For this year’s list, we kept our overall ranking numbers but organized everything by category.
Art 50 2022: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard (Introduction)
Art 50 2022: Curators and Dealers
Art 50 2022: Organizers and Arts Workers
Art 50 2022: Collectors and Philanthropists
Plus: Art Leader of the Moment: A Conversation with Monique Brinkman-Hill, Executive Director of South Side Community Art Center
Here are Chicago’s Directors and Administrators.
ShanZuo Zhoushi and DaHuang Zhoushi
Founders, Zhou B Art Center
Brothers ShanZuo Zhoushi and DaHuang Zhoushi are internationally renowned painters who founded the Bridgeport cultural hub Zhou B Art Center in 2004. In 2021, the brothers unveiled the sculpture “Red Angel” in Chinatown, dedicated to the late community leader Bernie Wong. This year they launched their first NFT collection, “Shanghai Taking Flight.” The pair are at work on a new art center in Kansas City, Missouri, slated to open in the fall of 2023, which will feature artist studios, a gallery and event space.
Interim Director/Curatorial Manager, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Ross Jordan has served as curatorial manager at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for the past six years, producing eight exhibitions and over one-hundred public programs. As the museum’s interim director since 2020, Jordan deftly guided the museum’s response to the pandemic, creating new partnerships with regional libraries to develop a virtual tour that has reached 80,000 people. In 2020, Hull House led a series of programs focusing on the role of race in the suffrage movement and in 2021, the museum reopened with “Gómez-Peña’s Casa Museo,” an immersive exhibition that critiqued the hegemonic structures of museums.
Shannon R. Stratton
Executive Director, Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency
Educator, curator and arts administrator Shannon Stratton, who co-founded Threewalls, became Ox-Bow’s executive director in early 2020. She has spearheaded the development of a new public programming space in nearby Douglas, Michigan. Ox-Bow House will house the storied school’s first archive, which will eventually be open to the public for research. Charlie Vinz of Adaptive Operations will serve as Ox-Bow’s architect-in-residence, with the goal of developing an adaptive reuse plan for the building by 2024. “Integrating historic preservation and sustainable design and architecture into our programming is in line with Ox-Bow’s history, mission and partnership with SAIC, so I’m so excited for this to unfold further,” Stratton says.
Executive Director, Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces, Columbia College Chicago
As an arts administrator, Meg Duguid sees her role as first and foremost serving artists. As executive director of Columbia College Chicago’s department of exhibitions, performance and student spaces, she challenges the system to support artists—using budgets to increase artist stipends, creating learning opportunities and pushing artists to take new risks. Duguid is the curator of the Wabash Arts Corridor and co-founder of culture/Math, an artist-service organization she runs with her partner Michael Thomas. Through culture/Math, she manages The Visualist, a crucial repository of listings and an archive of Chicago’s art events and exhibitions. A champion of artist-run spaces, she collaborated with others to defeat a proposed ordinance in 2021 which would have banned “cultural exhibits and libraries” in private homes. Her exhibition “Where the Future Came From” and its resulting book explored the history of feminist artist-run spaces in Chicago from 1880 to 2018.
Director of Programming, EXPO Chicago and Co-Director, Julius Caesar
Kate Sierzputowski creates opportunities for Chicago’s arts community. As director of programming for EXPO Chicago, she manages and shapes a mighty array of initiatives, events, talks and other programming. Throughout the pandemic, Sierzputowski worked to keep things running online and then in person. She uses her role to uplift small galleries and emerging artists, personally introducing visiting curators and directors to emerging artists and small galleries. As a co-director for the artist-run space Julius Caesar, she helped conceive a more accessible art fair at miniature scale, Barely Fair, which had two wildly successful iterations, in 2019 and 2022. Her commitment to Chicago’s apartment galleries is ongoing—this summer, Sierzputowski opened a nontraditional exhibition space in her laundry room called Airlock. It serves as a laboratory for burgeoning curators.
