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PACE Artist Catalyst: A Closing Celebration

Join us to celebrate PACE Artist Catalysts Cecil McDonald Jr. & Andrea Yarbrough.



Join us with artists Cecil McDonald Jr. & Andrea Yarbrough to celebrate their commissioned artworks as part of their PACE Artist Catalyst Award!

A conversation will take place with the artists, and Essence McDowell, a communications strategist, organizer and coauthor of two books, including the recently released, “Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping a History of Trailblazing Black Women in Chicago”. We’ll also have sounds from DJ Celeste Alexander and catering from Taylor’s Tacos !

Andrea Yarbrough’s 2023 installation Collective Steps is an homage to the scores of Black women committed to sustaining the South Side Community Arts Center. Centered on mapping the stories of understudied Black women, Yarbrough’s approach has been focused on Fern Gayden, who was a leader, writer, and organizer. A founding member of the South Side Writers Group in the 1930s, Fern Gayden’s long and diverse career included leadership roles in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the South Side Community Art Center.



Cecil McDonald’s 2022 installation Metropolis: A City In Black, is a public viewing installation in the historic bay window of the venerable South Side Community Art Center. Over six months, McDonald traversed the streets, parks, beaches, porches, and neighborhoods in and around Bronzeville. Photographing friends, strangers, and passersby from a mobile studio, McDonald created both formal and candid portraits; the portraits, collaged with moving abstract imagery, create an odyssey of humanity infused with all the unique sensibility and tempo of black life in the metropolis.


Andrea and Cecil’s commission were supported by the Public Art & Civic Engagement Capacity Building Initiative, granted to the South Side Community Art Center from Mural Arts Institute, a program of Mural Arts Philadelphia.



Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.