We have plenty of events and exhibits that are some of the top things to do in Chicago this month. Celebrate American writing with us!
Even though February is the shortest month of the year, we’ve packed plenty of fun programs, events, and tours into it to keep you busy. From ways to celebrate Black History Month to an anti-romance twist on Valentine’s Day, check out what we have lined up in February below and subscribe to our e-newsletter to stay up-to-date on all that’s happening. Also, AWM members get free admission to the AWM and most programs, so if you’re not already a member, become a member today!
1. Get Lit: Down with Love (February 14, 5:30 pm CST)
After the smashing success of our first-ever Get Lit event last month, we are excited for this month’s edition Get Lit: Down with Love. Whether you are in a relationship, single, or it’s complicated join us during happy hour (5:30-7:30) on Valentine’s Day because love shouldn’t get you down. Instead we’re going to get down with love! This is the anti-romance take on Valentine’s Day you’ve always wanted, with a focus on rejection—from both lovers and editors. The main event is the open mic, where we’ll read letters in which famous writers get rejected by editors, lovers, and fellow writers. You’ll have the chance to share your own stories of rejection as well, should you feel so empowered. But don’t worry, it’s not all hopeless! Our Story of the Day Desk turns into the Shoot Your Shot Desk, at which you can write to your crush and express your love and desire for them on one of our vintage typewriters. Pro tip: a typewritten love letter is very romantic and, dare we say, sexy. We also recommend trying our signature cocktail The Optimistic Ending for courage. Beer and wine will also be available and we’re putting together an anti-love playlist of breakup songs for your cold, dead heart to vibe to. Get your tickets here!
Get Lit events take place the second Tuesday of every month from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Each month will have a different theme, so check out the first four Get Lit events of 2023 here and be sure to check back regularly as we announce more Get Lit events throughout the year.
2. Dark Testament: Blackout Poems by Crystal Simone Smith (February 19, 1:00 pm CST)
Award-winning poet Crystal Simone Smith reads from and discusses her poetry collection Dark Testament: Blackout Poems. In this extraordinary collection, Smith gives voice to the mournful dead, their lives unjustly lost to violence, and to the grieving chorus of protestors in today’s Black Lives Matter movement, in search of resilience and hope. With poems found within the text of George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo as the jumping off point, Smith embarks on an uncompromising exploration of collective mourning and crafts a masterwork that resonates far beyond the page. These poems are visually stark, a gathering of gripping verses that unmasks a dialogue of tragic truths—the stories of lives taken unjustly and too soon.
Following the reading and discussion, we will have a blackout poetry activity for attendees to create their own work within the form. Blackout poetry, or erasure poetry, is “a form of found poetry wherein a poet takes an existing text and erases, blacks out, or otherwise obscures a large portion of the text, creating a wholly new work from what remains” (Academy of American Poets). Find inspiration from Smith and her work, then create your own entirely new piece of art! Fun for the whole family, kids under age 18 are free to attend. Register for the program here.
3. Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy by Clarence Lusane (February 23, 6:00 pm CST)
In Twenty Dollars and Change, political scientist Dr. Clarence Lusane, author of the acclaimed The Black History of the White House, writes from a basic premise: Racist historical narratives and pervasive social inequities are inextricably linked—changing one can transform the other. Taking up the debate over the future of the twenty-dollar bill, Lusane uses the question of Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson as a lens through which to view the current state of our nation’s ongoing reckoning with the legacies of slavery and foundational white supremacy. He places the struggle to confront unjust social conditions in direct connection with the push to transform our public symbols, making it plain that any choice of whose life deserves to be remembered and honored is a direct reflection of whose basic rights are deemed worthy of protection, and whose are not. Lusane is joined in conversation by Arionne Nettles for this free, online-only program. Register for the program here.
4. Frederick Douglass Tours
All month long, discover the incredible legacy and enduring impact of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, as well as other Black writers who came before and after him, on our Frederick Douglass-themed tours. This 15-minute tour introduces you to all areas of the American Writers Museum, and following the tour you can explore all of our exhibits more in depth at your own pace. The Frederick Douglass-themed tours are offered daily at 3:00 pm when the AWM is open. We are open Thursdays to Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm. We are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The tour is included with museum admission and no advanced registration is required. Tours begin at the Museum front desk. Learn more about the tours and plan your visit to the AWM here!
5. Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice
February is Black History Month and a great way to honor and celebrate this is to explore our special exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice, which highlights the work and impact of Black writers from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement. The centerpiece of Dark Testament are 16 large multicolored portraits by local Chicago artists that were commissioned for the exhibit exclusively. These paintings and quilts—which commemorate the likes of Ida B. Wells, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and more—were created by painters Damon Reed, Dorian Sylvain and Bernard Williams and fabric artist Dorothy Burge. The works of art include augmented reality elements that bring these writers to life and allow visitors to dive deeper into the exhibit content. Prints of these one-of-a-kind pieces are available for purchase in the AWM gift shop. Dark Testament, and all other exhibits, are included with general museum admission. Plan your visit and purchase your tickets today!