Block Museum announces Terra Foundation support for a project exploring Chicago’s art history from an Indigenous perspective

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University is the recipient of a $105,000 grant from the Terra Foundation of American Art in support of research and development for an exhibition that approaches the art history of the Chicago region from Indigenous perspectives.

Tentatively titled Indigenous Chicago: Confluence, Rupture, Flow, the exhibition will take place in 2024 as part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation, exploring and elevating Chicago’s rich art and design histories and diverse creative communities through exhibitions, events, and publications. The Block’s project takes the vital recognition that Chicago and its wider region are situated on Indigenous homelands as fundamental for exploring Chicago’s place at a crossroads. Throughout Chicago’s history confluences among and between multiple Native and non-Native peoples have generated creative practices and shaped visual arts and design across generations. The site has long been a cultural and economic hub for Indigenous peoples and is currently home to a diverse Native community.

“Chicago sits on the homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa; as well as the Menominee, Miami, and Ho-Chunk nations. The Block Museum joins with the Terra Foundation in taking this land acknowledgement both as a critical reference and call to action” say Janet Dees, Block Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

“We are honored that the foundation has joined with us to recognize the importance of an exhibition building process that foregrounds Indigenous curatorial practices of inclusivity, reciprocity, and research shaped by community priorities,” notes Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs, who, along with Dees is a co-initiator of the project.

Employing a collaborative curatorial model, Indigenous Chicago will center Native American perspectives in telling Chicago’s history and art history. Grant support will be used to hire a Native American guest co-curator and engage a diverse cohort of predominantly Native American advisors whose voices will drive the project’s content from its planning stages. Funds will also support a Terra Foundation Curatorial Research Fellow for the project.

Originally mounted as a city-wide project in 2018, Art Design Chicago is an ongoing initiative that seeks to build new understandings of the city through art and design, and to strengthen vital connections between its cultural organizations, creatives, and communities. A central goal of this and other Terra Foundation programs is to redress omissions and inequities in the portrayal of American art history and contemporary practice. The Block Museum’s project advances this cause by focusing on Chicago as a critical nexus for Native American art history.

“Indigenous Chicago is part of The Block’s ongoing commitment to support Indigenous art and artists in alignment with Northwestern University’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) and other related programs at the University,” states the Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director, Lisa Corrin. “This innovative project is another example of how the Block’s exhibitions and programs redress the balance of history by presenting inclusive narratives that call out the underlying biases of the canon.”

The Terra Foundation for American Art supports individuals, organizations, and communities to advance expansive understandings of American art. Established in 1978 and headquartered in Chicago, with an office in Paris, its grant program, collection, and initiatives are committed to fostering cross-cultural dialogues on American art locally, nationally, and internationally.

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