‘Chicago Black Artists Show’ diversifies Artists Month

Artist Marvin Tate, middle, said he has created art ranging from dioramas to spoken word for 35 years.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

The Chicago Urban Art Retreat Center, 1957 S. Spaulding Ave., is hosting the “Chicago Black Artists Show,” an art exhibit featuring work created solely by black artists, through Nov. 28.

“It is artists who live or work in Chicago and identify as black artists,” said Dianna Long, director and curator of the gallery at the CUARC. “The intention is to show [their work] within the context of other black artists.”

The show was created to join other galleries in participating in Chicago Artists Month, which has been held in October for the last two decades, and this is the first year it has included artists getting started in art classes, Long said.

“We have some artists that are quite accomplished with extensive resumes, and we have artists who have studied art in college and have degrees,” Long said. “We also have outsider artists, people who are self-taught, who haven’t taken art classes and have developed their own way of

making art.”

Long said the CUARC is involved with bringing awareness to social justice issues and giving underrepresented people opportunities to be seen.

“[Black] art is out there, and it’s been out there for centuries,” said Victoria Street, a senior journalism major and vice president of   communications for Columbia’s Black Student Union. “[Black art] is underrepresented to those people who haven’t searched for it.”

Street said art in Chicago is skewed depending on the neighborhood, and places like Hyde Park are communities rich in black art, but places like Wicker Park

are not.

“When it comes to black art being represented at Columbia, I see it a bit more [than in Chicago as a whole], but unless you are in tune with art or what people of color are doing at Columbia, you would never see it,” Street said. “If we could get some more black pieces on a large canvas like [the Wabash Art Corridor], black art would be greatly represented in not only Columbia but in Chicago as well.”

The show includes a variety of different artistic styles, techniques and messages, Long added.

“I have an assemblage—a piece I made out of pizza boxes and wood—and also a diorama made out of eyeglass cases,” said Marvin Tate, an artist who has pieces being shown in the “Chicago Black

Artists Show.” 

Tate also performs spoken-word pieces. He said he heard about the gallery on the West Side of Chicago and was interested in showcasing art there because it is where he grew up.

“I’ve performed in various states and countries, but I grew up and found my voice in the West Side of Chicago in the schoolyard,” Tate said.

The “Chicago Black Artists Show” has received backlash online from people who feel the show is racist and segregating by only including art created by black artists, Long said.

“A woman in North Lawndale made statements that we just threw a show together, and the only thing the people had in common was they were black, and it would be different if we had a theme, but actually we did have a theme,” Long said. “We asked artists to respond to [the question], ‘Could [you] talk about the black experience?’ in their art.”

Long said she sent out a message on neighborhood websites, the center’s Facebook page and to some people on their contact list asking their opinions on whether the show is racist. They have been discussing the topic for a couple of weeks, Long added.

“I’m sure there are other galleries that do not include black, Latino or Asian-American art,” Street said. “Something’s always going to be segregated, so just let us have our gallery.”

Street, Long and Tate all said they felt having a show solely including black artists

 was important.

“When you put this many voices together collectively, it can be a strong community,” Tate said. “Collectively we’re stronger. Even in this so-called colorblind world we live in, you still have to find unity with people who have a similar background as you.”

Street said major media outlets should report shows like the “Chicago Black Artists Show” more often to shed light on

black art.

“[The show] shouldn’t be tucked into the neighborhood it’s in, it should be broadcast and promoted at our school,” Street said. “It should be something everybody should know about, especially people of color.”

The “Chicago Black Artists Show” is a free exhibit, open Saturdays 1–4 p.m. and additional times by appointment. To set up an appointment, email info@urbanartretreat.com. For more information on Marvin Tate, visit artistmarvintate.com.