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Staci Boris opens her first exhibition at the helm of the Elmhurst Art Museum

Staci Boris was curator MCA has moved Elmhurst Art Museum. Open House is her first show as Chief Curator —

Staci Boris was a curator at the MCA and has moved to the Elmhurst Art Museum. Open House is her first show as Chief Curator — and she's planning to showcase Illinois artists who haven't had such wide exposure. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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‘Open House:
Art About Home’

♦ Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill

♦ Jan. 19-April 20

♦ Admission, $5, $3 students and seniors and free for children younger than 5 years old; free for everyone on Fridays

♦ (630) 834-0202; www.

Updated: February 20, 2013 6:10AM

Few Chicago art-world insiders are better known than Staci Boris.

She has worked as a curator around the city since 1992, including a 12-year tenure at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a short stint as director of the now-defunct fair, Art Chicago.

In July, Boris, 46, took her first post away from the city’s downtown scene, becoming chief curator of the little-known Elmhurst Art Museum. Housed in a sleek 1997 modernist building designed by DeStefano + Partners of Chicago, it combines Mies van der Rohe’s 1952 McCormick House with a 4,000-square-foot space devoted to showing contemporary art.

The first exhibition opens Saturday. Titled “Open House: Art About Home,” it features multimedia works by seven artists that explore the home as both reality and metaphor.

The Sun-Times spoke to Boris about her career and her recent move to Elmhurst. Her answers have been edited and compiled:

Attraction to the Elmhurst Art Museum: “When I walked in, I had no idea there was this incredible museum here and was surprised that I hadn’t known much about it prior to that. I was so impressed by the architecture itself, the gallery space, the tall ceilings. My mind just started to race, and I just thought there could be so many exciting things happening here.”

Switch to a suburban realm: “I have never worked in an institution that’s located in the suburbs, but because of the way the museum looks and the way it is organized, it feels like a museum that could be in the city center. It feels very cosmopolitan. It feels very serious in a way that I didn’t expect. I don’t think it was a culture shock. I grew up in the suburbs. I understand the suburbs.”

Reaching out to multiple audiences: “I want people to come from Chicago and beyond Chicago. Having the McCormick House, one of three houses designed by Mies van der Rohe in the United States, is something that I think architectural enthusiasts and others would want to come see. But I’m organizing exhibitions that I feel that people who would live anywhere would want to come and see. One of the hallmarks of this museum is that it’s intimate and accessible.”

Goals for “Open House”: “One of the things I really wanted to do was the raise the profile of the [McCormick] house itself, because I think a lot of people don’t know that it’s here. I would like to create this dialogue or cohesion among the different parts of the institution. As I was working in the house, I started thinking about: What is a house? What is a home? I thought it would be interesting to do an exhibition of artists who depict homes in their work or deal with issues related to home. And with the housing crisis, it seemed like a timely subject.”

Favorite artist: “I did my thesis on Edvard Munch [best known for ‘The Scream’] in graduate school, and so he has always been the artist that I look to for inspiration.”

Becoming a curator: “I had an internship at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston when I was in graduate school, and that really was my first connection with contemporary art: seeing the living artist coming in and changing over the museum and constantly making it seem different and look different. And also the [highly controversial] Robert Mapplethorpe [photography] show was there at the time and I saw what an incredible impact that art could have on discussion, society and dialogue, and I just thought it was fantastic, and, so, there was no looking back from that point.”

Kyle MacMillan is a local free-lance writer.

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