“2020 ‘Black Creativity’ Juried Arts Festival Opens at Museum of Science & Industry”

In its fiftieth year at the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.), the annual Black Creativity festival is now devoted to Black African-American “innovations in science, technology engineering, art and medicine.”  It will open on Martin Luther King, Junior Day (Monday, January 20, A.D. 2020) and run through Sunday, March 1, A.D. 2020.  As I reported on Friday, the Museum of Science and Industry is one of several museums that are free on M.L.K., Jr. Day.     

      The annual Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition will open on the Main Level in the M.S.I.’s West Pavilion on M.L.K., Jr. Day and run through Sunday, March 1, A.D. 2020.   Black Creativity started in 1970 as Black Esthetics and originally was strictly an exhibition of artworks produced by Black African-American artists, but over time it has expanded in scope to include ancillary activities and programs that promote S.T.E.M. education.[1] To this end, the Black Creativity Innovation Studio will also open on the Main Level in the West Pavilion on M.L.K., Jr. Day.  In view of the fact this is the fiftieth anniversary of Black Creativity, there will be a special exhibition devoted to the history of the festival. Black Creativity: 50 Years will open on M.L.K., Jr. Day in the gallery west of the Lower Court, on the Lower Level (ground floor) in the Central Pavilion.[2] [It is across from U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories, a temporary exhibit devoted to the seventy-fifth anniversary of U.S. Navy Task Group 22.3’s capture of the U-505, which is located in the eastern gallery.]  At the M.S.I., M.L.K., Jr. Day will be Black Creativity Family Day.  Jayson Mayden, an industrial designer and entrepreneur who designed shoes for Nike before he founded his company Super Heroic, will be the Family Day Guest Designer.  The Teen Innovation Summit on Monday, February 10, A.D. 2020 has reached its capacity. The Black Creativity Career Showcase will take place on Saturday, February 29, A.D. 2020. 

      A session in the Black Creativity Innovation Studio lasts half an hour.  The Innovation Studio is for children six-and-up.  Children under twelve must be accompanied by an adult (a parent or guardian or a chaperone).  On schooldays, school groups reserve sessions in the Innovation Studio in advance.  On weekends, families can drop in. There are weekend drop-in sessions from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  In addition, there are sixty-minute-long Black Creativity Innovation Studio Workshops for school groups and community groups.  This is designed for schoolchildren in the 5th Grade and up.  The maximum capacity is thirty.  These Workshops are from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on schooldays. Click here and e-mail Dulce Enriquez or call (773) 753-1766 to book a Workshop.

Black Creativity Junior Science Café Sessions & Black Creativity Art Café Sessions

This is a chance to learn what it is like to be a scientist, an engineer, or an artist.  Over the case of each thirty-minute-long session, African-American artists, scientists, and engineers share information about their careers with students through hands-on activities and conversations.  The capacity for a session is thirty-five students.  The program is best for students in Grades 4-8.  There is no addition fee, but space must be reserved.  Click here and e-mail Dulce Enriquez or call (773) 753-1766 to book a Junior Science Café session or Junior Art Café session for a field trip.

Junior Science Café Sessions

DateTimeScientist or Engineer
January 30, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Antico Duke
Chicago Product Designers
February 6, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Brandon Reynolds
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
February 13, A.D. 202010:30 a.m.Mustafa Muhammad
HBK Engineering
February 13, A.D. 202011:30 a.m.Edward Vizcaino
HBK Engineering
February 20, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Tom Beebe

Junior Art Café Sessions

January 28, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Douglas Williams, Junior
National Organization of Minority Architects, Illinois Chapter
February 4, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.David Barthwell
February 11, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Nick Furry
Independent artist
February 18, A.D. 202010:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.Peggy Franklin
Visual artist

The Black Creativity Gala is an annual fundraiser that helps defray the cost of the festival. The 50th Anniversary Black Creativity Gala will take place at the M.S.I. on the night of Saturday, January 25, A.D. 2020 from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., as I reported on Saturday.  Guests at the fundraiser can dance, examine over 200 works by African-American artists, and unwind in the creative cocktail lounge.  Tickets are $350.  Click here to purchase tickets directly from the M.S.I. or become a sponsor or make a donation. Click here to purchase tickets through Eventbrite.  This is a black tie event that typically draws around 700 guests, including prominent political, business, and community leaders.        

