May 16, 2013
The University will award the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service to the innovative museum director and art curator Susanne Ghez, and the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal to the celebrated architect Jeanne Gang. The recipients will receive their honors at the University of Chicago 515th Convocation, on Saturday, June 15.
In support of Ghez’s selection, one of her nominators wrote: “She has given support to many in the University’s arts community and has cared deeply for the community. In addition to the respect and appreciation Ghez receives from her colleagues here in Chicago, she is respected for her curatorial work internationally.”
Ghez joined The Renaissance Society in 1973, and has been the museum’s executive director and chief curator since 1974. Under her guidance, The Renaissance Society has become internationally recognized as one of the most original and ambitious contemporary art museums in the United States.
Ghez has curated more than 160 exhibitions in the course of her career and edited numerous publications in conjunction with them. Her acclaimed curatorial program has consistently presented new-to-the-scene artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Wall, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Mike Kelley, and Kara Walker, who went on to become leading figures in the contemporary art world.
Ghez’s programming has included seminal exhibitions for many Chicago-based artists, yet her vision is as global as it is local; she has brought exhibitions to the Renaissance Society by artists from five continents. She also served from 1999 to 2002 as co-curator of Documenta 11, one of the best-known and best-established contemporary art exhibitions in the world.
Highly esteemed and prominent in her field, Ghez has received honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the San Francisco Art Institute as well as numerous awards for curatorial excellence. She also has an extensive service record as an artistic advisor, having worked with Norway’s Contemporary Art advisory committee, Barcelona’s Museu d’Art Contemporani, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ghez is currently an affiliate member of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago and is a Life Member of UChicago’s Visual Arts Visiting Committee.
Ghez is the 12th recipient of the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, which was created in 1967 to honor Sen. William H. Benton on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as chairman and publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The Benton Medal recognizes individuals who have rendered distinguished public service in the field of education, which extends to anyone who has contributed in a systematic and distinguished way to shaping minds and disseminating knowledge. The faculty selection committee considers eligible recipients to not only include teachers, but also educational administrators, museum directors, librarians, officers of learned societies, foundation executives, philanthropists, broadcasters, and publishers.
Architect Gang is not only the founder and principal of the Chicago-based firm Studio Gang Architects, but also is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellow “genius” grant. Gang has lectured at Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her firm recently was named the 2013 winner of the National Design Award in Architecture Design, presented by the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
Gang, a native of Belvidere, Ill., said her interest in building and design began early. In a 2009 interview with UChicago’s Noyes magazine, she said that she “was always a kid who made things. As you study, you kind of veer towards what you’re good at. Two things I was good at were art and math." The combination “kind of sets you up for architecture.”
Gang is responsible for some of Chicago’s most innovative and memorable design structures such as the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, an educational pavilion and landscape that also function as storm-water infrastructure, and the landmark 82-story Aqua Tower.
Gang has been a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects since 2009, and her work with Studio Gang has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art and the National Building Museum. Her firm’s solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects, set record attendance. In 2011, she released Reveal, her first volume on Studio Gang’s work and design process.
Gang is the 49th recipient of the Rosenberger Medal, established in 1917 by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse L. Rosenberger. The medal recognizes achievement through research, in authorship, in invention, for discovery, for unusual public service, or for anything “deemed of great benefit to humanity.”
Nominations for the Benton and Rosenberger Medals are submitted by members of the faculty, evaluated by the faculty Committee on Awards and Prizes, and voted upon by the Council of the University Senate.
The President of the University extends an invitation to both the Benton and Rosenberger nominees to receive their medals during the Spring Quarter Convocation. The nominees also are invited to give a public lecture or workshop the following academic year.
This article originally appeared May 15, 2013 in UChicago News.