What Can Other Museums Learn from MacArthur's Grant to Chicago's Field Museum?

Chicago's Field Museum just received its first-ever arts and culture grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Once you read more about it, you'll ask, "What took so long?"

The grant funds a museum project titled "Art and Anthropology: Portrait of an Object as Filipino," which enables the exchange between five Filipino artists from the US and five from the Philippines, producing 12 new works of art. The premise is simple. Each artist will create a painting portraying a Filipino artifact from the Field Museum collection and artists in the Philippines will do likewise from local collections.

In addition, all 10 artists will be creating an interactive collage in both places, which will be donated to the respective sponsoring institutions in each country. In the US, the collage will be exhibited at the Field Museum.

The great thing about this project? Any museum can do it. All it takes is a handful of artists selecting — and in this case, painting — an artifact or piece from the museum's existing collection. While the Field Museum is focusing on Filipino artifacts, other museums can naturally select other areas of interest. 

We like what this project represents from an educational perspective. First, it suggests that "old" art is nonetheless a living thing. An ancient Filipino artifact, in the hands of a talented artist, can be re-imagined and presented from a fresh and unique perspective. Secondly, the project enables a kind of cross-cultural pollination. It introduces Chicago audiences to Filipino artists and Filipino audiences to Chicago artists. It shows that art, both old and new, can resonate across generations and time zones.
The grant also heralds the ethnic group's arrival on the Chicago arts stage — and why shouldn't it? According to Wikipedia, the Chicago metropolitan area had 95,928 Filipinos as of 2000, and amongst immigrant groups, had the highest proportion of foreign born at 61 percent. According to the 2010 Census, 130,781 Filipino Americans and Filipino Multiracial Americans lived within the Chicago metro area.

Click here for more information and IP analysis around MacArthur's work in Chicago.