In 2013, despite significant protest, the City of Chicago closed 50 public schools (CPS), displacing 12,000 children, predominantly in the city’s south and west neighborhoods. Chicago-based artist and craftsman, John Preus gained access to CPS materials slated for the landfill, and redirected six semi-loads of damaged desks, tables, chairs, and bookshelves to a vacant storefront in Washington Park. Over the past four years the CPS material became the basis for Preus’ work, a natural tool for his interest in creating dialogue about contemporary social-political, civic, and labor structures, and spawned such projects as The Beast, his 2014 solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, along with a growing list of solo and group exhibitions locally and internationally. Countless repurposed cubes, tables, domestic and commercial remodels, and sculptural furniture objects created by Preus have been disbursed throughout the world as Infinite Archive Series. But still, the warehouse remains packed floor to ceiling with CPS furniture.

Upon invitation to exhibit at Open House Contemporary (OHC), Preus invited over 50 national and international artists, designers and architects to produce work using or based on the stockpile of CPS furniture. Imagined as an expanding and mutating memorial archive, Infinite Games invites both a playful and critical response to the issues of social upheaval, collective trauma, race and class, memorial, the archive, collective memory, education, that this collection of furniture evokes, but framed by the necessity of maintaining a functional space.

Participating artists will create installations, objects, wall pieces, functional work, interventions, and off- site projects for a 6-month exhibition at Open House Contemporary (OHC), opening concurrently with EXPO Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Located at 740 N Ogden, OHC is a gallery and award-winning AirBnb, owned and operated by artist and designer Matthew Kellen. OHC consists of three 3-br apartments in a single building, which will be completely open for artists’ projects and site- specific installations. Local artists will make work, with fabrication and collaboration as needed, while international participants will send designs for prototyping or adaptation to the CPS materials. By putting a community of artists and designers in contact with abandoned public materials, new dialogues and conversations will emerge that can point to more ambitious responses to these and other large-scale social upheavals.

“Rafael Sucks” “Rahm Blows”

Two phrases found scrawled into materials salvaged from the 49 Chicago public schools closed in 2013.

By some humor of the gods, I find myself in possession of a warehouse full of public school furniture. Due to a conscientious facilities manager, I was granted access to the materials—desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves—that were bound for the landfill. Six semi loads of wobbly chairs, marked-up desks, and gum-laden bookshelves were packed into a donated South Side storefront. Since then, this furniture has been the primary material source for my work as an artist and contractor.

Due to the volume of material, I invited fifty artists, designers, and architects to help broaden the scope of inquiry and exploration of possible adaptations. The participating artists have produced a rich assortment of objects, installations, instruments, utensils, and functional prototypes, to be exhibited at Open House Contemporary, an art venue and Airbnb in the River West neighborhood.

For every formal decision an artist might make in response to this body of material, there are social and political correlates that spin off in multiple directions. This is not easy material to work with—not technically and not politically. And so this exhibition proposes a series of conversations suggested by the materials and the transformations of those materials wrought by some of Chicago's most exciting artists. Standing at the threshold of these conversations, we can only speculate about where they might take us.

There are questions about visibility, access, and voice. Sucking and blowing, Rafael and Rahm contend to determine whose story will be told. The existence of these materials provides a space for competing narratives. Who are we, the artists, speaking to? Who are we speaking for? Are there ways in which the material itself speaks? Ways the formal reconfigurations suggest the possibility of social and political ones?

We can ask, from both formal and political perspectives, about the nature of the markings on the furniture and the type of wear it has endured. What do those markings reveal? Art demands its independence as a space for absurdity and wild speculation. We can look at scrawls on the bottom of a desk and think about Cy Twombly and concrete poetry and the automatic maneuvers of the surrealists. We can also consider them in light of captivity, as the marks of hostages passing the time, or as an anonymous way to proclaim your existence to an imaginary audience in a future that does not include you.

In 2011 before the mass closings, I was granted access to Crispus Attucks elementary school at 38th and State, close to the public housing high rises that had been leveled not long before, scattering the population of kids who once attended Attucks. The building had become a warehouse for other public school furniture. The gymnasium was filled to capacity and the hallways lined with pianos, file cabinets, wardrobes, classroom and office furniture, gym equipment, boxes of old cheerleading and sports jerseys. The scrappers had been through, the copper torn out, and anything of value portable enough to be carried off had been extracted. It felt like an apocalyptic scene. There was evidence of squatters: a makeshift fire pit and toilet in the corner by the central staircase. My artist mind, thinking about Duchamp in relation to the toilet, buzzed with a thrilled sense of opportunity. No doubt a kind of greed—not unlike the mindset of looters and troublingly at odds with the history of these materials—rides shotgun with creativity. My ambivalence remains.