The Origins and Expansion of Black Creativity

      Black Esthetics opened on Sunday, February 1, 1970.  Consequently, Black Creativity 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 President & Director of the M.S.I.[3]  [Note that in his Chicago Tribune obituary for Mr. Calloway, Bob Goldsborough referred to its original name 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.[4]  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.[5]  MacMaster’s handpicked successor was Dr. Victor J. Danilov (1924-2018), a journalist, educator, and author of non-fiction books, who served as the fifth Director (1972-1987) and seventh President (1978-1987) of the M.S.I. 

      Surely it was at least in part because of his experience with Black Esthetics that in 1974, Richard M. Daley (1902-1976) (Daley the Elder), Mayor of Chicago (1955-1976), appointed Danilov the first Chairman of the Chicago Council of Fine Arts.  Michael Bilandic (1923-2002), Mayor of Chicago (1976-1979); Jane Byrne (1933-2014), Mayor of Chicago (1979-1983); and Harold Washington (1922-1987), Mayor of Chicago (1983-1987); successively re-appointed Dr. Danilov to this post. 

      Danilov determined to broaden the scope of Black Esthetics beyond the display of art, and in 1986 added a seminar where high school students would hear about careers in science and engineering.[6]  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.”[7]  The first Black Creativity Gala featured a performance by members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.[8]  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.[9]

Illinois Free Days in January and February of 2020

       The M.S.I. has Illinois Free Days in January and February of 2020, as I reported earlier this month: Mondays through Thursdays in January (with the remaining dates being from the 20th to the 23rd, and from the 27th to the 30th of January); and from the 3rd to the 6th, from the 10th to the 13th, from the 18th to the 20th, and from the 24th to the 27th of February. This is an excellent opportunity for families with preschool-aged children, homeschooling families, and adults with open schedules. 

      On Illinois Free Days, Museum Entry (general admission) is free for all Illinois residents who show valid proof of residency.  No further Chicago residency discounts apply on Illinois Free Days.  There is a limit of six children (meaning minors under eighteen) admitted per one accompanying adult.[10] 

About the Museum of Science and Industry

      Often formerly 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 Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, also known as the Fine Arts Building, which is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), still standing in Jackson Park.  Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, founded the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926 through The Commercial Club of Chicago, of which he was a member.  The M.S.I. opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940, with the first opening ceremony on July 1, 1933.  These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, 1933.

      OnThursday, October 3, A.D. 2019, the Museum of Science and Industry announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to accept a $125,000,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund.  M.S.I. executives and board members felt it would consequently be appropriate to change the Museum of Science and Industry’s name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.  A multi-billionaire, Mr. Griffin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Citadel, Inc., a Chicago-based hedge fund.  His gift is the largest in the history of the science and technology museum, and one of the largest gifts to any cultural institution in Chicago. 

      This time of year, the M.S.I. is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  However, on Black Creativity Family Day, it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Please note the Giant Dome Theater in the Henry Crown Space Center is closed through mid-March.  The address of the M.S.I. is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.


[1] Everywhere else in the world, S.T.E.M. stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, but at the Museum of Science and Industry, the same acronym is used to stand for science, technology, engineering and medicine.

[2] This is one of two galleries flanking the Lower Court that are collectively known as the John and Rita Canning Gallery.

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

Daniel MacMaster was the fourth Director (1951-1971) and sixth President (1968-1978) of the Museum of Science and Industry.

[4] Pridmore, p. 148

[5] Pridmore, p. 149

[6] Pridmore, p. 149

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

[7] Pridmore, p. 149

[8] Pridmore, p. 149

[9] Pridmore, p. 149

[10] See chaperone ratios and policies for School-led Field Trips and Groups of 15+.

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