"The Sound, the Soul, the Syncopation" considers public housing as artistic training ground 

A National Public Housing Museum exhibit about the stars who came out of places like Cabrini-Green

Dancing at Regina Cooper's family Easter get together in Cabrini-Green, ca. 1988/89

Dancing at Regina Cooper's family Easter get together in Cabrini-Green, ca. 1988/89

Marc Pokempner, photograph reproduced by permission of the Chicago History Museum

The National Museum of Public Housing won't have housing of its own until sometime next year, when it opens in a three-story brick building at 1322 W. Taylor—the last remnant of Chicago's oldest federal housing project, the Jane Addams Homes. Till then the NMPH is making do with off-site exhibits like this one, an examination of public housing as the "unsung cradle of American music." With photos and text, "The Sound, the Soul, the Syncopation" looks at how close-knit subsidized communities in Brooklyn, Houston, Detroit, and other cities have helped produce talents like Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Diana Ross. Locals are also featured, from Dinah Washington and Jerry Butler to Lupe Fiasco, who was raised in the west-side Madison Terrace projects.

The show offers little more than a breeze through its subject, but it's attractive. And engaging, too: through a partnership with mobile music app Groovebug, the curators have equipped the space with iPads and headphones that play tunes by the highlighted artists. The curators have also constructed a room at the center of the show; suggesting the various possibilities of the notion of "home," it hints at the promise of the forthcoming museum.


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