Faheem Majeed | Photo courtesy of the Hyde Park Art Center

The Hyde Park neighborhood is going to be getting some new artwork from South Shore visual artist Faheem Majeed real soon.

On Tuesday, the Joyce Foundation announced that it is awarding $50,000 to the Hyde Park Art Center, which will commission Majeed to create a large-scale piece commemorating the legacy of the South Side Community Art Center.

The Hyde Park Art Center is one of four cultural institutions receiving the 2020 Joyce Award. The goal is for artists of color and art organizations in Chicago, Cleveland and Minneapolis to collaborate and celebrate diversity within their local communities.

Kate Lorenz is the executive director of the Hyde Park Art Center on Chicago’s South Side. She said they are thrilled to receive the award and to work with Majeed on this project.

“It’s a well-deserved honor for him and a testament to the importance of his voice and practice,” Lorenz said. “The grant will allow us to partner with Faheem to explore, challenge and spark discussion around the underlying issues that contribute to the devaluation of historically marginalized voices, institutions and neighborhoods.”

In the wee-hours of Wednesday morning, we spoke with Majeed about the award, his longtime relationship with the South Side Community Art Center and his upcoming exhibit with the Hyde Park Art Center.

In the moment that you received the news about the Hyde Park Art Center receiving the Joyce Award, how did you feel?

Faheem Majeed: I was really excited. The Hyde Park Art Center is a space that’s been supportive of my work for some time. To be able to do something on this scale with them is really exciting, and to be able to use this opportunity to highlight another organization that I’m really passionate about through this collaboration is amazing. It’s a dream come true. I don’t know what to do with so much support. 

When we applied, I didn’t know how significant it was until this morning. I found out when everyone else found out. So I was pleasantly surprised.

"Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden," by Faheem Majeed. The form references the 1930's New Bauhaus design of Chicago's South Side Community Art Center.
Is this your first time working with the Hyde Park Art Center?

FM: No. I have worked with them in the past in different capacities. This will be my first solo exhibition with them. I did take part in a group show about maybe five years ago or so. In that show, I also was kind of highlighting aspects of the South Side Community Art Center and an installation I did, called “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden.” A portion of that piece will come back for this show as well.

How do you define your work? What is some of the inspiration behind your artistic style and subject matter?

FM: Primarily, simply put, I do define myself as a sculptor. But I was formerly the director and curator at the South Side Community Art Center a little while back. I stepped down around 2009 or 2010 after being there for about seven years. 

So much of the work that I do today points back to the organizations I’m invested in, whether that’s the South Side Community Art Center [or] DuSable Museum and a number of other culturally specific institutions, predominantly African American institutions. So I’m always looking for a way of promoting these sacred spaces in Black communities. No matter what institution I’m in, South Side Community Art Center is at the top of that list.

What types of themes are you hoping to explore in the work that you’ll be producing for the Hyde Park Art Center?

FM: I’m actually going to be making a large-scale piece in collaboration with the South Side Community Art Center. In June, we’ll start to create a one-to-one graphite rubbing of the actual facade of the building in the same sort of way community murals that used to be housed at the South Side Community Art Center and murals all over the city. 

I’ll invite the community to come out in conversations to take part in the production of the object itself. And there will be a number of programs and discussions in between at the South Side Community Art Center and the Hyde Park Art Center as a way of promoting both of those institutions, especially seeing how they were founded around the same time in two very different communities that are actually next door to each other. We’re talking around the 1940s when they were both founded.

What does an honor like this mean to you? To the Black artist community in Chicago? To other artists who reside in your native South Shore neighborhood?

FM: That’s something I take a lot of pride in. It does feel like an interesting moment. It’s really wonderful to be able to do work that is local and deals with local histories [and] to be able to get significant support to be able to do those things without always having to leave the state. It is wonderful to be able to have funding through Joyce Foundation. They don’t feel foreign because people like Tracy Hall and Alen, the executive director, they make themselves pretty available and they come out to a lot of events. I have met them in public capacities multiple times. So I like to think that it wasn’t just because of this project but [also] because of all the other work as a cultural producer that I’ve been involved in across the city. They found a way to support that work. 

I like to think supporting this project also helps support other artists because I like to spread it around. It’s not just for me. It’s for other people who will be impacted by this funding as well. To live down the street, to live in South Shore, it’s amazing.

What do you want people to take away from the project that you produce for the Hyde Park Art Center?

FM: I want them to get closer and support our cultural institutions. I want them to, just like me, make these spaces home, support them so they can continue supporting the diverse communities outside their doors. And I want the institutions to continue to grow and thrive through exposure. They’ve been around 70 or 80 years. I want them to go another 100 years and thrive. I want them to see what’s magical about spaces like the South Side Community Art Center. I want everyone else to love it and cherish it. I want us to take care of our cultural treasures.

When can we expect to see your new work?

FM: We’re going to start doing programming and producing the work in June. Roughly June through July. There’ll be a schedule put out for programming and things like that. But the exhibition itself, the piece will be exhibited in August 2020.