MSI Honors Martin Luther King’s 95th Birthday With “Black Creativity” Through April 21

"Baldwin at St. Germaine Paris" by Keith David Conner Honorable Mention
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More than half a century ago, 53 years ago to be exact, in 1970 local Chicago Black artists, such as South Side Community Art Center member artist Douglas R. Williams collaborated with esteemed members of the Chicago Defender Newspaper staff including Publisher John H. Sengstacke, photographer Robert (Bobby) A. Sengstacke, fine arts editor Earl Calloway, and along with history professor and  Museum of Science & Industry trustee, John Hope Franklin, to organize and create an initiative originally named Black Esthetics. Their objective was to share the culture, heritage, and contributions of African Americans as both a tribute and inspiration. This program expanded in 1984 to include the sciences, history, and technology. With its broader scope, it was aptly renamed Black Creativity

Family Day Interactive Event

Opening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 15, 2024, through April 21, 2024, the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition and Black Creativity Family Day had eight hundred applicants applied to be included in this exhibit, which will include one hundred fifty artworks from one hundred different African American artists. This is the longest continuously running exhibition of African American art in the country. Paintings, drawings, fine art prints, sculptures, mixed media, and photography will be displayed.

Joseph Williams-Salgado Disability Does Not Mean Inability

Twenty-two of the artists are Chicago students from local high schools and after-school art programs ranging from fourteen to seventeen years old.  I was soulfully touched by second-place winner young artist Joseph Williams-Salgado, explaining his physical challenges through a video: Disability is a challenge, not a burden, and how his artistic endeavors saved him, transforming his moral character.

Family Day Participants

One of the featured artists is University of Wisconsin’s Madison-based Jerry Jordan. He describes his style as a “contemporary realism style in the tradition of Harlem Renaissance influences.” Also showcased are Black STEAM professional exhibits (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) with the goal of inspiring young people to explore opportunities in these fields. It is so powerful that MSI recognizes art as a critical component of a well-rounded education.

Black Creativity Gallery Wall

Martin Luther King Jr. from The Purpose of Education in The Maroon Tiger 1947 Morehouse College’s student newspaper wrote, “Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” I believe MSI’s Black Creativity Exhibit honors King’s dream and is a significant step toward inspiring all young people participating in this experience to achieve this mantra. Dr. Jessica Chavez,  the Ruth D. and Ken M. Davee Vice President of Education and Chief Learning and Community Partnership Officer at MSI, reiterates this philosophy. She states “For more than 50 years, Black Creativity has provided an invaluable opportunity to not only celebrate Black and African American STEAM professionals but allow young people of color to see what is possible for their futures. The aim of this year’s programming is to spark curiosity and inspire confidence in the next generation of Black innovators and creatives.” 

Traci Mims Youth

On the opening day, we met with Architect Manny Juarez. He is the Executive Director at MSI. He is responsible for connecting arts to organizations with larger audiences through quality programming and strategic planning. He shared with us the results of a patron survey that expressed the value of first seeing the Black Creativity Exhibit and how it enhanced the experience of the museum’s other exhibitions. At Family Day, an interactive event included with the Black Creativity exhibit in the Rotunda, we met contemporary artist the delightful Raven Smith. She is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute Chicago. At 16, while a student at Chicago High School For The Arts (ChiArts), Chicago’s first public high school, she competed in the MSI’s Juried Art Teen Category and won. Raven Smith facilitated an activity on color psychology where guests used emotional communication through creative outlets to create memorable experiences.

Desirae Brown’s The Queen

This is a beautifully curated exhibit that should be seen by all. I was amazed by the creativity of artist Desirae Brown’s The Queen taking Bed foam and rhinestones and transforming it into haute couture. I was mesmerized by Nicole Van Dykens Subtle Acts of Exclusion Pen stippling on paper. You must see Keila Strong’s Picture Day Barrette mosaic on canvas from far and near. My favorite artwork was Mathieu Jean Baptiste ScapegoatICharcoal and graphite on paper. The detail he achieved with this medium blew me away.

Mathieu Jean Baptiste ScapegoatICharcoal and graphite on paper
Black Creativity Gallery Wall

The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 South Dusable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637. It is a world-class institution that I have never seen surpassed by any other science museum and deserves to be visited regularly. Museum Entry Includes access to most permanent exhibits, including Science Storms and Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, and select temporary exhibits like Black Creativity and Family Days. Child ages 3-11 – $14.95 Members – FREE

Keila Strong’s Picture Day Barrette

Photos: Courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

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