“2019 Black Creativity Art Festival Opens at Museum of Science and Industry,” by S.M. O’Connor

The 2019 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) opened today, Monday, January 14, 2019. It will remain open through Sunday, February 24, 2019.  The Innovation Studio on the Main Level in the West Pavilion will become the Black Creativity Innovation Studio from the 21st of January through the 24th of February.  Black Creativity Family Day will be on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 21, 2019).  This will be a free day for Illinois residents.  The Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition and the Innovation Studio will both be open to the public.  This will be the forty-ninth annual arts-and-science festival for Black Creativity, which began with a juried art exhibition in 1970.  The Mission Statement of Black Creativity is “To inspire African-American children to pursue educational opportunities and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and medicine, through programs and events that encourage children and their parents to utilize the Museum of Science and Industry as a resource for exploring and discovering their inventive and creative genius.”

      Black Esthetics, a Black African-American arts festival that later evolved into M.S.I.’s annual Black Creativity exhibition, opened on Sunday, February 1, 1970.  It is the longest-running gallery of African-American art.  Earl Calloway (1926-2014), an opera singer and fine arts critic for the Chicago Defender, organized Black Esthetics with the backing of Daniel Miller MacMaster (1913-2005), the sixth President (1968-1978) and fourth Director (1951-1971) of the M.S.I.[1]  [Note that in his Chicago Tribune obituary for Mr. Calloway, Bob Goldsborough referred to its original named as the “Black Esthetic Festival.”  Getty Images referred to the “Black Aethetics Festival” in a picture dated February 1, 1974 that featured MacMaster and Chicago Daily Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke (1912-1997).] Calloway recruited gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) to perform that first year.[2]  One artist whose initial submission was rejected, known as Mr. Imagination, was more successful later with a later submission of original jewelry design that launched his career.[3]

MacMaster’s handpicked successor, Victor J. Danilov, the seventh President (1978-1987) and fifth Director (1972-1987) of the M.S.I., determined to broaden the scope of the affair beyond the display of art, and in 1986 added a seminar where high school students would hear about careers in science and engineering.[4]  One of the speakers was Joe Morgan, one of Commonwealth Edison’s senior nuclear power plant operators, who told students that he had gotten to his position in society through “motivation and determination.”[5]  The first Black Creativity Gala featured a performance by members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.[6]  The exhibit Black Achievers in Science developed for the first year Black Creativity replaced Black Esthetics, traveled to eleven more museums under the banner of the Association of Science-Technology Centers.[7]

Anchored by the Museum of Science and Industry’s Welcome to Science Initiative educational programs, M.S.I. executives have articulated four main goals for Black Creativity.  Firstly, to provide exposure for African-American youths to careers, educational pathways, and other opportunities in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) fields.  Secondly, to deepen students’ engagement with S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) through hands-on learning.  Thirdly, to increase access to the Museum of Science and Industry and its resources by African-American students and their families.  Fourthly, to showcase African-Americans and their contributions, past and present, to the S.T.E.M. fields.

The Juried Art Exhibition consists of over 100 paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media artworks from African-American artists across the U.S.A., chosen by a panel of five jurors.  It runs from Monday, January 14, 2019 through Sunday, February 24, 2019.

For the eighth year in a row, a youth category will allow for the display of artworks produced by high school students.  The Juried Art Exhibition is covered by Museum Entry (general admission) tickets.

The panel selects first, second, and third-place overall show winners, as well as a winner in each art medium category, and overall in the youth category.

Adult Category

First Place

James Nelson
Second Place

Reisha Williams

Third Place

Terron Sorrells

Youth Category (Ages 14-17)

First Place

Raven Smith
Second Place

Kayla Sullers

Third Place

Kanyinsola Anifowowshe

The Innovation Studio is for guests six years of age and up.  Guests make prototypes and test them.  Those under twelve years of age must be accompanies by an adult.  Families can participate in scheduled drop-in visits at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. during the workweek (Mondays through Fridays) and at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. on weekends.  Sessions are open during the workweek and thirty minutes long on weekends.  School groups on field trips and community groups reserve sessions in advance at either 10:00 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. during the workweek.  These are sixty-minute-long workshops.  The Innovation Studio is recommended for students in 5th Grade and up.  To reserve a workshop, call (773) 684-1414.  The maximum capacity is fifty people, including parents or other chaperones.

