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Talk | Sowing Change with Erika Allen and Linda Goode Bryant

February 06, 20246:00 pm - 7:30 pm

ASL and CART captioning available

About the Event

Sowing Change: Creativity and Food Sovereignty is a collaboration between the MCA and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB 5). This program brings together artists Erika Allen, founder of Urban Growers Collective in Chicago, and Linda Goode Bryant, founder of the pathbreaking gallery, Just Above Midtown (1976-1984) and Project EATS in New York City. Together Allen and Goode Bryant discuss how the arts—and tending to the imagination—have guided their visionary leadership in transforming urban space as sites for food sovereignty and collective change.

The conversation is moderated by Emily Mello, Dr. Robert Nathan Mayer Senior Director of Education, Learning, and Public Programs at the MCA.

ASL and CART captioning are available.

ASL provided.

About the Speakers


Erika Allen. Photo Credit: Tonika Johnson.















Linda Goode Bryant. Photo: Oresti Tsonopoulos.







Erika Allen is the cofounder and CEO for Chicago’s Urban Growers Collective, president of Green Era Educational NFP, and co-owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners. She uses her experience as a visual artist to consult with individuals and organizations to support their visioning of social and economic change. She is passionate about social justice and working with multicultural groups towards the elimination of racism and related oppressions, as well as the root causes of poverty, by integrating creative and therapeutic techniques alongside food security and community development.

Previously, Allen founded Growing Power – Chicago and served as director for fifteen years, from 2002 to 2017. Allen is the cofounder of the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, serves on the board of Grow Greater Englewood, sits on the Leadership Council for Growing Home, and is an advisor for the Community Food Navigator project. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker appointed Allen to the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ICAE) for a three-year term (2022–2024), and she was recently appointed by the Biden administration to join the USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee for Illinois. In 2022 she received a James Beard Leadership Award for her work to create a better food world. She is also a cochair of the Food Equity Council for the City of Chicago. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MA in art psychotherapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Linda Goode Bryant founded Project EATS, an urban farming initiative aimed at sustainable food production in Black and brown communities in New York City, in 2009. Her decades of art-based activism began in 1974 with her founding of Just Above Midtown (JAM) gallery, a self-described laboratory that foregrounded the work of African American artists including David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Butch Morris, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, and many others. After closing JAM in 1986, Linda dedicated herself to filmmaking, directing the Peabody Award-winning documentary Flag Wars (2003), which explores the tensions between preservation and gentrification. Over her nearly fifty-year career, Goode Bryant has and continues to advocate for a connection to “our innate ability to use what we have to create what we need.”

In 2020, she received an Anonymous Was a Woman Award and a United States Artists Berresford Prize. She is a former Guggenheim Fellow. In 2021, Bryant collaborated with architect Liz Diller to create the installation Are We Really That Different for the exhibition Social Works at Gagosian Gallery, New York. In 2022, she was lead faculty for the RAW Académie Session 9 and related exhibition, in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Philadelphia. She collaborated with curator Thomas J. Lax to organize the exhibition Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces (2022–23) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Goode Bryant received her BA in studio art with a minor in drama at Spelman College. In 1980, she received her MBA in management from Columbia University.

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Lead support for the 2023-24 season of MCA Talks is made possible by The Richard and Mary L. Gray Lecture Series through a generous gift to the Chicago Contemporary Campaign.

Generous support is provided by The Antje B. and John J. Jelinek Endowed Lecture and Symposium on Contemporary Art; the Kristina Barr Lectures, which were established through a generous gift by The Barr Fund to the Chicago Contemporary Campaign; The Gloria Brackstone Solow and Eugene A. Solow, MD, Memorial Lecture Series; and the Allen M. Turner Tribute Fund, honoring his past leadership as Chair of the Board of Trustees.