By: Alyson Jurgovan
“I think pictures should have a point.” Such a simple statement made by photographer Art Shay packs a big punch, as do the hundreds of unseen photographs that make up “Troublemakers.”
The gallery timelines the chaos Chicagoans experienced in their fight for civil rights from 1948 to 1970. The images depict our neighbors from the past attempting to defy opposition, or as curator and Roosevelt University history professor Erik Gellman calls it, “…trying to make Chicago a more democratic place.”
It can be understood almost immediately that this exhibit is anything but typical.
“The show is breaking all the rules in photography. You’re not supposed to hang things that low in a gallery, you’re not supposed to pin things so high, you’re not supposed to have so many images,” Gellman said.
The lack of uniform in “Troublemakers” takes viewers on an almost tangible journey through civil rights struggles in Chicago during that time period. The strategic placement of each photograph causes viewers to physically twist and turn with each step all while interpreting the sometimes gruesome images within the same breath.
“It’s a physical space, it’s a community, it’s a time to leave part of the world behind and come into a quiet space to understand and see another side of things,” said Mike Ensdorf, Associate Dean of Arts and Science and Director of the Gage Gallery.
The physical layout of “Troublemakers” is only the tip of the iceberg of what viewers experience. The content is immeasurably relevant to not only Roosevelt students in particular, but to any inhabitant of the nation.
The images document everything from black power to violent picketing to the war.
“Troublemakers” covers ground that for many has remained unseen and what Gellman refers to as “much more complicated than popular memory would suggest.”
Perhaps the most poignant part of “Troublemakers” is the parallel we can draw to modern civil rights progress.
“Since it goes across timelines, there seems to be a constant struggle, a constant repetition of violence, marches, and then that repeating itself. It’s sobering to see that we’re still sort of going through that same cycle,” said attendee Akil Forbes.
Art Shay’s “Troublemakers” is a fantastic opportunity for Chicagoans to travel back to yesteryear and experience the pioneering this city once boasted. It is a mere perk to be able to detail such movement with our own progress today.
Roosevelt University senior Dominic Gwinn enjoyed seeing Art Shay’s “Troublemakers” gallery.
“I really don’t know if everyone is going to understand how great of an opportunity this is to meet such an amazing person; let alone see his work, but it’s touched me and I hope it touches other people,” Gwinn said.