October 1, 2009 – January 17, 2010

Installation view of Heartland

Installation view of work by Cody Critcheloe (left) and Carnal Torpor (right)

Throughout the vast interior of the United States, contemporary artists are responding to the world around them and reshaping it in unexpected ways.

Organized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, one of Europe’s premier contemporary art institutions, this exhibition offers an idiosyncratic look at the innovative forms of artistic creation taking place in the American Heartland.

Heartland features site-specific installations and performances as well as drawing, photography, and video by artists and artist groups who are working in—and in response to—Detroit, Kansas City, and other cities and rural communities across the region. The exhibition premieres new commissions and presents recent works by Carnal Torpor, Compass Group, Cody Critcheloe, Jeremiah Day, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Design 99, Scott Hocking, Kerry James Marshall, Greely Myatt, Marjetica Potrc, Julika Rudelius, Artur Silva, Deb Sokolow, and Whoop Dee Doo.

Together with an extensive series of programs and lectures, Heartland challenges our understandings of place, community, and the role of contemporary art in our changing world.

Project background

In 2007 and 2008, the Heartland curators, eschewing traditional research methods, set out on a series of old-fashioned road trips through the vast center of the United States. These research trips informed two distinct exhibitions. The first presentation, which opened in October 2008 at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, sought to uncover new ways of thinking about the American interior during the U.S. presidential election and gave European audiences access to a broad survey of the Heartland’s culture, art, and music. The second, reconceived presentation at the Smart Museum, offers U.S. audiences a more focused look at the ideals of resourcefulness and invention that permeate the Heartland. Together, the two presentations offer a richly layered reading of a region that has too often been overlooked.

Heartland Map

Explore a map of the Heartland, with information on the exhibiting artists, their works, and a representative sampling of artist-run initiatives throughout the region.

View the Heartland in a larger map.

Red markers indicate artists featured in the Smart Museum's presentation of Heartland. Blue markers indicate artist-run and artist-centered initiatives featured in the exhibition catalogue.


Much more than an art catalogue, the Heartland publication includes interviews and illustrated essays on an eclectic mix of topics.

Related Programs

Member Preview
September 30, 2009

Opening Reception
October 1, 2009

Whoop Dee Doo!
October 2, 2009

BOY screening at Chopin Theatre
October 4, 2009

Dualing with Carnal Torpor
October 8, 2009

TRY: Station Soup
October 11, 2009

Smart Voices
October 11, 2009

Lunch-hour Talk: "Spaces + Values = Place"
October 16, 2009

South Side Study Day with AREA Chicago
October 17, 2009

Lunch-hour Talk: "Soul of the Heartland"
October 30, 2009

Smart Voices
November 8, 2009

Chicago IN:60 Seconds
November 12, 2009

Family Day: Personal Places
November 15, 2009

Smart Voices
November 22, 2009

Film Screening: Short Sighted
December 3, 2009

Make Art in the Heartland (Cafe)
December 5, 2009

Smart Focus: Curator Tour
January 17, 2010