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Renaissance Re-visited

Renaissance Re-visited: Group Art Exhibition at The South Side Community Art Center 2014
by Michelle Perkins, 1st year IDSVA student


Turquoise and Loc’s, mixed media, 2011.

With its inaugural exhibitions and classes stating in 1940, The South Side Community Center (SSCAC) has remained as Dr. Burroughs stated “a beacon of culture.” During The Works Progress Administration (WPA) over a hundred art centers were created around the country. With a continued mission to influence the youth and the community at large, while providing an avenue for supporting emerging artists, the SSCAC is the sole surviving community art center of the WPA period and the only institution of its kind. The Renaissance Re-visited will highlight the unique contributions of Chicago’s female artists to contemporary art. The exhibition collaborators and curators state,

 “This exhibition is mounted as a collaboration between the South Side Community Art Center and Harold Washington College, with the support of the Vivian Harsh Society. Works by Augusta Savage, Irene Clark, and Charles White, as well as many others, represent the Chicago Black Renaissance, all of which are in the collection of the SSCAC.”

For this exhibition I elected to display an altarpiece titled Turquoise and Loc’s, which I assembled in 2011. This piece speaks to my inner African through the use of materials that are speaking to ancestors—alluding to the power of conjuring and the ritual of daily existence. It is in this sense that this altarpiece evokes memory and the aspects of the consciousness and unconsciousness of being. I see the tradition of Africans in America, where there was an urgent need for thoughtful use and reuse of scarce materials, making them quintessential recyclers. The use of plant material and earth in my work is symbolically grounded in the history of toil that African Americans were subjected to in this country and abroad. My piece speaks to my mother and her family’s love of gardening and tending the soil. It also pays special tribute to the spirit of my mother Joyce M. Thompkins Perkins and her parents the Honorable Rev. and Mrs. Marion E. Thompkins.