Magazine article Risk Management

Chicago Culture and Art

Magazine article Risk Management

Chicago Culture and Art

Article excerpt

Chicago is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, a product of immigration, lakeside setting and economic prosperity, Historically populated with individuals of European and African descent, Chicago has evolved into a global village punctuated by cultures from South America, India, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. At the city's museums and arts centers, behold the treasures of the many cultures that call Chicago home.


One of the burgeoning groups in this urban landscape has been the Mexican immigrant community. The influx was first motivated by the Mexican Revolution, a stream of violence prompted by dissatisfaction with dictator Porfirio Diaz. Between 1910 and 1920, revolutionaries fought to replace the socially fragmented society with a more unified agrarian system. Amid the bloodshed, hundreds of photographers risked their lives to document the fight and escape of Mexican nationals using primitive camera technology.

More than 890,000 Mexicans came to the United States for refuge during the social revolution. The first wave of immigrants consisted of the poor and sick, followed by the upper classes who flurried to the north beginning in 1914.

Many of those who crossed the border sought work in the steel mills of Chicago, an industry that provided core economic opportunities.

For nearly a century, the Mexican colony established in southeast Chicago has lived sin fronteros, a philosophy of open borders between Mexican and American cultures. The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (1852 W. 19th St., 312.738.1503) describes itself as a "culturally grounded arts institution" which documents Mexican artistic, social and cultural history from both sides of the Mexican-U.S. border. Artifacts range from preclassic earthenware to the prints and drawings of Diego Rivera. The eight-year long exhibit Mexicanidad: Our Post is Present tracks the Mexican experience beginning with the precolonial Americas, through postrevolutionary Mexico, up until settlement in the United States.


The history of the African-American population of Chicago has been documented by artists like Pulitzer prizewinning photographer John White. Throughout the 1970s, he compiled images of musician Isaac Hayes performing at the annual "Black Expo," a black Muslim woman listening to a broadcast of a speech by Elijah Muhammad and artist Ron Blackburn painting an outdoor wall mural. (Blackburn was one of many black artists who painted within their own neighborhoods so as to share art with "ghetto people who don't go to the established museums.") Together, these photographs led to the body of work entitled "Portrait of Black Chicago." White's projects have served as a testament to the mix of religious, artistic and racial concerns in the African American experience in the second half of the twentieth century.

Another key figure in the artistic representation of African-Americans is Margaret Taylor Burroughs, a prominent artist and writer. To promote the cultural heritage of African-Americans, she founded The DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Pl., 773.947.0600) with her husband in 1968. Daytime exhibitions at the museum include Clothed in History, while the Jazz and Blues Series and author readings are presented after hours.


The Middle Eastern population of Chicago that settled at 18th Street and Michigan Avenue (the Arab Quarter) around 1910 continues to thrive to this day. …

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