The Story of Stories

1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Chicago Founders

Video trailer for the museum's 50th anniversary MCA Stories project, containing video and images from five decades and the voices of friends, staff, and patrons.

Interviewer: What does a 21st-century museum look like?

Madeleine Grynsztejn: A 21st-century museum looks like the MCA.

Interviewer: Tell me your story.

Allen Turner: Well I first became involved with the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1986.

Helen Zell: On one of my walks I discovered the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Interviewer: We were talking a little bit about how the MCA started and why—

Lew Manilow: I created it.

Helyn Goldenberg: What was it like in the early days? It was about 90 percent volunteer, 10 percent staff, who weren't paid very much anyway so they might as well have been volunteers. Christo wrapping the museum, with the fire department trying to close us down. It was thrilling.

Scott Hodes: Christo and Jeanne-Claude, when they first saw the old Museum of Contemporary Art, they were somewhat surprised and wondered whether or not it wasn’t wrapped already. That was the condition it was in.

Anne Kaplan: But I think that when we got inside there was a certain sense of freedom.

Kerry James Marshall: The dynamics of the MCA energized the city in a way that only a museum of contemporary art could. It was an excitement because you got to see a lot of artwork that was being made in the moment. You got to see artists who were people that would become historically important later on. So you got to experience that while it was happening.

Helyn Goldenberg: Well let’s do Dan Flavin. People were so outraged by the exhibition. They’d run back and say, “There is no show! There is no exhibition. There’s a bunch of light bulbs on the wall. There's no exhibition. I want my money back.”

Lew Manilow: Art is not stable. It shouldn't be worshipped. It should be enjoyed. It should critiqued. It should be fondled a little bit, at least in your head. It's exciting and important to see what's going on now.

Stefan Edlis: We want to show off. We want people to come. We want them to experience the art. We want them to say to themselves, “Is this art?”

King Harris: This is the MCA and we do things differently here. We're bolder in what we try. We're more experimental in what we try. We know very well that some people aren't gonna like what we show. And by the way, as an aside, we have great parties here.

Penny Pritzker: Our job is to be pushing the edge of the envelope at times. It's to be exhibiting and discussing and introducing our community to new ideas, to new thoughts, to new works, to new performances, to new dialogue.

Helen Zell: In the beginning, this was a very quiet, undiscovered little treasure. They mounted extraordinary exhibitions. They featured incredible artists for their first shows. Now, the MCA is part of the fabric of this city.

Madeleine Grynsztejn: It has always been a museum of the new. It has never been afraid of exploring boundaries. What I really love about this museum is that every day since it opened, it has shown you what you don't yet know you love.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proclamation for MCA Day, Oct 20, 2017.

MCA Day in Chicago

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago has long been home to involved and inspiring cultural repositories dedicated to exploring artistry and redefining perspectives; and WHEREAS, one such institution, the Museum of. . . more
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