Columbia College Chicago’s Risk Exhibition Examines Art’s New Frontier: Social Change

Ambitious social practice art exhibition in Chicago tackles myriad of topics from gun violence to defining “happiness” in the 48th ward

Samantha Hill Great Migration 2

Samantha Hill, Great Migration, 2012

CHICAGO (Feb. 11, 2014)—Columbia College Chicago’s ambitious new exhibition, RISK: Empathy, Art and Social Practice, running Feb. 10 – April 26, presents a city-wide look at art as an agent for social change. The exhibition features more than 60 artworks and performances by established and emerging artists engaging in various political and social issues in Chicago.

“Chicago is renowned for being on the cutting edge of socially engaged art, and the artists involved in this exhibition are profoundly diverse in their practice and subjects,” said Neysa Page-Lieberman, co-curator of RISK and director of exhibition and performance spaces at Columbia College. “This has been an exciting challenge to present all together, but with the collaboration and support of partners across the city, RISK showcases some of the most influential artists working in this art form today.”

With support from the Joyce Foundation, the exhibition involves an unprecedented activation of more than 25 museums, galleries, schools, community centers, businesses and other non-traditional art spaces across Chicago, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, 6018North, Hyde Park Art Center, the Rebuild Foundation, and other organizations and institutions. In these settings, RISK asks artists and audiences alike to engage in a city-wide experience of dialogue and social cooperation exploring topics ranging from Chicago’s gun violence to defining “happiness” in the 48th ward.

RISK presents artwork at the vanguard of the social practice art movement and encompasses a wide breadth of contemporary issues. The recent rise of the movement can trace its roots back to the 1960s, yet today’s artworks are largely influenced by post-9/11, Occupy Wall Street, the Great Recession, the fight for marriage equality, immigration and other contemporary social issues.

“Social practice art challenges conventional notions of art ownership and the expectations of an object-oriented experience,” said Amy M. Mooney, co-curator of RISK and associate professor in Art + Design at Columbia College. “This exhibition invites viewer participation that reveals the reciprocal nature of the artistic process, hopefully leaving audiences with indelible marks on civic consciousness and political enfranchisement.”

The exchange between artist and audience, and the unique storytelling projects that sometimes spend years in development, like Kirsten Leenar’s Not In Another Place, But This Place… (Happiness) has presented an ongoing challenge for some institutions presenting art conceived outside of traditional formats. Yet, in Chicago, community engagement has long played a central role in the city’s cultural scene. From art classes at the Hull House to the establishment of the South Side Community Art Center, art has been and continues to be viewed as a shared social experience.

The divergent practices of the artists in the exhibition also reflect the significant role that risk and empathy play in their work, encouraging audiences to take action in ways they may have never considered before. RISK is highly experimental, with uncertain outcomes on any given topic. For some artists, their installation could take an entirely different direction between the opening and closing of the show, all depending on the input and participation of audience.

In order to cover the breadth of issues the artists explore, the exhibition weaves together installations and performances throughout the city—from Hyde Park, Bronzeville and the South Loop to Albany Park, Edgewater and more.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

• Alberto Aguilar’s Lunch Room Expanse and A Personal Dinner Invitation: A Wedding to an Unknown Couple, the latter of which invites a real-life couple who responds to a Craigslist ad to have a wedding ceremony and celebration with 100 strangers invited by the artist.
• Samantha Hill’s Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance, which documents past and current stories from the Great Migration to the current arts and cultural resurgence at multiple installations at Hyde Park Art Center, Blanc Gallery and Glass Curtain Gallery and performances at Parkway Ballroom and Sacred Keepers Youth Garden.
• Kirsten Leenaar’s Not In Another Place, But This Place… (Happiness) a three-channel video installation, whose cast members include police officers, students, community activists from the 48th ward, and Alderman Harry Osterman, who ask: who is responsible for happiness? A live screening and performance will be featured at 6018NORTH.
• Faheem Majeed’s Shacks and Shanties which serves as a temporary home and collaborative platform for artist interventions, performances and community engagement.
• Cheryl Pope’s Just Yell continues the artist’s exploration of ways to visualize the voices of Chicago youth who are impacted by gun violence. Pope and students from ChiArts and the MCA Creative Teen Agency will stage a series of performances and events including a memorial parade called Silence the Silence.

Alberto Aguilar, Jim Duignan, Industry of the Ordinary, Samantha Hill, Kirsten Leenaars, Faheem Majeed, Cecil McDonald, Jr., Jennifer Mills, Cheryl Pope, Museum of Contemporary Phenomenon, Potluck: Chicago, Fereshteh Toosi.

6018North, Hyde Park Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Rebuild Foundation.

Blanc Gallery, Bronzeville Historical Society, Civic Lab, Chicago High School for the Arts, En Las Tablas Performing Arts, From the Roots (formerly known as Social Innovation Advocates), GARLIC & GREENS, Garfield Park Conservatory, Harold’s Chicken, Hemlock of Illinois, Khalfani of Impolite Society, Lindblom Arts and Science Academy, Margaret Burroughs Collective, North Branch Projects, ONO, Parkway Ballroom, Ron Kobold 746 Studios, Sacred Keepers Sustainability Youth Garden, Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, Spanglish Mexican Kitchen, South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Territory Urban Design Team, and University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardener Program.

Feb. 13, 2014
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Glass Curtain Gallery
Columbia College Chicago
1104 S. Wabash

MEDIA CONTACT: Cara Birch,, 312.369.8695


EXHIBITION CONTACT: Justin Witte, 312.369.8177

EXHIBITION HOURS: (varies by venue)
Glass Curtain Gallery: Monday-Wednesday and Friday 9-5, Thursday 9-7, Saturday noon-5

Glass Curtain Gallery, located in the historic Ludington building, exhibits emerging and mid-career, national and international artists in all media. The gallery presents museum-quality exhibitions, workshops and visiting artist lectures all of which help to create a dialogue essential to the development and growth of students within the arts.

Columbia College Chicago is an urban institution that offers innovative degree programs in the visual, performing, media and communication arts for more than 10,000 students in 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. An arts and media college committed to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Columbia is dedicated to opportunity and excellence in higher education. For further information, visit

The Joyce Foundation supports the development of policies that both improve the quality of life for people in the Great Lakes region and serve as models for the rest of the country. We focus on today’s most pressing problems while also informing the public policy decisions critical to creating opportunity and achieving long-term solutions. The work is based on sound research and is focused on where we can add the most value. We encourage innovative and collaborative approaches with a regional focus and the potential for a national reach. The Culture Program works to improve communities through the arts, diversify arts audiences, and support new works by artists of color through the Joyce Awards. Learn more at