Nelson Gonzalez's front-yard Halloween display is so gruesome that parents on Bernard Street in Logan Square come over to complain every year. But every year, well over a thousand kids trick-or-treat down Bernard Street, many, if not most of them, just to see his horror show.
Gonzalez leads me to his shed at dusk to show me what's in store for his neighbors this year. Under the stark utility lights, an orange-suited convict with a lineman's build sits in an electric chair, a permanent howl stuck to his lumpy face. He's not a dummy. He's a robot that Gonzalez refers to as "electric chair guy," part three of his animated display that will also include a skeleton dropping from a gallows and another getting the French farewell--a life-size blade clacking down on his neck.
This Friday, on Halloween, from 4 to 10pm, Gonzalez will execute the three ghouls on a circuit run by a computer program, over and over, mercilessly. Electric Chair Guy is the one his neighbors have tried to censure. The scene starts with a warning siren, then the sound of an electric current. Pretty soon, the body is jolting back and forth in its straps and shrieking. When his soul departs, the contraption goes quiet, and a billow of smoke escapes from his eye sockets.
I don't know when I first heard someone say that the best part of travel is meeting people from other places, but I've heard it repeated enough that it must be a widely held opinion. I think of it often as a Chicago Greeter, meeting and spending time with people from all over. I'm getting the best part of travel without leaving home.
I've given tours to travelers from all over the United States and far away — Brazil, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, India, Israel, Singapore, Japan — I'd need to get out a map to recall more countries. "Tours" is probably too precise a word for what we Chicago Greeters do. We aren't required to follow a script or point out anything in particular, and we don't take out groups of strangers who arrive for a tour whose topic and time are posted on a website. Get-togethers with our guests, as we call the travelers, are more informal and personal. We take out people who are traveling together — a family, a couple, friends — or even a single person. They all know each other, and the greeter gets to know them. We take them to the places in Chicago we know and love best, impart some insider knowledge and talk about anything else they're interested in chatting with a Chicagoan about.
The Hyde Park Art Center, located at 5020 S Cornell Ave, is a wonderful addition to the Hyde Park neighborhood. The center holds exhibitions as well as artist residencies and classes for adults and children. While walking from the Bridgeport Coffee shop to the opposite side of the center, one cannot help but notice the new and alluring photography exhibition that the art center has recently installed. Typically, their is a large exhibition space which holds artwork, however, this presentation is located in a pathway and smaller gallery space--a perfect chance for us to take in the work of Ross Sawyers, a professor at Columbia College whose project beautifully documents "the rise and fall of the United States housing market."
At first glimpse, these images are abstract, surreal even. In almost every photograph, their is a glowing light drawing the viewer in, however, the light is too bright to fully contemplate what is there. Upon reading further into the images, one can conclude that Sawyers' work is focusing on the abandonment, manipulation and destruction of the housing market in the U.S. Traveling from the beginning to the exhibition until the end, the viewer is able to see the deconstruction of something that so familiar to all of us. In the beginning of his series, he depicts a closed space--claustrophobic and quiet--and by the end the image are torn and and tattered, yet beautiful and exposed.
The exhibition, Model Pictures, will have its opening reception Sunday, April 13 from 3 to 5pm. A gallery talk is also occurring on Wednesday, April 30 at 6pm.
Hyde Park art center is free and located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. For more information call 773-324-5520
Chicago's vibrant and diverse arts scene is undeniable; from theater to visual art to dance and beyond, the city boasts something for everyone, from all artistic walks of life.
Looking South of Roosevelt Road, a whole other cultural collective is firmly intact with venues including the South Side Community Art Center (SSAC), DuSable Museum of African-American History, Gallery Guichard, the Harold Washington Cultural Center and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, all off whom, in their respective right, serve as an integral part of the city's arts community.
For Heather Ireland Robinson, the new executive director of the Beverly Arts Center located in the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood, Chicago's arts and culture environment is simply part of her roots. "It's in my blood, said Robinson. "I love the arts in Chicago."
Robinson came on board the Beverly Arts Center in February; recently, I sat down with her to talk about her new position, support for the arts on the city's South Side, and her vision for the future of the BAC.
The Chicago Arts District in East Pilsen opens its galleries, artists studios and neighborhood shops for local people every second Friday of the month.
Last night, Rooms, a performance space, had its final performance from an ongoing series entitled, RITUAL NO. 10:WAVES. The ritual included two male performers--one was seated and one was pouring water from one bucket to the other. The seated man beat a steady dream-beat while the standing performer transitioned from a platform to the wooden floor. As pictured above, the individual poured water from one bucket to another for three steady hours.
Encircling the Logan Center walls and spreading out like a scroll are the six large projections by the cinematographer and photographer, Yang Fudong. The exhibition, both a film and installation, is titled East of the Que Village, and features a rural area where Fudong grew up.
Upon entering the gallery space, I was struck by black and white film projections on each wall. As I stood in the middle, slowly circling my body to face each screen, I noticed people, rural locations, isolation and most importantly, wild dogs. Lots and lots of ravenous and skeletal dogs--fighting over meat, sanity and space.
As I rotated my body to face each of the projections, I continued to glance back at the dogs. I can't remember if it was their loud growls and bellows that attracted me or their savage existence to simply survive, however, my interest was incredibly sparked for further observation. Once I watched the film for a great amount of time, I began to connect the story between the separate screens. The stray dogs and the humans are all tied together into one, creating a pseudo-documentary which is united because of one young crippled dog.
The East of the Que Village exhibition will be up until to Sunday, March 30 at the Logan Center which is located at 915 E. 60th St. Yang Fudong's film is a documentation of his memories and time spent in his hometown. The dogs were pre-ordered, the locations scouted, but the environment and individuals are very real. Check out more Logan Center events/news on their Facebook and Tumblr page.
February marks Black History Month, which has historically been designated as a time for celebration and observance of the achievements and contributions made by blacks in America. Culturally speaking, Chicago always boasts a diverse mix of special events, shows, and performances; here, I've listed a few highlights worth checking out.
Tohoku, the northeastern part of Japan's mainland, is home to some of Japan's most striking natural wonders and archeological sites dating back to the country's first settlers during the Jomon period (ca. 10,500-300 B.C.). Far from the robust and glamorous temptations of Tokyo, many of this region's lively festivals pay tribute to these roots.
One moment three years ago, however, changed this region's legacy forever. The March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster destroyed several coastal towns and forever linked the name Tohoku with the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Though some normalcy has returned to the damaged areas, the ensuing nuclear crises continues to displace many in Fukushima, and the rural areas of this area may never regain an economic base. In some towns, suicide rates have spiked dramatically and those who have not left for the big cities struggle to find jobs.
In October, I returned to my home town after living in Japan for three years. While it's been a strange adjustment in a lot of ways, so much about being back in Chicago feels familiar — good pizza, blistering winter weather, the potent urine-stench of certain El trains, and perhaps most evident to me, transportation woes.
Within the first few weeks of my return, I constantly heard not only about the Ventra debacle but also continuing debate about high-speed rail. Having lived in a country that built the world's first high-speed rail line and prides itself on precision in every aspect of life, I say with ease that when it comes to transportation, being in Japan spoiled me.
Next weekend, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance will host two outstanding Chicago-based dance companies, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater on Nov. 1 and Natya Dance Theater on Nov. 2. Each company will present a new work inspired by real-life stories with spiritual themes.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater creates world-class dance inspired by the African Diaspora in a community dedicated to nurturing artists, supporting human relationships and sharing common values through engaging in dance. Their new piece, Hadiya, created by choreographer Nicole Clarke-Springer will premiere on Friday.
