Threewalls fosters contemporary art practices that respond to lived experiences, encouraging connections beyond art.
Art connecting segregated communities, people, and experiences together.
We believe that it is our responsibility to reflect not only Chicago’s racial, ethnic and cultural diversity but our society at large. In this vein, we believe that racial and ethnic inclusivity in addition to cultural equity is germane to our work.
We are committed to providing an environment that embraces risk, with the understanding that this is where the most fruitful and successful art and relationships are born.
Respect for Process
We believe that supporting process over time is integral to artistic and creative practices as well as relationship-building.
We value the practice of collaboration with our nonprofit peers, artists, community leaders, and others who are inspired to use art as a catalyst for change. We believe that without true collaboration, real change through the arts cannot happen.
Threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. The founders wanted to encourage a greater awareness of Chicago’s art scene by inviting emerging professional artists to share in the city’s rich histories, resources, and creative communities. Over the past fifteen years, Threewalls has been a center for artist-focused programming, critical writing, and direct support for artist projects.
Threewalls transitioned from a bricks-and-mortar gallery to an itinerant model in early 2016 in response to contemporary discourse about the intersections of art, social justice, and community. We continue to support artists and collaborative projects, especially those that are best presented outside of traditional art spaces, thereby expanding the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition, and breaking down walls to contemporary art that are firmly in place in so many communities.
Today, we host artists interested in working in and with diverse Chicago communities through our RaD Lab program, support interactive work by local and regional artists in Outside the Walls, and program salons to generate open dialogue, the presentation of new ideas, and the publication of new writing. Threewalls partners with other organizations on exhibitions, publications, and education programs in an effort to broaden and contribute to the contemporary visual arts.
Value of art | artmaking | artist | creative process
We all know that the commodification of contemporary art, whether visual, performing or any other form, distorts its deeper value. This model challenges the commodity value placed on art and expands its value beyond the monetary. Additionally, this model centers artists, processes and people with the intent of demonstrating the impact of art on our daily lives and expanding the discourse on our lives, which are socially, politically and culturally nuanced.
Given that Chicago is comprised of 2/3 people of color, we are dedicated to the organization and its work reflecting a diverse Chicago, which means supporting more artists of color, recruiting staff and board members of color, and providing leadership opportunities, as well as providing creative, critical and vendor opportunities. We are also committed to being racially and ethnically inclusive with respect to our audience. This is an extremely important aspect of the model of working with artists and communities where they live and work.
We want to present contemporary art in such a way that makes it accessible intellectually and physically in everyday life. Of the many ways to accomplish this, there are two ways that we currently focus on:
We want to conceptually, physically and philosophically expand the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition—from three walls to the fourth wall to breaking down the walls. This is where itinerancy comes into play as our presentation model.
Barak adé Soleil
Director of Programs
For close to three decades, Barak adé Soleil has contributed to the contemporary arts scene across Turtle Island, Europe and West Africa. An award-winning artist, curator, and facilitator, Barak bridges the lived experience of being black, queer and multiply disabled with traditions from the African diaspora, access aesthetics and postmodernism to create multilayered performative works and cultivate stimulating global conversations.
In Chicago, Barak has served as the Consultant in Audience & Community Engagement for The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, curated the inaugural city-wide Moving Dialogs series, and presented creative works at Gallery 400, Stony Island Arts Bank, Links Hall and Gray Centre for Arts & Inquiry. Barak sits on the city’s Cultural Advisory Council for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Through relational, community centered dialogic and artistic engagements, Barak intends to address the complexities and nuances of intersectional ways of being informed by first voice-perspective.
Photo by Erika Dufour.
Ry Douglas is a Chicago-based space maker from Detroit. They are a museum professional with a primary focus in community engagement and public programs. They obtained their BA in Arts Management with a minor in Black World Studies from Columbia College Chicago. They are currently working towards their MA in Museum & Exhibition Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago. Influenced by their upbringing in the Black church, Ry co-directs DIVINE Art Book. They are interested in creating consistent gathering spaces with a balance of idea sharing, fellowship, and tangible action and resources. They use their knowledge and placement in the arts industry to create more spaces that are community-led and community-accountable.
Photo by Chauncey Daniels II
Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D.
Jeﬀreen M. Hayes, Ph.D., a trained art historian and curator, merges administrative, curatorial and academic practices into her cultural practice of supporting artists and community development. As an advocate for racial inclusion, equity and access, Jeffreen has developed a curatorial and leadership approach that invites community participation, particularly those in marginalized communities. Her curatorial projects include SILOS (2016-18), Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman (2018-2020), AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People (2018), Process (2019) and AFRICOBRA: Nation Time (2019).
Jeffreen also speaks and writes about art history, Black art, and arts activism. She recently participated in TEDX Jacksonville and spoke about “Arts Activism in Simple Steps.” Her writing can be found in several independent online and print publications dedicated to art criticism.
As the Executive Director of Threewalls, a position she has held since 2015, Jeffreen provides strategic vision for the artistic direction and impact of the organization in Chicago. Under her leadership, Threewalls intentionally develops artistic platforms that encourages connections beyond traditional engagements with art. These engagements help manifest the organization’s vision of art connecting segregated communities, people and experiences together.
Jeffreen earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, a MA in Art History from Howard University, and a BA from Florida International University in Humanities.
Photo by Milo Bosh.
Propeller Fund Associate
Lauren has contributed to numerous nonprofit organizations including arts institutions, galleries, Chicago Public Schools, community organizations and churches. Her areas of focus have included young people and their abilities to thrive in institutional settings. She has worked closed with young people from childhood through adolescence to teens, along with their families in classroom settings teaching kindergarten and through advocacy work, outreach and community engagement in visual and performing arts settings. Lauren has prioritized organizations that center vulnerable communities in their mission statements and believes that nonprofits with this focus must structure every aspect of their organization to be in service to the success of these most vulnerable communities.
Lauren is currently defining an independent practice for herself that highlights the ways US history and culture understands charity.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chiblie Coleman, President
Internal Operations Blue Cross Blue Shield
Colin D. Lord, Vice President
Founder and CEO
New Ivy Consultants
Oren Lund, Secretary
The Ranch Companies
Claire Ruud, Treasurer
Director of Curatorial Strategy
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Architect & Founder
Director of Facilities and Office Services
Chapman and Cutler LLP
Dean of Graduate Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Learn about opportunities to work at Threewalls.
Jobs & Interships
Threewalls is always finding new ways to share our artist’s unique voices through exhibits, talks, and gatherings. We would like you to be the first to know about these opportunities.