Beer Summit: How’s Harold?

Thursday, Feb 25th 12:30 – 3pm

The Modern Wing of The Art Institute of Chicago, 159 East Monroe Ryan Education Center, Classroom 5 (Room for Indeterminacy)

Thursday, Feb 25th 12:30 – 3pm

Guest Presenters: Josh Rios, James Britt, John Neff, Alberto Aguilar, Ross Jordan

Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, was a beloved figure and a symbol of Chicago’s racial and political history. David Axelrod, the point person on Washington’s 1987 re-election campaign and subsequently the strategists and White House advisor to President Barack Obama, recounted that Washington credited his election as changing the popular image of Chicago away from the “Boom, Boom, ratatat” of Al Capone mobsters and city bosses. Washington would boast to crowds,“Now anywhere you go in the world…you know what they say to you? They ask, ‘How’s Harold?”

In relation to the closing term of the first black president, Beer Summit: How’s Harold? is a series of presentations that revisits artistic and fabricated images of Harold Washington created after his sudden death from a massive heart attack in the fall the 1987. In 1988 a portrait of Harold Washington in lingerie by David Nelson, a School of the Art Institute of Chicago student, was “arrested” by Chicago aldermen, an incident that sparked a first amendment lawsuit with the City of Chicago that lasted over twenty years. This image, and the events surrounding it, continue to re-emerge as source material in artistic practice. Harold Washington’s image (spirit?) carries on in fascinating ways: re-emerging in 2008 campaign buttons, and as an animatronic at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The maintenance of representations of Harold Washington after his death is closely related to how Chicagoans reflect on their own experiences and also, as he suggested himself, how Chicago imagines its past and its future. To ask, ‘How’s Harold?’ is to also probe the question, ‘How are we?’

Beer Summit: How’s Harold? is presented by Pedestrian Project and Art Institute of Chicago Museum Education Artists-in-resident Alberto Aguilar. Beer Summits are organized by Ross Jordan.Presentations by Alberto Aguilar, James Britt, Ross Jordan, John Neff and Josh Rios.

Alberto Aguilar is an artist residing in Chicago, IL. He teaches at Harold Washington College where he also coordinates Pedestrian Project and initiative dedicated to making contemporary art practice more accessible and available to all. In spring 2015 he was Crossing Boundaries Resident Artist through the Arts Incubator and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture. He is currently Artists-in-residence for Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago.

John Neff produces artworks, organizes exhibitions, and works as a teaching artist. He currently serves as a curatorial board member at Chicago’s Iceberg Projects and as co-director of the Ravenswood Elementary School Curatorial Practice Program.

Josh Rios’s performances, curatorial projects, installations, texts, and screenings generally deal with the contemporary and historical experiences of being Mexican-origin, centering on modern Chicana/o aesthetics and US/Mexico relations. His performances and projects have been featured at the Art Institute of Chicago, Harold Washington College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Andrea Meislin Gallery, and the Stony Island Arts Bank. In December 2015 he participated in Chicago’s first annual Poet’s Theater Festival. Most recently, he will be featured in a film by the curatorial team le peuple qui manqué as part of their project, A Government of Times.

Visual artist James Britt uses various forms of media to create satirical allegories about popular culture. Through these visual expressions, Britt seeks to cultivate a space where personal and collective conversations occur about the social phenomena represented in his work. The subject matter may change, however his alter ego Semaj L’rae remains ever-present in each narrative, representative of our need for validation and relevancy within a system governed by subjectivity. Britt received a B.A. degree in Sociology and African American/African Studies from the University of Virginia, and a M.Ed. degree in Counseling Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.