Messages of Hope – See the Work of More than Fifty Artists

Kass Copeland, Hope Box
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“Culture is critical, collaboration across differences essential, and celebration a social imperative.” Frank Maugeri 



Shawn Ketchum Johnson

Messages of Hope – A collaboration with The Cook County Forest Preserve (Little Red School House Nature Preserve), Enlace, Quetzal Xochitl Aztec Dance, and over 60 artists from over 15 Chicago neighborhoods and 5 additional states. 

Indira Johnson
Cynthia Kerby, Deconstruct/Reconstruct: Cairns of Solidarity

When Cabinet founder, Frank Maugeri, was in Mexico City 25 years ago studying ritual and art, he first saw decorative boxes wrapped to poles. Cigar boxes filled with detritus, like mannequin hands, flowers, whiskey bottles, stuffed animals, and more. They were rough, odd, unsophisticated and bound to random poles. He inquired about them, and a local said, “Yes, those are made by artists so the businessmen remember to look up, dream, remember, and hope.” Continuously inspired by ritual, participation, and community, Frank shaped our new civic project. Outdoors, in nature, and in one of the state’s most beautiful reserves. An ephemeral gallery of community, hope, and beauty. Much of Cabinet’s mission and principles are born from the study and teaching of myth. Joseph Campbell used the term “aesthetic arrest” to describe the state we enter when we encounter what we perceive to be profound beauty. This is a phrase he borrowed from James Joyce, who said that when confronted with beauty, “the mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.” This continues to be a goal with our current projects. 

Sydney Lynne Thomas, Box Process

“Now is a time of survival and sustenance, but it is equally a time of service and sacrifice. As artists, we can and must be creative and innovative. Therefore, in this moment of understandable distance and trial, Cabinet has committed to new initiatives and new approaches.” Frank Maugeri 

Inspired by traditional cabinets of curiosity, altars, temples, tramp art, and grottos, we sought to generate mundane, magical, and momentary locations of respite and reflection. In collaborative discussions with lead designer Sydney Lynne Thomas, Cabinet’s frequent collaborator Jillian Gryzlak, and the Cabinet Board of Directors, we chose to provide free boxes to established artists, emerging artists, and community members to adorn. Cabinet delivered and retrieved the completed boxes, and will mount them to trees in our partner’s outdoor space, The Little Red Schoolhouse, 9800 Willow Springs Rd, Willow Springs. 

Laura Sova

For those unable to visit, there will be 2 live tours August 19th. and September 16th. at 9am. Tours are $10.0o and support the Center. To reserve a spot on the tour, email: ca************@gm***.com 

Attendance at The Little Red Schoolhouse is FREE. For more information, visit: Little Red Schoolhouse

The boxes will be exhibited at The Little Red Schoolhouse from August 1st until September 30th, 8am-4pm, when they become a part of Panoramic Prayers: A Burial of Old Ideas

“Be Not Afraid” , by P.K. VanderBeke

Contributing artists include: Lauren Adams (Bronzeville), Samantha Adams (Logan Square), Jeremy Andersen (Oak Park), Rochelle Borrett (Texas), Linda Boyle (South Dakota), Rea Brown (Hyde Park), Gabriel Flash Carrasquillo Jr. (Harlem/Irving Park), Cynthia Castiglione (Avondale), Melecio Castillo (South Chicago), Crystal Meisaan Chan (Wisconsin), Kass Copeland (Wrigleyville), Michael Cotey (Wrigleyville), Sheila Cronin (Indiana), Adrian Danzig (Winnemac), Joellen Desautels (Indiana), Griffin DiStasi (Evanston), Sheila Donovan (Douglas Park), Lissa Dysart (Oak Park), Eseosa Edebiri (Pilsen), Anya Elsbeth (Lakeview), Tressa Ferrella (Uptown), Joanie Friedman (Hyde Park), Justin Goh (Rogers Park), Angela Golota (Glenview), Annabelle Gross (Wilmette), Jillian Gryzlak (Logan Square), Dean Hacker (Indiana), Deborah Hirshfield (Evanston), Karen and Geneva Hoyer (Lakeview), Brian Hungerford (Oak Park), Brandin Hurley (Bowmanville), Rebecca Husk (Chicago), Rachel Jacobs and Kathryn Harris (Rogers Park), Shawn Ketchum Johnson (Iowa), Indira Johnson (Evanston), Cynthia Kerby (Evanston), Deborah Lader (Ravenswood), Tirzah Lawson (Texas), Oran Lazar (Hyde Park), Mark and the Levitin Family (Near North Side), Sydney Lynne (Groveland Park), Toni Maugeri (Portage Park), Andrew Tyler Nelson (Rogers Park), Dan O’Brien (Lake View), Camryn Pillay (Streamwood), Sully Ratke (Bowmanville), Terry Reimer (Lakeview), Amy Ribbon (West Loop), Sarah Rieser (Pilsen), Tom Robinson (Wicker Park), Tom Rossiter (Wicker Park), Cecilia Sheppard (Lincoln Park), Laura Sova (Ravenswood), Shayne Taylor (Bowmanville), Ellie Terrell (Logan Square), Jessica Thebus (Rogers Park), P.K. Vanderbeke (Old Town), Xiayuo Wang (Ohio), Liz Walton (California), Tracy Weisman (Rhode Island), Dan Wheeler (Lincoln Park), Anna Zahm (Uptown). 

