Exterior facade of The Hyde Park Art Center (photo courtesy of the Center).

In August, Hyde Park Art Center will unveil a group exhibition that takes a seemingly pedestrian topic and turns it on its head. The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle is an exhibition and public program that engages artists and practitioners in considering conditions of the middle—both conceptual and concrete. Artwork on view in The Chicago Effect will explore permeable boundaries, liminal spaces, and in-betweens, identifying and asserting the necessity of the middle as a fertile improvisational space that becomes a creative engine, and raising questions about the value of a middle-man, a middle class, a moderate political position—and even the middle ground between formal and material states. Using the Art Center as a model for how an arts institution can occupy the space of the middle to foster intercommunity connectivity and spur creative production, public programming and a printed catalogue will accompany the exhibition to offer analyses of how mid-sized organizations can serve and engage audiences.  

Co-curated by Allison Peters Quinn, director of Exhibitions & Residency Programs; Megha Ralapati, Residency & Special Projects manager, and New York-based guest curator Christopher K. Ho, the exhibition encourages movement away from the poles. The curators frame the position of the middle as an essential condition of the creative process, selecting artwork that exemplifies this idea. The Chicago Effect includes work by Marissa Lee Benedict, Devon Dikou, Essex/Olivares, Assaf Evron, Jamie Hayes, Patrick Meager, Mike Smith, Jan Tichy, and others.  

“We’ve found our position in ‘the middle’ to be fertile ground for creativity and connectivity—both for the Art Center as an institution and for the artists and communities we work with,” said Executive Director Kate Lorenz. “We’re excited to partner with artists and organizations in The Chicago Effect to present alternate viewpoints of the middle and its benefits to the creative process. The middle can be a place of uncertainty, but that’s exactly what makes it so exciting. Those moments can be used to turn the middle into an incubator for radical thought.”  

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014, Hyde Park Art Center is somewhere in the middle of its history. An organization that has developed a lasting legacy over time, its institutional identity has always been oriented to the new. The Art Center embraces occupying this middle ground: the space of tension between past and future, the grey area of openness to what could be, the place of connection between opposing elements.

Using the Art Center model as a laboratory, The Chicago Effect includes a year-long think tank in which teams of academics and practitioners in diverse fields question assumptions about how an art center can and should function. These projects inspired a complementary program of experimental interventions, which will be presented throughout the run of the exhibition. Representatives from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago’s Science of Philanthropy Initiative, among other institutions, will physically and conceptually adapt the Art Center’s administration, architecture, design, and programming leading up to and during the exhibition. A catalogue documenting these trials will serve as a blueprint for experimental ways the art center of the future might effectively engage with and serve its community.  

The Chicago Effect and all Arts Center exhibitions will be on view at the center’s 75th Anniversary Block Party BBQ Bash on Saturday, September 13 .

For more information about the upcoming exhibition or the 75th anniversary bash, visit www.hydeparkart.org.

New Exhibit Redefining the "Middle" Kicks off Hyde Park Art Center's 75th Anniversary Season