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Remembering the 1919 Chicago Race Riots through Art

Western Illinois University

A Western Illinois University professor is working to commemorate the 1919 Chicago Race Riot through art.

During a trip to Germany, WIU Professor Peter Cole says he was inspired by the country's open dialogue with its own genocidal history. He was particularly struck by sidewalk plaques that enshrined the names of Holocaust victims. 

Cole says the Chicago Race Riot Commemoration Project aims to acknowledge the city's racist history while uplifting local artists.

“We are working with a studio in Chicago that’s created by the Firebird Arts Community Project, which is a non-profit art studio that teaches young people who are… themselves victims of violence in glassblowing and ceramics as a form of art therapy. So, we will have our markers created by people who themselves were victims of violence in the city of Chicago.”

These local artists will create 38 pieces, one for each person who lost their life in the Chicago Race Riots of 1919. The glasswork will be installed where each victim was killed.

Artists will begin working on the project this winter, with the final pieces being finished sometime in the spring.

Marianna Bacallao is WVIK Quad Cities NPR's 2020-2021 Fellowship Host/Reporter. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mercer University's Center for Collaborative Journalism and served as Editor-in-Chief for the student newspaper, The Cluster.
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