Commons Artist Project:blkHaUS studios

  • The Commons
    Second Floor, East Side
    220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Featured images

  • Two people stand on small mounds that are woven like wicker baskets. They are surrounded by four other similar mounds and urban greenery.
Two people stand on small mounds that are woven like wicker baskets. They are surrounded by four other similar mounds and urban greenery.
Documentation of blkHaUS studios, Sounding Bronzeville, 2016-present. Site-specific installation, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago
Photo © Sandra Steinbrecher
Performance view, Back Alley Jazz (BAJ), 2018. Cocurated by blkHaUS studios in collaboration with the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and Hyde Park Art Center
Photo: Marc Monaghan
Installation view, Designed Objects, Creation Gallery, 2016. Curated by blkHaUS studios for Connect Hyde Park
Photo courtesy of blkHaUS studios
blkHaUS studios at danceGATHERING for QDance Center, Lagos, Nigeria, 2018
Photo: Jovan Landry
Documentation of blkHaUS studios, Sounding Bronzeville, 2016-present. Site-specific installation, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, Chicago
Photo © Sandra Steinbrecher
Norman Teague, Self Portrait, 2016. Ash wood and bending plywood. Installed at School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of the artist

Exhibition Description

Human beings are natural collectors, be it of souvenirs found on vacations, heirlooms passed down from grandparents, or birthday cards received over the years. The items we hold on to reflect our social, cultural, and personal values. Likewise, museums tell stories by presenting all kinds of collected objects, which reflect the way they prioritize different social and cultural values.

In this Commons Artist Project, Folayemi Wilson and Norman Teague’s Chicago-based, socially focused design studio blkHaUS studios asks if understanding the stories of personal collections can transform the priorities of museums in forming their collections.

Historically, collections in contemporary art museums have preserved and revealed specific art historical lineages. These stories, however, are ultimately influenced by the social and political context in which museums collect. Over the last few years, some have deaccessioned works—a practice of collection care where some objects are routinely removed from their collections—with the specific intent to make room for works by artists whose ideas and art have been left out of the established canon, especially artists of color.

Over the course of the exhibition, blkHaUS brings together Chicago community members and local museums. Through thoughtfully constructed interactive experiences they collate and assess patterns of collecting, inviting audiences to share their personal objects and narratives around their modular artwork the Petal Table, focusing on key questions regarding collecting, archives, and museum practice. The Commons Table is structured as an open research model including four rotating exhibitions and five dinner discussions on topics related to collecting, community, and institutional practice. Each exhibition of The Commons Collection is preceded by a conversation that focuses on a question posed by blkHaUS studios. Events take place at sites throughout Chicago and are facilitated by community members whose work is related to these topics. At the end of the project, the artists share their findings with representatives from the MCA and other local museums to provide tools for museums to better reflect the communities with which they share space.

About the Exhibitions in this Project

Exhibitions in the Commons


Exhibition Dates: Nov 12–Dec 8
This convening and exhibition consider how the potential for market value changes the ways we collect. What is it about modernism that has caught the imagination of design aficionados and collectors and elevated its aesthetic to elite, enduring status?


Exhibition Dates: Dec 10–Jan 12
This convening and exhibition consider how nature and the built environment coexist and whether natural forms might inform how we value designed objects. Are there ways that nature can help inform how we design twenty-first-century cities for twenty-first-century challenges?


Exhibition Dates: Jan 14–Feb 9
This convening and exhibition consider how embracing a wider variety of perspectives and physical lived experiences might change our value structures for designed objects. How can we critique social constructions of disability and normalize bodily and sensory differences?


Exhibition Dates: Feb 11–Mar 1
This convening and exhibition consider how young people might reimagine collecting with their generation’s concerns at the forefront. What questions or issues are important to Chicago’s young people around art and design within institutional, social, and urban spaces?

About Conversations on Collecting

Conversations on Collecting

Due to the nature of the convenings and sites, events are limited to a small number of active participants. We welcome members of the public to join the conversation: pre-registration is required by emailing inquiries to [email protected] mcachicago.org. Once confirmed, participants will receive the site address and additional instructions.


Wed, Sep 25, 2019
Location: An Orange Moon and Tom Robinson Gallery
Conversation Leads: Lynne McDaniel, owner of An Orange Moon
Curators: Folayemi Wilson and Norman Teague


Thu, Oct 17, 2019
Location: Sherman Park
Conversation Leads: Ann Lui, cofounder of Future Firm
Curator: William Hill, artist and educator


Tue, Dec 10, 2019
Location: Arts of Life
Conversation Lead: Bess Williamson, author of Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design
Curator: Adero Knott, founder and CEO of AK Prosthetics


Tue, Jan 7, 2020
Location: Austin Town Hall
Conversation Lead: Paola Aguirre, artist and founder of Borderless Studio
Curator: Juarez Hawkins with TRACE, Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment


Tue, Jan 28, 2020
Location: Home of Patric McCoy, art collector and environmental chemist
Conversation Lead: Patric McCoy
This convening considers how artists and collectors nurture meaningful relationships. What role does the collector play in helping to initiate and maintain the trajectory of an artist’s oeuvre, and how do relationships with artists help a collector to develop their collection of art?


Tue, Feb 18, 2020
Location: MCA Commons
Conversation Leads: Paola Aguirre, Ann Lui, Patric McCoy, Lynne McDaniel, Bess Williamson
This convening gathers insights from all of the previous dinner discussions and shares them with MCA staff and other local museum professionals.

About The Commons Table Open Project

Open Hours, The Commons Collection

Bring small items from your personal collection that reflect your community to have them photographed, catalogued, and added to Teague and Wilson's The Commons Collection. Items will be photographed with their owner and recorded into the collection database. Physical objects remain with their owners.

Open hours occur at the MCA on select Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Commons. The photo booth will also be available at each public convening.

Tuesdays, 4-6 pm:
Nov 12, Jan 7, Jan 21, Feb 4, Feb 18

Saturdays, 2-4 pm:
Dec 7, Dec 21, Jan 4, Jan 18, Feb 1, Feb 15, Feb 29

Curatorial Byline

This exhibition is organized by Curator January Parkos Arnall and former Assistant Curator Christy LeMaster.