A Place for Everyone to Feel at Home

Artists Community Events Exhibitions Staff

The MCA is building a greater capacity for creativity through experimental programs like In Progress.

I think our work at the museum hasn’t shifted, it’s grown. One of the first—and I say this a lot—one of the first things I noticed was we are the contemporary museum in the city, so we should be the place where artists, who are working at all different levels, in all different ways, with all sorts of people, we should be the place where they feel home. We should be the place where they can experiment, and they can take risks, and they can find a platform. We should be part of building capacity for the city itself and for the creative spirits that are here.

So, one of the things that we’ve actively done is create sets of programs where artists can come in and try things out, and they can engage with our public as they’re experimenting and trying. So we have a series of programs called In Progress, where we invite ascendant artists, who are working in a city to come in and create opportunities for audiences, or display work, or present work in a way that either might be, because the work is in progress literally, or it might be at a point of completion, where they’re like, “Hey, it’s new. We’re trying this out,” or they might be shifting their practice in a new way and they want to experiment.

So from the very beginning I was committed to the idea of: how can we be that laboratory? How can we be that space that feels constantly in motion and constantly open and constantly trying out things?  

The second thing is how can we really connect with organizations in the city that have a deep social responsibility, but also feel that culture is at the heart of their work? So we’ve started working more and more in kind of a sustained way with partnerships, whether they be youth partnerships, or whether they be working with adults about groups that really have culture at their core, and they use that as a form of social engagement, social transformation. So many of our artists that we show in our exhibition schedules have a similar kind of ambition or similar remit, so there’s obviously a very happy marriage. But for me it’s not the one-offs; it's how do we create kind of sustained relationships.

I think the third thing is really thinking about how are we a platform for the voices of contemporary culture, so not just art isn’t created in a vacuum. It's in a larger ecosystem of creative thinkers and creative practitioners. So we also think a lot—you know, we’re doing a series on music. We do series on fashion. We’re thinking a lot about film. So building the capacity of the institution that we’re the place if you want to come hear about contemporary culture, cutting edge, this should be the place that you come, because those artists who are really making a difference in the world, they’re on our stage and they’re speaking. They’re in our building and they’re talking about their work.

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Video still, Behind the Scenes at an Art Museum. © MCA Chicago.

Behind the Scenes

MCA staff members are interviewed in 1997 about their work. Interviews include Torri Johnson, security officer; Margaret Farr, assistant director of education; Pablo Helguera, coordinator of public programs; Dominic Molon,. . . more
1990s Community Education Staff