YWCA sponsors Illinois art exhibit focused on race

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

The YWCA Evanston/North Shore has partnered with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center to bring an exhibit about race and its origins to the museum starting Sunday.

The exhibit, called RACE: Are We So Different?, focuses on the scientific, historic and cultural perspectives of race, said Eileen Hogan Heineman, the director of racial justice programs at the YWCA. The exhibit will last until Jan. 25.

The American Anthropological Association, in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, created and first put on the exhibit in 2007.

The exhibit looks at race as a social construct, Heineman said. Since its creation, the exhibit has been traveling the country to different interested communities.

Heineman said the YWCA staff learned about the exhibit almost four years ago. They were interested in it because of the conversation it brought up and because the exhibit lined up with their mission as an organization, she said.

“We really wanted to broaden the conversation about the impact of race and create partnerships in the community that would allow people to work on dismantling the effects that race has on our society,” Heineman said.

When the YWCA staff spoke to the curators at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the curators told them that the IHMEC was also interested in bringing the exhibit to the area. So, the YWCA and the IHMEC partnered for the project.

Because of the high demand across the country for the exhibit, it was not able to come to the area until now, Heineman said. Since staff began making arrangements for the exhibit to come, many events occurred around the world that make people question why race exists, she said.

“Fortunately, (the exhibit) is a great vehicle for thinking about what those events mean,” Heineman said. “Why does one group of people experiencing an event view it very differently than another group of people?”

This year, Northwestern chose “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” for its One Book One Northwestern project to go along with the exhibit, said Nancy Cunniff, the One Book One Northwestern project coordinator. NU is serving as a sponsor for the exhibit, and its staff will be publicizing and providing transportation to talks presented by the YWCA and the museum, she said.

On Nov. 11 and Jan. 10, NU students will be able to sign up to go to the exhibit, Cunniff said. Some residential colleges will be visiting it on Oct. 26. In addition, students are offered free general admission on weekday afternoons and a reduced admission at all other times because of the University’s sponsorship.

“There are lots of different ways that people are approaching it,” Heineman said.

Heineman said YWCA staff are overwhelmed by the community’s response to the exhibit’s arrival.

More than 4,000 students from Evanston schools will visit, Heineman said. The Evanston Public Library is also holding book discussions based on the exhibit’s themes.

Sara Schastok, the president and CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation, said the exhibit will blend well into Evanston’s atmosphere. The foundation will also be a sponsor of the event.

Schastok said people in Evanston are interested in these conversations, and she hopes the exhibit will continue the conversation of race in society.

“This is a very important question in our country,” Schastok said. “The issue of how you assign meaning to how people look is a very profound question.”

Email: [email protected]