Jorge Lucero has helped curate 200 objects that tell the neighborhood's memories of Barack Obama. [DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]
HYDE PARK — Why wait for the official Barack Obama library to come to the South Side? That will take years.
Hyde Parkers have created their own Barack Obama Presidential Library on 57th Street while they wait for the president to decide whether to locate the facility at either Jackson or Washington parks.
“The Barack Obama Presidential Library” opened on Friday at the Hyde Park Free Theater, 1448 E. 57th St., with more than 200 art pieces and objects each with an individual memory of the president attached.
“I was curious what the story of the Obama library would be like if it was told by everybody,” said Jorge Lucero, the curator and an assistant professor of art education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lucero said he spent six weeks collecting stories from people around the neighborhood and worked with six art classes at Walter Payton College Prep. The students created their own art about their memories of the president.
Sam Cholke says most neighbors have a story about President Obama:
“The objects are just an excuse to tell a story,” Lucero sad. “This one is just a piece of cardboard that looks like a ballet shoe.”
Lucero pointed to a placard with the Blair Ellis’ story of taking dance classes when she was five years old with the president’s daughters, Malia and Sasha.
“Every Saturday without fail, President Obama, back then he was Senator Obama, would show up at our lessons and sit in the lobby with my father,” Ellis writes. “My father was a federal prosecutor so they would sit and talk for the whole 90 minutes.”
Each item has its own story about its creator's relationship to Obama.
Laura Shaeffer, who runs the Free Theater, said she hopes they will get more stories during open social hours at the gallery from 5-7 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday before the exhibit closes on Aug. 31.
Only one of the works specifically references the library though.
Two photographs by Hyde Park photographer David Schalliol show two of the buildings that once stood on the site in the Washington Park neighborhood being considered for the library.
The exhibit will host a series of panel discussions, performances and other events with the exhibit. There will also be daily activities, like a paint-by-number of the president with paints made from Kool-Aid.
The "Barack Obama Presidential Library" exhibit will host free events throughout the summer.
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