Hadiya began as an exploration of spiritual connection. The name came from the real-life tragedy that occurred this past winter. "On January 29, 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot in the back and killed while standing with friends inside Harsh Park in Chicago," said Clarke-Springer. "The event really hurt me as a mother... I did not understand how something like this could happen. Where was the disconnect? It made me think of how I pray every morning over my daughters, just as I'm sure her mom did; and I know my mother prayed over me. I would have a spiritual guide, these guardian angels, like bodyguards."
Jim and Debbie Gallo own Shangri-La Vintage, 1952 W. Roscoe Ave. in Roscoe Village. Their store has a great selection of vintage clothes and lots of other fun items. But few people know that the Gallos are also the creators of the "Sloth Family Portrait," a photograph that has made the rounds on the web for years. Debbie Gallo explains how the viral photo came to be.
Let's see. I'll start with finding the sloth. Went to an estate sale probably early 1990s. It was the worst estate sale ever. They had no control, no numbers, no list, no honoring anything. By pure luck, Jim and I were still on the porch after everybody signed the list and took off to go to other sales. We just happened to be on the front porch when they all returned. The estate people said they were not honoring a list. It became a fistfight, a brawl of people throwing and hurtling themselves into the doorway. The company didn't let in just a few. There were 50 people trying to get through a small door at one time. A glass coffee table broke under the crush of people.
The sloth was there on the mantle. Jim goes, "Debbie, get that thing." I was leaning, trying to reach it and somebody else goes "yank" and they got it. I was like, "Ohhh so close." Afterward someone goes, "Oh Ed. Ed bought that. He's a nice guy, he'll sell it to you." So later I contacted Ed and he was like, "Sure I'll sell it to you." We met in a parking lot and money was exchanged. The sloth was handed over. So we brought it home and put it on our shelf.
The African Festival of the Arts, one of the largest events in the Chicago, returns for another Labor Day weekend; this cultural festival, now in its 24th year, will be held in Washington Park, 5100 S. Cottage Grove Ave., on the city's South Side.
In addition to arts, film and literary pavilions, this annual, end-of-summer tradition also includes a diverse array of culture via visual and sculpted art, dance and fashion, as well as musical performances by local, national, and international artists.
Before footworking, percolating, and jukin' became popular, there was steppin'--the smooth--and sometimes, slick and acrobatic--dance style that has been a major part of Chicago's dance culture for decades.
Steppin' is extremely synonymous with Chicago, especially among those of a particular age group; in fact, it is such a part of the fabric of the city's culture that much has been devoted to it, including competitions, balls, television shows, music, and fashion, not to mention you can't go anywhere on the south or west sides without a club having a night dedicated to it. Even the 1997 cult classic film Love Jones (filmed here), which starred Chicago native Larenz Tate, featured an entire scene about steppin'.
MATSUYAMA, JAPAN -- Toyama Prefecture, my former home in Japan before I moved south to Matsuyama, is part of Japan's yukiguni, or snow country. Every winter, snow falls almost endlessly in the country's central and northern prefectures facing the Sea of Japan, blanketing open rice fields and capping nearby mountains.
As much of a nuisance as it was to bike around my seaside town and walk to my junior high and four elementary schools in knee deep snow and black ice, the snow was also the setting to one of my favorite stories from Japan.
Last weekend, FlySpace Dance Series kicked off at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, marking the launch of a new and exciting resource-sharing consortium between four Chicago dance companies called FlySpace. In case you missed it, the series continues with another round of performances this weekend in the same place (Friday and Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 5pm). FlySpace is not a new dance company, but a new strategic partnership in Chicago between The Dance COLEctive, Hedwig Dances, Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre and Zephyr Dance. The four artistic directors of these companies--Jan Bartoszek, Margi Cole, Michelle Kranicke and Joanna Rosenthal--are also the four artistic directors of FlySpace, sharing directorship equally. Cole, founder and artistic director of The Dance COLEctive, answered some questions about what audiences can expect from FlySpace at their show this weekend, as well as in the future.
Oh, St. Patrick's Day in Chicago. It can't be beat. This year, why not celebrate with an age-old Chicago tradition: Improv Comedy.
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day weekend, ComedySportz will be hosting six comedy shows beginning Thursday, March 14th and running through Saturday, March 16th dedicated to the two great Irish traditions- drinking and joking around. Shows will build off Irish themed suggestions from the audience, so come ready with your Irish trivia! ComedySportz's ususal games, scenes, and songs will be altered for the special occasion. Make sure to show your Irish spirit and wear green to the show for the chance to compete on stage to win a St. Patty's Day prize, and as an added bonus, guests will get a souvenir picture of themselves in the clubroom.
Finally, Irish drinks won't be left out! ComedySportz's bar will be stocked with green beer, of course, and St. Patrick's Day staples -- shots of Jameson and cans of Guinness -- will also be on special for $5 each.
Coming this September, come on out for EXPO Chicago's EXPO Art Week 2013 (Sept. 16-22) in conjunction with Choose Chicago and Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This four-day event will be held in Navy Pier's Festival Hall and will host over 120 leading international galleries providing visitors with a mix of contemporary/modern art and design. Meanwhile, art and cultural festivities will take place all over the city.
During the Expo, keep and eye out and partake in citywide exhibits, gallery openings, installations, public art projects, music, theater and dance performances, and special dining experiences for residents and visiting international cultural tourists.
In celebration of Black History Month, and in conjunction with The Gordon Parks Foundation and the American Black Film Festival, Macy's will host special events at its stores across the country. Here in Chicago, Macy's on State Street will feature several free exhibits and events that cover film, dance, art and more.
Tonight, at 5:30pm, it's all about the love of cinema for film fans with "In Conversation," a discussion on the cultural impact and legacy of late, legendary director and photojournalist, Gordon Parks, who is credited with helping to shape and popularize the "blaxpoitation" movie genre, having directed cult classics such as Shaft and Shaft's Big Score. Held on the store's 7th floor and led by Emmy Award-winning actor Eriq LaSalle ("ER") and Lamman Rucker ("Meet the Browns"), the conversation will center on Parks' influence on black film and filmmakers as well as the current state and future of African-American cinema. In addition, photo installations of Parks iconic Life magazine images will be a featured exhibit.
Through its "Celebrating Diversity" program, the Chicago Public Library will honor black history with "African American History Month," a series of exhibits, workshops and performances that highlight the culture and historical achievements of African-Americans. In February, a variety of special events including panel discussions, film screenings, literary events and more, will be held at various branches across the city.
The month-long celebration kicks off today at 1pm with the opening program at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted, with a panel discussion on the history of African-Americans in Chicago, followed by performances from spoken word artist Ken'te Kizer and dance by M.A.D.D. Rhythms. Other highlights during the month include "Author Discussion with Myiti Sengstacke Rice," who will discuss her book, Chicago Defender, and author and radio host, Lowell Thompson, who will read from his latest work, African Americans in Chicago.
For a full schedule of the library's "African American History Month" activities, visit the website or call 312-747-4300.
Editor's Note: This is part of an occasional series of columns from former GB contributor Sheila Burt, who now lives in Japan. "Letters from Japan" will discuss social and urban issues Chicagoans face and how the Japanese do it differently. Previously: Biking in the Countryside and City.
MATSU YAMA, Japan — After more than two years in Japan, I've become a sort of unofficial ambassador for not only my country but also my hometown.
