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blkHaUS studios

About the Exhibition

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.

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?

Installation Images

Installation view, Commons Artist Project: blkHaUS studios, MCA Chicago. November 12, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Commons Artist Project: blkHaUS studios, MCA Chicago. November 12, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Commons Artist Project: blkHaUS studios, MCA Chicago. November 12, 2019–March 1, 2020.

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

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 publicprograms@ 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.

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