Art Market

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago agreed to cease contracting with the Chicago Police Department.

Justin Kamp
Jun 9, 2020 5:16PM, via Hyperallergic

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Photo by Céline, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA) has agreed to cut ties with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) following a public petition that arose from the current protests against police brutality. The institution drew criticism after a 2019 photograph of MCA staff posing with a donation check to the CPD surfaced on social media, leading members of the museum’s youth development program Teen Creative Agency (TCA) to pen an open letter to MCA staff demanding they cut ties with CPD as well as “acknowledge the systematic abuse of power and overt brutality exhibited by the police.”

MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn addressed the concerns raised in TCA’s petition with her own letter, clarifying that the MCA did not contract the CPD directly, but rather maintained a business relationship with the police through the museum’s private security firm Securitas. Grynsztejn concluded the response by stating that the museum will ask to be alerted any time Securitas engages with the CPD. A post on the museum’s Instagram page confirmed that commitment, stating that the MCA “is not engaged in any current contracts, ongoing contracts, or special services with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), nor does it fund the CPD.”

The TCA, however, feel that the museum has not gone far enough in its commitments. The group told Hyperallergic:

Though TCA believes in the representation of BIPOC artists in the MCA, we think they walk a fine line between fetishizing BIPOC pain when they don’t hastily advocate for BIPOC and financially reinvest in BIPOC communities. We also believe that the MCA needs to reevaluate the role of its youth programs in the museum programming: the MCA needs to invest in TCA as they frequently rely upon us yet aren’t considered, compensated, and treated as staff.

The group stated that if the MCA did not put forth a tangible plan of action to mitigate these shortcomings, TCA would not participate in 21Minus, the museum’s annual arts festival focused on work by artists under the age of 21.

The MCA is the third major art institution to cut ties with their respective city’s police force. In Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Art both cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department after the first week of nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in its custody.

Further Reading: Artist Patrick Martinez Paints Moving Tributes to Victims of Police Brutality

Further Reading: Gordon Parks’s 1960s Protest Photos Reflect the Long History of Police Brutality in the U.S.

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019