Every year at the Hyde Park Art Center, six professional artists mentor over 150 student artists to develop their artistic voices over the course of 30 weeks. During the 2019-2020 year, the young artists experienced the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the powerful wave of organized protests for racial justice that resulted from the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among many others. Several photographs in the exhibition, produced by young artists in the Advanced Photography course led by artist Jonathan Castillo, document the days between March and May of 2020 from the perspective of young Chicago artists, whose voices demand to be heard. The photographs include intimate captures of birthday celebrations during quarantine without large parties but filled with loving gestures, upside down cars and boarded up businesses that document the aftermath of a Spring and Summer of protests in Chicago, and important reflections of what it means to be a young Black American today. These powerful images will be compiled into a publication, which will be available to purchase through the Art Center’s website. The exhibition’s title, Next Window, Please is borrowed from a photograph taken during the Spring 2020 Advanced Photo class of a drive-through window filled with notes asking customers to move forward. The photograph and title speak to the current moment on so many levels. They are about our desire to move forward and to our new relationship with windows, digital or physical, that keep us safe and together at the same time.
The exhibition will also include documentation of the community engaged work that the Art Center’s Youth Board of Artists (YBA) organized this Summer. Alexis Thomas, a senior at Kenwood High School organized an art supply drive at the Art Center to distribute art making supplies to young artists in underserved communities. YBA, in an effort led by Nicole Alcalde Hester, a Junior at Ogden High School wrote and published statements of solidarity in support of the MCA’s Teen Creative Agency, a group that has challenged the institution’s response to the urgent demands for racial justice and the institution’s relationship with CPD. Darius Lamar, a junior at Kenwood High School, developed the collaborative South Island Brand as a space for young Black artists to collaborate, share resources, and develop creative projects together. These and the many other initiatives led by YBA are lessons in solidarity as well as important reminders to the rest of us to take action where we see injustice and to find power in our collective voices. This exhibition is a celebration of young artists and their power.
Image credit: Stevia Ndoe, We the People (detail), 2020, Digital photograph.