A Primer on the Commons

Columbus Museum of Art

May 8–November 28, 2021
Over the past year, social distancing has turned our world upside-down: private homes have become temporary workplaces and quarantine zones, while offices, restaurants, and places of worship sit empty. For many, it has been a year of intense suffering. It has also been a time of public grief and outrage, as movements to defend Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American lives have confronted systemic racism, police brutality, and xenophobia.
At the intersection of these crises, the commons—a term designating spaces and relationships outside and beyond private ownership—has reemerged as a political and social ideal: Through collective rituals and acts of radical altruism, and from mutual aid groups to free community refrigerators, ordinary people have reimagined their neighborhoods, cities, and social networks as self-supporting ecosystems, connecting friends, families, and strangers in a web of care.
In sympathy with these efforts, A Primer on the Commons draws from CMA’s contemporary collection to explore—and critically expose—the systems that enclose, confine, and disempower us. Organized by a collective of students, and featuring contributions from artists, activists, and community members near and far, the exhibition proposes the commons as a space of refuge, solidarity, and collective liberation in times of crisis.
A Primer on the Commons is organized by Kat Arndt, Liz Heise-Glass, Dan Leizman, Daniel Marcus, Julia Matejcek, Bryan Ortiz, Ilayda Ustel, and Akeylah Wellington. The exhibition represents a collaborative partnership between the Columbus Museum of Art and The Ohio State University’s Department of History of Art and is sponsored by a Community Engagement Grant from The College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University as part of the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme.
All installation images are by Calista Lyon.



Image Credit: Gilda Edwards, Valise (detail), 1999. Mixed media with cast aluminum, Gift of Ray Hanley

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