Founded the longest continuously running student film society in the nation

Founded in 1932 and named the International House Documentary Film Group in December 1940, Doc Films is on record with the Museum of Modern Art as the longest continuously running student film society in the nation. Doc has hosted such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and John Ford; and has nurtured and inspired such members as Ernest Callenbach, AB’49, AM’53, founding editor of Film Quarterly; Gordon Quinn, AB’65, and Gerald Temaner, AB’57, co-founders of Kartemquin Films; and filmmakers Aaron Lipstadt, AB’74, and Myron Meisel, AB’72.

Lynn Reid, the student chair for Doc Films in 1988


This Smart Museum of Art exhibit of contemporary Chinese photo-based art was curated by Wu Hung, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Professor in Art History, and Christopher Phillips, Curator at New York’s International Center of Photography.

Promoted the study of contemporary Chinese art in the West

Art historian Wu Hung, who came to the University of Chicago in 1994, is widely considered the first person to introduce contemporary Chinese art to the West and open it as field of critical study. Wu’s work has shaped a generation of curators and scholars, both here and in China, and exposed Western audiences to a deeper understanding of Chinese art at a time of great economic and social change.


Premiered stage adaptations of classic novels by African Americans

Court Theatre at the University of Chicago first brought Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Richard Wright’s Native Son to the stage. Oren Jacoby’s adaptation of the 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison, who was Alexander White Visiting Professor of Literature at UChicago in 1961, won a 2012 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Adaptation. Nambi E. Kelley’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Native Son premiered in 2015. These productions further solidified Court’s strong reputation for staging compelling African American drama.

Invisible Man, 2011


The Xiangtangshan Caves in China

Used imaging technology to reconstruct ancient monuments

Art historian Katherine Tsiang digitally reconstructed the sixth-century Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan by combining art historical research with archeological knowledge and emerging imaging technologies. This technique provided a new model for reassembling and restoring context to cultural monuments that have been scattered across the globe or destroyed. The related exhibit appeared at the Smart Museum of Art and four other museums in 2010–13.


Demonstrated art’s ability to transform

Artist Theaster Gates received the Artes Mundi prize in 2015, a major honor for contemporary artists. The prize, among the world’s largest, honored Gates for his piece “A Complicated Relationship between Heaven and Earth, or When We Believe.” The judges praised Gates as an activist, urbanist, facilitator, and curator. The professor of visual arts and director of arts and public life at the University is an innovator in using art to reshape and revive formerly neglected neighborhoods. His Dorchester Projects created small-scale artist residencies throughout Greater Grand Crossing in Chicago.

Theaster Gates, Professor and Director of Arts + Public Life