Although my main job here is to teach English, I also view it as my duty to teach others about America. I enjoy breaking down stereotypes and teaching my students about unique aspects of American culture, in particular the diversity of our population and land. In a mountainous country that is 98.5 percent homogenous and roughly the size of California, it comes as a shock to some of my students that walking down a street in a big city, you're likely to encounter Americans of different races, religions and sizes. America's diverse geography and spaciousness also surprises many of my students. The sheer size of my family's middle class house with a backyard elicits a series of ooohhs and ahhhs from my students, and whispers in Japanese that my family must be very rich.
They're also sometimes amazed that I don't eat McDonalds every day, prefer tea over coffee and am slim.
Walter Mosley is one of America's most celebrated novelists; with critically-acclaimed books and other works that have been adapted for the film, theater and television, the award-winning, bestselling author and playwright remains one of the most popular writers today.
Mosley, who has written over 30 books, achieved commercial fame for his crime fiction novel series starring the character "Detective Easy Rawlins"; from that series, Devil In A Blue Dress, which starred two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, was made for the big screen.
To pay homage to Mosley, the Congo Square Theatre welcomes the author to Chicago with "Mosley on the Square," Thursday, Jan. 17 through Saturday, Jan. 19. This 3-day tribute, with events held at the Harold Washington Library and the Chicago Cultural Center, will feature film screenings, staged readings, book signings and more.
Admission for all events is free; for a complete schedule, visit Congo Square Theatre or call 773-296-1108.
The mutual relationship between music and society, as well as its undeniable cultural connection to the world, has long existed; however, for many, the relationship is even more unique when it comes from the community, specifically, public housing.
From Chicago's own soul legend Jerry Butler in Cabrini Green to rapper Jay-Z's rise from Brooklyn's Marcy Houses to Diana Ross's days in Detroit's Brewster-Douglass housing projects, some of the most talented and notable artists from the music industry hail from our nation's public housing communities. To celebrate this legacy, the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM) will feature its latest exhibit, "The Sound, the Soul, the Syncopation," at the Expo 72 Gallery, 72 E. Randolph St., beginning Thursday, November 15. This technological and interactive exhibit will feature over 50 artists from musical genres including jazz, punk, gospel, country, hip-hop and more.
For NPHM Executive Officer Keith L. Magee, public housing's impact on the nation's musical landscape is important to explore. " 'The Sound, the Soul, the Syncopation' tells the dual story of the role of music in the creation and development of community and the role of community in the creation of music," said Magee. "This exhibit will reveal that for many of today's most popular artists, public housing was--and is--a place to call home."
The exhibition welcomes attendees to step into the colorful and exquisite realm of India's maharajas, who ruled the large nation from the 1700s to the 1940s. Their absolute rule, including immense military and religious influence, caused them to play a significant role in both the cultural and political history of India. To this day, they are still a very important national symbol.
Maharaja teaches its visitors the rich background behind India's royal duty, including stringent expectations and guidelines.
The exhibition features over 200 regal artifacts, including ornate jewelry, instruments, artwork, clothing, furniture, and weaponry. Experience the decadence first-hand by viewing the bejeweled every-day objects of India's "great kings."
Admission to Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts is included in The Field Museum's Discovery and All-Access passes.
Editor's Note: This is the first in an occasional series of columns from former GB contributor Sheila Burt, who now lives in Japan. "Letters from Japan" will discuss social and urban issues Chicagoans face and how the Japanese do it differently.
In late July 2010, I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Namerikawa, Japan, a small seaside town and a sister city of Schaumburg, to teach English. Namerikawa is a town of about 34,000 people in Toyama Prefecture on the west coast of Japan. Situated directly off the Sea of Japan, we were luckily unscathed by the terrible triple disasters of March 11, 2011 (311, as it is called here). Rice fields and seafood are in abundance here, and my town is famous for hotaruika, firefly squid with a natural fluorescent that cause them glow in the dark. Most people I have encountered here are very proud of Namerikawa's traditions, yet officials also take Namerikawa's modern relationship to Schaumburg very seriously, and many of my colleagues have visited Chicago and Schaumburg to promote cultural exchange. Chicago's pizza and the size of steaks in restaurants are somewhat of a legend here.
Although I enjoy having this Chicago connection, almost everything I encounter daily reminds me I am very far from home, and in a much more rural area than I have ever lived before — many Western foods, such as peanut butter and cheese, are hard to find or extremely expensive; Japanese grannies offer me candy when we wait for the supermarket to open on the weekend; and I'm constantly stared at by children everywhere I go. There is, however, one thing that consistently surprises me — how bike-friendly this small Japanese town is compared to any Chicago suburb I have ever lived in or visited.
The best way to shake off the "Monday Monday" blues isn't by sleeping (a commonly held belief) it's by good-cause-dancing. And this Monday at Sidetrack you can good-cause-dance all you want at Homotown 3: Last Dance, a benefit for About Face Theatre.
Homotown 3: Last Dance is in tribute to the late Etta James, Whitney Houston, and Donna Summer -- three important entertainers that all died this year (RIP, girls).The event will be hosted by Scott Duff and all proceeds will go to the About Face Youth Theatre.
Scheduled performers include Patrick Andrews, Aunt Lola Cabana "America's Favorite Aunt," E, John Francisco, Sami Grisafe, Dawn-Marie Hamilton, Danielle Kastner, Meghan Murphy, Sara Sevigny, Paul Oakley Stovall and Cynda Williams.
The event will take place this Monday, September 24 at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted Street. Tickets are $25 and that includes one drink ticket! Doors open at 6 pm, show begins at 7 pm. Buy tickets here.
The African Festival of the Arts, one of the city's largest cultural neighborhood festivals, kicks off today and runs throughout Labor Day weekend at Washington Park, 5100 S. Cottage Grove. The family-friendly festival, now in its 23rd year, boasts a variety of visual and sculpted art, fashion, dancing and workshops, as well as live entertainment from local, national, and international artists.
Among the highlights for this year's festival is hip hop star MC Lyte, who will sign copies of her new book, Unstoppable, and performances by Chicago's own Joan Collaso and the Eleven Divas, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, legendary house music DJs Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn of the Chosen Few, Nona Hendryx and more.
Tickets are $20-$30; for a complete schedule line-up and ticket information, visit the website or call 773-955-2787.
So in addition to being an arts and culture writer, I also am a performer and teaching artist. My proposal to record a rap album with my middle school students is in the running to win $5000 through GOOD Maker, a new online platform for catalyzing social change. GOOD has asked the community to submit ideas on how to help your community come alive through the arts, and will invite the public to choose a winner. If everyone could take a minute to vote it could make a huge difference to a group of kids in Logan Square.
After months of soliciting community feedback, the city unveiled a 64-page draft (and 32-page supplement) for the Chicago Cultural Plan on Monday. In its own words, the purpose of the plan is to "create a framework for Chicago's future cultural and economic growth and will become the centerpiece for the City's aim to become a global destination for creativity, innovation and excellence in the arts." As it currently stands, the Chicago Cultural Plan draft outlines 36 recommendations and over 100 initiatives to bolster arts and culture throughout Chicago's public, private, and non-profit sectors.
On the surface, the plan has a lot of exciting opportunities and ideas, such as eased zoning and permitting for artists, arts education in public schools, neighborhood participation in public art and cultural events, and numerous creative industry career training and networking opportunities. But despite all the rhetoric about "honoring authentic Chicago culture" and bring together neighborhoods and communities through public art, the plan also has several questionable aspects to it that may not be so beneficial to all Chicagoans.
