New Smart Museum exhibition to celebrate 40th anniversary of MacArthur Fellows Program

Toward Common Cause to open in summer 2021 with art from 28 MacArthur Fellows

Next summer, to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellowships, the Smart Museum of Art will open an expansive multi-venue exhibition that will include the work of 28 MacArthur Fellows.

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40 is being organized by the Smart Museum in collaboration with more than two dozen exhibition, programmatic and research partner organizations at the University of Chicago and across the city.

Opening in summer 2021, the exhibition will encompass a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice, including community-based projects realized in public spaces as well as solo and group presentations in multiple museum, gallery and community spaces. Participating artists include Kerry James Marshall, who received UChicago’s Rosenberger Medal in 2016; contemporary silhouettist Kara Walker; and Xu Bing, who contributed to The Allure of Matter at the Smart earlier this year.

The full list of artists can be found below. More details about the new exhibition are available at

“This project began three years ago with a sense of purpose that has only grown more urgent,” said Abigail Winograd, the MacArthur Fellows Program 40th Anniversary Exhibition Curator at the Smart Museum. “Art is a vital social resource, especially in times defined by division, pandemic, and vitriol.

“In the midst of multiple calamities, I have been afforded the unimaginable privilege of working with this group of artists as they met and mentored youth, forged alliances to confront the disproportionate impacts of environmental pollution, and prepared to share their creative vision with all of us across Chicago. Their work has kept me from giving in to despair and offers a daily reminder that there is beauty and goodness in the world, that individual and collective action can change people’s lives.”

Toward Common Cause will use the idea of “the commons” to explore the current socio-political moment, in which questions of inclusion, exclusion, ownership, and rights of access are constantly being challenged across a wide array of human endeavors. It will be realized through collaboration with multiple exhibition sites as well as programmatic partners in neighborhoods across the city.

In addition to the Smart Museum, on-campus exhibition venues will include the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Other planned sites include the DuSable Museum of African American History, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Newberry Library.

“The MacArthur Fellows Program is so pleased to support this ambitious exhibition as a way of connecting the work of MacArthur Fellows with local communities in the city of Chicago, MacArthur’s home city,” said Marlies Carruth, MacArthur Fellows program director. “Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, which recognizes and supports creative pursuits across all fields and disciplines, the exhibition will address themes and issues that reach across disciplines and approaches. In the face of today’s unprecedented challenges, Toward Common Cause makes a strong case for the vital role of creative thinking in imagining a better, more equitable future.”

Toward Common Cause is a profoundly collaborative project and the Smart Museum is thrilled to move beyond its own walls in partnership with these exhibition, program, and research partners across Chicago,” said Amina Dickerson, co-interim director of the Smart Museum. “I hope that the exhibition will foster broader and deeper relationships between artists, institutions, and communities while creating a space for us to reflect on what it means to support a vibrant cultural community for all.”

Additional details about Toward Common Cause—including exhibition dates, visitor information for each venue, related programs, and a full checklist of works and projects—will be made available at a later date at

The exhibition is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with additional support for individual projects from Allstate; a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry; the Visiting Fellows Program at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; and the Smart Museum’s SmartPartners.

Participating artists

  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby, b. 1983, Enugu, Nigeria; MacArthur Fellow, 2017
  • Ida Applebroog, b. 1929, Bronx, New York, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1998
  • Dawoud Bey, b. 1953, Queens, New York, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2017
  • Mark Bradford, b. 1962, Los Angeles, California, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2009
  • Mel Chin, b. 1951, Houston, Texas; MacArthur Fellow, 2019
  • Nicole Eisenman, b. 1965, Verdun, France; MacArthur Fellow, 2015
  • Wendy Ewald, b. 1951, Detroit, Michigan, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1992
  • LaToya Ruby Frazier, b. 1982. Braddock, Pennsylvania, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2015
  • Jeffrey Gibson, b. 1972, Native American, Mississippi Band of Choctaw, Cherokee; MacArthur Fellow, 2019
  • Guillermo Gómez-Peña, b. 1955, Mexico City, Mexico; MacArthur Fellow, 1991
  • Gary Hill, b. 1951, Seattle, Washington, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1998
  • David Hammons, b. 1943, Springfield, Illinois, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1991
  • Alfredo Jaar, b. 1956, Santiago de Chile, Chile; MacArthur Fellow, 1998
  • Toba Khedoori, b. 1964, Sydney, Australia; MacArthur Fellow, 2002
  • An-My Lê, b. 1960, Saigon, Vietnam; MacArthur Fellow, 2012
  • Whitfield Lovell, b. 1959, New York, New York, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2007
  • Rick Lowe, b. 1961, Alabama, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2014
  • Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, b. 1961, Madrid, Spain; MacArthur Fellow, 2001
  • Kerry James Marshall, b. 1955 Birmingham, Alabama, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1997
  • Julie Mehretu, b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; MacArthur Fellow, 2005
  • Amalia Mesa-Bains, b. 1943, Santa Clara, California, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1992
  • Trevor Paglen, b. 1974, Maryland, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2017
  • Fazal Sheikh, b. 1965, New York, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2005
  • Shahzia Sikander, b. 1969, Lahore, Pakistan; MacArthur Fellow, 2006
  • Kara Walker, b. 1969, California, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1997
  • Carrie Mae Weems, b. 1953, Oregon, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 2013
  • Fred Wilson, b. 1954, New York, United States; MacArthur Fellow, 1999
  • Xu Bing, b. 1955, Chongqing, China; MacArthur Fellow, 1999