President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Elissa Tenny counts a dozen years at the School of the Art Institute, first as a provost and then, starting in 2016, as the first woman to lead the more-than-150-year-old institution, which is one of the top-ranked art schools in the country. But each of the last couple of years have probably felt like decades. SAIC grappled with the catastrophic effects of the pandemic on higher education, as well as the racial reckoning in the wake of the George Floyd murder that roiled many cultural institutions. But it also faced heightened challenges owing to the unique nature of its curriculum (art and design are often inherently hands-on/studio-based). Plus, its staff unionized, a successful drive at the center of national coverage, due to a parallel action at its sister institution, the Art Institute of Chicago. As SAIC enters the new academic year, the institution aims to be slightly smaller by “a couple hundred students,” she says, which should help manage growth and determine space needs in the new, hybrid working world, and ready to resume initiatives such as “a firm commitment for anyone with talent and interest to come to the school” which means scholarship funds, paid internships and career guidance. Notably, the school is opening a space developed by and for students of color this fall, along with launching one of Tenny’s personal passions this year, a center for teaching and learning. All while negotiating a first contract with the newly formed AICWU union, as well as a possible expansion of the union to include adjunct faculty. During the union drive, rhetoric escalated but Tenny says she did not feel the heat. “I said all along the staff need to decide whether they want to unionize or not, and that’s what they’ve decided to do,” she says. “And now we’re working with them and the union on contract negotiations. I’m hoping if there was negativity around the beginning of the unionization that we’re past that, and we’re now all trying to really work together moving forward.”
Monique Brinkman-Hill, Lola Ayisha Ogbara and Zakkiyyah Najeebah Dumas O’Neal
Executive Director, Exhibitions Manager and Programs and Public Engagement Manager, South Side Community Art Center
Among Monique Brinkman-Hill’s many achievements since taking over the South Side Community Art Center in 2020 is her ability to hire exemplary staff. Exhibitions manager Lola Ayisha Ogbara, who curated the current exhibition, “…of the land,” and programs and public engagement manager Zakkiyyah Najeebah Dumas O’Neal, who co-curated the essential “EMERGENCE” show, have brought fresh ideas to the historic institution. Dumas O’Neal says she takes “a lot of pride in working for a historical and evolving Black arts institution that’s essentially the Mecca of Black art history and culture here in Chicago,” and is looking forward to providing professional development opportunities for Black artists and showcasing more video work. The duo are also accomplished artists; Ogbara has a sculpture show on view at the Hyde Park Art Center.
Allison Peters Quinn
Director of Exhibitions and Residency Programs, Hyde Park Art Center
Longtime HPAC curator Allison Peters Quinn masterfully executes an exhibition program that features both emerging and established artists. Notable recent exhibitions include Faheem Majeed’s dynamic 2020 solo exhibition and a 2022 show featuring the collaborative work of Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger. Ever striving to support its community, HPAC is committed to paying artists to make work for large-scale exhibitions and is now offering the third round of grants for its Artists Run Chicago Fund. Quinn is at work on a 2023 Edra Soto exhibition and a major solo show in 2024 of artist and designer Robert E. Paige, as part of Art Design Chicago.
Laura-Caroline de Lara
Director, DePaul Art Museum
Despite operating with a reduced staff during the pandemic, in 2020 the DePaul Art Museum successfully launched its multi-year Latinx initiative, which seeks to foster representation and participation in the museum’s programming and collection. Since then, DPAM has added thirty-eight new works to its collection and will present all of its exhibitions bilingually going forward. Laura-Caroline de Lara, who became the museum’s director in 2022 after serving as interim director since July 2020, says the museum is also moving to pay each exhibiting artist for the use of their work in the exhibition, a practice that began with “Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, and Reparations | Chicago to Guantanamo.” In 2023, DPAM will launch its first-ever education program, in partnership with Jim Duignan and the Stockyard Institute.
Associate Provost and Executive Director, UChicago Arts and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
The Logan Center celebrates its tenth anniversary this school year, a point of pride for Bill Michel, who has overseen the organization since its founding. This fall the center will partner with UChicago’s Department of Visual Arts to highlight the work of artists who’ve studied there. As associate provost for the arts, Michel supports campus projects, such as Jenny Holzer’s 2020 “You be My Ally” and the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, which will have a December performance at the Logan Center. Michel also sits on the board of the South Side Community Art Center, is an honorary board member of About Face Theatre and is a member of the city’s Cultural Advisory Council.
Executive Director, ACRE
“Surviving feels like a big deal after the past few years we’ve had,” says Kate Bowen. “Leading an organization through a lot of change has been a challenge that I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to meet. Though difficult and complex it has been the great pleasure of my life.” Despite these challenges, Bowen, along with ACRE volunteers, staff, including development director Erin Nixon, and the board, have expanded its programming and reach, redistributing over $150,000 to artists—over half of its annual operating budget—in 2020 and 2021. Launching the Chicago Arts Census is part of the organization’s practice of care, and in the coming months, ACRE will begin processing its survey data, the first step toward a more equitable arts ecosystem.
