Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford

A social sculpture and ephemeral monument for the University of Chicago's Laboratory Schools

Spring 2019

Gordon Parks Arts Hall, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, 5815 S Kimbark Ave

In November of 1894 John Dewey wrote a letter to his wife Alice that included, "There is an image of a school growing up in my mind all the time; a school where some of the actual & literal constructive activity shall be the center & source of the whole thing. & from which the work should always be growing out in two directions – one the social bearing of that constructive industry, the other with nature which supplies it with its materials." 

Using an abstraction of a bronze bust of John Dewey in the Lab School’s collection as a starting point, Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford worked with the Lab community and Dewey Colloquium participants over three months to create a collaborative, site-responsive monument in the form of a shelf system and community contributions that reflected on critical pedagogies and knowledge production championed by Dewey. The project used Dewey’s seminal book Art as Experience and his ideas centering on learning by doing to construct a social sculpture that tapped into and highlighted the diverse knowledge production happening at Lab.   

The work is a social and material assembly—on one hand a shelf system based on the form of the original bust and on the other an opportunity for the Lab Community to reflect on Dewey’s ideas and contribute to populating the structure with objects, images and materials through making and programming. Dewey Colloquium participants were invited to work with the artist in a series of workshops to create content for the sculpture and co-curate contributions. The artist also ran workshops with a number of Lab classes and the sculpture aggregated a revolving collection of objects and participant responses over a two-week activation period during the Colloquium. When not activated with participant contributions and workshops the sculpture resembles the portrait of Dewey, comprised of a kit of parts that can be reconfigured.

About the artist

Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford is a visual artist and Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Indiana University Northwest.  He is also the co-director and founder of the collective Floating Museum.  His work has been shown at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The UCSD Art Gallery, The Glass Curtain Gallery and The Hyde Park Art Center, among other spaces.  He has held fellowships at the Sculpture Space, the MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, the Brown Foundation Program at the Dora Maar House, and the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting.  His work has been supported by grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Harpo Foundation, the Propeller Fund, the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship in Sicily.  Recent exhibitions and projects include a public project titled River Assembly on the Chicago River, an exhibition titled How to give life to a mountain at the DuSable Museum and a British Council Arts and Social Practice Fellowship.



Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford sets up the sculpture
The Lab community adds to the sculpture