When we talk about the Pitchfork Music Festival, we usually talk about the abundance of performers from across the country and globe. Perhaps we mention the heat or the the ongoing mini-events (CHIRP Record Fair, Flatstock) that provide a welcome respite during the long, intensive days spent walking from one end of the park to the next. This year, art installations by Chicago-based Matthew Hoffman and Andrea Jablonski in conjunction with Johalla Projects, aim to frame and entice the experience of festival goers. The Pitchfork Music Festival begins today, July 13, and runs through Sunday, July 15.
The DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., will hold its 38th Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15. In addition to crafts made by local designers and artists, this family-friendly, all-ages event will also feature dance and musical performances by Chicago acts including the Muntu Dance Theatre, Stick and Move Hip Hop Dance Company, Cyrus Hayes & Lady Lee Blues Band and much more. This free festival is from 1pm-8pm both days; for more information, contact the museum at 773-947-0600.
It's not that traditional architectural practices lack a focus on design and the execution of ideas. But after spending time in Tele Vision, the School of the Art Institute's final graduate exhibition featuring works from students in the Architecture, Interior Architecture, Designed Objects, and Fashion departments, it is apparent that like other departments in the school, SAIC students value the complete synthesis of the tangible and conceptual.
Ah Chicago! A town with many proud legacies; from championship sports teams, to shiny bean-shaped monuments and deep dish pizza, it's truly one of a kind. However, woven among the cultural tapestry that comprises Chicago, is the dark, blood-stained thread of corruption. It's a tradition well documented with every imprisoned official and unearthed scandal. TimeLine Theatre Company's new drama, My Kind of Town, reflects some of that seedy underbelly in its humanizing story of injustice, torture and innocence. The company is also offering several platforms for communal discussions with experts about today's culture of law and order as a whole.
Written by veteran investigative journalist John Conroy, My Kind of Town revolves around one imprisoned man's fight for justice. The play is inspired by real-life stories of victims, police officers, prosecutors and families who've been affected by allegations of torture and corruption.
Cher Horowitz walks down a hallway wearing a yellow plaid skirt and matching cropped jacket. The outfit -- part schoolgirl innocence, part precise tailoring and professional realness -- is a perfect summary of a film (and a decade) that can be best defined by its lack of classification. Clueless, a film more often recognized for its banter and "Before They Were Famous" celebrities, was radical because it refused to play by the rules. Director and writer Amy Heckerling's film based on Jane Austen's Emma was less a contemporary update and more of an independent, one-of-a-kind "world creation" of youth, debauchery, language and style.
In their first collection as THE MALL, Ready-to-Stare jewelry designer Alysse Dalessandro and vintage seller Matt Kasin (aka the Gaudy God) created and curated a an Etsy-based concept store of highly aesthetic and idea-driven handmade accessories and vintage clothing inspired by the film as well as other '90s teen cult classics such as Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and Spice World. This is not nostalgia, for nostalgia elicits a desire to return to the emotions born in a past era. Rather, THE MALL understands and utilizes the films as important cultural references that are as valuable and inspirational now as they were more than a decade ago. The two will debut their collection this Friday at a launch event at ZaZaZoo Nail Salon.
126 years ago this month, workers and reform activists in Chicago were reeling from the aftermath of what remains the most influential and memorialized event in American labor history. On the evening of May 4, 1886, a spontaneous protest took shape at Haymarket Square (Randolph and Desplaines, Fulton River District) as labor leaders learned of police and corporate aggression against striking workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company on the previous day. The strikers had every intention of remaining peaceful; few that night had any idea they were marching into history.
The legacy of May 4, 1886, still resonates with labor activists and allies today. Here, handwritten notes and transcripts of condemned strikers' speeches adorn a statue commemorating the Haymarket Affair near the corner of N. Desplaines and W. Couch Place.
Back then, Chicago was acknowledged as the center of the American labor movement. The major issue of the time was the eight-hour workday, which national labor groups had adopted as a cause célèbre two years prior. Horrors! Anarchy might surely reign!
Last Spring, Gapers Block documented the art installation meets community-gathering project from Christopher Tourre titled PUBLIC BREWERY. During that project at the now-defunct Spoke Residency Project Space, Tourre revealed plans to create his own brewery based on some of the techniques he demonstrated and assisted others with during the multi-week project.
This year, Chicagoans were introduced to Arcade Brewery. According to Arcade, their goal is to "create amazingly delicious craft beer with the help of [their] customers." Similar to Tourre's PUBLIC BREWERY where participants could provide their own ingredients to help brew their own beer or soda, customers will be able to create different aspects of beer production from packaging and labels to certain ingredients to be included seasonally.
For Tressa Thomas, founder and artistic director of the ThYck Troupe Organization, when it comes to the treatment of full-figured women in arts and entertainment, the industry still has a way to go. "Hollywood is still not ready to embrace the potential of the full-figured market," said Thomas. "I'm starting to see the winds of change come, though." Here, the model, singer and actress talks about the organization, its mission to eradicate negative images of plus-sized women, and her connection to a certain Chicago-born filmmaker and director.
ThYck Troupe; Photo Credit: David Shepherd Photography.
How you did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
I've been in the entertainment industry ever since I was about 5-years-old. I started out singing and had my first live band by the time I was seven and was in my first feature film by the time I was eleven.
You had a live band when you were only seven?
Yes, I did. It was a trio, actually. I did live performances at probably every festival and outdoor concert in Chicago for about three or four summers straight. My mom really got me out there and helped me build my chops as a singer because I was singing all over the place. That was kind of how my career started and of course, I started to garner attention because of that, and the rest is history.
It is not that Marc Bamuthi Joseph sees the world differently, but that he sees the world - and some of the world's problems and challenges - more clearly than others. Much of his past work and his current performance project investigates and dissect issues of the environment for the underserved and communities of color. The rise of the green movement - despite the movement's power and importance - has also created a limited, often one-sided interpretation of and reaction to environmental issues.
"It became clear," Bamuthi began, "that there was a homogeneous population with a certain kind of literacy and a certain kind of vocabulary that bordered on jargon in terms of environmental consciousness and environmental actions."
Bamuthi's latest project at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA), red, black and GREEN: a blues, a multimedia performance work combining text, dance, and visuals and in collaboration with Chicago-artist Theaster Gates, addresses the discrepancies of the goals and actions of the environmental and green movements with the various communities often ignored.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA) today announced a gift of $10 million from Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. Long-time supporters of both the arts and the MCA, Edlis also serves as an officer of the MCA Board and an MCA Trustee. Edlis led the museum's Collection Committee from 2004 to 2008. Neeson serves on the Exhibition Committee.
In 2000, Edlis and Neeson gave a major gift to establish the Edlis/Neeson Art Acquisition Fund that has enabled the MCA to acquire significant works for the collection, including Maurizio Cattelan's Felix (2001), Thomas Schutte's Ganz Grosse Geister (Big SpiritsXL) (2004), Jenny Holzer's For Chicago (2007), and Olafur Eliasson's Your eye activity field (2009).
Mortified, famous for allowing adults to expunge their inner-child shame since 2002, is bringing the show to Chicago for the filming of their new documentary, Mortified Nation. Shay DeGrandis produces Mortified in Chicago.
Brand-spankin' new multimedia book project Lightness & Darkness will throw its release party and first performance on January 28 at Happy Dog Gallery (1542 N. Milwaukee), a Wicker Park apartment gallery and alternative art space.