The questions swirl, as I watch artists stumble through the unlit storage space with flashlights trained on teetering stacks of desks and chairs. Furniture holds bodies. And this furniture held many bodies, mostly in parts of the city with limited opportunities for mobility. Now it will hold bodies in other parts of the city, bodies that wander through art fairs and galleries and think abstractly about form and color.

An infinite game, a term coined by James P. Carse, is one in which the primary objective is to keep playing the game, not to win or lose. It is conversational, an exchange in which the necessity of the opponent is implicit. Rafael and Rahm are in conversation through the medium of fifty Chicago artists. I doubt, though, that there is a public servant alive who would take the political risk of building a community center to house furniture and artwork made from the leftovers of closed public schools. The material is politically radioactive.

We can talk about foundness, and found material, as something like thrownness, of being adrift, landing in a space without a world, capsized and abandoned. As artists, we might call this “found material,” which describes an attitude of responsiveness to something given rather than pre-determined. The materials have elicited many "oohs" and "aahs," as the artists have dug through the stacks of desks and chairs, much like we might expect from nature scenery or fireworks. It feels like jazz. It is profane wallpaper, uniform noise, concrete poetry, a wash of texture related and distinct, warring and responsive, transgressive and mundane.

For artists, materials such as these can return to being “raw” in a certain sense, surfaces upon which we can project and entangle our own web of associations and meanings, while aware that the materials themselves also have a voice. Adaptation in art is something like revisionist history, taking an object with a fixed function and exposing it to new possible forms, new processes and interpretations. The Renaissance, a movement most closely associated with Italian 14th-17th century painting, was classified and articulated by French historians, one of many historical eras recast with the benefit of hindsight. Likewise classical Greece and its values were revised by the Roman empire, and used as inspiration for the French revolution and German nationalism. But such is the nature of history—constant revisions, adaptations, and shifts in narrative thrust. And conversations about adaptation beget questions of identity and determinism which we artists enact through material transformation.

How fixed are things? Power dynamics? Identities? Functions? How much room is there to reimagine the present and recast the future? How locked into our past are we?

Nearly 12,000 students were displaced by the school closings. Some went on to better situations in better schools; some didn't. The statistics on the effects of the closings are written up in studies by the University of Chicago and UIC, but many stories remain untold. And whether you believe the closings were necessary or another episode in the long history of displacement in Chicago, keeping the question open is one important function these materials can serve.

Isn't the bottom of a school desk plastered with gum as inexorable a biological phenomenon as a rotting stump covered with fungus and lichen? Every piece of hardened gum represents a gesture of resistance to the given authority. Whether against the teacher, school in general, or the whole system, the vandal says, 'This is not my world. These are not my things. I am a hostage and I resist.' True, grievances fall along a spectrum of legitimacy, but Rafael is not evil, stupid, or unusual. He likely sucks in all the ways we all might have sucked given similar conditions. But if we acknowledge this, we also have to accept that we might blow in the same way Rahm blows under the given conditions.

We can talk about the long and fascinating history of transformation, of turning one thing into another, of things appearing to be other than what they are, of being able to recognize and read the truth beneath the surface. Historical eras—the iron age, the bronze age, the information age—are often named according to the development of a transformative technology. Science—or alchemy as it was called then—is was consumed with the idea of turning one thing into another, base metals into gold for instance, and now how to transform data into ever smaller units, to store on material vehicles called batteries, to transform brute materials into moving parts.

In religion, things are never just what they seem. Water can be wine, wine can be blood, pigs can be gods and so on. Artists turn mud into faces, dirt and stone into pigments, pigment into scenes of forests and dancing elves. And eventually pigments are celebrated for their own existence, no longer burdened with having to turn into anything else. Paint can just be paint, and stone can be stone. The viewer has to transform the thing into something of value, with her thoughts and projections. And more recently, much like the priestly maneuver of turning wine into the blood of Christ, the pedestal within the magic halls of the museum can turn a toilet into an object of veneration. So what is possible with our humble modifications of cast-off school furniture, tattooed with the resistance of the students, as a chapter in this long and venerable line of transformative ambitions?