Executive Director, 3Arts
Now in her twentieth year as executive director of 3Arts, a nonprofit that supports Chicago area women artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities, Esther Grimm oversaw a massive increase in programming over the last two years. In 2021, the W.A.G.E.-certified organization distributed 134 grants to local artists through its Make a Wave artist-to-artist program, 121 more grants than usual. 3Arts also began sharing its annual awards celebration donations with other area nonprofits, and has committed to providing annual grants to the Center for Native Futures. This year, 3Arts began a grantmaking initiative with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for artist-led collectives and started a mentorship program. “Our sharing of resources is rooted in the belief that a rising tide raises all ships,” Grimm says. “There is so much competition for grants, awards and recognition in our field—this is a way to think differently about that and to see our organization as one part of a magnificent whole.”
Executive Director, Threewalls
Under Jeffreen Hayes’ leadership, Threewalls has blossomed into an organization that believes in and nurtures the humanity of artists, centers the Black and brown community and serves as a national model in the arts. During her tenure, Threewalls has boldly expanded its programming and transitioned into an itinerant organization. She also shepherded the transformation of its board from one based on corporate and moneyed interests to one in which the board members represent the community it serves and align with Threewalls’ organizational values. As a leading scholar and curator of Africobra, Hayes focuses on speaking directly to Black audiences about the history and ethos of the collective.
Myriam Ben Salah
Executive Director and Chief Curator, Renaissance Society
In 2020, the accomplished Myriam Ben Salah took the reins of the Renaissance Society as executive director and chief curator—only the eleventh person to run the organization since it opened in 1915. Since joining the Ren, she’s curated four exhibitions, including the acclaimed group exhibition “Smashing Into My Heart,” which focused on “friendship as a condition, a model and a metaphor for art.” Ben Salah’s work embodies the Ren’s ethos to center artists in its programming. This past summer, she turned over creative control of the annual gala to artist Piero Golia, who brought in collaborators Laila Gohar and Stephen Galloway to create an incredible artist-driven experience.
Executive and Artistic Director, Chicago Artists Coalition
Chicago Artists Coalition is one of the city’s leading nonprofits that supports artists and curators. Teresa Silva became executive director in 2020, the same year CAC launched its ENVISION grant, made possible through a partnership with the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, for artists working in the field of time-based digital and electronic art. In 2022, CAC received its largest-ever DCASE grant as well as an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts grant. With this funding, “CAC can continue to provide cost-free residencies, plus MORE direct support towards new work,” Silva says. The organization is also slated to hire its first full-time employee, a managing director.
President and CEO, Terra Foundation
Sharon Corwin joined the Terra Foundation in the fall of 2020, taking the reins from Elizabeth Glassman, who held the position for nearly twenty years. Corwin came to Chicago from the Colby College Museum of Art, where she helped to double the collection and more than double the museum’s endowment principal. At Terra, staff and board are involved in a strategic reimagining of the foundation’s future and impact. Corwin says the foundation is evolving in order to reshape the story of how American art is told, which includes making deep structural changes. She looks forward to the 2024 iteration of Art Design Chicago, and to new initiatives, including fellowships for Chicago artists.
Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago
Since being appointed to her post in November 2021, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) commissioner Erin Harkey has made good on the department’s mission to support the arts and expand arts access throughout the city. This year, DCASE increased CityArts grants to BIPOC-led organizations and to organizations on the South and West Sides by five percent, doubled the budget for the Individual Artists Program budget, providing grants to artists in all fifty wards, launched the first Chicago Public Library artist-in-residence program and delivered $3.5 million for public art projects at O’Hare International Airport.
Hall of Fame
These folks, or the roles they inhabit, are so well-established and foundational to the art world of Chicago that they are always near the top of the list.
* new this year
Director of Programs and Fellowships, Gray Center Arts and Inquiry, Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry
Director, Block Museum, Northwestern University
Executive Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago
Founder/Executive Director, Rebuild Foundation, Artist and Professor
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Director, Graham Foundation
Mary Jane Jacob
Director, Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
President/Director, EXPO Chicago
*Lisa Yun Lee
Executive Director, National Public Housing Museum
Executive Director/Chief Curator, Arts Club of Chicago
Chief Curator/Director, National Museum of Mexican Art
President/Director, Art Institute of Chicago
Director, Visual Art, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago
Founder/President, National Museum of Mexican Art