposium at the Block Museum and the forthcoming book “The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago,” coauthored by Rebecca Zorach, Northwestern Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, with Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois) and Romi Crawford (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), and published by Northwestern University Press.

The event promises to explore characteristics of the Wall of Respect that continue on in contemporary art and activist projects. Zorach describes the mural as “an assertive, pro-Black, grass-roots, collaborative project” that intervened visibly in public space without seeking permission.

“We Are Revolutionaries” was collectively curated by first-year seminar students in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, working with Zorach and Corinne Granof, Block Museum Curator of Academic Programs.

“Most of these students are not art history majors, but they plunged enthusiastically into research on the murals,” Zorach said. “Chicago’s mural movement provides a crucial lens through which our students can begin to understand the complexities of Chicago’s history.”

Throughout winter 2017, the students explored Chicago’s mural movement, past and present, and used photographs and documents relating to the Wall of Respect and other murals to understand the unique historical context of the city’s public art. They interviewed artists, used historical newspaper sources and created maps based on Census data.

“The Block Museum is committed to serving as a laboratory for research and to the exploration of contemporary life and visual culture,” notes Lisa Corrin, Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director.  “This student-curated exhibition, in conjunction with this significant anniversary, demonstrates the way in which the museum can serve as an innovative space for teaching, learning and meaning-making, connecting the classroom to larger initiatives taking place throughout the city.”

Website: Explore the Chicago Mural Movement

Northwestern’s Media and Design Studio worked with students in Rebecca Zorach’s class to identify key landmarks of the Chicago Mural Movement of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.  An interactive website showcases student-produced digital StoryMap Narratives that expand upon the information that can be presented in the physical exhibition.

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Symposium: “Art, Publics, Politics: Legacies of the Wall of Respect”

The historically-focused exhibition at the Block Museum will culminate with the two-day symposium that looks at echoes of the Wall of Respect in contemporary art and activism.

The April 28 and 29 symposium, “Art, Publics, Politics: Legacies of the Wall of Respect,” brings together artists and scholars of the generations that followed the Wall of Respect to address connections — direct and indirect — between the Wall and their work and research. The weekend will offer vigorous discussion of ways in which contemporary art and activism continue to engage with the issues and strategies the Wall embodied, as well as ways in which they diverge.

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Faheem Majeed, Floating Museum teacher workshop. Photo credit Devin Mays

Faheem Majeed, Floating Museum teacher workshop. Photo credit Devin Mays.

The free exhibition and symposium are presented in partnership between the Block Museum of Art and the Northwestern University Department of Art History with support by the Mary Jane Crowe Conference Fund​, the Department of Art History, the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Department of Art Theory and Practice, the Department of African American Studies, the Program in American Studies and the Northwestern Black Arts Initiative.

Friday, April 28

  • 10 a.m. – The Wall of Respect: An Introduction

Symposium welcome and introduction with Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois) and Romi Crawford (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), moderated by Amor Kohli (African and Black Diaspora Studies Program, DePaul University).

  • 11 a.m. – History in the Present Tense

Presentations by Andres Hernandez on Historical F(r)ictions; Nicole Marroquin on Faheem Majeed; Andrew Schachman on The Floating Museum and sound and visual artist Damon Locks on working in past, present and future tense, moderated by James Britt (Northwestern University).

  • 2:15 p.m. – Legacies

Presentations by Marcus Sterling Alleyne on art and inspiration and Juarez Hawkins (Chicago State University) on being a Child of the Wall, moderated by Tempestt Hazel (Sixty Inches from Center).

  • 3:45 p.m. – Inter/national Resonances

Presentations by Alexis Salas on murals and street interventions in the Americas and Mechtild Widrich (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) on the international circulation of visual protest culture, moderated by Rebecca Zorach (Northwestern University).

  • 5:30 p.m. –Art and Affinity: Embedding cultural work in urban communities

Symposium keynote address with Dr. Adeola Enigbokan, University of Amsterdam.

  • 6:45 p.m. – Reception

Saturday, April 29

  • 9:30 a.m. – Roundtable: Murmurs, Echoes, Shouts

A conversation with Maria Gaspar, Dread Scott and Scheherazade Tillet, moderated by Huey Copeland (Northwestern University).

  • 11 a.m. – Student Curator Presentation and Exhibition Tour
  • 1:15 p.m. – Walls

Presentations by Desi Mundo (Community Rejuvenation Project) on Community Engagement vs Graffiti Abatement: Aerosol Murals in the 21st Century and Victoria Martinez on her urban installation experiments, moderated by Drea Howenstein (School of the Art Institute of Chicago).

  • 2:45 p.m. – Art as Direct Action

Presentations by Cauleen Smith on the Procession of Black Love and For the People (FTP) Artist Collective on making movement art, moderated by Thomas Love (Northwestern University).

  • 4:30 p.m. – Discussion and Closing Remarks

The Block Museum of Art is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts. Search for events across all artistic disciplines at Northwestern Arts Circle.

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Top Image Credit:  Nicole Marroquin. Covering a Mural on Los Comales on 18th. Part of A Day Without Public Art in Pilsen, October 2013. Photo Nicole Marroquin. 

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