Art, Publics, Politics: Legacies of the Wall of Respect
Symposium held at the Block Museum in conjunction with a student-curated exhibition on the Wall of Respect and the Mural Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
2017 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Wall of Respect, a mural of Black heroes and heroines painted “guerrilla-style” in 1967 by the Organization of Black American Culture on the wall of a decaying building on the South Side of Chicago. Although it existed for only a few years, the Wall of Respect helped set off a multiracial community mural movement that was active in Chicago and throughout the United States. Many of its characteristics—an assertive, pro-Black, grass-roots, collaborative project, intervening and making itself visible without authorization in public space—continue on in contemporary art and activist projects that appear on walls and in streets, as well as in social media and other virtual “spaces.”
“Art, Publics, Politics” 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 or work they write and think about. We hope to have a 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.
The exhibition at the Block Museum of Art will be curated by students in a first-year seminar at Northwestern University, entitled “The Wall of Respect and Chicago’s Mural Movement.” Many events in the coming year, including an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, a book due out in the fall, and other programs around the city, will commemorate the Wall of Respect in ways that honor its makers, its historical context, and the intellectual and political milieux of greatest relevance to its original existence.
Presented in partnership between the Block Museum of art and the Northwestern University Department of Art History