Public Program Titles

Chicago Avant Garde:five Women Ahead of Their Time
Chicago Avant Garde:five Women Ahead of Their Time

Chicago Avant Garde: Five Women Ahead of Their Time

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Chicago Avant-Garde tells the story of five women who took radical risks in their lives and in their art: artist Gertrude Abercrombie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, choreographers Katherine Dunham and Ruth Page, and dealer-curator Katharine Kuh. Inspired and challenged by Chicago, they helped transform the city into a hub of avant-garde experimentation.


This catalog accompanies an exhibition opening at the Newberry Library on September 10, 2021. Designed by graphic artists Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi of Sonnenzimmer and letterpress printer Ben Blount, Chicago Avant-Garde includes more than 100 photographs, an engaging and deeply researched essay by Liesl Olson (Director of Chicago Studies at the Newberry), and powerful new poems dedicated to each of the five avant-gardists by Chicago-based poet and educatorEve L. Ewing.


Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

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From an acclaimed historian, the full and authoritative story of one of the most iconic disasters in American history, told through the vivid memories of those who experienced it

Between October 8-10, 1871, much of the city of Chicago was destroyed by one of the most legendary urban fires in history. Incorporated as a city in 1837, Chicago had grown at a breathtaking pace in barely three decades, from just over 4,000 in 1840 to greater than 330,000 at the time of the fire. Built hastily, the city was largely made of wood. Once it began in the barn of Catherine and Patrick O'Leary, the Fire quickly grew out of control, twice jumping branches of the Chicago River on its relentless northeastward path through the city's three divisions. Close to one of every three Chicago residents was left homeless and more were instantly unemployed, though the death toll was miraculously low.

Remarkably, no carefully researched popular history of the Great Chicago Fire has been written until now, despite it being one of the most cataclysmic disasters in US history. Building the story around memorable characters, both known to history and unknown, including the likes of General Philip Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln, eminent Chicago historian Carl Smith chronicles the city's rapid growth and place in America's post-Civil War expansion. The dramatic story of the fire--revealing human nature in all its guises--became one of equally remarkable renewal, as Chicago quickly rose back up from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world's generosity and faith in Chicago's future.

As we approach the fire's 150th anniversary, Carl Smith's compelling narrative at last gives this epic event its full and proper place in our national chronicle.

Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora

Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora

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One of the most important dance artists of the twentieth century, dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) created works that thrilled audiences the world over. As an African American woman, she broke barriers of race and gender, most notably as the founder of an important dance
company that toured the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia for several decades. Through both her company and her schools, she influenced generations of performers for years to come, from Alvin Ailey to Marlon Brando to Eartha Kitt. Dunham was also one of the first
choreographers to conduct anthropological research about dance and translate her findings for the theatrical stage.

Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora makes the argument that Dunham was more than a dancer-she was an intellectual and activist committed to using dance to fight for racial justice. Dunham saw dance as a tool of liberation, as a way for people of African descent to reclaim their history
and forge a new future. She put her theories into motion not only through performance, but also through education, scholarship, travel, and choices about her own life.

Author Joanna Dee Das examines how Dunham struggled to balance artistic dreams, personal desires, economic needs, and political commitments in the face of racism and sexism. The book analyzes Dunham's multiple spheres of engagement, assessing her dance performances as a form of black feminist
protest while also presenting new material about her schools in New York and East St. Louis, her work in Haiti, and her network of interlocutors that included figures as diverse as ballet choreographer George Balanchine and Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor. It traces Dunham's influence
over the course of several decades from the New Negro Movement of the 1920s to the Black Power Movement of the late 1960s and beyond.

By drawing on a vast, never-utilized trove of archival materials along with oral histories, choreographic analysis, and embodied research, Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora offers new insight about how this remarkable woman built political solidarity through the arts.