University of Illinois at Chicago
03-03_kpapcz2_east_facade_bw.tiff (21.27 MB)

East Façade

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posted on 2023-06-04, 22:51 authored by Kristy Ulrich Papczun


My research aims to historicize school sites where schools have been closed and reopened. I work to restory the narratives I find in the archives and gather from community members with collective remembering strategies. Using a critical perspective, this work honors and examines the “absent-presence” (Ferguson & Nichols, 2021; Gordon, 2008) of closed schools in Chicago. This site image shows a school building that used to be a neighborhood school for the surrounding public housing in Cabrini-Green until it was closed in 2009 and reopened as a selective enrollment school. The large green lawns adjacent to the school serve as scars where the public housing towers once stood, but only if one knows the site’s history. The benign nature of this photograph betrays the contested history of the site that I argue is masked over when schools are closed. Noting the unsettling symmetry and lacking any distinct identifiers, this image could stand in to represent any of the hundreds of neighborhood schools in Chicago that have been closed. Throughout my research, I use the methodology of portraiture, including images like this, to have conversations about school closings as a way to reconsider how the past is always present.


This exhibit competition is organized by the University of Illinois Chicago Graduate College and the University Library