Yourh Advisory Council, National Public Housing Museum
We, Next Door was produced by the National Public Housing Museum’s Youth Advisory Council in response to the Buell Center exhibition, House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate in Twenty-three Episodes. The 12 young Chicagoans in the YAC call a range of public housing types home, which include refurbished traditional buildings like the Dearborn Homes on Chicago’s South Side (now mostly senior housing), “scattered sites” on the North Side, and privately built “mixed-income” developments all over Chicago—constructed to replace the infamous towers in the park and other sites dating to the Plan for Transformation, initiated in the 1990s. Some of these teens lived through the often harrowing process of relocation.
NPHM’s curatorial and educational programming team facilitated the YAC’s interactions in a curriculum funded by Boeing over the course of the Summer of 2015. Working with visiting artists, curators, journalists, architects, and advocates in mentored weekly discussions and creative activities inspired by some of the episodes from House Housing, the youth addressed the many ways in which they understand the architectural, social, and economic history documented in the exhibit.
The We, Next Door installation includes excerpts from journal entries; memory exercises and games in collective poetry; drawings of significant portions of homes present, past and imagined; collages prompted by questions about the socially constructed differences between different types of housing; photography of former housing sites at Cabrini-Green and Pruitt-Igoe; discussions of art and activism challenging then divisions of private and public space. The curriculum culminated with interviews between the teen participants focusing on key questions: "What do we want?" "Who are we?" and "Who needs public housing?" Eschewing didactic and "preachy" exhibits, the YAC asserted an approach that would demand visitors also respond to House Housing and We, Next Door.
Mentors and partners included:
Urban Juncture, Bronzeville Bikes, Lolly Bowean of the Chicago Tribune, Miguel Aguilar of The Graffiti Institute, Artist and Professor Andrés Hernandez, artist Faheem Majeed, Art Institute youth educator Elisheba Fowlkes, Chicago Architecture Foundation curator Anjuli Maniam, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis Housing Authority, and historic preservationists Bob Hansman and Michael Allen.
Curriculum funded by The Boeing Company