“What Art Does” – Director Lisa Corrin on The Block’s 21-22 Season

The Block Museum of Art kicks off its 2021-22 this season on Wednesday, September 22, opening the doors to the 40th-anniversary exhibition Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection.  

Lisa Corrin, Ellen Philips Katz Director, offers a welcome to the exhibition and to a full year of conversations about history and the role art plays in making meaning of our world.

Director’s Welcome

Hi, I’m Lisa Corrin. I’m the director of Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art, and I’m here to tell you what’s happening at The Block this year, and to welcome you to our reopening galleries in September. This year, like many of you, we’ve been thinking a lot about history and how we got here. This fall, on the eve of our 40th anniversary, The Block presents: Who Says Who Shows What Counts. The exhibition includes extraordinary works of art, like the one behind me by the artist, Rashid Johnson, but also works that get us to think about landscape and how it embodies our memories about the past. About how our identity is formed, and also how museums shape who we are, our understanding of the past, as well as our understanding of the present.

This exhibition will be followed by a long-awaited opening of A Site of Struggle: American Artists against Anti-Black Violence. This exhibition, with a lead funder of the Terra Foundation for American Art, will open at The Block in January and then travel to the Montgomery Fine Arts Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The exhibition, accompanied by a book published with Princeton University Press, will show us how artists for over a hundred years have been thinking about the impact of anti-Black violence on our country, on their families, the communities, and on themselves.

The Block is interested in exhibitions, which present an arc of history, where works of art are seen in a much broader context. We’re interested in what art does, not just what art is. What kinds of questions it can raise? What kinds of conversations can it engender? Even though our galleries have been closed the past 18 months, we’ve still been in touch with you through our digital programming. And we’ve been taking soundings from our students and through community dialogues here in the city of Evanston to get a better understanding of what our campus and our community would like from our museum in the future. Our upcoming engagement programs will reflect this strong relationship by featuring not only Northwestern faculty and students, members of the Evanston community, and also scholars and curators from across the country. And you can be sure we will also include the voices of artists. We’re really looking forward to welcoming Sky Hopinka, Bethany Collins, Andrea Carlson, Tonika Johnson, and Chris Pappan, amongst others. It’ll be an opportunity not only to meet these artists, but also to hear what they have to say about their work and about thinking about history. And so in the coming year, we hope to expand our capacity to be the kind of space, where conversations like that can continue to take place, with works of art as the catalyst for those conversations.

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