Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford is bursting with big ideas and ambitious sculpture works that require a high level of craftsmanship. This made him a formidable opponent when his subversive project, “Give Me a Place to Stand and I Will Move the World,” realized in cahoots with his students at Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), had a run-in with authority. Channeling the spirit of George Streeter, Chicago’s baddest historical figure, Jeremiah planned to set sail on Lake Michigan upon collaboratively built wooden rafts and to dock on the upscale shore of the Gold Coast, where Streeter and his band of vagabonds engaged in legal battle with wealthy bankers over their land over one-hundred years ago. On arrival, his students, many of them first-generation Americans, would stage an immigrant landing amidst an unrelated, but somehow appropriate, volleyball tournament. The Chicago Park District voiced a resounding “no.” Jeremiah reset the course for Gary, Indiana, sailing his ships, navigated by students wearing plastic bags, right onto the private property of an obliging resident.
Using the city’s body of water to animate another collaborative project, Jeremiah is developing a proposal with artist Faheem Majeed for a “Floating Museum.” The room-sized model of the South Side’s DuSable Museum transports a marginalized racial history into the center of the Loop via the Chicago River. The pair hopes to involve more community members to curate a show inside the drifting gallery, which will (if authorized) dock at the location where namesake Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was meant to have a memorial park. DuSable’s standing as the first permanent resident of Chicago is much contested in ways relevant to Jeremiah’s concerns. The venture promises to be another source of clever negotiation.
Looking to “get off the water for a couple projects,” Jeremiah is plotting a carnivalesque happening at the Hyde Park Art Center. For this, he will allow random appropriations to flow, revealing the path of history to be twisted and cluttered with figures and events both real and imagined. The artist envisions saddle-sculptures—homages to personages, such as Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Aldous Huxley and physicist Robert Oppenheimer’s art-collecting, one-handed mother—atop live animals in HPAC’s central space. With these seeming flights of fancy, the artist seeks to continue to “hijack historical moments” and place them within the “continuum of the present day,” with all of its absurdities.