Helen Mirra (b. 1970)

Image of Helen Mirra, Instance the determination, installed in West Harper. Photo by Maria Perkovic.2006

Enamel paint

Located in various buildings on the University of Chicago’s main quadrangle

Commissioned by the Franke Institute for the Humanities

Artist profile

The writing is on the wall in Classics, Gates-Blake, Cobb, Swift, Kent, Walker, Social Sciences, Stuart, Harper, Wieboldt and a number of other publicly accessible buildings on the main quadrangle at University of Chicago. They are selective index entries from two books, whose titles can be found on the wall in the Franke Institute for the Humanities.

This idiosyncratic indexing project was created by Helen Mirra and installed in 2006. The artist selected the source texts of Experience and Nature by John Dewey (1929) and Newer Ideals of Peace by Jane Addams (1907) for the authors’ respective legacies as social reformers based in Chicago. They were also colleagues and friends, both “motivated by a progressive, politically-committed community engagement.”[1] Dewey taught at the University of Chicago from 1894 to 1904 and was a prominent voice promoting education reform throughout his career as a psychologist and public intellectual in the first half of the twentieth century. Jane Addams, a pioneering social worker and ardent feminist, co-founded the Hull House in 1889 (a settlement house located on Chicago’s Near West Side) and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Written by Nancy Chen

Related links

Press Release from April 2006

James Dobson, "The writing is disappearing from the wall," Chicago Maroon, October 15, 2007


[1] Helen Mirra, “Project Statement,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 4 (Summer 2009): 1019-1020. https://doi.org/10.1086/599593

[2] http://hmirra.net/index.php?show=2006_D&showchron=4

[3] Oxford English Dictionary

[4] Bill Brown, “Counting (Art and Discipline)” in Critical Inquiry 35, no. 4 (Summer 2009): 1032-1053. https://doi.org/10.1086/599589