Art for People′s Sake

Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965-1975

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 125 illustrations, incl. 124 in color Published: March 2019

Author: Rebecca Zorach

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Art and Visual Culture > Art History

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Chicago witnessed a remarkable flourishing of visual arts associated with the Black Arts Movement. From the painting of murals as a way to reclaim public space and the establishment of independent community art centers to the work of the AFRICOBRA collective and Black filmmakers, artists on Chicago's South and West Sides built a vision of art as service to the people. In Art for People's Sake Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the visual arts of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how artistic innovations responded to decades of racist urban planning that left Black neighborhoods sites of economic depression, infrastructural decay, and violence. Working with community leaders, children, activists, gang members, and everyday people, artists developed a way of using art to help empower and represent themselves. Showcasing the depth and sophistication of the visual arts in Chicago at this time, Zorach demonstrates the crucial role of aesthetics and artistic practice in the mobilization of Black radical politics during the Black Power era.


"Both fresh and refreshing, Zorach's book on the Black Arts Movement (BAM) in Chicago engages from the very first paragraph and fires on all cylinders—looking at the subject not only from inside the BAM but also in terms of how it challenged traditional art history. . . . Highly recommended. All readers." — K. P. Buick, Choice

"Using interviews, archival collections, poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks, historic census data, and other documentation, Zorach provides a detailed story of the artists, residents, and educators who worked together to transform Chicago communities struggling with the spatial constraints of systematic racism. . . . This would serve well as a resource on the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, community mural history, and African American art history. It is highly recommended for all libraries." — Stacy R. Williams, ARLIS/NA Reviews

"Zorach makes a rich contribution to the field of art history that has largely ignored the Black Arts Movement. . . . rt for People’s Sake should be required reading for artists, non-profit organizations, community organizers, and scholars interested in social movements, education, and art history." — Tracey Johnson, Black Perspectives

“Rebecca Zorach has written a breathtaking book. The confluence of the cultural and political production generated through the Black Arts Movement in Chicago is often overshadowed by the artistic largesse of the American coasts. No longer. Zorach brings to life the gorgeous dialectic of the street and the artist forged in the crucible of Black Chicago. Deeply researched, politically sophisticated, and beautifully narrated, Zorach makes a surprising and inspiring contribution that will deepen our understanding of the creative expression that emerges from Black life, community, and politics.” — Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

“Rebecca Zorach offers a rich and detailed story of how artists, gang members, educators, curators, and Black Nationalists worked together to transform a Chicago community through creativity and affirmation—important models for today.” — Kymberly N. Pinder, author of Painting the Gospel: Black Public Art and Religion in Chicago


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Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rebecca Zorach is Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art and Art History at Northwestern University and the author and editor of several books, including The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  vii
Acknowledgments  xvii
Introduction: The Black Arts Movement in Chicago  1
1. Claiming Space, Being in Public  30
2. Cultural Nationalism and Community Culture  85
3. An Experimental Friendship  124
4. The Black Family  179
5. Until the Walls Come Down  215
6. Starring the Black Community  257
Notes  299
Bibliography  349
Index  375
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0140-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0100-3
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