“M.S.I. Welcomes New President, Postpones and Extends ‘Black Creativity’ Festival”

Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry Welcomes Chevy Humphrey as New President; Announces Black Creativity Festival and Juried Art Exhibition will be Postponed to April and Extended to July

The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) announced on Tuesday, January 12, A.D. 2021 that Chevy Humphrey had assumed the presidency of the institution.  Ms. Humphrey is the first woman and the first Black person to hold the M.S.I.’s presidency. 

On Wednesday, October 7, A.D. 2020, the Board of Trustees of the M.S.I. voted unanimously to name Chevy Humphrey the next President & Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the M.S.I., effective in January of 2021. She had been the Hazel A. Hare President & C.E.O. of the Arizona Science Center (A.S.C.) in Phoenix.  Ms. Humphrey succeeds David Mosena, who announced in January of 2020 he would retire in October after twenty-three years in office, though he ended up serving out the year.

“Leading MSI has been an aspiration of mine throughout my career,” Ms. Humphrey stated.  “I am thrilled to be joining MSI and making Chicago my home, and look forward to being a part of this community and this iconic institution at a critical time in our history.”

Currently, Ms. Humphrey is Chair of the Board of the American Alliance of Museums (formerly the American Association of Museums).  Previously, she served as Chair of the Board of the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

“I believe that science is everywhere, and it’s for everyone,” she stated.  “Science has never been more important than it is today, and I’m honored to lead our efforts to impact families and connect with communities.”

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Figure 1 Credit Bruno Passigatti via the Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is Chevy Humphrey, the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of Science and Industry.

Initially, the M.S.I. announced on Friday, March 13, A.D. 2020 that due to the spread of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) in America, it would be closed from Saturday, March 14, A.D. 2020 through Monday, April 6, A.D. 2020. On March 27, A.D. 2020, the M.S.I. announced it would be closed through Friday, May 1, A.D. 2020.  Subsequently, the closure was made indefinite.   Finally, the M.S.I. announced Thursday, July 16, A.D. 2020 that it would re-open on Saturday, August 1, A.D. 2020. Before the M.S.I. re-opened to the public, it opened exclusively to Members from the 29th to the 31st of July.

With the M.S.I.’s Science at Home initiative, families can access hands-on science experiments, videos, and videogames.  One can subscribe to receive Science at Home e-mails.  In addition, the M.S.I. has new Learning Resources for educators and students.

As the institution remains closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the M.S.I. announced today, Monday, January 18, A.D. 2021 (Martin Luther King, Junior Day) that it would be moving the annual Black Creativity festival and the Juried Art Exhibition from late winter to spring and summer for 2021.  Black Creativity will also be longer than normal, as it will extend over three months.  As of now, it is scheduled to open on April 7, A.D. 2021 and run through July 5, A.D. 2021.  The Allstate Insurance Company is the exclusive lead sponsor of Black Creativity in 2021.

The Origins and Expansion of Black Creativity

      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] 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.[2] 

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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.[3]  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.[4]  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 or eighth 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.[5]  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.”[6]  The first Black Creativity Gala featured a performance by members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.[7]  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.[8]

Black Creativity in 2021

Black Creativity showcases over 100 works by professional artists from across the U.S.A., as well as local student-artists.  For the first time, there will be an online art gallery for the benefit of people who cannot journey to the M.S.I.  This year, the “Black Creativity Innovator Gallery will celebrate accomplishments of African-American leaders who are transforming Chicago,” according to a press release.  “This distinguished group will be recognized in an onsite gallery” on display from the 7th of April to the 5th of July.  The M.S.I. will also post video interviews online and via social media accounts.  The group includes Ian Michael Brock, a high school student and co-founder of Dream Hustle Code; J. Ivy, a performance poet and writer; Tonika Lewis Johnson, an artist and creator of The Folded Map Project; father-and-son photography team Chris and Zachary Slaughter, who produced “Boarded Up Chicago: Storefront Images Days After the George Floyd Riots;” and Taylor Staten, an architect with TnS Studio.  

In the press release, the M.S.I. stated, “A new exhibit of social impact art created during the recent Black Lives Matter protests opens April 7.  Photos of Chicago street art were taken by… Chris and Zachary Slaughter… The gallery will also feature commissioned artwork by muralist Jamiah Calvin and local teen artists.”

Approximately 1,000 Chicago students will participate in virtual Black Creativity programs this month and next month.  Programs include remote Innovation Studio workshops and streamed conversations with working STEM and arts professionals called Jr. Science and Art Cafes.  The M.S.I stated, “These culturally relevant programs are designed to expose African-American youth to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, art and medicine.” 

The Black Creativity Family Day will be on Saturday, June 19, A.D. 2021 (instead of M.L.K., Jr. Day).  This will be a free day, but capacity is limited and tickets will need to be reserved online in advance.  Guests will be able to “watch a recorded performance by J. Ivy and share their reflections by contributing to a written word collage.”

The Black Creativity Gala is a fundraiser that helps pay for the cost of holding Black Creativity.  This year, it will be a virtual event and it will be held on Saturday, April 17, A.D. 2021.  The virtual gala’s program will feature a look at the artworks in the Juried Art Exhibition, musical performances, artist interviews, and gallery tours. A separate ticket must be purchased for this event.

For context, the 2020-2021 Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light festivals opened on November 13, A.D. 2020, but the M.S.I. announced on Wednesday, November 14, A.D. 2020 it would close at 4:00 p.m. and remain closed for the foreseeable future.  Consequently, the M.S.I. sought to bring the 78th annual Christmas Around the World and 26th annual Holidays of Light to the public via social media.

The traveling exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes, which was supposed to open at the M.S.I. last year, will instead open on Thursday, March 4, A.D. 2021.  [Update: the M.S.I. will re-open to the public and the traveling exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will open at the M.S.I. on Sunday, March 7, A.D. 2021, but the M.S.I. will re-open to Museum Members and Marvel Universe of Super Heroes will open to Museum Members on Thursday, March 4, A.D. 2021.] It will remain open through September 6, A.D. 2021.  BMO is sponsoring the exhibit at M.S.I. [Update: in a press release on Wednesday, January 27, A.D. 2021, the M.S.I. announced the exhibit had been extended through Sunday, October 24, A.D. 2021.]

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.

      On Thursday, 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. 

      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.

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ENDNOTES

[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] 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 or seventh President (1968-1978) of the Museum of Science and Industry.

[3] Pridmore, p. 148

[4] Pridmore, p. 149

[5] Pridmore, p. 149

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

[6] Pridmore, p. 149

[7] Pridmore, p. 149

[8] Pridmore, p. 149

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