Chicago Cultural Center Artists In Residence and Curatorial Residency Awards Encourage Development of Diverse Arts Projects

October 12, 2016

Studio Artists and Curatorial Fellows Engage Visitors with Open Studio Demonstrations and Public Talks

Christine Carrino, 312.744.0573

Jamey Lundblad, 312.744.2493

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016-2017 Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Awards. Following a competitive review of nearly 200 qualified applicants, a panel of esteemed jurors selected recipients for the six Studio Artists in Residence and two Curatorial Fellows positions. Each recipient or collaborative team will be awarded a stipend to develop their work and engage with the public. Additionally, the Artists in Residence will be provided with three months of studio space, either private or public, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., where they will engage visitors in public programs and talks to be announced. These awards are provided through a generous grant from the Joyce Foundation to support underrepresented artists and curators who demonstrate a strong level of commitment to diversity and community and whose work shows promise or is on the brink of advancement.

This year’s awardees include a number of artists and curators working in collaborative teams that further broaden the scope of the residency. Further, this second class of residency projects is encouraged to work together, to learn from one another within and beyond the studio and to build a cohort of artists and curators.

On view now through the end of October in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Garland Gallery, artists Alejandro Figuerado Diaz-Perera and Cara Megan Lewis, also known as Diaz Lewis, are working publicly on Monday through Saturday afternoons on the project 34,000 Pillows. This project will be followed by public Artists in Residence Nicole Marroquin and Andres L. Hernandez (Fall/Winter) and Aram Han Sifuentes (Winter). Meanwhile, Rashayla Marie Brown, Jacob Yeung and Paola Cabal are working as Artists in Residence in private studios. Curatorial Fellows Cecilia Leonora Vargas and JGV/WAR (J. Gibran Villalobos and Wil A. Ruggerio) are working with the artists and staff to create an exhibition in the spring in the Chicago Cultural Center's Michigan Avenue Galleries featuring the work of all of these residencies.

Public Studio Artists in Residence each receive a $6,000 stipend and a dedicated studio space in the Chicago Cultural Center. The Garland Gallery studio (first floor south) is a hub of creative activity, which provides ongoing opportunities for artists to interact with the public.

Diaz Lewis (Summer/Fall 2016) is the collaborative partnership of Alejandro Figuerado Diaz-Perera and Cara Megan Lewis. They are currently working on 34,000 Pillows, a project in response to the statutory “Bed Mandate” for Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). To materialize the human impact of the mandate, they invite the public to create a pillow out of used clothes and stuffing for every bed designated. The artists are also working to record the stories of immigrants who have journeyed from countries such as Somalia, El Salvador, Honduras, China, Swaziland, Haiti, Colombia and Pakistan, many of who have been directly impacted by the “Bed Mandate.”

Nicole Marroquin and Andres L. Hernandez (Fall 2016/Winter 2017) will be working collaboratively as well as on parallel individual projects. Marroquin will present media from ongoing research connecting youth-led political movements to spatial justice on the Lower West Side of Chicago. Hernandez will further develop Jane and Florida Run the Voodoo Down, an interactive archive/installation that suggests connections between former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne and Florida Evans, matriarch of the television sitcom Good Times. The artists seek points of intersection between their practices as well as opportunities for cross-pollination by public participation.

Aram Han Sifuentes (Winter 2017) is committed to the social practice of working with diverse communities, particularly immigrants and refugees, in order to provide insight into their everyday world. Past projects include US Citizenship Test Sampler, where communities of noncitizens come together to learn the citizenship test material through the act of sewing, and Geopolitical Twister, which invited the public to play twister on a world map to talk about the precarious journey that refugees must take. The works unpack complex labor and immigrant histories by engaging with people in long-term projects, workshops and participatory installations.

Private Studio Artists in Residence each receive a $6,000 stipend and a dedicated studio space in an area of the Chicago Cultural Center that is not generally accessible to the public, expect for monthly open studio events.

Rashayla Marie Brown (Summer/Fall 2016) uses photography, performance, video, installations and writing to take control of black women’s imagery in a way that isn’t always focused on race and gender as the central subject matter. During her residency, she will create a large installation for upcoming exhibitions and edit a major video project Reality Is Not Good Enough. She is also working on recording and editing sound for an installation that will allow image-based work to be translated for the blind and deaf.

Jacob Yeung (Fall 2016/ Winter 2017) is a photographer capturing a dynamic portrait of Chicago’s Chinatown through still pictures and video taken in public spaces. The residency will allow him to prepare pieces in his portfolio for display and make new work within the controlled studio environment, while maintaining his core vision to tell the story of Chinatown and foster a better understanding of the people, places and things documented.

Paola Cabal (Winter 2017) is an accomplished painter transformed by videos and images recorded during a cross-country journey from Chicago to San Francisco by train last May. Contemplating compelling questions about the actual experience of the journey in relation to the documentation, the artist will work with the rich material collected to imagine ways to visually offer the entire journey at once and to single out specific places along the way.

Curatorial Fellows are awarded $2,500 to develop critical conversation, written discourse and an exhibition that focuses on the Artists in Residence, their work and critical issues. The focus is on supporting local emerging artists and providing a platform for underrepresented artists.

Cecilia Leonora Vargas has curated exhibitions in a variety of galleries and colleges throughout the Chicago area including Waubonsee Community College’s Arrowhead Gallery where she currently works on exhibitions, programs and collections. Vargas has contributed as a writer to numerous exhibition catalogues, including work focused on the role of technology in our contemporary culture and how we relate to those changes (e.g. cloning, autonomy, artificial intelligence, drones, self-driving cars and surveillance).

(JGV/WAR) is the collaboration between J. Gibran Villalobos and Wil A. Ruggiero. Their practice includes writing, curating, research and project development with a focus on socially-engaged work and contemporary Latin American art. As art historians and administrators, their research and projects position programming and civic engagement at the center of their practice as they seek to find alternative and creative methods to provoke conversations. They recognize that the demystification of curatorial projects can be as interesting as an exhibition itself by inviting artists and the public to interact with the phases of research, diagrams, images and translation.

The 2016-2017 Studio Artists and Curatorial Residency Awards were selected by an esteemed panel of multi-talented jurors that included Meg Duguid, Director of Exhibitions at Columbia College Chicago, Jan Hanvik, former Executive Director of The Clemente, NYC; Lisa Lee, Director of the School of Art & Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and former Chicago Cultural Center Artists in Residence Allison Glenn, curator and writer, and Alexandria Eregbu, interdisciplinary artist and curator.


Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors. For more information, visit


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