Claiming Space: Creative Grounds and Freedom Summer School

Chicago, September 19, 2017—March 31, 2018 - This Fall, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum opens Claiming Space: Creative Grounds and Freedom Summer School, a collaborative exhibition with artists, educators and students that explores the transformation of public school space amidst the backdrop of depopulation, divestment and school closures on Chicago’s West Side.

In 2013, the City of Chicago closed and consolidated 49 Chicago Public Schools (CPS). More than 3 million square feet of public school space became designated as “under-utilized” or “under-performing” and was turned back over to the City of Chicago for resale or repurposing. Hull-House Museum will partner with Creative Grounds, led by architectural urban designer, Paola Aguirre and artist Sara Pooley, to document and make visible the statuses of closed, sold, non-utilized and merged West Side Chicago Public Schools. Through an interactive mapping installation, Creative Grounds will visualize the impacted landscape and the affected communities, contemplate their enormity and reflect on possibilities for the future.

Through their work, the Creative Grounds artists make a strong and needed statement that as Chicago residents, we have the right to know and to navigate our own education, learning and knowledge landscapes. Becoming informed about our city gives us access and avenues to exercise our right to the city
— Jennifer Scott, Director, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum will also partner with educator and Austin resident, Danton Floyd, founder of 360 Nation, a community organization that runs Freedom Summer School based out of Charles Sumner Math & Science Academy. In 2013, the City of Chicago designated Charles Sumner Academy, located between the North Lawndale and West Garfield Park neighborhoods, as an “under-utilized” school. Sumner was spared closure and remains a growing, high-performing school, and beacon institution in the community, but three schools in close proximity were shuttered or consolidated.

360 Nation Freedom Summer School students spent the summer learning how to identify and transform neglected spaces into welcoming environments, where they could better see and express themselves through a lens of self-determination. They cleared and configured empty lots around Charles Sumner Academy into viable play spaces with found and discarded materials. In July 2017, Hull-House commissioned teaching artist Leah Gipson, who is the founder of West Side Art Chicago, to work with Floyd and 360 Nation students over six weeks to create new designs, from the organization’s existing motifs, into dynamic patterned wallpaper. Hull-House also partnered with Alexandria Eregbu, a West Side based artist and designer, to further interpret the designs by 360 Nation students into logo graphics that communicate key values related to the exhibition and the student’s experience. These newly designed materials, along with other student-created art work, found and repurposed materials, photographs, and protest signs made during the 2016-2017 academic year with CPS Art Liaison Margaret Domian, will transform the spaces at Hull-House and Charles Sumner Academy, re-envisioning these spaces as sites of resistance.

Collectively, the artistic work of Creative Grounds, the Sumner Academy students and the Hull-House artists demonstrate powerful ways in which everyday citizens claim and reclaim space, defend their rights to their own learning processes and, together, craft the kind of city in which they want to live
— Jennifer Scott, Director, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Nicole Marroquin, Student Activism Collages Commemorating High School Walk-Outs, 1968-1973

Nicole Marroquin, Student Activism Collages Commemorating High School Walk-Outs, 1968-1973

For a companion exhibition, Hull-House will partner with artist and activist Nicole Marroquin who uses art, archives, and living testimonies to make connections between youth-led political movements and spatial justice. Her collaged screen prints chronicle the high school walkouts organized by Black and Latinx students in Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods between 1968-1973. At the time, students advocated for themselves, agitated and were brutally confronted by Chicago police. Marroquin’s work reflects on the claimed spaces and experiences of student activism.

Public Programs at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Join Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for programing related to our new exhibition, Claiming Space: Creative Grounds and Freedom Summer School. On-going throughout Fall 2017:

Featured Artists and Educators

Paola Aguirre and Sara Pooley are collaborative partners on Creative Grounds, led by Aguirre‘s Borderless Studios and supported by Archeworks. Creative Grounds explores the community and urban role of school grounds after the largest Chicago Public Schools’ closures in history. In collaboration with community organizations, educators, architects and journalists, this research and creative initiative will collect ideas and document the process of repurposing schools focused on leveraging the legacy of their past. Support for the Creative Grounds installation at Hull-House is supported by a Chicago Architecture Biennial Connector Grant.

Alexandria Eregbu is a conceptual artist whose concerns frequently address visibility, ontology, family, locality and mobility. She was a recipient of the Propeller Fund Grant in 2013. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Danton Floyd is the founder and lead organizer of 360 Nation. He has worked in community spaces, behavioral health institutions and primary school settings. Floyd utilizes popular education and critical dialogue as a means to promote self-love. He received his master’s degree from University of Illinois at Chicago in Educational Psychology. 360 Nation is a community organization based out of the West Side of Chicago that utilizes relationship building and the gifts and talents of 10-12 year olds to promote self-determination in the black community through in-school engagements and a summer camp program.

Leah Gipson is a artist who uses her professional experiences as a healthcare and human services provider to develop counter-public projects that address gender, racial and economic systems of inequality in Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods. In 2013, she initiated West Side Art Chicago, a series of collaborative participatory projects that focus on raising community consciousness and funding for local artists.

Nicole Marroquin is a transdisciplinary artist, strategist, researcher, concerned parent, and faculty in the Department of Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  In 2015, Marroquin was invited to present research at the University of Chicago in conjunction with the exhibit The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960–1980 and at the Art Institute of Chicago for the symposium The Wall of Respect and People’s Art Since 1967. Recently, she was a Joan Mitchell Fellow at the Center for Racial Justice Innovation, a Propeller Fund awardee and Artist In-Residence at Mana Contemporary with the collective Multiuso.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and Making the West Side

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM) draws upon the legacy of international peace activist and feminist, Jane Addams, and her colleagues who worked to create social reform among their immigrant neighbors on the Near West Side of Chicago during the Progressive Era. The museum preserves and develops the original Hull-House site for the interpretation and continuation of the historic settlement house vision. Exhibitions and public programs examine the histories of progressive education, democratic participation and social change. 

Claiming Space: Creative Grounds and Freedom Summer School is part of the Making the West Side project at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Making the West Side: Community Conversations on Neighborhood Change is an ongoing project funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities that brings together scholars, activists, neighborhood residents, and other stakeholders to investigate the history of neighborhood change on Chicago’s West Side and connect those histories to contemporary issues and concerns.