But should we be touching them at all? Are we in possession of something like a trove of elephant tusks confiscated from a poacher, or contraband confiscated by the law, then auctioned off to the highest bidder to pay the officers responsible for confiscating it? We, the artists may appreciate the materials as a kind of accidental aestheticism, embedded with a history of social tension, but is it perverse to do so since they represent a real and inescapable trauma for a good many people? Theodor Adorno, among the art world’s favorite authoritarians, snarls that it is barbaric to make poetry after Auschwitz. And we might be cooked in the same soup, charged with being pornographers of social trauma.

As philosopher Simon Critchley points out, the political reach of an art project, more often than not, remains in the realm of "mannered situationism," meaning however strongly felt a collective trauma might be, our concern for the victims is largely symbolic, or worse, a means of gaining a certain social currency. So it is not without ambivalence that we reconfigure this material.

The danger is that such practice becomes a sleight-of hand, giving the appearance of progress. Or to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek’s critique of academicism: dialogue, the holy grail of the left, can serve to assure that nothing changes. Would it have been better to just let the materials be taken to the landfill, to be transformed instead by heavy equipment and microorganisms impartial to our social dilemmas? We might fairly wonder, if a surfeit of artwork about poverty, let's say, washed up on the shores of EXPO this year, could we expect a corresponding drop in actual poverty, a trickle-down effect that resulted in policy change? Or do we need our poor and our wretched to maintain the established ethical hierarchy? Do we need Rafael to keep sucking so that we can feel less sucky?

Our ambition is to add a significant cultural landmark to the city of Chicago, filtered through the subjective apparatus of fifty artists creating a lenticular collection of forms that shifts depending upon the position of the viewer. It may be repatriated and celebrated as a mark of the city's creativity, or rejected like a cancer, or ignored as folk art, low-tech transformations unworthy of critical attention. So why not invite as many revisionist histories into the mix as possible? Why not memorialize brokenness as foundational civic character? Why not an architecture of pathos and melancholy? Why not a practice of grief as a creative process?

Playing with a city’s garbage can be an act of collective psychoanalysis. In Freud’s language, the unconscious is a reservoir of repressed thoughts, desires, and emotions, and reveals itself symptomatically. Things happen to us—trauma, unrequited love, ecstasy, abandonment, abuse, joy, love, boredom—before our capacity to synthesize them. This is as true of groups as of individuals. The unconscious is the realm of oblique intersubjective activity in which psychic transformative processes take place below the radar. The fecundity of experience overruns its banks, and forms deposits in unexpected places. There are parts of our character, our wastefulness, our neglect, our blind spots, our prejudices, that we would ignore if not for the violence that erupts in their wake, operating like hydraulic pressures and activating behavioral valves and destructive social machinery.

The work of the therapist is something like the work of the historian, to disclose by way of the patient's narrative apparatus the buried forces and motivational thrust of decisions and behaviors that may feel compulsory and deterministic to the patient, but which have their rationales, however obscure and opaque they may be to the subject. According to Jacques Lacan, the best a therapist can do is to restore the illusion of agency. It's not simply a matter of remembering what happened, but of contextualizing memory within a story that supplies motivation, agency, and commitment to the subject. Among the ambitions of analysis is the redemptive fabrication of personal identity drawn from the circumstances of one's inheritance, one's thrownness, one's failures and capacities, one's "toxicity." Psychoanalysis articulates identity as proclaimed rather than given, as performed rather than predestined, as composed rather than inherited.

Are there ways in which the visibility of this material, and a broad and collective response to it, can function something like collective psychoanalysis? Can we imagine public and civic spaces populated by the re-imagined detritus of such tectonic social shifts as these as something like compost, keeping our beautiful failures in front of us where we can see and continue to re-imagine them? Can we draw upon the hopeful stories that emerge in times of crisis, when humanity rises to meet disaster, man-made and otherwise? Can we imagine an art world and an art market that encourages more-than-symbolic responses to real life crises?

After all, broken things generally only have one thing wrong with them, which renders the whole thing useless. All of the carving and detail on a chair with a broken leg is like a fine suit on a corpse. In a world without nails or wood, a hammer is a pointless object. And projects such as these propose that there is some correlation between the energy it takes to unthink "chair" and the energy it might take to unthink the complex world of social power dynamics. Aesthetics is, after all, ethics in drag. As artists we make judgments about shapes and colors, materials and objects, in hopes of conjuring the worlds that can eventually accept and admire them. But art can only leaven existing dough, so to speak; it cannot make bread from scratch. It uses the language of association, metaphor, and material to say generally fictive things that reframe the truth. They "work" or "don't work" to some degree according to the legibility of their chosen associations, and to the degree to which we believe in them. Art objects that refer to the theories of French intellectuals and designers, for instance, necessarily limit their audiences. But functionality—equipment—has as close to universal associative currency as we are likely to get in the material world. One doesn't need faith or knowledge to sit in a chair, or put your glass on a table. Rafael and Rahm respond similarly to chairs, broken or otherwise. Can we speak across tribal and political boundaries through common and accessible metaphors and contexts?

Art has long concerned itself with surface, with what is seen and what is hidden. Surface obscures and reveals. "Truth to materials," the modernist mantra in its quest for a transparent and revelatory encounter with reality, is in part a revolt against esotericism, but ends up strengthening the impulse toward it. It replaces the story of transformation with the radical assertion that maybe things are just what they are. Why burden everything with the necessity of being something other than what it is? But if what I see is what I get, why just toilets and black squares? Why not peacocks and unicorns? Or even better, why not multiple and diverse art worlds, all of which can support those who choose to play that game?

Some things cannot be hidden and others cannot be shown. Among David Hume's contributions to philosophy was his observation that cause is never evident but always inferred. We see ice, we see sun, we see melting, but no matter how rigorously we observe, we will never see the sun causing the ice to melt, yet we talk about cause as if it were self-evident. Nor can we prove that we love our mothers. Cause is invisible. Assuming modernism did not achieve total transparency in the quest for the perfectly invisible object, or the purely honest material treatment, things hide their meanings. They can't do otherwise. We read objects and signs, infer causes, make believe, chase ghosts, fall in love with images instead of people, and believe fervently in things we cannot and will never see. The art world is, after all, a faith community.

Can we talk about faith? I propose elsewhere that rather than attributing miraculous capacities to our saviors and religious leaders, what if The Messiah is the master communicator who manages to speak to anyone and everyone? Who opens the ears of the oppressor to the cries of his victims? What if she disarms all grievances and exaggerated or misdirected desires, desperate demands for stability, amped social antagonisms, ignorant prejudices, power plays and posturing, nationalistic pride and egotism, retributive justice, fears of mortality? In her presence, they all lose their urgency, and we walk deliberately, joyfully, gratefully, and gracefully toward our expiration date, content with the short and beautiful life that we have, satisfied with what is, even grateful for the transformative suffering that we have endured. Do we need a Messiah, or a charismatic visionary to help us with that? These are not necessarily religious ideas.

In my view, the great Christian insight, amplified by Duchamp, is that maybe we already have everything we need, and transubstantiation (turning wine into blood) is not a physical transformation requiring miraculous powers, but a subtle shift in perspective. You have to believe in a black square, or a urinal, or the transformative capacities of a broken chair to find it valuable and worthy of your time and energy, just like you have to believe the communal wine is blood for it to have any currency. The primary question remains: which story arouses a faith rugged enough to resist rendering a significant portion of humanity invisible, banished to the sidelines of our finite games?

School Closings, Repair and Equity in Chicago: A Creative Response By David J. Knight

Enter an ancient art museum, and you will find yourself looking at old human artifacts, wondering, Who were these people? What was life like for them? What were their struggles, hopes, and fears? It was strange, then, for me to ask these same questions as I walked through a South Side warehouse filled with discarded furniture from the 2013 Chicago school closings.

Image Courtesy of Colleen Plumb.

Hundreds of desks, tables, and bookshelves were stacked from floor to ceiling. Countless little yellow chairs, designed specifically for eager, energetic children, were piled high. These materials had no doubt been used, inhabited, for many years. As with all things, human activity leaves its traces. Worn-out labels made by teachers were still stuck to the sides of bookshelves and cabinets, evidence of the care taken to expand the knowledge of young minds. Peculiar etchings made by students were carved into tables and desks—some purposefully, perhaps out of frustration or boredom, others unknowingly from generations hard-pressed pens on the writing surfaces. Generic stamps from Board of Education also remained on the backs and undersides of this furniture, denoting district ownership of the equipment. All these markings represented, quite visibly, the broader range of the interests, experiences, and aspirations historically present in Chicago’s public school system.

Image Courtesy of David Knight

Once referred to as “the worst in the nation” by then-Secretary of Education William Bennett in 1987, the Chicago public school system has long epitomized the difficulties of urban education. The concentration of largely poor African American families into high-rise housing developments , such as the Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes, in the mid-20th century meant that students were necessarily clustered into schools divided by race, class, and location. This racialized public housing strategy pushed segregation in the city into another dimension, where race, place, and poverty intersected even more dramatically in the lives of many Chicagoans. Starting in late 1990s, however, the decision to tear down the high-rises and move people out of the projects left many of the nearby neighborhood schools under-enrolled. Over the next fifteen years, the city and district made significant plans to close or reorganize many under-enrolled schools. The most drastic measure was the Chicago Board of Education’s vote to close 49 schools in 2013.

The vote of the Board came after months of intense debate in the city over equity and public schooling. The stakes were high. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the district was facing a “massive budget deficit,” as well as trouble effectively distributing its resources. Downsize, officials urged, and consolidate the under-utilized schools. But deeper concerns over racial inequality arose from the fact that the school closings were slated to disproportionately impact black students on the South and West Sides of the city. Public hearings, marches, and demonstrations were held. Much of it made national news.

In the end, the Board voted 6-0 vote in favor of the closings.

Close to 12,000 students were displaced. Countless families were affected. And according to a report by the Chicago Teachers Union, one in four public schools with majority black students and staff was closed or taken over by the district during this time.

Also consider the backdrop: These school closings took place in communities where, the Chicago Catalyst reported, more government funds were spent on incarceration than on schools in the decade leading up to the closures.

Nonetheless, the district’s policy dictated that family and caregivers of students in closed schools would have to evaluate where to send their children. As parent Ronald Brooks told the Chicago Tribune, experiencing the closure was “traumatic to say the least.”

Looking back years later, many questions remain open

What has happened to the students, teachers, families, and communities in and around these schools? What would have happened had the schools remained opened? What was sacrificed in the school closings—and how great were these sacrifices? What might have been salvaged? Which aspects of community may have been activated by the closings? Were the closings worth it? And who gets to decide the answer to that question?

Image Courtesy of Colleen Plumb

There are few clear-cut answers to these questions. We’re still processing the events. And if this exhibition’s featured materials—unexpectedly saved from the landfill—are any indication, knowledge of the impacts of these events can be elusive.

One thing is clear, however: the deep-seated complexity of problems, concerns, and histories impacting public education in Chicago remains and was in no way resolved by the shuttering of schools. This broader context should not be forgotten amid the controversy.

The material culture of these closed schools stands as an enduring reminder of this broader context—that generations of students and teachers moved through these spaces, and infused these spaces with their own energies, resources, and ambitions. Parents and communities further contributed to this collective effort.

True, the circumstances in a number of closed schools may not have been perfect. They never are in any setting. But this does not mean that these places lacked goodness, however fragile. Nor does it mean these schools lacked knowledge and vision for what educational justice should look like for Chicago’s youth.

One might say, then, that the materials and creations in Infinite Games 50/50 address the fragile history of these schools and the impossibility of ever truly knowing the full significance of the 2013 school closures. We will never know precisely how everyone was affected, nor how they each coped with challenging realities in the city. The simple fact that these materials—nearly all of which are still usable and useful—were almost thrown into a landfill only underscores our own ignorance of pressing issues and the shallow nature of public awareness.

It also reflects our tendency to make the easier choice: to discard and then ignore that which requires repair and greater investment. But the problems of race and inequity in the city and nation, difficult and unsettled as they are, cannot be discarded in such a manner. The physicality of these rescued materials therefore serves as a caution. Many of our stories are forgotten or never told. This is especially true for the most vulnerable among us. These stories are often ones of injustice and displacement, trauma and resistance. But systems are too often not designed to acknowledge or receive this wisdom. Decisions are still made, though, and become part of the official history.

