randolph-street-galleries

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In 1992, Diane Aoki (BFA 1982, SAIC) received a RAP grant to fund her project March Against Murder. In response to the escalating murder rate in 1991 and 1992, Aoki organized a mock funeral procession of about 40 people who carried coffins through the Garfield Park and Lawndale neighborhoods on the west side of Chicago, in memory of those who were murdered. In 1991, there were 927 homicides in Chicago –  in 1992, there were 941(more than half were people age 15-30). To give some perspective to that figure, in 2012 there were 506.


The marchers were residents of these neighborhoods, family members of murder victims, and artists. They were led by a motorcade of two hearses and a van filled with 100 coffins. When they reached Douglas Park, the hearses were unloaded and the coffins were lined up, temporarily transforming the park into a cemetery. Rodney Cozart, pictured with Aoki, was a co-organizer of the march; as a mortician and owner of a local funeral home, he was all too familiar with the effects of violence in the area. In reference to the march, he was quoted in the local news that he hoped the march would “serve as a visual whipping for people with a conscience.”


These images speak to a specific time in social and cultural history. As powerful reminders of Chicago’s (and America’s) violent past, they are especially resonant now, a month after the F.B.I. reported that Chicago had more homicides in 2012 than any other U.S. city, giving Chicago the stigma of the “murder capital” of the country. This project embodies artistic modes of working that emerged in the 1990s, especially social practice and activism, and in a form that challenged the traditional gallery structure and the monumentality of public sculpture. The intersection of social issues and cultural activity is what makes March Against Murder such a poignant work of art. Its engagement with the specific time and place of its creation has much to offer to a new audience.


- Rebecca Cooling, BFA, MLIS Intern

Photographs by Bill (WC) Turck
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Did you know that the Flaxman Library has digitized and created a database for every Randolph Street Gallery calendar?

The Randolph Street Gallery Calendars database provides patrons with an entry point through which to discover the myriad performances, lectures, exhibitions, and events that took place over the course of RSG’s nearly twenty-year history. Covering the years 1981-1996, each calendar has been scanned with optical character recognition to facilitate content searching, providing an access point through which to approach the rich holdings of the Randolph Street Gallery Archive, housed in the John M. Flaxman Library Special Collections at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The images above are selections from the May/June 1991 calendar.

You can access and search the database here:
http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/rsgcal

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If you didn’t already know, the Flaxman Library is home to the archives of the Randolph Street Gallery (RSG), an artist-run space that was a catalyst for innovation and experimentation in the arts in Chicago from 1979-1998. As part of its activities, the Randolph Street Gallery administered the Regional Artists’ Projects (RAP) grant (also called the Grant Program for Interdisciplinary Artists and the New Forms Regional Grant) from 1989-1995. 

Every year, the RAP grant funded innovative projects in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio that extended beyond historical artistic tradition. Over the next few weeks, as we continue to organize this section of the RSG archive, we will be using the library Tumblr to highlight some of these projects.

Gloria Esenwein was a recipient of a New Forms Regional Grant in 1990 to fund her project Step to My Story. Esenwein worked with older adults in senior centers in Cincinnati to create a performance based on their oral histories. In Step to My Story, these older adults were the performers and dancers, and these photos from the archive show them rehearsing – in some photos they are performing the theme of “games we played as children.”