These Current Exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago Document the Black Experience

The Art Institute of Chicago has consistently been ranked among the top museums in the world. It is also one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country and it can take a few visits to take it all in.

There are a number of resources that make the museum's world-renowned collections are accessible to all:

  • General admission is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. throughout the year. Admission is always free for children under 14.
  • You may also use the Chicago Public Library's Kids Museum Passport for free admission for a group of up to four people, as long as you have at least one child with you. Just check out the Art Institute Passport from your local library branch as you would a book. 
  • Reduced general admission pricing is also available for students and seniors. Learn more about ticket pricing on the Art Institute website.

The exhibitions listed here are currently on display, showcasing the beauty of the African diaspora and the international Black experience.


Cauleen Smith: Space Is the Place (A March for Sun Ra)

Through August 5, 2018

Smith employed a cinema verité–like style to capture the Rich South High School marching band performance of an experimental composition by pioneering composer and performer Sun Ra.




Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso

Through August 19, 2018

This exhibition brings together photography and popular music of the West African country to present an immersive experience of a young nation negotiating its various identities.



Charles White: A Retrospective

Through September 3, 2018

Over 80 paintings, drawings, and prints come together to trace Charles White’s four-decade career from his emergence in Chicago through his mature work as artist, activist, and educator.




Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980

Through October 28, 2018

Providing a poetic survey of photographers and filmmakers who worked in neighborhoods across the city from the 1950s through the 1970s, this portrait of Chicago speaks to its allure and its brutality.




See a complete list of 300 works throughout the museum by African American artists here.

Learn more about the Art Institute's collection of African art here.


(Exhibition descriptions and images are from the Art Institute’s website.)

Happy 60th Birthday, Prince: A Purple Tour of Minneapolis

What a better way to bring African American Music Appreciation Month (formerly known as Black Music Month, renamed by President Obama in 2009) to a close than by recognizing and celebrating one of music's greatest icons. Earlier this month, Prince would have celebrated his 60th birthday. Although he was not big on birthday celebrations himself, I decided to take a trip to his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota that week in his honor. This trip was one of my most memorable ones domestically or internationally. 

Prince was so proud to be from Minneapolis and the city had a huge impact on his development as an artist. If you ever have the opportunity to take a quick trip to the Twin Cities, I highly recommend you make these stops a priority!

Paisley Park

Paisley Park was Prince’s personal playground. He had this 65,000 square-foot facility built in Chanhassen, Minnesota in the 1980s. It includes music studios, a sound stage and his NPG Music Club where he would host parties and events. Prince recorded most of his albums here, and so did many other artists such as Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Celine Dion. The soundstage was used to film several music videos and the film Graffiti Bridge, the sequel to Purple Rain.

Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited inside, but touring the massive space and seeing everything from Prince’s handwritten songs and Grammy collection, to his outfits and doves (yes, I saw Prince’s actual doves! 🕊) is something you must experience for yourself.


Grafitti Tunnel

Since Prince’s passing, fans have covered the walls of the Riley Creek tunnel into a tribute to the music icon—some are even calling it the new “Graffiti Bridge.” The tunnel runs between Paisley Park and Lake Ann Park, so it is a must stop if you are visiting Paisley Park as well.


Prince Mural at Chanhassen Cinema

This 40-foot mural by New Zealand artist Graham Hoete, was painted on the wall of the Chanhassen Cinema, not long after Prince’s death.


First Avenue & 7th Street Entry

If Paisley Park was Prince’s first creative home, First Avenue was his second. This club is where Prince got his start in the Minneapolis music scene. Many of Purple Rain’s club scenes were filmed here, helping catapult the venue to legendary status.

The walls of the club are covered with silver stars and the names of musical acts from all genres—from Rock to Hip-Hop—that have performed here over the years. After Prince’s passing, his star was painted gold in his remembrance.


Schmitt Music Mural

In 1977, Minnesota-based photographer Robert Whitman took several photos of a young Prince, who was then on the rise in the Minneapolis music scene, looking for a record deal and in need of a press kit. The Schmitt Music mural, located in downtown Minneapolis, was one of the sites of their shoot. View all of Whitman’s Prince photo’s here


“Prince From Minneapolis” exhibit at Weisman Art Museum

In a nearly year-long celebration of Prince’s legacy, the Weisman Art Museum displayed an exhibit entitled “Prince from Minneapolis.” This exhibit featured various artistic creations in tribute to the artist while highlighting the ways in which the city shaped Prince as an artist. (This exhibit is no longer on display.)

"I Would Die 4 U" mural by Rock "Cyfi" Martinez (2017)

"I Would Die 4 U" mural by Rock "Cyfi" Martinez (2017)

Prince bicycle by independent frame builder, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove; winner of Best in Show and Best Theme Bike at the 2017 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Prince bicycle by independent frame builder, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove; winner of Best in Show and Best Theme Bike at the 2017 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

"Le Petit Prince" series by Troy Gua

"Le Petit Prince" series by Troy Gua

"Grego Morphing into Prince" (2008) by Burhan C. Dogancay

"Grego Morphing into Prince" (2008) by Burhan C. Dogancay

1987 portrait by Minnesotan seed artist, Lillian Colton. Materials: timothy, canola, poppy, bromegrass, and grits

1987 portrait by Minnesotan seed artist, Lillian Colton. Materials: timothy, canola, poppy, bromegrass, and grits


The Prince Piano

The mpls downtown council featured “Pianos on Parade”, 25 uniquely designed pianos for the public to play throughout downtown Minneapolis. This Minneapolis music-themed paino, featuring Prince and seveal Minneapolis musicians who were influenced by him, was placed outside of the MacPhail Center for Music.

Stone Arch Bridge, crossing the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, was built in 1883 and is for pedestrian crossing only.

Stone Arch Bridge, crossing the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, was built in 1883 and is for pedestrian crossing only.

Further reading on Prince's life and legacy:

I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon by Touré 

Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi, forward by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman


Prince Rogers Nelson

June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016

(all photographs taken and owned by Leah Castleberry)

NOLA Tricentennial: A Visual Love Letter to 'The City That Care Forgot'

300 years of a culture like no other in the world...

New Orleans, Louisiana


All Photos by Leah Castleberry

These Unforgettable Maya Angelou Quotes Are Words to Live By!

This year, Dr. Maya Angelou would have celebrated her 90th birthday!

She became the first African American woman best-selling author of a non-fiction work with the release of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing in 1969, considered an American classic. She would go on to release six additional books in here series of autobiographies. A dancer, singer, writer, director, and actress, she was the quintessential artist and a truly "Phenomenal Woman." President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

You can stream her documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise for free here until April 30th. 

In remembrance of her and the many gems she left with us, here are just a few of Dr. Angelou's quotes that are worthy of reflecting on regularly and integrating into our daily lives:


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


“Nothing will work unless you do.”



"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."


“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”


"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."


Dr. Maya Angelou

(April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014)


images from