Portraits of life in the new economy

Dread Scott on Wall Street in a video in "It's the Political Economy, Stupid."

“It’s the Political Economy, Stupid,” includes videos of artist Dread Scott burning money on Wall Street. Photo: Jamel Mims

Gallery 400 will bring a new “Standard of Living” to campus this fall, funded by the federal Museums for America program.

The gallery, 400 S. Peoria St., will present a two-year series of exhibitions and events, “Standard of Living: Art and 21st Century Economies and Work,” that explores the changing ways people sustain themselves in the new normal of today’s economy.

The project is funded by a $137,500 grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, designed to enable museums to serve the public more effectively.

Gallery 400 was the only contemporary art institution in Illinois to receive a Museums for America grant. Other Chicago institutions receiving grants are the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Chicago Children’s Museum.

The first exhibition in the series, “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid,” will be on view Nov. 1 through Dec. 14. The traveling group exhibition includes videos documenting artist Dread Scott burning dollars on Wall Street, flamenco flash mobs taking over Spanish bank lobbies, barbarism spreading through a doomed hedge fund, and other works from around the world that address the prolonged economic crisis.

Gallery 400 plans to devote nearly half of its annual programming over the next two years to the “Standard of Living” series.

The gallery will draw on its partners on the Near West Side for an advisory board of community leaders, activists, scholars and artists who can discuss labor and economic issues.

Lorelei Stewart, gallery director, says the series will change the way Gallery 400 works, allowing community members a more direct way to speak their minds.

“Standard of Living” will not only create programs that address the most vital issues in the Chicago region — employment, work and basic economics — it will also transform the basic operations of the gallery, bringing together people for whom these issues matter most as active participants in the development of our programs,” Stewart said.

The exhibitions and events will be shared at gallery400.uic.edu through video, audio, images and text, including blog posts by staff, audience members, community partners and others.

“This year marks the gallery’s 30th anniversary and our first year in UIC’s new School of Art & Art History, so it’s fitting that ‘Standard of Living’ marks a new era in which our programs are more relevant and transformative than ever for our audiences,” Stewart said.

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