About this Project

The Smart Museum of Art invited Rick Lowe to participate in Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40. The Smart Museum’s MacArthur Fellows Program 40th Anniversary Exhibition Curator, Abigail Winograd, asked Lowe, MacArthur Fellow Class of 2014, to create a new project based in Chicago. Black Wall Street Journey, a project inspired by his work in Tulsa around the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, seeks to develop a roadmap for assessing and enriching disenfranchised communities. Chicago is an ideal city within which to imagine a contemporary Black Wall Street, owing to its historical significance as a center of African American economic and cultural life, its local and national role in the fight for black economic growth, and as home to the descendants of the “founder” of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. The research team will design and implement a wide-ranging data collection and acquisition effort, with both real-time and historical components. We seek to better understand the economic and social health of a South Side neighborhood from the perspective of residents and to project that information in sculptural form by placing a stock ticker on the Schulze Bakery building on Garfield Blvd. The project will focus on three main data collection elements. The first will be a longitudinal social survey of South Side residents in surrounding neighborhoods, those affected directly by the economic status of Garfield Blvd and its adjacent neighborhoods. The second relies on an ongoing National Science Foundation project called Array of Things (AoT). AoT is an urban sensing network of programmable, modular nodes that are installed by the City of Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. Catlett and Cagney will work to develop a link between the node and the stock ticker so the AoT data can be immediately displayed. The third involves archival data for the South Side of Chicago. Vargas is engaged in an ongoing effort to examine neighborhood change. This work brings together an artist, an art historian, a computer scientist, and two sociologists to think about neighborhood stasis and change. It combines social surveys and in-depth interviews with real-time sensor-based data collection and archival research. It then uses a sculptural form to share these data, reports both suggested by residents and amassed through other sources. To our knowledge, real-time data sharing that characterizes a community, displayed on a landmark building visible to all who pass by, is unprecedented. Further, and critically, the social survey and in-depth interviews will allow residents to indicate what they would like to see on the stock ticker and, in general, what they would like to see in their communities.

IMAGE: Photo illustration by Rick Lowe, courtesy of the artist.

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