Exhibit: Akito Tsuda: Pilsen Days

This June, a new exhibit, Akito Tsuda: Pilsen Days will open on the 9th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. Featuring work by Japanese photographer Akito Tsuda, Pilsen Days highlights the unique spirit and daily life of the neighborhood in the 1990s.

About Akito Tsuda

Akito Tsuda arrived in Chicago from Japan in 1988 at the age of 21 and enrolled at Columbia College Chicago in 1990. On a class photography assignment, Tsuda encountered Pilsen, a primarily Mexican American neighborhood a few miles southwest of downtown. In Pilsen, he found himself readily accepted in the homes and lives of the residents. Despite knowing only some English and no Spanish, Tsuda developed a good rapport with the people he photographed and made over 500 striking and intimate images in collaboration with the community over the next four years.

Tsuda returned to Japan in 1994 after graduating and kept his Pilsen images in storage for 20 years, not sure if they were any good, or if anyone would be interested in them. In 2014, wanting to reconnect with the people of Pilsen, Tsuda began to post selected images on Facebook and Instagram, where the positive response was immediate. Excited viewers identified family members, friends, and other subjects of his photos, and shared stories about the experience of being photographed as well as about the lives of the people in the images.   

Through the support of several local community centers and cultural institutions, Tsuda has traveled back to Chicago multiple times to meet with residents and share his work. Chicago Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections Division acquired 118 of Tsuda’s photographs in 2021 and added them to its archives, making Tsuda's work available to all Chicagoans.

Akito Tsuda: Pilsen Days opens on the 9th floor exhibit hall at Harold Washington Library Center on June 3. Additional satellite exhibits will run during fall 2024 at other CPL locations. The exhibit is part of Art Design Chicago and made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Further support was provided by the Japan Foundation.

Programs and Events

Stay tuned for news of coming programs.

Past programs: