American Dream

Larry & Barbara Marshall Family Balcony

In conjunction with the KU 2016 Common Book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, this exhibition draws its inspiration from Coates’s explorations and indictments of the American Dream to further question associated beliefs, struggles, ideas, and representations. Arranged in three sections, the exhibition highlights the diversity within the United States and reimagines what the American Dream means and who may participate.

“In the Dream,” focuses on preconceived notions of the American Dream, which has historically been framed from a white perspective. This includes notions of upward mobility, prosperity, and education. “Contradictions of the Dream” examines how ideas and lived experiences of ‘the Dream’ have excluded many cultures and individuals. This section scrutinizes the economic, social, and racial inequalities plaguing the United States. “Dangers of the Dream” reveals various perils associated  with the American Dream, including racism, poverty, violence, and assimilation. The exhibition also features the 2016–2017 Common Work of Art, Beauties: Calpurnia, Bertha Mae, and Lula Bell, by Willie Cole.

The exhibition is organized by first-year students in Dr. Ellen Cordero Raimond’s learning community “Life through a Lens,” First-Year Experience peer mentor Gabby Ale-Ebrahim, and Kassandra Valles, Spencer education and academic programs student assistant. Participating students are: Ronnie Bryant, Mariah Chemali, Erin Dellasega, Lori Fifield, Brad Harris, Jack Hatzfeld, Agustín Hayes, Grant Heiman, and Ian Thomas.

Listen and contribute to a playlist of songs inspired by the themes and works in this show.

Selected images