A multi-site exhibition featuring the work of 29 MacArthur Fellows

Organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago in collaboration with more than two dozen exhibition, programmatic, and research partner organizations across Chicago, Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 is an expansive, multi-venue exhibition taking place throughout 2021.

The exhibition explores the extent to which certain resources—air, land, water, and even culture—can be held in common. Raising questions about inclusion, exclusion, ownership, and rights of access, the exhibition considers art’s vital role in society as a call to vigilance, a way to bear witness, and a potential act of resistance. Presented on the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, Toward Common Cause employs the Fellows Program as “intellectual commons” and features new and recontextualized work by 29 visual artists who have been named Fellows since the award program’s founding in 1981.

Ongoing initiatives

Hours of operation and reservation policies vary by location, please confirm with each venue prior to visiting.

Gómez-Peña’s Casa Museo: A Living Museum and Archive
September 9, 2021–May 29, 2022
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Guillermo Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra and their incisive challenges, past and present, to cultural hegemony.
By reservation only. Open Tuesday–Friday and Sunday, 9 am–5 pm.

Kerry James Marshall: Untitled (Circulation)
September 29–ongoing
BBF Family Services
A new work by Kerry James Marshall designed specifically for the architecture of the BBF Family Services building. The work is composed of photographs taken by the artist over the past four decades of the Bud Billiken Parade juxtaposed with found images from various disciplines including astronomy, architecture, engineering, biology, chemistry, and medicine.
Open Monday–Friday, 10 am–2 pm. Groups of more than 6 people must call to make arrangements at 773.542.7300.

Public murals by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
September 29–ongoing
Chicago Housing Authority, Minnie Riperton Apartments
Two collage-paintings by Njideka Akunyili Crosby reproduced as large-format murals on the building’s façade: I Still Face You and Home: Say It Loud.
Outdoor installation open to the public.

Public murals by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
July 22–March 1, 2022
National Public Housing Museum
Additional works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby reproduced as large, public murals: The Beautyful Ones, Series #9 and Mother and Child.
Outdoor installation open to the public.

Mel Chin: Safehouse Temple Door
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Hydrant, 41°47’22.662″ N – 87°37’38.364″ W
June 29–ongoing
Sweet Water Foundation
Site-specific installations from Mel Chin and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle that confront environmental pollution and its disproportionate impact on disinvested communities.
By reservation only. Tours available Wednesday afternoons. 

Black Wall Street Journey
Multiple public art installations and programs

Rick Lowe’s multifaceted city-wide project pays tribute to the building of Black wealth, using public art to tell the stories from the journeys of Black communities in Chicago and beyond.

Gómez-Peña’s Mex Files: Audio Art and Strange Poetry from the US/Mexico Border
Lumpen Radio, 105.5 FM WLPN-LP
A year-long series of experimental performances from Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
Broadcasting every other Wednesday at 6:30 pm.

Past exhibitions

Dawoud Bey: Portraits from Chicago (1993–2001)
May 21–August 28, 2021
Arts + Public Life
Portraits of South Side youth by Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey.

Jeffrey Gibson: Sweet Bitter Love
May 28–September 18, 2021
Newberry Library
New work by Jeffrey Gibson responds to representation of Indigenous people in cultural institutions.

Much Unseen is Also Here: An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander
June 3–August 29, 2021
Museum of Contemporary Photography
An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander consider the theater of the landscape, monumentality, cultural history, and representation.

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40
July 15–December 19, 2021
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago
A group show considers how race and class shape our rural and urban geographies, featuring works by Mark Bradford, Nicole Eisenman, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Jeffrey Gibson, Alfredo Jaar, Toba Khedoori, Rick Lowe, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Julie Mehretu, Fazal Sheikh, and Xu Bing.

Alfredo Jaar: This Is Not America (A Logo for America)
July 15, 2021–January 29, 2022
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Galleries
Visible from the street, a sequence of projections which were originally displayed on a light board in Times Square, New York.

Kara Walker: Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored
July 17–October 16, 2021
DuSable Museum of African American History
A signature black-silhouette installation from Kara Walker, presented in the round.

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40
July 17–October 24, 2021
Hyde Park Art Center
Works by Mel Chin, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Fazal Sheikh address issues of environmental racism and the disproportionate impact of post-industrial pollution on communities of color.

Carrie Mae Weems: A Land of Broken Dreams
July 17–December 12, 2021
Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago
Carrie Mae Weems reimagines the Black Panther Party’s programs for young people in Chicago during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Whitfield Lovell: The Spell Suite
July 17–September 25, 2021
South Side Community Art Center
Whitfield Lovell’s poetic and intricately crafted tableaux pay tribute to the daily lives of anonymous African-Americans.

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40
July 18–December 19, 2021
Stony Island Arts Bank
A group show reflects on identity and representation, featuring works by Dawoud Bey, Nicole Eisenman, David Hammons, Gary Hill, Whitfield Lovell, Kerry James Marshall, Trevor Paglen, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis, and Fred Wilson.

Amalia Mesa-Bains: Circle of Ancestors
September 10–December 12, 2021
National Museum of Mexican Art
An ofrenda from Amalia Mesa-Bains, featured in the exhibition Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember.

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40
September 24–December 18, 2021
Weinberg/Newton Gallery
Complementary projects from Wendy Ewald and Amalia Mesa-Bains focus on Latinx migration in Chicago.

Ida Applebroog: Monalisa
October 14, 2021–January 16, 2022
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, The University of Chicago
Ida Applebroog’s installation Monalisa explores the relationship between beauty, sexuality, and aging.


Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 is organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago in collaboration with exhibition, programmatic, and research partners across Chicago. It is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Additional support for individual projects has been provided by Allstate; the Terra Foundation for American Art; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Joyce Foundation; David Zwirner; Hauser & Wirth; Kavi Gupta; a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry; the Visiting Fellows Program at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; and the Smart Museum’s SmartPartners. In-kind support is provided by S.O.U.R.C.E. Studio, F.J. Kerrigan Plumbing Co, and JCDecaux.


Toward Common Cause is curated by Abigail Winograd, MacArthur Fellows Program Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition Curator, Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago.