Runway to Reality

March 25 - June 10, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, March 25, ​6–8pm

Runway to Reality is a collaborative exhibition featuring work by photographer Helen Maurene Cooper and fashion designer Suzette Opara. Cooper and Opara combine photography and garment design to explore the coming-of-age event of prom through material, texture, rich color, and opulence. This exhibition highlights the cultural significance of prom on the South Side of Chicago and makes visible the robust community celebration and joy surrounding this event. For Runway to Reality, the artists have physically crystallized and combined their overlapping love of pageantry, sequence, and custom fashion.

This exhibition is the winning submission for Arts + Public Life’s 2016 Exhibition Open Call.

Related Events

Runway to Reality: Artist Talk with Hamza Walker 
Wednesday, April 27th, 6–7:30pm
Arts Incubator, 301 East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago
A conversation with photographer Helen Maurene Cooper that will situate Runway to Reality within a history of photography while discussing the cultural and social underpinnings of prom as a coming-of-age tradition.

Runway to Reality: In Conversation with Joy Bivins, Dr. Jason Lahood, and Camille Morgan
Monday, May 16, 6–7:30pm

Arts Incubator, 301 East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago
This panel is an open conversation about the cultural, social, and psychological threads woven throughout the artwork in Runway to Reality and an opportunity to dig more deeply into the complexity of prom as a coming-of-age tradition and its relationship to other similar traditions across cultures.
Free and open to the public

Runway to Reality: Fashion Show
Sunday, June 5, 2016, 2pm

Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago
A showcase of Suzette Opara’s 2016 gown collection.
Free and open to the public

About Exhibitions at the Arts Incubator

The exhibitions program at the Arts Incubator offers a platform for Chicago-based artists to thoughtfully engage with the global, contemporary art world in a localized environment. The unique positioning of this program acts as a catalyst for collaboration and exchange, creating a dynamic and critical space. Exhibitions are realized throughout the entirety of the building and the surrounding Washington Park area, fusing temporal, public space with the dedicated interior. This coupling is echoed with the public programming efforts, as we introduce the work of national artists to the local conversation.


pin301 E Garfield Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60637

Tues - Fri 12pm - 6pm
Thurs 12pm - 7pm

Extended hours during events



pin915 E 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

See building hours for details.

773.702.ARTS (2787)