DuSable Museum Arts & Crafts Festival

DuSable Museum Arts & Crafts Festival

DuSable Museum Arts & Crafts Festival

Date Observed: Second weekend in July
Location: Chicago, Illinois

The DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago has presented the annual Arts & Crafts Festival since 1974. Each year, over the second weekend in July, local artists and craftspeople exhibit works that relate to AfricanAmerican history and culture.

Historical Background

The DuSable Museum of African American History is the first and oldest museum in the nation devoted to African-American cultures. In 1961 a group of Chicago artists, among them artist and educator Margaret Goss Burroughs and her husband Charles Burroughs, founded the museum. The museum site was the Burroughs's home, a mansion that had once been a boardinghouse for black railroad workers. First called the Ebony Museum and later named the Museum of Negro History and Art, it was designed to present black history and culture, which were only slightly or never included in most museums and educational institutions of the time. The museum was again renamed in 1968, after a black Haitian fur trader, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable (1745?-1818). Historical accounts indicate that DuSable was the first non-native person to settle in Chicago.

After the Chicago Park District granted the museum use of a former administration building in Washington Park, the DuSable Museum of History and Art moved to that location in 1973. It became a memorial to DuSable and a home for permanent collections of such items as African and African-American artifacts, rare books, slave documents, civil rights memorabilia, paintings, photographs, films, wood and ivory carvings, sculpture, and African masks and statues.

Creation of the Festival

In 1974, one year after the DuSable Museum moved to Washington Park in Chicago, the museum held its first festival with eight artists participating. Margaret Burroughs and Sophie Wessell were among them, and the two decided to organize an annual event that would allow artists to exhibit their work without juries or critics. In addition, young artists from Chicago schools would be included.

In 1984 the curator, the late Ramon Price, established a Purchase Award Program in which a panel of judges recommended purchase of outstanding works for inclusion in the museum's collection of contemporary African-American art. The collection is loaned for exhibitions at such institutions as the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, and Columbia College in Chicago.


The 32nd annual DuSable Museum Arts & Crafts Festival was held on the second weekend in July 2006. Like previous festivals, it was a showcase for local artistic talent. In recent years, almost 200 artists and craftspeople have taken part in the festival.

During the 30th festival, a special "claymation" workshop for children was held. Participants learned how industry experts mold figures out of clay, or a clay-like substance called plasticine, for animated cartoons.

Besides the Arts & Crafts Festival, the DuSable Museum also conducts celebrations of Juneteenth and Black Music Month in June.

Contact and Web Site

DuSable Museum of African American History 740 E. 56th Place Chicago, IL 60637 773-947-0600

Further Reading

Dickerson, Amina J. "DuSable Museum." Encyclopedia of Chicago, an online cooperative effort of the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library and Northwestern University. . Feldman, Eugene Pieter Romayn. The Birth and the Building of the DuSable Museum. Chicago: DuSable Museum Press, 1981. Lindberg, Richard C. "DuSable, Jean Baptiste Pointe." In African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.