About the program
Sowing Change: Creativity and Food Sovereignty is a collaboration between the MCA and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB 5), this program brings together artists Erika Allen, founder of Urban Growers Collective in Chicago, and Linda Goode Bryant, founder of the pathbreaking gallery, Just Above Midtown (1976-1984) and Project EATS in New York City. Allen and Goode Bryant will discuss how the arts—and tending to the imagination—have guided their visionary leadership in transforming urban space as sites for food sovereignty and collective change.
The conversation will be moderated by Emily Mello, Senior Director of Learning, Education, and Public Programs at the MCA.
ASL and CART captioning are available.
Erika Allen is the cofounder and CEO for Chicago’s Urban Growers Collective, president of Green Era Educational NFP, and co-owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners. She uses her experience as a visual artist to consult with individuals and organizations to support their visioning of social and economic change. She is passionate about social justice and working with multicultural groups towards the elimination of racism and related oppressions, as well as the root causes of poverty, by integrating creative and therapeutic techniques alongside food security and community development.
Previously, Allen founded Growing Power – Chicago and served as director for fifteen years, from 2002 to 2017. Allen is the cofounder of the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, serves on the board of Grow Greater Englewood, sits on the Leadership Council for Growing Home, and is an advisor for the Community Food Navigator project. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker appointed Allen to the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ICAE) for a three-year term (2022–2024), and she was recently appointed by the Biden administration to join the USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee for Illinois. In 2022 she received a James Beard Leadership Award for her work to create a better food world. She is also a cochair of the Food Equity Council for the City of Chicago. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MA in art psychotherapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Linda Goode Bryant founded Project EATS, an urban farming initiative aimed at sustainable food production in Black and brown communities in New York City, in 2009. Her decades of art-based activism began in 1974 with her founding of Just Above Midtown (JAM) gallery, a self-described laboratory that foregrounded the work of African American artists including David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Butch Morris, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, and many others. After closing JAM in 1986, Linda dedicated herself to filmmaking, directing the Peabody Award-winning documentary Flag Wars (2003), which explores the tensions between preservation and gentrification. Over her nearly fifty-year career, Goode Bryant has and continues to advocate for a connection to “our innate ability to use what we have to create what we need.”
In 2020, she received an Anonymous Was a Woman Award and a United States Artists Berresford Prize. She is a former Guggenheim Fellow. In 2021, Bryant collaborated with architect Liz Diller to create the installation Are We Really That Different for the exhibition Social Works at Gagosian Gallery, New York. In 2022, she was lead faculty for the RAW Académie Session 9 and related exhibition, in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Philadelphia. She collaborated with curator Thomas J. Lax to organize the exhibition Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces (2022–23) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Goode Bryant received her BA in studio art with a minor in drama at Spelman College. In 1980, she received her MBA in management from Columbia University.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to contemporary art. Here, the public can experience the work and ideas of living artists and understand the historical, social, and cultural context of the art of our time.
Since our inception in 1967, it has been our mission to exhibit new and experimental work in all media, paired with ambitious learning programs. In 1974, the MCA expanded its mission to include collecting and preserving contemporary art for future generations with the inauguration of a collection that has grown to include more than 2,000 works.
Urban Growers Collective with Lead Artist Erika Allen
Chicago, United StatesWebsite
UGC works to dismantle inequities and structural racism through community food system development, which prevent communities of color from living healthy, vibrant lives. Ultimately, UGC’s programs advance environmental equity to benefit and uplift all. As a Black- and woman-led organization, we believe that achieving food justice is a necessary first step in healing the historical trauma experienced by communities of color, building their resilience, and, ultimately, achieving liberation. Although our work is rooted in farming, UGC’s approach is holistic. Our urban farms produce over 18,000+ pounds of fresh produce annually, enabling food access to thousands of food-insecure Chicagoans and providing educational and life-enriching opportunities to hundreds of individuals each year through public workshops, workforce development, and land stewardship.
Erika Allen is a social change artist, with a focus on the healing arts related to understanding and deconstructing/revealing how structural oppression impacts society and humanity. Her arts practice for the last 22 years has focused on community based food systems and agriculture in the built environment. Reclamation of food, culture, spirit and the inherent arts that manifest outside of the traditional art world codex. Her work is practical and visible in the commons, carrying on traditional indigenous African and folk arts that work with the earth and nature. She integrates farms, spirit groves, edible landscapes, earth shaping and installations to communicate and activate our connections with plant medicines. Allen earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1992; MA, University of Illinois, Art Psychotherapy, 2000 and recently was honored with a Ph.D. in Public Health from University of Illinois. Ms. Allen has integrated creative and therapeutic techniques with food security and community development via Growing Power Chicago and Urban Growers Collective, Inc. Erika is also a partner with Green Era Sustainability, developing green energy and circular economies that are centered on climate resiliency and mutualism.