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As the Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), an arts-based non-profit in the Bronzeville community (Chicago, IL), I was faced with the challenge of finding a way to respect the organization’s history while also making it relevant to current times. It was a challenge of sustainability and scalability…. a balancing act that placed the organization and me at a crossroads of audience and opportunity.
In this journey to find an impossible balance, I was intrigued by the SSCAC’s mostly hidden treasure trove of archives, original work, and a strong founding matriarch whose impact on the organization and the broader arts community is not always known or understood.
In the 1960’s, Margaret Burroughs sat at the center of the Black Arts Movement and organizations like the SSCAC and Dusable Museum. Before she passed in 2010, I had an opportunity to get to know her and better understand her philosophy of the role that her art played in advocating for and communicating to the community.
In Margaret Burroughs, I had a found a muse of sorts…a central point of focus whose positioning in the art world and in history, in general, spoke so strongly to a broader challenge of connecting community and art. Selfishly, I was also interested in the parallels to my own challenges of merging non-profit management and advocacy with my own art practice.
I began to explore this idea of Margaret Burroughs’ role as an artist, advocate, and institution builder. Once again, seeking the balance that could capture the importance of her as a foundational element in the black arts community while simultaneously exploring the positioning of her work. A gifted artist, her core belief was that art should be accessible to the masses. It is in that very positioning that she seems to have lost relevance within the contemporary art community. It was mass-produced work – in later years- generated by low-quality black and white printers – which people attempted to commodify. Margaret Burroughs’ original vision and the intent was lost by the very practice of others attempting to place a monetary value on the work. Now, placed in numerous black homes above the kitchen table or the family couch, many times there is no understanding of the deeper meaning behind the images. Although positively intentioned, the beautiful images she created lost their original contextual meaning. Through repetition, essentially making the work “bigger, it actually became smaller, lost its focus, and in many ways disappeared in the larger art world.
Playing on the concept of Margaret Burroughs as an institution builder and a foundational element, my work focuses on deconstructing and embedding her imagery while also giving a playful nod to the perceptions and lack of knowledge of her work within various audiences and spaces. I explore these concepts through my choice of materials, appropriated images, and manipulation of scale
– Faheem Majeed
Faheem Majeed is an artist, educator, curator, and community facilitator. He blends his unique experience as an artist, non-profit administrator, and curator to create works that focus on institutional critique and exhibitions that leverage collaboration to engage his immediate, and the broader community, in meaningful dialogue. Majeed received his BFA from Howard University and his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
From 2005-2011 Majeed served as executive director and curator for the South Side Community Art Center and is currently Co-Director and Founder of the Floating Museum.
Majeed is a recipient of The Field and MacArthur Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago Award (2020), Joyce Foundation Award (2020), the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2015), and the Harpo Foundation Awardee (2016). Majeed’s solo exhibitions include MCA Chicago, SMFA at Tufts, and the Hyde Park Art Center.
American, born. 1976 Residence: Chicago, Illinois
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