Artists Want Museums To Protest 'Trumpism.' Here's What Chicago's Are Doing

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 17, 2017 8:27PM

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MCA Building exterior at night. Photo: Peter McCullough, © MCA Chicago.

Despite a loud demand for cultural institutions to close their doors on Friday, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, in demonstration against the "normalization of Trumpism," most of Chicago’s major art museums are not answering the call, put forth by more than 130 artists and critics. But some are nonetheless responding to the anxious political climate in their own fashion.

The Museum of Contemporary Art will remain open on Friday, but they’re addressing the concern of the moment with a post-election edition of their semi-regular School Night program, called Self-Care as Warfare, next Tuesday. The discussion tackles “de-escalation tactics, media literacy, and mental health issues, as well as suggest strategies for self-preservation during uncertain times,” according to the museum. The Tuesday date was chosen since the museum stays open later and allows free entry for Illinois residents, Karla Loring, Director of Media Relations at the MCA, told Chicagoist.

However, the Art Institute of Chicago, which will also stay open Friday, did not spotlight any special, politically-relevant programming. James Rondeau, President and Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, said in a statement:

“Our mission every day is to champion the power of art in people's lives, promote creative and critical engagement with our collection, and strengthen our democracy by celebrating the diverse voices that make up our local and global audiences. I invite everyone to discover and make their own meaning, connections, and experiences in our galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Just north of Chicago, in Evanston, the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art of Northwestern University will in fact be closed on Friday—although the plans were made “prior to the election” and had to do with preparing the winter-season schedule, Lindsay Bosch, communications manager at Block, told Chicagoist via email. She also noted that the debut winter exhibition, Kader Attia’s Reflecting Memory (opening Saturday) "is urgently relevant, even more so during this time of political transition.”

“The exhibition expands on Attia’s long-term exploration of trauma and repair, both of the body and of society, and probes the complex legacies of colonialism, slavery, and xenophobia in our time,” Bosch said.

Representatives from the Smart Museum of Art were not available for comment.