Chicago activists in the 1960s and ’70s used design to create powerful slogans, symbols, and imagery to amplify their visions for social change. In Designing for Change: Chicago Protest Art of the 1960s–70s, see more than 100 posters, fliers, signs, buttons, newspapers, magazines, and books from the era, expressing often radical ideas about race, war, gender equality, and sexuality that challenged mainstream culture of the time.

As racism, war, gender inequality, and LGBTQIA+ discrimination remain enduring issues shaped by today’s complex world, also see works from a new generation of artivists upholding the city’s rich legacy of protest art to fight for social change.


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Need some gallery tunes for your earbuds? Wonder what activism through music sounds like? Enjoy our staff-curated playlist of iconic songs of the time that resonated with the movements featured in Designing for Change.

Exhibition Preview

Chicago Freedom Festival program cover for March 12, 1966 Cover for the program for the Chicago Freedom Festival with Chicago Freedom Movement symbol on front cover, sponsored by Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, held at the International Ampitheatre, 4220 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois, March 12, 1966. CHM, ICHi-182985
View of crowd marching in Cicero March View of people marching in the Cicero March, a civil rights demonstration protesting racist housing policies, in Cicero, Illinois, 1966. CHM, ICHi-036903; Declan Haun, photographer
i183000_pm Front cover of Chicago Seed, volume 5, number 13, with illustraition of skull wearing Statue of Liberty crown by Karl-Heinz Meschlach, March 1970. CHM, ICHi-183000
ST-18001901-0023, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum Curtis Ellis, owner of a bookstore that specializes in Black literature at 6447 South Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. ST-18001901-0023, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum
i183506_pm Silk screen poster, "Take Back the Night," by Estelle Carol and Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, c. 1976. CHM, ICHi-183506
Chicago Gay Liberation movement march Chicago Gay Liberation movement march down Chicago Avenue, Michigan Avenue, and Randolph Street to Daley Plaza as part of "Gay Pride Week" celebrations, Chicago, Illinois. ST-70001326-0010, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM


Olivia Mahoney
Exhibition Curator

Olivia Mahoney served for nearly four decades as a curator at the Chicago History Museum. She has written extensively on Chicago history and curated numerous exhibitions including "Chicago: Crossroads of America" and "Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America," the precursor exhibition to "Designing for Change." Since 2019, Mahoney has been a freelance curator/researcher for the Museum of Science & Industry, the Obama Presidential Center Museum, and the Chicago History Museum.

bethea_charles square
Charles E. Bethea
Andrew W. Mellon Director of Curatorial Affairs

Charles E. Bethea is responsible for overseeing all curatorial activities, provides an overall curatorial vision and direction, and prioritizes all work in the department. In addition, he provides direction for the Museum’s collecting agenda including new acquisitions and deaccessions and the development of new exhibitions.


Stories are always better when shared! Bring your group to the Chicago History Museum and walk in the footsteps of the city’s past on a private tour. Groups of ten or more adults receive a discount when reserving at least four weeks in advance.



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