Choose your dates:

  1. Saturday, June 22, 2024

  2. Sunday, June 23, 2024


Michelle Hartney Elevate Exhibition and Residency

About the Exhibition

Unplanned parenthood: letters to an army of millions

Exhibition: July 1 – August 28, 2022
Activations: Write-In June 30, 5-7pm – RSVP here and Sewing Circle September 23, 5-7pm – RSVP here
Location: Gallery 3

Virtual Sewing Circle – August 23rd 6-7 PM CST – RSVP here
Zoom Link to be provided upon RSVP.

Sewing Circle and Intimate Conversation with Ameri Klafeta – Friday, September 23rd

Partners: 21c Kansas City, 21c Cincinnati

21c Chicago’s Artist in Residence program offers prolonged engagement, development, and support for Chicago artists. Through this program, we invite Chicago artists to create new works in response to world events and our current exhibition, Pop Stars!. Our second Artist in Residence is Michelle Hartney, whose artwork lays bare the injustices women have faced, and continue to face, often in attempting to control their reproductive and maternal health and choices. 21c Chicago will host a proliferating exhibition from July 1 through August 28, 2022. The exhibition will launch with a community-led write-in and culminate with a sewing circle on August 26. Throughout the residency, Michelle will be onsite at 21c furthering the development of the project, exhibition, and dialog. Please visit our website for forthcoming dates.

Michelle Hartney and these projects are supported by 21c Museum Hotels.

Upcoming Studio Hours:

July 11 & 14 10-12pm

July 25 2-4

Aug 1, 12-2 Aug 4 12-2

Aug 18 10-12

Aug 22 & 10-12

Sept 23 5-7

Located in Gallery 3

About Michelle Hartney and Unplanned Parenthood

Unplanned Parenthood is a collaborative, textile-based piece exploring historical attacks on reproductive health access and calling for intersectional reproductive justice. Hartney will work with volunteers from across the country to tell the stories of more than 250,000 women who penned desperate letters in the 1920’s asking for help ending and preventing pregnancies. The letters come from Motherhood in Bondage, a collection published by Margaret Sanger in 1928 of the correspondence she received when any information about contraception was deemed “obscene,” and disseminating it was punishable by law.

To reckon with Sanger’s racism and her legacy with Planned Parenthood, Hartney centers the project on the letters and individual stories, instead of her work. These testimonies remind us of how urgent it is to stay organized and focused in this fight, and to work toward a more intersectional future. Through this work—from stitch to show— Hartney will seek to shine light on Sanger’s racist legacy and call out the ways white supremacy persists in the movement for, and attacks on, contraception access and reproductive rights.

Michelle Hartney is a Chicago based interdisciplinary artist who works with fiber, installation, sculpture, performance, and the internet. Her practice focuses on women’s rights, maternal healthcare issues, and misogyny in art institutions. Hartney’s interest in using art to address social issues began during her graduate studies in art therapy at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was an Albert Schweitzer Fellow.

In 2016 Hartney founded the Women’s Health Collective, an art collective dedicated to utilizing creative approaches to raise awareness about women’s health issues by linking artists, writers, musicians, and activists to work collaboratively on socially engaged projects.


Unplanned parenthood: letters to an army of millions is a mixed media installation centered on the stories of people who longed for reproductive justice—and reminding us of the urgency of retaining our control over our destinies. This collaborative exhibition will present a growing number of handwritten letters on the gallery wall. Volunteers who choose to participate will pen a letter from Motherhood in Bondage onto floral paper designed by the artist. Once written, the letter is pinned to the gallery wall. The stories of these 250,000 individuals will unfold as the project and exhibition evolves on the gallery wall.


This project is a collaboration; a converging of our stories, much like those in Motherhood in Bondage. The Write-In launches the exhibition with a community-led activation. Hartney asks volunteers to handwrite quotes from select letters in the book and pin the penned letter to the gallery wall. Throughout the exhibition, Hartney will be present at 21c furthering the development of the project, exhibition, and encouraging dialog.

The exhibition and residency will culminate with a Sewing Circle on August 26. Michelle Hartney and community volunteers will be embroidering select letters from the collection, hand-written by volunteers from across the country, onto fabric from antique wedding dresses. Each piece of fabric is dyed with dandelion—a flower that was picked for bouquets before it was deemed a weed—to remind us that things can change drastically, even in a lifetime. The artist will supply kits during the sewing circle and the first ten participants will receive a fine art print.

All events are a safe space for community dialog around reproductive rights.

Sign up to participate remotely on Michelle Hartney’s website here.