The art in this exhibition opens up the debate about the school closings and about equity in Chicago to other possible conversations—conversations that go beyond the rigid frames of good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure. In so doing, we are able to further reflect on the people who were directly impacted. We are asked to imagine their experiences and our own positionality, and we are presented with alternative means of repair that conserve goodness while also inviting social critique.

One clear example is text-based artist Teresa Pankratz and art practitioner Bryan Saner’s interdisciplinary piece “The Writing Table: Here, Like A Star.” The piece speaks to the multidimensionality of issues that come together in the school closings, and to the ways in which certain stories and experiences are not readily visible. A collaboration with fiber artist Karen Reimer, Pankratz and Saner’s reclamation and reworking of this table serves as a way to “recognize the lives of the people who sat there.”

Image courtesy of Teresa Pankratz

Generations of crayon, pencil, and pen markings line the graphite wood of the table. Bearing witness to the unnamed youth who left these marks, Pankratz and Saner build the narrative around a young student, Star, who struggled to keep her school open. But the story goes beyond that. On the underside of the table rests the imprint of the unionized woodworkers who made this table, juxtaposed by a stencil-sprayed stamp of the Chicago Board of Education, which was dated 1951. Education, economics, and labor all converge across time in this simple four-legged piece of equipment.

One of their aims, says Pankratz, is to gather people around these narratives and connect people viscerally to these texts. They burnt stars onto select parts of the table wood as a way to focus people’s attention on the different hands that worked and used the table. In turn, our way of seeing the table changes with what we read and with the different perspectives we take.

In the end, Pankratz and Saner also write their own story onto the table, both creatively and literally. They utilize the legs and screws of several other tables as a means of valuing each artifact. Onto the table they also write the poetic narrative of Star, and conclude with their own parenthetical response that “It’s time to turn the tables.”

Sculptor Titus Wonsey takes a different, though no less challenging, approach. He surveyed his friends and family about their experiences with the public schools, space, and mobility in Chicago. Narrowing in on the themes of social abandonment and erasure, Wonsey uses furniture pieces from the school closings as the skeleton for a Stonehenge-like soap sculpture.

Erasure and residue are prominent themes in this work. Wonsey explores what happens to a place when it is abandoned, and what becomes of our relationship to it. And so, because of its physicality and rectangular, monolithic form, his soap sculpture is able to serve a practical cleansing function within a shower while also challenging the very process of which it is a part.

Wonsey’s monolith-shaped soap sculpture forces us to confront our own attempts to erase or wash our hands of dirty and difficult things. But, however inconvenient it is, some things cannot be erased or washed away. What do we do with the residue? Wonsey asks. How do we deal with what’s left?

Artist at work. Image courtesy of Titus Wonsey

Small but powerful creations complement the sculpture. After finding an old student roster in the drawer of an abandoned desk, Wonsey set out to make hand towels onto which he imprinted these students’ first names. This artistic gesture remixes upper-middle class customs of initialing one’s hand towels by recognizing by name students who would otherwise be anonymous in the process of the school closings.

These artistic pieces are part of a significant collection of conceptual and experimental creations in Infinite Games 50/50. But unlike so many works, sectioned off in museums and galleries by velvet ropes and “Do Not Touch” signs, these creative works serve a functional purpose. The pieces in this exhibition are meant to be used and appreciated in daily life. They represent a collective, creative response to deep uncertainties in Chicago. Instead of offering conclusive judgments on the 2013 school closings, these works pose questions to us and re-center our attention on the human beings who inhabited the furniture within the closed school buildings. We are asked to imagine what these people’s lives were like, what their hopes and fears were, even as we realize the limits of our own understanding. We are required to confront the human element; we must acknowledge the people—especially the young people—who learned and grew up in these spaces. And as a result, we are challenged to think more imaginatively, and I daresay more radically, about what has goodness and value in this city—and about alternative ways of repairing or reusing what might otherwise be abandoned.

In this sense, Infinite Games 50/50 is an invitation. We are invited to enter a more expansive, creative space in which to grapple over unresolved issues of space, equity, and recognition in our city. Instead of asking “So what?” of the school closures and other crises in Chicago, we are encouraged to wonder “What if?” That change in perspective could make all the difference.

Byline: David Knight is a writer, educator, and scholar who is based in Chicago. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of Chicago. His program of research focuses on the politics of displacement, race/ethnicity, young adulthood, and educational justice in the city. His previous work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Harvard Educational Review.