Hull-House Museum explores the right to play

Children playing at the Hull House

Children at the historic Hull-House playground. Select image to download. Photo: Special Collections, UIC Daley Library

The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum celebrates May Day with a look at the sociopolitical aspects of play in a multimedia  exhibit, “Unfinished Business: The Right to Play.”


Opening, May 1, 4 – 7 p.m.
Exhibit on view through May 1, 2015


Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S. Halsted St.


Only a few blocks from the sites of both Haymarket Square and Chicago’s first public playground, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum invites visitors to explore work and play in the past and present.

When Hull-House opened that pioneering playground in 1895, the Chicago Tribune called it “a jolly romp.” Likewise, the opening of “The Right to Play” will be a lively affair. Along with the exhibit, visitors can enjoy food trucks, field games, music by DJ Sound Culture and Queen Nzinga’s Brigade and performances by the Jesse White Tumbling Team and other youth ensembles. A detailed schedule appears on the museum’s website.

“The Right to Play” explores the social movements that led to public playgrounds, the eight-hour workday and the principle that time off from work enables a more compassionate, creative and peaceful world. The latest installation in the museum’s “Unfinished Business” series, “The Right to Play” connects history with the present, and includes collaborations with artists and activists who continue to fight for fairer conditions for work and leisure.

Highlights include:

● “Eight Hour” songs. In partnership with the Hideout, the Studs Terkel Festival and the Logan Center at the University of Chicago, the museum has invited five local bands to reimagine labor songs composed by Progressive Era activists. Listen to recordings that feature new and old renditions by Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Frank Orrall, Sally Timms & Janet Bean, JC Brooks and Psalm One & Fluffy. (Please note the bands will not perform live.)

● “Freedom and Time,” a Prison Neighborhood Arts Project Collaboration. The museum showcases animated works by artists incarcerated at Stateville Prison who spent a semester exploring freedom, play and time with teaching artist Damon Locks.

● “Another World Is Possible.” The eight-hour workday movement called for “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will.” A century later, activists and thinkers continue to imagine ways to structure economies that allow people to experience their full humanity. The museum presents four of these models as interactive infographics.

● “Freedom Dreams.” Activists and community members consider the questions, “What is freedom? When have you felt the most free?” Their responses will hang in the exhibit for visitors to read and contemplate.

● “Jolly Romp.” Take a swing on a kinetic sculpture by the Stockyard Institute’s Jim Duignan.

● “Right to Play” zine. Learn why Hull-House reformers thought play was a crucial component of social change and try out some of their favorite games.

Admission to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is free.  It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please call 312-413-5353 or visit the museum website.

This exhibit is located on the second floor of the museum. No wheelchair access is available. For accessibility accommodations, please call 312-413-5353.

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