A still from Rooftop Wars, which will be featured on Cine Latino this Saturday. Photo courtesy of CAN-TV
For those of us who prefer to stay in on amateur night, Chicago's (fantastic) CAN-TV has a new program called "Cine Latino," featuring short Latino films every Saturday at 8pm. Although "Cine Latino" features films made from all over the world (From Peru to Spain), this Saturday's program features a film shot in Pilsen! More info here.
For the past 13 years, the National Organization of Women has celebrated Love Your Body Day in October. It seems like a simple concept; set aside a day to highlight the insanity of today's beauty standard and improve girls' and women's self confidence. However the past 13 years has proven how stubborn those old beauty "standards" are and how damaging this can be to our society.
Thirteen years later, we are not just dealing with airbrushing and fad diets. There is also the lack of women of color in the media and advertising, models' bodies shaved down to mimic Barbie doll proportions and the limited portrayal of women in the media as sex on a stiletto. (Learn more on NOW's website.)
Loving your body has turned into a complex and occasionally contradictory mission: loving your curves but being a healthy weight, climbing the corporate ladder occasionally in heels and a short skirt, owning your sexuality and matching VS black lingerie.
To open the dialogue more and continue a discussion that quite honestly will all wish didn't have to be brought up annually, NOW created the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival, with bloggers from all over the United States contributing their thoughts on how they love their bodies and what they hope for the future.
I know we all wish that these insane beauty standards would have gone out of fashion with the thong sticking out of the back of the low-rise jeans, but they didn't. They are still here relentlessly attacking girls' and women's (and more recently men's) body images. So check out the Carnival, make some comments and let's start talking about how we can best love our bodies and ourselves (minus the thong out of the back of jeans, that's just tacky).
Get a head start on Chicago Artist Month this weekend with the kickoff event -- the Ravenswood Art Walk, which will feature the work of over 200 local artists, including over 40 open studios. This opening night event this Friday will also include live performances and some damn good food by some of Ravenswood's best restaurants.
The Friday night event will kickoff at 7pm in and around the Ravenswood Event Center (4011 N. Ravenswood), with ample spillage out into the street (Ravenswood Ave. itself will be shut down between Montrose and Sunnyside for a street fair)(Stop by the GB booth!). The fun won't stop Friday, though, so make sure to stop by on Saturday and/or Sunday for more festivities. Bring the kids. Details here. MORE details, including a schedule of performances, can be found here. Click here for a map. Best of all, admission is FREE!
It would be easy to blow off Miss Representation as just another panties-in-a-bunch feminist documentary; and I imagine a good majority of the penis-clad population might do just that and not read past the word feminist. But at the risk of sounding like a naggy bitch, please don't. Miss Representation is not just another "Annie get you guns" feminist mantra meant only to enrage the vags and turn us all into lesbians. Miss Representation is the story about our society; it is a story about the increasingly bruised and bloody relationships between the media and the women; and the lesson of this story is how shitty media hurts vags and penises alike. So if you have a vagina or just love vaginas in all their equal glory, this documentary is your story as well.
Through simple facts, complex personal stories and embarrassingly real media clips, Miss Representation shows how the media is permanently damaging the self esteem and future of hundreds girls in direct and indirect, obvious and subtle, disturbing and accepted ways. But beyond telling the story, the movie tell viewers to stop whining about the insanity of man-made media, stop accepting Barbie (or Bratz dolls for the newer generations) as inevitable and make a change, particularly through their own traitorous wallets.
In hopes of inspiring the women of Chicago to act, the YWCA put together a screening of the new documentary. The first screening sold out in weeks, so the YWCA put together another screening, which sold out as well. The packed house at last Thursday's showing included Joycelyn Winneke from the Tribune, Shia Kapos from Crain's as well as an entire Girl Scout troop. They were all there to see the show but also to make a change.
Local online and print art publication Jettison Quarterly made a splash at NEXT as part of the larger Art Chicago weekend with their newly formatted print edition of the magazine. Their latest issue -- featuring artist Scott Reeder and former MCA curator Tricia Van Eck -- promises to deliver on locally focused news, art and culture. To celebrate their latest release, the publication will be joining Old Style and Longman & Eagle for a free block party on Kedzie and Schubert. The event will feature a pig roast and dance party with tunes spun by DJs from the ever-popular Windy City Soul Club. The What's Happening!! block party takes place this Sunday, September 4 from 4pm to 10pm.
Additional copies of Jettison Quarterly will be available Sept. 9 at the Kavi Gupta gallery as part of the opening night for the fall art season, the Renegade Craft Fair on Sept. 10-11, and at various cafes and venues in the city.
The wildly popular and successful MDW Fair of last spring is happening again this October 21-23 at the Geolofts. Formed as a collaborative project between the Public Media Institute, Roots & Culture and threewalls, the MDW Fair was conceived as a showcase for independent art initiatives, spaces, galleries and artist groups from the Chicago metropolitan area -- basically what NEXT was eight or nine years ago, but on a larger scale.
The demurely high-polish gem of Chicago poetry and literary culture destinations, The Danny's Tavern Reading Series has hit its ten-year mark of stand-out readings. Front man and tireless lynchpin organizer since its inception, DJ and poet Joel Craig sat down recently to answer a few quick questions about his favorite readings, what happens next with the series, and some of his picks for the best in Chicago's poetry and literary art.
Ten years. What has been your favorite reading of all time and why?
We've had so many exceptional readings, some expected, others surprising in their effect, so naming a favorite is hard. If pressed, I'd have to go with James Tate and Dara Wier. James is one of my heroes. Had I not run into his poetry at an early age, I may not have come to love the art form as I do. He opened a huge window for me. He's such an established name, a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner--he didn't have to come to Chicago on his own dime to read at a tavern, but he and Dara really wanted to. James is not a young man, and he had such a hard time seeing in our darkened space, but he pushed through with much levity. They were both on fire.
A burlesque dancer at "Starving Artist". Photo by Andrew Huff.
The Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a swanky event last Thursday called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where eight Chicago's top chefs and artists were paired up to create a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, The Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.
The results were delicious, both gastronomically and visually. Between finger foods and swigs of champagne, I spoke with each of the artists about their experiences working on this project. (Read interviews with the chefs over in Drive-Thru.)
Influential humorist and art commentator Hennessey Youngman will visit the Windy City on September 7 to join "The Dialogue," an annual live-chat panel on "museums, diversity, and inclusion" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Theater. This year's event with Youngman will focus on Millennials and their effect on museum issues, alongside "Chicago's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Michelle T. Boone, and our newest curator, Naomi Beckwith, formerly of The Studio Museum in Harlem." While some concerns with Youngman's gender politics have been voiced among those in the art crowd, his highly entertaining video segments are largely appreciated for gleefully punching holes in otherwise hyper-serious art world conventions. The MCA's press materials describe Youngman as "You Tube's most followed art theorist," and points out Art in America's description of his satirical Art Thoughtz program performances as "Ali G with an MFA."
The characterization seems apt. In response to this writer's recent romantic breakup and search for art to make/look at appropriate to the moment, Youngman had the following hilarious advice (intentional spelling errors and grammatical breakages left in): "Break up art? Break into her/his house and lay naked in their bed until they come home from work and recite TLC's "Waterfalls" while they call the police. Videotape the whole ordeal, show the video of you waiting in bed on one channel projected onto the wall, then the police beating and crying on another channel, but way smaller. This way, the audience connects more with your interpretation of your ex's arrival, and your humiliation is underplayed and dismissible, also take every Macbook photobooth photo you've ever taken with them and make a rapid slideshow of the images to enduce nausia."
The Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Program and reception $35. Program only: nonmembers $10; MCA members $8; students $6. If you can't make it to the live event, check out the Live Tweet at @mcachicago, using the #thedialogue to participate in the conversation via tweet. Twitter comments can also be followed live during the event at the MCA's website.
(left) one sixtyblue Pastry Chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower and
(right) Artist Lauren Brescia. Photo by Jon Shaft Photography.
This Thursday the Chicago Artists Coalition is putting on an event pairing local visual artists with local chefs in which they create original works (food & art) inspired by one another's aesthetic. The artwork created will be exhibited and auctioned at the event, while the chefs' creations are eaten. Sorry, chefs.
Tickets aren't cheap -- $100 for CAC members, $125 for the rest of us, $150 at the door -- but it should be a great opportunity for hobnobbing and stuffing your face with some of the best food Chicago has to offer. For more information, click here.
There's a lot going on this weekend but if you haven't cemented your Saturday plans yet, consider going to Comfort Station's kegger. Perhaps the best (and most obvious) abandoned-building-turned-art space ever, Comfort Station took over the little building in the heart/crotch of Logan Square that was vacant for so long, it became invisible to most of us.
Their party this Saturday will feature music, food by Homage Street food truck, face-painting, croquet, ping-pong, quirky film and slide show screenings, and, of course, good-ole' outdoor boozing. A suggested $10 donation gets you a cup for a night of Revolution beer. All proceeds from your donation benefit Comfort Station -- they're raising funds for storm windows to extend their active year into the cooler months and track lighting to keep spotlights on the artwork.
The party is this Saturday, August 20 from 6pm to midnight-ish at Comfort Station: The Keel/Coulson Sideyard @ 3016 W. Logan Blvd. For details, click here.
Although the more underground, independent, and emerging Chicago art scenes and artists might be overshadowed by larger fairs and urban coasts, alternative events still foster and support local practitioners. BUILT Festival, a two-day event founded by Chicago artists Tristan J.M. Hummel and co-produced by David Dvorak, allows contemporary artists and curators the space to transform unusual, transportable, and seemingly temporary environments - shipping containers - into alternative and guerrilla venues in an empty lot on Milwaukee avenue.
The theme for this initial festival is "urban culture" and audiences will get the chance to witness more than 100 projects, exhibitions, and performances inside and surrounding these containers from local spaces and institutions such as the Chicago Urban Art Society, Spudnik Press, and the Chicago Artists Coalition. In addition to the array of visual and performative art projects, visitors can listen to music by musicians and DJ's such as White Mystery, Raj Mahal, and Tim Zawada.
Tickets for BUILT Festival can be purchased online or at the door for $10. All-weekend BUILT VIP passes are also available online today and include $6 worth of drink tickets. BUILT Festival takes place in the empty lot at 1767 N. Milwaukee this Friday from 5:00pm-10:30pm and Saturday from 12:00pm-10:30pm.
Meyers Ace Hardware Store, located at 315 E. 35th Street, the former home of the Sunset Café.
"Take a moment to imagine what it must have been like to be in this space when it was a club," Amanda Scotese says. We crowd around and listen to the recording of Louis Armstrong's "Sunset Stomp" coming from Amanda's iPad as patrons of the hardware store file past us, gardening supplies and various brick-a-brack in their hands. Posted next to the cash register is a homemade sign that reads: "Can't pay for it today? Lay-Away." We are inside Meyers Ace Hardware on 35th street in Bronzeville, the site of the former Sunset Café where Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, and other jazz luminaries played long ago. Most of what used to be the Sunset Café is long gone, but in the back office there's still a mural that was part of the jazz club, and if you stand quietly in the middle of the store and use your imagination, you can try to picture what it must have been like back then.
Detail of the mural in the back office of Meyers, a relic of the building's former use.
In 1987, a few Alliance Française de Chicago students started meeting for drinks after their business French course. When the course ended, they continued to meet. Now, almost 25 years later, the weekly tradition continues to thrive, transformed from a private gathering into a virtually public entity that has by this time hosted, according to its organizers' rough estimates, several thousand participants from across the globe.
"We've had Haitians, Canadians, Romanians, Russians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Vietnamese, people from Cote d'Ivoire, Belgium, Switzerland — people from all over," said Sheri Ard, the only remaining original member of the group, who serves as its unofficial leader. "Though I don't think we've ever had someone from Luxembourg."
One recent Wednesday evening, the first person to arrive hailed from Bosnia. Jasmina Popaja, who came to the United States 10 years ago and now studies law at the University of Iowa, was in town for a summer internship and had searched the Internet to find a fill-in for the group of friends with whom she practices French in Iowa City. She found the Wednesday gathering listed at Meetup.com and, around 7pm, walked up to the second floor of the Portillo's restaurant at Ontario and Dearborn, where participants have been meeting for several years (the group has outlived more than one of the other restaurants that have hosted it over the past two and a half decades). Soon after Popaja sat down at the row of checker-clothed tables the group always occupies, others started to arrive, unleashing a series of bonsoirs and ça vas. Though there weren't any native French speakers among the 20 people who came and went during the next two and a half hours, they broke into English only rarely, usually to utter a single, difficult-to-translate phrase or proper noun: "crowdsourcing," say, or Rogers Park.
Music mural at Prescott Elementary School. All photos by Alan Lake unless otherwise noted.
Chicago is well known for dynamic architecture, but many of our public spaces are also transformed by expressive works of art -- some rock for our solid. "Cloud Gate" and interactive video fountains hold court at Millennium Park. Just across Randolph Street, a sound sculpture resides. As the wind blows, so hum long metal wheat-like reeds that sway in a faux field as if an aeolian harp.
Chagall's "Four Seasons" mosaic mural dominates a plaza nearby. Picasso and Miro face off at Daley Plaza while Dubuffet watches from the Thompson Center as Claes Oldenburg bats clean up. The list is long and impressive. Frank Gehry, Sir Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Isamu Noguchi and Frank Stella to name a few.
Marching Toward Justice: The History of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is on display now at John Marshall Law School, is about much more than the milestone amendment, passed in 1868, which granted automatic citizenship to anyone born in the United States. The colorful, maze-like panels and giant black-and-white photographs cover more than 350 years of African-American history, from the arrival of slaves in the Americas in 1619 through the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ended legal segregation.
Tomorrow afternoon the Hyde Park Art Center hosts part four in their series of neighborhood-centric gallery tours -- Artist-Run Spaces in Garfield Park. Hop on your bike and explore the warehouse artist studios and artist run spaces on the west side. Starting at noon at my favorite coffee shop, The Star Lounge (2521 W. Chicago), the tour will visit some of the city's newest exhibition venues and see the work of emerging artists, followed by a barbecue (at my house!). Visit hydeparkart.org for details (the site says the tour is over at 3 but a little bird (and a bunch of fliers) told me it goes 'till 6pm).
Tonight at 7pm, Art In These Times, the community gallery at In These Times' office (2040 N. Milwaukee Ave.), presents a new exhibition of posters and photographs from ongoing labor demonstrations in Wisconsin that began on February 14, 2011. The exhibition is a collaboration with Nicolas Lampert and will feature prints and placards he has collected as an active participant in the labor and community rallies in Madison. The Hard Times Trio, a jazz group which performs classic labor songs, will perform. The artwork will be on display through the summer and fall.
The exhibition features screenprints and off-set posters from rallies in Madison and Milwaukee and features prints by Nicolas Lampert, Colin Matthes, Eric Drooker, Jesus Barraza, Josh MacPhee, Jesse Graves and others. The photography of Lauren Cumbia (who co-organizes the gallery space with Daniel Tucker), Brandon Pittser and the Public Collectors archive will also be exhibited.
