The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle

Gallery 1, Gallery 2 & Cleve E. Carney Gallery

The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle is an exhibition and public program that engages artists and practitioners in considering conditions of the middle—both conceptual and concrete. Artwork on view in The Chicago Effect will explore permeable boundaries, liminal spaces, and in-betweens, identifying and asserting the necessity of the middle as a fertile improvisational space that becomes a creative engine, and raising questions about the value of a middle-man, a middle class, a moderate political position, and even the middle ground between formal and material states. Using the Art Center as a model for how an arts institution can occupy the space of the middle to foster intercommunity connectivity and spur creative production, public programming and a printed catalogue will accompany the exhibition to offer analyses of how mid-sized organizations can serve and engage audiences.

Featuring work by:
Marissa Lee Benedict
Robert Burnier
Devon Dikeou
Essex Olivares
Assaf Evron
Jamie Hayes
Patrick Meagher
Michael Smith
Jan Tichy
Lan Tuazon

Co-curated by Director of Exhibitions & Residency Programs Allison Peters Quinn, Residency & Special Projects Manager Megha Ralapati, and New York-based guest curator Christopher K. Ho, the exhibition encourages movement away from the poles. The curators frame the position of the middle as an essential condition of the creative process, selecting artwork that exemplifies this idea. 

“We’ve found our position in ‘the middle’ to be fertile ground for creativity and connectivity—both for the Art Center as an institution and for the artists and communities we work with,” said Executive Director Kate Lorenz. “We’re excited to partner with artists and organizations in The Chicago Effect to present alternate viewpoints of the middle and its benefits to the creative process. The middle can be a place of uncertainty, but that’s exactly what makes it so exciting. Those moments can be used to turn the middle into an incubator for radical thought.”

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014, Hyde Park Art Center is somewhere in the middle of its history. An organization that has developed a lasting legacy over time, its institutional identity has always been oriented to the new. The Art Center embraces occupying this middle ground: the space of tension between past and future, the grey area of openness to what could be, the place of connection between opposing elements. By being comfortable with the middle—being a mid-sized institution, supporting artists at the emerging and blockbuster levels and everywhere in between, straddling the line between contemporary art gallery and community center—the Art Center has grown into a space of creative production that connects diverse audiences unlike any other in Chicago.

Using the Art Center model as a laboratory, The Chicago Effect includes a year-long think tank in which teams of academics and practitioners in diverse fields question assumptions about how an art center can and should function. These projects inspired a complementary program of experimental interventions, which will be presented throughout the run of the exhibition. Representatives from Cranbrook Academy of Art, DePaul University, IDEO, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Chicago’s Science of Philanthropy Initiative will physically and conceptually adapt the Art Center’s administration, architecture, design, and programming leading up to and during the exhibition. A catalogue documenting these trials will serve as a blueprint for experimental ways the art center of the future might effectively engage with and serve its community.

Among the experiments on view, The Chicago Effect includes a special exhibition by artist-run initiative The Green Lantern, featuring the work of Amanda Browder, Nick Butcher, Maria Dumlao, Jason Dunda Rebecca Mir Grady, Nadine Nakanishi, Carmen Price, Steve Ruiz, and Hui-min Tsen.

A catalogue designed by Cranbrook Academy of Art's 2D graduate students, and including essays by Ian Cofre and Nathasha Bunten, and the curators will document these trials and serve as a blueprint for experimental ways the art center of the future might effectively engage with and serve its community.