Can you see me? FREEDOM SPACE

Curated by Scheherazade Tillet

on view at Arts + Public Life (301 E Garfield Boulevard)

from October 21 to December 16, 2022

Image courtesy of Evan Jenkins

Image courtesy of Evan Jenkins

Image courtesy of Evan Jenkins

Image courtesy of Dominique Jimerson

Image courtesy of Evan Jenkins

Image courtesy of Evan Jenkins

I feel free by a body of water or in an empty grassland. -Savannah Flowers, age 16

SkyART, Weinberg/Newton Gallery, and Arts + Public Life present Can You See Me?: FREEDOM SPACE. Curated by Scheherazade Tillet, it is the second in its three-part collaborative exhibition that explores the impact of incarceration on young people’s lives. Across three galleries, artwork by incarcerated young people, contemporary artists, and arts-justice organizations delve into the themes of ascendance, innocence, and Freedom.

Alongside a selection of Tillet’s images as well as works from her personal collection, archival footage from the South Side Home Movie Project, and an imprint made by incarcerated youth in SkyART's Just-Us program, FREEDOM SPACE imagines a moment without confinement, violence, or oppression. Rather she seriously considers what Black life, especially those of Black girls and young women, would be like if our past social movements had been able to achieve their freedom dreams. What would it mean if Black people could move about freely – without the threat of elimination, incarceration, or historical erasure?

Inspired by two rare civil rights photographs: Malcolm Lauredo’s 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. swimming in a Miami pool and Doris Derby's 1968 photo of civil rights workers ​resting at a Tougaloo farm, the main exhibition space is divided into two distinct areas: the seaside and the grassland.

With photographs from Tillet’s ongoing series on Black girlhood, images by Black girls and gender non-conforming youth whom she taught in Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Chicago, contemporary African Diasporic artists, such as Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose and Kim Hill, who focus on Black leisure, this exhibition is intentionally interdisciplinary and intergenerational. With its artificial grass, water fountain, and hand-woven outdoor furniture, it blurs the lines between​ what is exterior and interior to reclaim the Black outdoors and rethink history and the ways ​African-Americans have been denied freedom​.

This interactive exhibition shares answers from Tillet's interviews about freedom with Black girl artist-activists​, her non-profit organization, A Long Walk Home, and incarcerated​ youth from SkyART, while asking its viewers to engage in a restorative practice of meditating on the meaning of freedom.

Featured artists

A Long Walk Home

Formerly and currently incarcerated youth in SkyART's Just-Us program

Kim Hill

The South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP)

Girls Behind the Lens

Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose

Scheherazade Tillet