Malcolm X College circa 1973.
You are walking down the long hallway of the newly transitioned college. On your way to your next destination, you come across a set of doors. Steel towers at least 10 feet tall casting an overpowering presence around you. The doors in front of you are different. It is unlike any other door you may have come across at this point in your life. These doors tell a powerful narrative. One that is beautifully depicted as resilient, creative, historic, and an honorable.
During the height of the Black Power movement in Chicago-born, African-American muralists and sculpture Eugene “Eda” Wade were commissioned to paint the institutional entry way doors for the original Malcolm X College located, on the city’s West Side neighborhood of North Lawndale. Eda was one of the principal artists of the Wall of Respect, that was once located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The doors were painted with the idea of a “new black aesthetic,” inspired by symbolism from ancient Egypt, west Africa, and modern heroes of Black America.
The doors personally left me in awe. Strategically placed inside the naturally light filled S gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center stand these massive doors each told a story of progression. Depicting African-Americans as scholars, physicians, kings, queens, and more. The use of bright colors was used throughout all eras depicted, while painterly technique varied. The more Egyptian based pieces were more detailed with heavy geometric details, while the modern pieces such as the doors featuring jazz icons are fluid and free in technique.
Eda’s contributions to Malcolm X College and to the Black Arts Movement in Chicago is so important. This movement is symbolic to a wave of new African-American muralists, painters, and artists who are building and revitalizing the subject of black art and how it pertains to Chicago. Be sure to check out these amazing pieces saved after the deconstruction of the old Malcolm X facility. A great exhibition to add on your weekend list of things to do in Chicago. These fantastic pieces of art will be on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until June 25th.