McAninch Arts Center Announces Exclusive Exhibition of Frida Kahlo Works

Frida Kahlo announcement image

By Jennifer Duda

College of DuPage, in partnership with the McAninch Arts Center and Cleve Carney Art Gallery, is pleased to announce an exhibition of the largest private collection of works by Frida Kahlo coming to the Glen Ellyn campus in summer 2020.

View photos and video from the official exhibition announcement. 

The 26-piece collection, on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo, features an array of sketches and paintings spanning the career of Kahlo, who is considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists. Best known for self-portraits highlighting themes of identity, politics, sexuality and death, Kahlo channeled her childhood and personal struggles into her art and became an icon of feminism, activism and Mexican heritage.

“This unique collection of works is deeply tied to Kahlo’s personal narrative. It covers an arc of her life and career,” said Justin Witte, Cleve Carney Art Gallery Director and exhibition curator. “It’s a full arc tied into her person and covers her accident, which is when she started to create self-portraits.”

After surviving polio at age 6, Kahlo suffered life-threatening injuries in a streetcar accident as a teenager. The accident left her with a broken spinal column and a pelvis impaled by a steel handrail, among a myriad of other injuries. Bedridden for months, Kahlo initially painted the plaster corsets which held her in place as she recovered. Later, with the aid of a special easel that allowed her to paint lying down, Kahlo began investigating self-portraiture as she gazed in a mirror attached to the ceiling.

The last area showing of Kahlo’s works was in 1978 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in an exhibit that included pieces from the Museo Dolores Olmedo. The new immersive Frida Kahlo exhibit, featuring a more diverse collection of works, will transform the Cleve Carney Art Gallery, as well as the McAninch Arts Center Lobby and Belushi Performance Hall spaces. This will allow guests to experience more fully Kahlo and her continued worldwide influence.

“Frida was very much a person of the people and this intimate, educational showcase brings works never before seen in the Chicago area to DuPage County,” said McAninch Arts Center Director Diana Martinez.

Frida Kahlo – Works from the Dolores Olmedo Collection includes numerous opportunities for educational and interpersonal engagement through activities and events in the areas of Fine Arts, Culinary Arts, Humanities and History to complement viewing of her art. In this spirit, the Nov. 10 announcement included floral arrangements created by COD Horticulture students and inspired by Kahlo’s garden; a replica of one of Kahlo’s most iconic dresses, which appeared on the cover of Vogue, created by the COD Fashion Studies program; and a cake specially designed for the occasion by COD Culinary Arts students. Additionally, Ballet Folkloric Quetzacoatl of Aurora closed the event with a performance highlighting the rich culture of Mexico.

“Our goal through this exhibition is obviously to bring the art to the people, but we want to build a community atmosphere around the works,” Martinez said. “We’ve taken a good first step incorporating so many components in this official announcement, and we will build on that through partnerships with various College academic programs, local artists and community organizations in the months to come.”

Upcoming events include:

  • Frida Fest, presented by the McAninch Arts Center, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019
  • Gala coming in 2019
  • Various lectures, workshops and other events during the Spring 2020 semester
  • First look for sponsors May 2020
  • Official exhibition opening June 2020
  • Closing event August 2020


Additional plans include a children’s area at the exhibit and collaborations with various College of DuPage academic programs, which give people an opportunity to dive deeper into Frida Kahlo’s story, Martinez said.

“We want patrons of the arts, students, faculty and community members to walk away from this one-of-a-kind experience with a clearer understanding not only of Frida’s work, but also her life and the time in which she lived,” she said.

The upcoming exhibition is made possible through the generous spirit of Milly and Alan Peterson, founding community members of College of DuPage and lifetime patrons of the McAninch Arts Center. Through their longtime friendship with the Carlos and Lupe Phillips family, the Petersons successfully cultivated bringing this unique experience to DuPage County and the greater Chicagoland area.  

Go to Frida 2020 and sign up for exhibit updates.

The Cleve Carney Art Gallery offers year-round visual art exhibitions showcasing regional, national and international artists in an 1,850-square-foot gallery. Opened in 2013, the space is named for philanthropist Cleve Carney, a contemporary art collector and champion of the arts. Through its exhibitions and educational programming, Cleve Carney Art Gallery provides participation opportunities for all segments of the community with a goal to encourage the growth and understanding of contemporary art while cultivating an appreciation for a variety of perspectives.

The mission of the MAC is to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community. For more information, visit or

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