Robert Earl Paige: Give the Drummer Some!

September 24, 2024 through July 2025

Paper and cardboard model of the museum lobby and art installation

For the Smart’s 50th anniversary, South Side artist Robert Earl Paige creates a multi-part pattern-based installation and sprawling public art project that invites communities into a collective experience of space.

Give the Drummer Some! is rooted in Paige’s decades-long practice as an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and educator who bridges cultural boundaries. A lifelong resident of the Woodlawn neighborhood just south of the University of Chicago campus, he merges African aesthetics, modernist painting, and Bauhaus architecture in creations that blur the line between fine art and craft. Paige’s infectious rhythm of repeating motifs originates as a complete environment in the Smart’s lobby, where the artist layers gold-trimmed fabrics and Chicago-inspired designs over the building’s walls, floors, and furniture. The project then extends outward, wrapping around the exterior of the Museum and ultimately out across the UChicago’s historic Hyde Park campus and beyond.

Through Paige’s iconic and wildly patterned designs, Give the Drummer Some! makes the Smart’s building more porous and inviting, and fosters a shared sense of belonging between campus, neighborhood, and global communities.


Robert Earl Paige: Give the Drummer Some! is commissioned as part of the Smart’s ongoing Threshold series. Launched in 2010, the initiative brings large-scale installations of contemporary art to the Smart’s lobby and courtyard on a regular basis. The prominent placement of these commissions ensures that all visitors—whether they have come to the building for a class, an exhibition, or a program—will be welcomed with thought-provoking new art.

On campus

Throughout the Smart’s 50th anniversary season, Give the Drummer Some! will extend to additional UChicago locations, responding to new sites and collaborations in unique ways.

Image: Planning model for Give the Drummer Some!