Brett Swinney / Keep the Land in the Family, and Bessie & Tessie (Chicago)
Bessie & Tessie (2021) by artist Brett Swinney
It was 1965 when Walt and Bessie Theus moved into 100 West 342 Place, hoping to provide a home for their four children, who included two sons and two daughters at the time. The Theus family has called 100 W. 342 Place home for 56 years, beginning with Walt and Bessie and continuing today with Walt and Bessie’s granddaughter, Tessa Marie Theus. This diptych depicts two different points in the history of a family that has lived at 100 W. 342 Place.
TWENTY YEARS PASSED IN BETWEEN THE TWO PORTRAITS, DURING WHICH TIME THERE WAS JOY AND SORROW, HELLOS AND GOODBYES, AMONG OTHER THINGS.
However, the women of Theus served as a rock throughout it all.
Keep the Land in the Family (2021) is an accompanying audio recording of a conversation between Caroline Theus Swinney and Walt Theus Jr., the oldest children of Walt and Bessie Theus. The discussion will focus on Theus’ Family’s experiences growing up on Chicago’s South Side. 342 West 100th Street has been the Theus family’s home for almost 56 years, providing stability for three generations. Caroline and Walt discuss family life, growing up in their neighborhood, and eventually sharing their experiences with their children. “Keep the Land in the Family” illustrates how a home can shape a family.
BIO: Brett Swinney is an organizer, producer, videographer, curator, photographer, web developer, podcast producer, and musician. He is the Community Arts Engagement Manager for the Arts + Public Life. Prior to Arts + Public Life, he served as: the co-founder/director of the Art Leaders of Color Network and AnySquared Projects; the Production Director for Links Hall; the Volunteer Coordinator for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and; the Program Manager for the Chicago Artists Resource. In addition to his career appointments, Brett has organized and curated dozens of gallery shows, performances, and community arts events for the last 25 years. Brett has received awards from the Propeller Fund, SAIC Enrichment Fund, and the Awesome Foundation.
Brett earned his M.A. in Arts Administration & Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014 and a B.A. in Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2004.