Homelessness Experiential Exhibit

The Center for Civic Learning and Community Action is proud to present the Homelessness Experiential Exhibit shedding light into the systemic and structural social justice issue of Homelessness in Chicago together with local artist, Charity White, and SJP Community Partners: The Chicago Help Initiative, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and ILCC/AmeriCorps VISTA.

Charity’s Prescriptive Space video documentation is displayed around the Chicago Campus in 2 different locations – 1st Floor lobby  & outside the Library – that allow for Alder students, staff, faculty and guests to observe, reflect, and envision how they would react and interact with these public installations, both when being alone or observed. White’s life-size ceramic public installations focus on the relationship and daily disconnect of humans and public spaces, as featured in our Homelessness Experiential Exhibit.

Her videos give the audience an opportunity to connect to the social justice issue of homelessness by giving these life-size figures a space to express the experienced oppression and marginalization reinforced by and through policies, arguments of public safety, fear, and misconceptions on the issue of Homelessness.


About the Artist: Charity White

Charity White is a figurative ceramicist, artist educator, and community activist. She was raised in Oak Park, IL and received two degrees from The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, an EdM in Art education and a BFA in Crafts. Her research is rooted in an interdisciplinary and social practice approach to art and art education. This has propelled her into a variety of academic realms including race relations, gender studies, religious studies, and socio-economics. Following the completion of her first masters, she taught high school art in the South Side of Chicago and west suburbs. White received her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Florida in 2016. She is the recipient of the Newberry Library’s Arthur and Lila Weinberg Fellowship for Independent Researchers and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant. Currently, she is exhibiting nationally and living in Chicago, IL where she is a resident artist at Lillstreet Art Center and an adjunct professor at Governor State University.

About the Artwork: Prescriptive Space

        Prescriptive Space is a temporary public installation of three ceramic figures on city benches in the Gainesville, Florida downtown and University of Florida campus. These figures comment upon how the city of Gainesville controls space for the homeless through the recent implementation of benches that use a dividing handrail to deter homeless people from sleeping on them. The figures are bisected to emphasize the dividing handrail. The surfaces of the bisections of the figures not only highlight the placement of the handrails, but also to reference Gainesville’s history of public policy and the movement of marginalized people.


At each location, White installed motion sensor cameras to document the public’s response to the sculptures. Every minute, a ten-second video records brief segments of the public interacting with the temporary installation. The geographical location of the benches determines the titles of the videos and sculptures. Following the temporary public installations, Prescriptive Space now exists as a gallery piece that contains video documentation of the interactions between the public and the ceramic figures, capturing moments of discovery, discussion, humor, aggression and compassion. This project makes the politics of urban design visible and invites the community to reconsider our use of and participation in public space.


White’s interest in working with marginalized groups stems from her experience teaching in the Chicago Public School System. During this time, she witnessed the staggering disconnect between policymaking and practical application. As a teacher at the largest high school in Chicago, which was built to occupy 4,000 students but then was inhabited by 400, White experienced the effect vast deteriorating space had on the student body and their investment in the educational system. She also became keenly aware of how our public spaces connote the expectations of behavior within that space.


– Charity White

To watch the video documentation of Prescriptive Space and more, click here.

Components from the Exhibit:



Prescriptive Space in the City of Chicago

Right to Private Property in Public Spaces

  • Sweeps by the Chicago Police Department and Streets and Sanitation workers
  • Treatment of Chicagoans experiencing homelessness by the City and targeting their possessions
    • See Kent, Clara, “City Agrees to New Policy Towards Homeless People’s Personal Property Rights,” Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., January 22, 2015, http://www.clccrul.org/node/35891.

Education & Health

(Public) Housing

Resources to Dive Deeper:

Activities to deepen your understanding on topics addressed

Intersectionality of Homelessness:

Opportunities to Be ACTIVE:

Social Justice & the Arts:

Special Thanks to

Charity White, The Chicago Help Initiative, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Adler University’s Department of Facilities & Help Desk Support