Tracy Brownell Weisman, Tree Test

“Sharing messages of hope at the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center creates tranquility and peace along our trails. We are happy to partner with Cabinet of Curiosity and align our goal of connecting people to nature with the art boxes and Messages of Hope project.” Maritza Rocha Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center Director at the Forest Preserves of Cook County 

Panoramic Prayers: A Burial of Old Ideas 

OCTOBER 1ST – OCTOBER 5TH 7PM-10PM 10 PEOPLE PER 30 MINUTE SLOT Location to be announced. To reserve a ticket and participation time, email: ca************@gm***.com Tickets are $20.00, and proceeds support Cabinet’s School of Celebration. Guests are required to wear face masks and 6-foot distancing will be maintained and monitored. The event will be open-air. 

Panoramic Prayers: A Burial of Old Ideas is a project devised and co-directed by Camryn Rose Pillay, 2019 School of Celebration graduate and Acting major at NYU Tisch and Tanji Harper, The Happiness Artistic Director, along with members of the Blu Rhythm Collective – a community of artists that produces original music, choreography, and stories to offer a unique theater experience and provide a platform for thriving adult creatives – largely young Black women and men from Austin and Englewood. This is the second year of Cabinet and Blu Rhythm’s collaborative rituals. Last year was presented at the Exelon Observatory along the 606 in partnership with The Chicago Park District. This year’s event tackles the themes of “How are we different? How are we the same? and How do we develop authentic constructive relationships?” We often begin with a simple and critical prompt and develop from there. It’s a unique process. The Blu Rhythm Crew – including singer Lea Violet, dancers Alan Freitag, Brandy Ford, JC Hopkins, Ricketta Davis, Joey Harper, cellist Juan José Horie Phoebus, and a Spanish translator, Laszlo Jentes – author the event alongside Cabinet’s School of Celebration – 9 students from multiple artistic backgrounds and universities from across the United States. This year, those students include: Xiaoyu Wang, Rea Brown, Oran Lazar, Joseph Jones, Samantha Marie Adams, Angela Goleta, Griffin DiStasi, Ivy Bergen Waegel, and Brad Martinez. The experience will be collaboratively written by the central team and Nick De Genova, a cultural anthropologist, political theorist, and poet . It’s a highly visual event. Non-narrative and experiential. Poetry, song, images, mystery, dream, and more are set in the frame of “ritual”– an intimate spectacle. Performances are October 1st-5th, 7pm-10pm. 10 people per 30 minute events. 

Tracy Brownell Weisman

“My hope is that our commitment to collaboration with The Blu Rhythm Collective each Fall serves as a symbol and model of people working across difference with honesty, thoughtfulness, and respect. This has been our pursuit since Cabinet was formed.” Frank Maugeri 

“Blu Rhythm works with Cabinet because it stretches our skills, permits our performers to be seen as cultural and civic leaders, and is a training ground for celebration.” Tanji Harper 

About Cabinet of Curiosity: Cabinet is composed of diverse project-by-project collectives who authentically collaborate on original celebrations and productions. We use sophisticated puppetry and handmade devices to develop unique interactive experiences, productions, and events. We focus on creating new types of gatherings, ceremonies, and rituals that promote community and interactivity among people who may not ordinarily mix. Our intention is to support multicultural professionals in the field of theatre, visual arts, dance, sculpture, and music, while mindfully training college-age apprentices to become the future creators of meaningful new rituals through our School of Celebration. All of the objects and devices created by Cabinet are engineered to expose their mechanical operations so that they are simultaneously educational, informative, and magical. We embrace commissions which require unique elements of ritual, ceremony, procession, and pageantry. These commissions generate funding that establishes an innovative revenue stream, reduces the burden of being sustained by a Board, audience, or foundations, and trains apprentices through a unique celebration curriculum, builds community, and helps fund our greatly discounted public work. We are committed to social engagement — both grand and intimate. Our purpose is to promote curiosity, community and cultural discovery. 

Photos: Courtesy of Cabinet of Curiosity


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