During the 1960s and 70s, Chicago was shaped by art and ideas produced and circulated on its South Side. Defined by the city’s social, political, and geographic divides and by the energies of its multiple overlapping art scenes, it was a vibrant era of creative expression that produced a cultural legacy whose impact continues to unfold nationally and internationally.

The Time Is Now! examines this watershed cultural moment—brimming with change and conflict—and the figures who defined it. Focusing primarily on African American artists in and out of the Black Arts Movement, the exhibition features approximately 100 objects assembled from the Smart Museum’s collection and other public and private collections, including art and ephemera associated with the Wall of Respect, the Civil Rights Movement, AfriCOBRA, Afrofuturism, the Hairy Who, outsider art, and the radical jazz of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Together with a scholarly catalogue and a series of public programs, The Time Is Now! reassesses and recalibrates traditional narratives of postwar Chicago art, revealing how artists living, working, and exhibiting on the South Side charted new artistic courses, challenged the political status quo, created new spaces for art, and reimagined the future in ways that continue to resonate through current national dialogues around race, gender, protest, and belonging.