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Cecil McDonald, Jr.

Chicago, United States


Cecil McDonald, Jr. (B. 1965, Chicago) is most interested in the intersections of masculinity, familial relations, and black culture’s artistic and intellectual pursuits, particularly as this culture intersects with and informs the larger culture. Through photography, video, and dance/performance, he investigates and questions the norms and customs governing our understanding of each other, our families, and the myriad societal struggles and triumphs. His photographs and monographs are in the collections of, The Cleveland Museum of Art and The Museum Of Contemporary, among others. McDonald studied fashion, house music, and dance club culture before receiving an MFA in Photography at Columbia College Chicago. Currently serving as an adjunct faculty member in the Photography Department at Columbia College Chicago and lecturer in the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute. His most recent project, The Heat of the Cool, published by Birds Trapped In Airports, was published in 2023; McDonald calls the storied south side of Chicago his home and creative wellspring.

CAB 5 Contribution

Project Overview

Praise House: We All Shine

Praise House: We All Shine reimagines a modest antebellum structure—the praise house—that offered shelter and privacy for prayer, plotting, and celebration for enslaved people in the United States. McDonald refigures this vernacular typology as a utopian space of healing, inspiration, and creativity. Intended to be built at full-scale in a Chicago neighborhood, the two-way mirror structure will reflect the neighborhood and people that live there during the daytime and at night, emit light, sound, movement, and imagery projected from the interior.

Here, Praise House is realized as a scale model and includes two projected films: a US government public service announcement circa 1960, The New Girl in the Office, and Summer Madness, a film by McDonald including footage of Chicago dance parties and clubs. The installation is accompanied by two photographs of individual figures, Sweet Georgia Brown and The Dizz.

Praise House: We All Shine functions as public art; a community gathering space and an installation space for community artists, makers, and curators.


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Graham Foundation


4 W Burton Pl, Chicago, IL 60610


Gold Coast


Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts fosters the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society. The Graham realizes this vision through making project-based grants to individuals and organizations and producing exhibitions, events, and publications.

The City is the Site