Black Creativity overlaps with many of the 2019 Illinois Free Days.  On Illinois Free Days, Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are free for all Illinois residents who show valid proof of residence such as a driver’s license or state identification card.  No further Chicago residence discounts apply on Illinois Free Days.[8]  In 2019, the Illinois Free Days are the 7th through the 10th, the 11th through the 17th, the 21st through the 24th, and the 28th through the 31st of January; and the 4th through the 7th, the 11th through the 14th, the 19th through the 21st, and the 25th through the 28th of February. This schedule is subject to change.

The Black Creativity Gala is on Saturday, January 26, 2019 from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Doors will open at 6:00 p.m.  Enter through the West Pavilion.  There will be valet parking.  The Juried Art Exhibition.  Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served in the West Pavilion.  At 7:00 p.m., guests will move to the Main Level in the Central Pavilion.  There will be dinner stations, live performances, and dancing. The Welcome Remarks will be at 7:15 p.m. in the Grand Rotunda.  The Nanette Frank Jazz Orchestra, Chicago Children’s Choir, and D.J. Nick “Nonstop” Nicholson will be performing.  The Creative Cocktail Lounge will start at 8:00 p.m. on the Lower Level (ground floor).  Meteorologist Demetrius Ivory, W.G.N.’s Mid-day News and Evening News weatherman (and husband of W.G.N. Evening News features reporter Erin Ivory), will be the Master of Ceremonies.  Tickets cost $350 per person.  Click here to purchase tickets, become a sponsor, or make a donation.

The Black Creativity Career Showcase will be on Saturday, February 23, 2019.  African-American artists, scientists, and engineers will be on hand throughout the Maine Level from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  The M.S.I. stated on its Website, “This is an opportunity to learn from experts during dynamic demonstrations, hands-on activities and one-on-one conversations.”  This is included under Museum Entry tickets.  Call (773) 753-1766 to register a group for this event.

Allstate; NextLevelHealth; and TWG Partners, L.L.C. are the Black Creativity Season Sponsors. ComEd, Dover, ITW, Nicor Gas, and Peoples gas are the Innovation Studio Sponsors.  Sodexo and revel décor are the Event Partners.  United Airlines is the Official Airline.

black creativity

Figure 1 Credit: Seán M. O’Connor Caption: When I visited the Museum of Science and Industry for the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, November 15, 2018 that opened Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, I noticed this bronze-and-steel mural had been added in the Lower Court of the Central Pavilion.

Regular hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) resumed on Saturday, January 5, 2019.  The Museum of Science and Industry regularly makes small adjustments to this schedule, so when planning a trip there, check this Webpage and the M.S.I.’s social media for updates.  Please note that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, though, the Museum of Science and Industry will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Often stylized as the “Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago” or the “Museum of Science + Industry” the institution is located at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, on the south side of 57th Street, between Lake Shore Drive to the east and Cornell Drive to the west, in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of the Hyde Park Community Area (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago.  The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  Founded by Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) in 1926, through The Commercial Club of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940.  It occupies the Palace of Fine Arts from Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).  The M.S.I. is open every day of the year with two exceptions: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.


[1] Jay Pridmore, Inventive Genius: The History of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Chicago: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (1996), p. 148

[2] Pridmore, p. 148

[3] Pridmore, p. 149

[4] Pridmore, p. 149

Victor J. Danilov is not to be confused with Fr. Viktor Danilov (1927-2016), a Byzantine Rite Catholic archpriest in Belarus.

[5] Pridmore, p. 149

[6] Pridmore, p. 149

[7] Pridmore, p. 149

[8] On Illinois Free Days, Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are free for adults and children alike; Giant Dome Theater movie tickets, Coal Mine tour tickets, Fab Lab workshop tickets, WOW! Tour tickets, and Future Energy Chicago tickets are $12 each for adults and $9 each for children (ages three-to-eleven); and U-505 Onboard Tour tickets are $18 each for adults and $14 each for children (ages three-to-eleven).  This is limited to six children under eighteen, per one adult.

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