Check out this recent report from Wisconsin by curator Nicolas Lampert and Dan S. Wang for more information about the movement to defend collective bargaining rights.
I spent the better part of last night scrubbing pieces of pasta dough from my skin. Every few minutes, I noticed a rogue piece in the thick strands of my too-long bangs or embedded in the crease of my elbow. Earlier in the evening, I attended one of Dabble's classes (How to Make Fresh Pasta) and the experience was pleasant for this curious attendee. Growing up, my experience with the classic dish was limited to dry spaghetti and my mother's tomato meat sauce. As I've grown older, my tastes have expanded exponentially but my experiences making food from scratch is still a work in progress.
Four youth winners of Graffiti Zone's Next Top Artist Contest will be honored tomorrow night at GZ's Spring Fundraiser. The event will take place at Chicago Urban Arts Society: 2229 S. Halsted from 6 to 9pm. Hosted by Chicago hip hop performer Philip Morris, described as "one of the ultimate word smiths of hip-hop (Skope Magazine)," the evening will feature catering by Green Cuisine, open bar, silent auction and performances by Opera-Matic with sound by Mark Messing. Ample free parking is available behind the building off of Cermak. Tickets are $35 at the door, or online at graffitizone.org. All proceeds to benefit Graffiti Zone, a five-year old non-profit arts organization serving kids from Humboldt Park. More info about the fundraiser can be found here.
When violence goes viral, as happened most notably in some of the raw video footage depicting and sharing with the world the outpouring of protests during the Middle East's Arab Spring earlier this year, it can be difficult to accept the images we see and the sounds we hear as reality. Our mind chooses to resist the Hollywood tendency to place ourselves in the lead "character's" shoes and we distance ourselves from those living another life, speaking a different language and living in a foreign land. We retweet and move on to the next slice of scandal, society or, if we're lucky, substance amongst the digital deluge.
But once one watches the video depicting the violent April 18 attack of 22-year-old trans woman Chrissy Lee Polis in a Baltimore area McDonald's, it's hard to forget the sound of her screams amidst a backdrop of ambivalence, at best, and egging on, at worst. It's difficult to erase the image of Polis' hair being pulled and her body being dragged along the floor by her teenage assailants, who leapt on her in the restaurant's restroom. It's impossible to un-cry the tears that may shed upon watching the attacks coming to an end only after an older woman interjected -- and the restaurant's employees warned the attackers that police were, finally, en route to the scene.
Thomas Roach, 86 plastic chairs uncomfortable to stack but ill, 2011.
Tonight begins a two-part reading series at Alderman Exhibitions featuring selections from William T. Vollman's short story collection, The Atlas. A companion to the gallery's current exhibition, Thomas Roach: New Drawings, tonight's reading will also include a discussion and reception. Vollman's stories, often quick and glinting descriptions of brief moments in passing, are a compliment to Roach's drawings which often evoke an ethereal and visceral quality. Although the event is free, guests are encouraged to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org. PDF's of the selected stories are available for each session and copies can be sent to you upon request in the RSVP.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 7pm
William T. Vollmann, The Atlas, PART 1
Selected stories for Part 1:
The Back of My Head
It's Too Difficult to Explain
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22, 7pm
William T. Vollmann, The Atlas, PART 2
Selected stories for Part 2:
Where Are You Today
Last Day at the Bakery
Alderman Exhibitions is located at 350 North Ogden, 4th floor.
A trailer for Sketchbook 9, to give you an idea of what Sketchbook is.
Collaboraction theater company's wildly popular annual Sketchbook festival begins tonight at the Chopin Theater. Sketchbook is a lively multi-media event, combining several art forms including theater, music, visual art, new technologies and bombastic partying, anchored by a show that features several short plays. Selected from hundreds of submissions, Sketchbook brings together the collective talents of more than two hundred pioneering directors, designers, actors, musicians and artists from Chicago and around the country for a jaw-dropping evening of creativity, experimentation, and celebration.
There are many ways to a teenager's heart; you just have to know where to start. Co-op Image Group started with a few video cameras and has kept the kids interests by adding stencils, samplers, molten glass and hot sauce.
It all began in 2002 when Mike Bancroft (who was working for Street Level Youth Media at the time) and his sister, Bridget, were working on a project with the SLYM kids called "Post Our Bills." The idea was to use boarded up buildings as exhibition opportunities -- rather than looking at plywood-covered windows, wouldn't you rather look at paintings? Although they didn't get a lot of cooperation from the city, they attracted a lot of volunteers and positive attention from the neighborhood, and before they knew it they received a donated building and a community garden -- now the Campbell Co-op Garden (1357 N. Campbell St.).
If Chicago is a beer city, then our status is one that is in a state of flux. Although our selection is on par with other cities of similar size, our mass breweries are far outpaced by towns with more-established emerging and DIY breweries. However, the number of smaller breweries continues to grow with each year and home brewing has increasingly expanded as an option for the individual or groups more deeply invested in a hands-on and locally sourced means of food production.
For his latest community-oriented project, artist Christopher Tourre aims to bring the culture of the home brewery to the masses. Entitled PUBLIC BREWERY, Tourre organized a temporary and experimental brewery that includes a series of workshops and gatherings at the Spoke's Residency Project Space that will allow guests to brew their own beer or soda using either their own ingredients or locally produced food items such as cherries, honey, and crabapple blossom syrup.
Well, ready or not, he's here and said he wants to go as loud as he can to tell stories through his work in a non-traditional way.
"You have to have a home base to blow up," said Brantley. "I've been blessed and fortunate enough to build a base here and now I'm ready to conquer the rest of the world."
The Chicago native said this city is the best place to establish that home base. Brantley said his recent solo exhibition, Afro-Futurism: Impossible View, served as a major stepping stone in his young career, as the first African-American under the age of 30 (at the time) to be featured at the Zhou B. Art Center in Bridgeport-- not far from his stomping ground of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. In this exhibit, his illustrations depict stories surrounded by his creation of a superhero named Flyboy and other goggle-eyed creatures--children specifically--and their emotions from today's socioeconomic times and a group of World War II unsung heroes-- The Tuskegee Airmen.
Chicago's largest art fair, Art Chicago, has taken a hit in recent years due to mismanagement and other logistical issues. For the local art community, the fair - now a massive four-day event encompassing multiple floors of the Merchandise Mart - often isolates or ignores the eclectic, diverse, and ever-changing Chicago and Midwest-based art galleries, publications, and institutions.
Three of Chicago's most celebrated art entities-- threewalls, Roots and Culture, and Public Media Institute-- present the MDW Fair, a celebration and gathering of Chicagoland area independent art initiatives, spaces, galleries, publishers, and artist groups, and something of a response to the much larger fair which takes place the following weekend. Running April 23 and 24, the fair aims to "demonstrate the diversity, strength, and vision of the people/places making it happen in the art ecology of our region."
The award-winning and unbelievably-touching documentary, Bouncing Cats, is screening tomorrow at 5pm at the Wicker Park Art Center as part of the International Movies & Music Festival. The film follows Crazy Legs (of the Rock Steady Crew) as he unifies and empowers youth in Uganda, teaching them to breakdance through his "Breakdance Project Uganda".
The film, directed by Nabil Elderkin, narrated by Common and featuring interviews with Will.I.Am, Mos Def and K'Naan, has won four awards on the film festival circuit recently including the Audience Award for "Best Feature Documentary" at the Bahamas International Film Festival this past December.
