Nowadays it can be difficult finding a safe space to heal from the pain most people felt on November 8 of last year. The Underground Museum (UM) in Arlington Heights has become a home for people to be part of the conversation that includes fear, hope, and reassurance that they are in this together.
The Underground Museum was founded by artists and couple Noah and Karon Davis in 2012 while Noah was alive; he passed away in 2015 from a rare form of cancer. The space was originally their home and turned into a museum that was created to reshape the typical museum experience, start meaningful conversations about social issues, bring quality art to undeserving communities and most importantly, build within the Arlington Heights community.
They also host events where the community gathers and share a special moment together. Strangers become friends, tough conversations turn into laughs, and something is created that is needed in Los Angeles: compassion and genuine support for everyone and from everyone.
Events range from film and documentary screenings, such as Moonlight, to panel discussions with Black Lives Matter members and former Black Panther members. Each gathering is specific to what their goal is and what they want to talk about: art and people of color.
Justen LeRoy, the museum liaison, says that “bringing in Black Lives Matter, folks who are really focused on arts and activism to bridge that conversation in and making sure people feel they have a safe space to talk about this stuff” is what the UM represents.
“I feel like this is a space for me and you, people of color, brown and black, which is catered to feel and to assert who we are and our experience. It all hasn’t been pretty and certain groups of people need to be confronted with that.”
Safe places for these conversations are needed more than ever for everyone because of Donald Trump’s presidency and his plans for the country. What the museum offers challenges you to think critically about self-identity, your community, and how art can be a powerful tool for activism. Non-Fiction, their current exhibition, is a perfect example of “bringing everybody in into one conversation no matter what you identify as," says LeRoy.
They recently partnered with Lonnie Wade and Olympia Auset from SÜPRMARKT to have a farmer’s market in their Purple Garden. SÜPRMARKT is an affordable organic grocery serving low-income communities in Los Angeles. "We want to make sure we partner with people that are bringing goods into our community. They bringing [healthy] food here is a huge deal because there is no access to it.”
There is no doubt that the UM is doing everything to create a legacy and bring change to Arlington Heights. LeRoy and the rest of the team are on foot handing out invitations to those in the community for every event because they need to know that they deserve art and healing too.
“We provide a safe space for removing yourself from that and we acknowledge that we are all going through this. Together we are making something happen, it’s what’s important, building within the community.”