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Block Events Highlight Museum as Teaching, Learning Tool

Spring and summer activities celebrate Block’s collections and role at Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Three new exhibitions and related educational programs at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art this spring demonstrate the museum’s role as a laboratory for exploration and discovery. 

The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.

Admission to the Block Museum exhibitions and programs listed below is free, unless noted. 


“Art on Paper: Prints, Drawings and Photographs from the Block Museum,” May 11 through Aug. 26, reflects the depth and diversity of the nearly 5,000 objects in the Block’s permanent collection. The exhibition features culturally important and technologically innovative works on paper by Albrecht Durer, Castiglione, J. M. Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Wassily Kandinsky, Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol, Ed Paschke, Robert Mapplethorpe, Laura Letinsky, Sarah Sze and other significant artists, spanning more than seven centuries. It examines the collection’s role for cross-disciplinary research and teaching and documents the growth of the Block's holdings. The exhibition celebrates the museum’s areas of distinction, including collections of drawings and prints by Chicago architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahoney Griffin and computer-generated works on paper.

The annual MFA Thesis Exhibition from the department of art theory and practice, May 4 through June 17, is the culmination of study leading to the master of fine arts degree. Candidates engage in intensive research as they develop their individual art-making practices in a climate of rigorous critical thinking. The exhibition is the place in which they turn their research, as manifest in the works of art they have made, over to the public. This year the exhibit features the work of Robert Chase Heishman, Zach Meyer, Madsen Minax, Rachel Niffenegger and Megan Schvaneveldt. An exhibition catalogue will be available. 

“The Immortal Art Project Exhibit,” May 10 through June 17, a collaboration of the Block Museum and the One Book One Northwestern, displays a scroll of colorful thumbprints made by members of the University community. The scroll is a response to the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells, taken without her knowledge, were used in groundbreaking medical research. Northwestern students, faculty and staff have participated in University discussions of Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” this year. 


A host of programs at the Block this spring and summer will offer deeper engagement with the museum’s exhibitions and collections. Unless noted, the following programs are free of charge. 

MFA Thesis Exhibition from the department of art theory and practice, opening reception, from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3. Faculty, staff, students and the public are invited to join the artists and Northwestern’s department of art theory and practice faculty to celebrate this year’s exhibition.

Department of art history Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture Series, "Because Your Majesty Favors Painting, Paintings and Drawings Created in the Americas as Gifts for the Habsburgs,” 4 p.m. Thursday, May 10. Tom Cummins, the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art and chairman of the department of the history of art and architecture at Harvard University, will explain how images created in Mexico and Peru and intended for European royalty played an active role in imaginatively erasing the physical and cultural distance between Spain and the Americas in the 16th century.

Exhibition Tours, 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, from May 12 through Aug. 26. Block Museum docents will lead free, guided tours of the Block Museum’s “Art on Paper” exhibition. Tours for classes or groups of eight or more people are available with advance notice. Contact

Block Talk, Educating the Eye: Public Sculpture, 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 15. Lisa Corrin, the Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director, will discuss her role as artistic lead for the Olympic Sculpture Park. That project transformed a former industrial site along Seattle’s waterfront into a nine-acre open green and art space with works by Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder and other major artists. 

MFA Film Premiere Night, 7 p.m. Saturday, May 19. Artists Madsen Minax, Megan Schvaneveldt, Zach Meyer, Rachel Niffenegger and Robert Chase Heishman and his collaborator Brendan Meara will screen a new video work. Steve Reinke, associate professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern, will host. 

Gallery Talk, Unique Perspectives, 6 p.m. Thursday, May 24. Art Institute of Chicago curator Mark Pascale will join Block senior curator Debora Wood to address works in the Block’s “Art on Paper” exhibition from the viewpoints of museum professionals and educators.

The State of the Art: Insight into the Conservation of Prints and Drawings, 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30. Harriet Stratis, head of paper conservation and senior curator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, will discuss the care and conservation of works of art on paper using examples from the Art Institute’s collection. She will also provide guidelines for proper storage and display. 

Eloise W. Martin Study Center Open House, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 13. The Block Museum’s study center offers a place for members of the University community and the general public to view individual works from the collection. Attendees will learn about this resource while viewing new acquisitions and discovering how the Block functions as a steward of its holdings. 

Art on Paper Gallery Talks, noon, Wednesdays, June 20, July 11 and Aug. 1. Join Block Museum staff for explorations of the “Art on Paper” spring exhibition. Senior curator Debora Wood will lead the June 20 discussion; Ellen Philips Katz Director Lisa Corrin the July 11 discussion; and graduate fellow Ashley Miller will lead the Aug. 1 talk. Talks run approximately 35 minutes. Light refreshments will be served. 

Block Museum Tour, Educating the Eye: Public Sculpture in Chicago, 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 17. Boasting works by Pablo Picasso, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anish Kapoor, and others, Chicago is a world-class city for outdoor sculpture. Lisa Corrin, Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director and artistic lead for Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, will lead a bus tour of Chicago’s sculptural highlights. Cost is $20 for Block members, $30 for nonmembers. Lunch is provided. Register by calling (847) 491-5893. The tour departs and ends at the Block Museum.

American Craft Artist Lecture, Cliff Lee, 10 a.m. Saturday, July 21. Physician-turned-artist Cliff Lee applies his surgical skills to the creation of porcelain ceramics that mimic flowers, leaves, gourds and other natural forms. Lee will discuss his techniques and work, which can be found in the White House and Yale University Art Gallery collections. Co-presented by the American Craft Exposition.


From May 4 to June 17 the galleries will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The museum’s summer hours -- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays -- are in effect from June 19 through Aug. 26. The museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit or call (847) 491-4000.

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