Creating a Class Cape with the Chazen

Odyssey students and and Chazen guests gather in a classroom

A stack of fabric for students to use in their capesUW–Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art has been a longtime partner of the Odyssey Project, from hosting our 10th and soon, our 20th–anniversary celebration to welcoming Odyssey students to campus for 20 years to view and respond to the art it displays. We were delighted to have Chazen leaders and guest artists such as Sanford Biggers visit our class in November to discuss the museum’s problematic “Emancipation Group” sculpture showing Lincoln in a paternalistic pose over a crouching slave.

In February, New York artists Wildcat Ebony Brown and Lynore Routte visited our class to share their love of cape-making as a form of community and activism inspired by abolitionists in the Civil War era called “the Wide Awakes.” These capes are displayed in the same re:mancipation exhibit at the Chazen featuring responses to Thomas Ball’s “Emancipation Group” statue.

A cape before it was decorated by studentsGeresa, Amanda, and Mya holding up cape making materialsIn class on February 1, each student decorated an individual fabric piece to represent themselves and their concept of freedom. Just a few days later, a finished Odyssey Class of 2023 cape was on display in the lobby of the Chazen for the opening reception for the re:mancipation exhibit, attended by hundreds of visitors. In her remarks, Chazen director Amy Gilman thanked Odyssey students for their voices and visions. We thank the Chazen for making us part of the creative process of finding new ways to respond to old wounds.

The cape laid out on a table

A square made by KaitlinA butterfly made by Lupita

Cape materials laid out on a table

A square made by KianaSquare made by SaulMona, Gabby, Roxanna, Kaitlin and Sinetra holding up their squares

Saul working on his square

Tyrone, Curtice, Saul and Geresa working on their squares


Butterly made by Sinetra

A 'Love' square made by MarkStudents working on their projects