HYDE PARK — The designer behind the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will lead the planning of the exhibits at Barack Obama’s presidential library, the Obama Foundation announced Tuesday.
Ralph Appelbaum Associates will be in charge of a team that includes several Chicago firms that will design how the exhibition spaces in Obama’s library and museum will function and be laid out when it’s built in Jackson Park.
The New York-based firm might not be familiar to many in Chicago, but its work is among the most well-known in the country, including the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
“We are honored to lead this incredible exhibition design team and to collaborate with the Obama Foundation to help develop a presidential center that reflects the dynamism and openness of the Obama presidency and encourages and supports civic engagement,” founder Ralph Appelbaum said.
Appelbaum also helped to design the exhibition spaces in former President Bill Clinton’s library in Little Rock, AK.
As Appelbaum’s first major project, he is bringing in a team that knows both the city and the South Side well.
South Side artist Amanda Williams, known for her “Color(ed) Theory” project that painted vacant houses in Englewood vibrant colors, and Andres Hernandez and Norman Teague will help in the development of the library.
“Obviously, it is a tremendous honor to participate in a project that will resonate locally and globally,” Williams said. “As someone who was raised on the South Side, it brings my childhood aspirations for what is possible for my community full circle.”
Among the Chicago design firms now slated to work on the Obama library are Civic Projects. The firm has most recently worked on the Bronzeville Retail Initiative and the Englewood Exchange.
Chicago firm Normal, which has worked on projects for the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Theaster Gates Studio, will also work on the project.
Obama Foundation CEO David Simas said the team has been charged with creating state-of-the-art interactive exhibits for the museum.
“We are confident this team will contribute to our building a presidential center that is more than just a library or museum, but that will be an innovative center that inspires communities and individuals to take on our biggest challenges,” Simas said.
Obama himself returned to Chicago last week to meet with community leaders and to start fundraising for the construction of the library.
The first of the materials that will be housed in the library also arrived last week.
Ralph Appelbaum Associates also designed the exhibitions at Bill Clinton's presidential library. [Courtesy of Ralph Appelbaum Associates]