During the height of pandemic lockdowns, Chicago artist Faheem Majeed and his wife used to spend Friday nights driving around the city looking for new places to explore.
“We would pick a direction and just drive,” Majeed says. “I always encourage people to left, center and right and just explore the city—you know, go see something interesting, go check it out.”
That spirit resonates through Majeed’s work as a founder and co-director of the Floating Museum, an arts collective and nonprofit that stages pop-up exhibitions and public art activations across the city, which brings Majeed to dozens of Chicago neighborhoods. Currently, the museum is hosting an exhibition that brings a 30-foot inflatable statue of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and du Sable’s Potawatomi wife to city parks; later this year, they’ll release a series of online performances from artist (and fellow co-director) avery r. young.
Majeed was born in Chicago but quickly moved to North Carolina with his family before returning to Chicago as an adult, where he settled in South Shore. Later, Majeed’s father told him a startling fact: His new South Shore home is located on the same street as the house he was brought home to as a newborn, just four blocks away.
“I moved back to the same neighborhood, so there’s something magical there,” Majeed says. “But I didn’t know at the time that I was moving back to my birthplace. And that’s [also] what Iove about Floating Museum—I’m always learning about new parts of the city that I didn’t know.”
Below, Majeed shares some of his favorite spots in South Shore, Hyde Park and beyond.
1. 71st Street
One of South Shore’s central business strips, 71st Street is bisected by the South Chicago Branch of the Metra Electric District and offers a selection of shops, colorful murals, restaurants and other businesses, plus access to the stunning South Shore Cultural Center on its east end. Majeed lives nearby and champions the area as having massive potential for growth over the next few years. “I’m always going to talk about South Shore and 71st Street, because it’s my neighborhood,” he says. “And it’s my hope that 71st Street will become like Milwaukee [Avenue] or 53rd Street, because the potential is there.”
“I love Erick [Williams] and the work he does at Virtue,” Majeed says of this Hyde Park restaurant, which serves Southern-style cooking in an elegant space on 53rd Street. “I support him whenever I get an opportunity.” There’s plenty to sift through on the menu, but Majeed recommends you try the mac and cheese, honey butter cornbread and short rib. 1462 E 53rd St
Majeed served as executive director and curator of this Bronzeville hub for Black art—the only Works Progress Administration-funded community art center that’s still up and running more than 80 years later, having incubated iconic artists like Eldzier Cortor and Margaret Burroughs—from 2005 through 2011. But in his opinion, it’s never been better than today: “Come on down and buy some artwork, throw some money in the donation box,” Majeed says. “We have to support our cultural institutions if we want our culture to persist.” You can also check out ongoing exhibitions like “The Balm: Art for Black Women’s Wellness,” a showcase featuring eight Black women artists from Chicago and beyond. 3831 S. Michigan Avenue
4. Silver Room
Part boutique, part community center, Hyde Park’s Silver Room sells everything from jewelry and slippers to books from local authors, while also hosting a regular roster of music- and community-centric events. Majeed recently attended a two-day arts festival in South Shore hosted by Silver Room owner Eric Williams (no relation to the owner of Virtue) and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, which brought pop-up vendors, music and an outdoor skating rink to the neighborhood. “It was just an amazing dance party—something I really needed,” Majeed says. “In Chicago, you’ve got to take the good and the bad, so it’s nice to be in spaces where good is promoted and community is promoted, because it offsets the bad.” 1506 E 53rd St
This quiet park near the Calumet River and Lake Michigan once housed part of the US Steel complex South Works. Now, the only hint of its industrial past are a series of gigantic concrete ore walls, which Majeed says lend an almost Stonehenge-like quality to the space. “It’s a monument to that industry,” Majeed explains. “You go in and it’s always quiet—I mean, every time I go I see like 10 people—and it’s right on the water. The plant life has grown back in through the water and the concrete, and is taking that history back into the ground.” E 87th St at Lake Michigan