Kartemquin Films interviews Morrie Fred, Director of the Spertus Museum of Judaica, about their 1992 exhibition Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries. The interview takes place after the exhibition has been finished and on display in the museum, and Fred talks about the failed attempt to involve DuSable Museum of African American History and why he thinks the partnership never happened and its effects on the resulting exhibition.
0:00Copy video clip URL Bars and tone.
0:27Copy video clip URL Morrie Fred says one of the goals of Bridges and Boundaries was to have it be a joint exhibition with the DuSable Museum. He talks about historical connection between Jean Baptiste Point DuSable and the Spertus Brothers, and how he feels the two museums have always been close together. He talks about some of the initial plans for the exhibition that involved DuSable.
3:00Copy video clip URL Fred speculates on why DuSable Museum decided not to participate, suggesting that while some of it may have been a lack of resources, it was also probably a lack of interest. “If you think it is important, you find the time,” he says, and admits that “there are a lot more important issues for the African American community” than Black–Jewish relations. He goes on to say that the more interesting question might be why Jews are more concerned with this issue.
5:55Copy video clip URL Fred says that the hope of the joint exhibit wasn’t to try and make things as they were in the past, because that idealized past of working to overcome together may not have even existed, but rather, “that this is an opportunity to begin to examine deeply what was really the nature of that relationship then … and what it is and can be now. Is there another basis for communication, for dialogue?” He says that DuSable’s ultimate lack of involvement might answer some of those questions itself, or that maybe they should have been asking different questions, but remains firm on his belief that various communities should come together and explore their relationships through art with exhibits like this one.
8:31Copy video clip URL At Kartemquin’s request, Fred elaborates on the possible reasons DuSable didn’t participate. He says that he doesn’t think money was the issue, but that it may have been other resource issues, namely having the time to commit. He says that the biggest burden on the museum was taken away by letting the artists do what they wanted to do, and having the two curators manage much of the project, and so in the end is wasn’t all that much more than simply taking in a traveling exhibition. Fred also says that they never received a direct “no” from DuSable, just that they never heard an actual “yes” and so they had to proceed on without them. He speculates that they also might have been worried about what kind of responses the exhibit would have.
15:26Copy video clip URL Kartemquin asks Fred how he felt when DuSable didn’t agree to participate. He says that the exhibition was important to him, so he was committed to doing it even if he had to find other ways, and speculates on how the exhibition may have turned out differently had DuSable joined and picked the African American curator themselves. Fred talks about how he picked Othello Anderson to be the black curator, and how he felt that part of the exhibition should still be in the hands of African Americans. He says that Anderson was a recommendation from a friend.
21:17Copy video clip URL Fred says he personally chose the Jewish curator, Claire Wolf Krantz, who he knew well, and talks about how Wolf Kranz and Anderson chose the artists.
25:30Copy video clip URL Fred says it was significant that the original Bridges and Boundaries exhibition was exhibited at the Chicago Historical Society, rather than the other more culturally specific museums that showed the exhibition. He says there is no doubt that the Chicago Bridges and Boundaries put on by Spertus would have been seen by more African Americans had DuSable joined.