Tomorrow's event will include interview opportunities and a live Q&A session with Crazy Legs after the film screening.
CIMM Festival Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at cimmfest.org. Donations for Breakdance Project Uganda are accepted at bouncingcats.com, where you can also find more information about the film and the Breakdance Project Uganda.
Humboldt Park art and community center Rumble Arts (maybe you remember last year's feature story profiling them?) is in trouble because the family-owned pawnshop that provides its primary source of funding is in danger of being overthrown by a Cash America. It's like a civil war over there. Support the little guys! Support arts programming!
Attend the Town Hall Hearing TONIGHT at 6pm at the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, (1400 N. Sacramento Ave.) and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals, April 15 at 2pm at City Hall, (121 N LaSalle St, 3rd Floor). The hearing on April 15 determines if Cash America will receive a business license. If you need a ride, a bus will depart Rumble Arts (3413 W. North Ave.) at 12:45pm to travel downtown. A second bus will load at Fullerton Red Line (943 W. Fullerton Ave.) at 12:45pm.
If you haven't made plans for Friday yet, consider buying a ticket for Urban Gateways' 50th Anniversary Gala &/or Gala Undone After Party. Gala starts at 6pm, and tickets are a steep $350, but the after party (Gala Undone) is affordable for normal folks, with tickets going for $40 in advance or $50 at the door. The event will feature veteran Urban Gateways artist James "Casper" Jankowiak, who will create an interactive mural during the event, a performance by Urban Gateways touring artists and resident performing ensemble of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, BAM! and a late-night dance party to the music of DJ Mister Wolf (of Only Children). Also on hand will be plenty of munchies, an open bar and a silent auction.
Gala Undone will take place this Friday, April 1 from 9:30 to midnight at Venue One (1044 W. Randolph). More details here.
Photographer Todd Diederich has been documenting the city's ball scene as part of an ongoing project funded by The Propeller Fund. Earlier this month, he arrived at a South Side karate studio for a ball, and instead found himself at a seminar on "dry humping" for lesbians.
This Saturday night Collaboraction will throw its most revolutionary fundraising party to date with their 9th annual CARNAVAL: Let Them Eat Cake! party at the Double Door. The venue will be transformed into a party battle zone with live musical performances, radical costumes, burlesque, immersive theatrical interludes, two floors of dancing and bottomless drinks.
"With revolution in the air, Collaboraction gathers its diverse and vibrant colony of artists to create an immersive artistic experience that vibrates with bacchanalian insurrection. Part party and part living art installation, our 9th annual CARNAVAL will be a debaucherous deconstruction of the history of revolution in France and throughout the globe," said Anthony Moseley, Artistic and Executive Director of Collaboraction, in the press release.
In his debut one-man show, Tim Paul's Retarded, Annoyance Theatre veteran Tim Paul reveals what happens behind the closed doors of a group home. Supplemented by pop-cult video segments to add context, he recounts true (and horrifying) stories from his years working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders, exploring society's all-too-comfortable relationship with the r-word. The result is a challenging piece of theater with its fair share of tongue-in-cheek laughs.
Tim Paul's Retarded opened last Sunday and will run every Sunday at 9:30pm through April 3 at The Annoyance Theatre (4830 N. Broadway). Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at theannoyance.com or by calling the box office at 773-561-4665.
If you're looking for a little lively art talk today, look no further than UIC's Gallery 400. Today at 5pm they're hosting an artist's talk with Kalup Linzy-- a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes videos, performances, and music. I am not familiar with his work but it sounds like a lot of fun, and (potentially) part of the Post Black movement-- one of the most exiting contemporary art movements, albeit underrepresented. (Pulled from the press release:)
His satirical narratives--inspired by soap operas, telenovelas and Hollywood melodramas--deal with race, sexuality, gender, class, and the art world itself. Serving as writer, director, cinematographer, editor, and actor, he performs, often in drag, a series of memorable, defiant characters. Simultaneously salacious and poignant, Linzy's works fuse dramatic intensity with melodramatic irony and gut-busting comedy.
Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. in the West Loop. For more information about Linzy, visit his website.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's re-vamped monthly party, First Fridays, continues to combine music, visual arts, and exclusive events. March's theme is Robots and includes selected tunes by DJ Josh Madden and an appearance by Billy Bot of Slideshow Theatre.
Compared to previous iterations of the event, March's celebration is fantastically heavy on the museum's bread and butter, the arts. Club Nutz return to the museum after a week-long summer residency as part of Here/Not There. In its latest presentation, visitors can view a robot stand-up comedian, a robotic magic show, an open mic, and DJ dance parties. Visitors also get a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of artist Kirsten Leenaars' soap opera based on MCA staff members. As well, Takeshi Moro, the latest artist in the UBS 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work series open his solo exhibition of photographic works and designed objects.
First Fridays: Robots takes place Friday, March 4 from 6 pm to 10 pm. Tickets are $10 for MCA members, $13 in advance, or $18 at the door. All tickets include museum admission, live entertainment, and hors d'oeuvres. For more information, visit mcachicago.org.
This is the story of Chicagoans Mohamed Ali Kabba and his sister Fatima, refugees from Sierra Leone.
Every year thousands of refugees migrate to the United States. In 2009, the Chicago area accepted around 2,500 new refugees alone. Organizations like Interfaith Refugee and Immigrant Ministries here in Chicago support them for three months. In that time refugees work fast to learn English, find a job and assimilate before their funding ends and they make the leap into American culture.
Founded in 1976, the Poetry Center of Chicago is an independent not-for-profit literary arts organization that continues to build access to poetry through readings, workshops, residencies, and arts education for Chicago's diverse population. The Poetry Center fortifies its history of provocative and enriching guest performers (Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs gave the center's first reading in the basement of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago) with a keynote performance from Iranian poet/playwright Ezzat Goushegir on Saturday, March 5 at 3 pm. She will be reading from her one-woman play, The Bride of Acacias, about the life of poet Forough Farrokzad.
The performance is one of many events taking place over the next couple of days, and weeks, as the Poetry Center officially moves into the Chicago Cultural Center. Now located in the pedway of the Cultural Center, the new offices include a public art gallery, Welcome Center, workshop space, and the center's administrative headquarters. Other re-opening celebrations include a public reception and commemorative readings beginning Friday, March 4 through Saturday, March 5, noon - 5 pm.
Starting March 18 and running through May, an ongoing discussion series will be staged at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave., on a weekly basis on Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm. To Art & Profit -- performed by panels of artists, scholars and creative advocates -- will address art as knowledge in discussions defining purpose and building solidarity. Tickets are $15, or $10 for students.
The DuSable Museum of African-American History, the South Side museum founded by the late Dr. Margaret Burroughs, is regarded by many as the premiere institution for black heritage. In "The New DuSable," the University of Chicago's Chicago Weekly Online discusses the museum's historical legacy and its ongoing construction and expansion, both designed to improve and preserve the museum's place in the country's cultural landscape.
The stretch of 26th Street that makes the heart of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood is vibrant on a Friday night. The smell of taco stands is warm and inviting in the cold, as people bustle amongst the colorful stores -- joyerias and a chain of boutiques named, curiously, Brazilian Seduction Jeans. In the midst of this is a bar with no sign. But locals know this is La Cueva, a Spanish speaking-only bar where women with false eyelashes and hair like exotic birds writhe and lip-sync to Mexican pop music.
La Cueva is an LGBTQ historic site -- it is known as the oldest Latino drag bar in the country. This is a bit of a misnomer, as the performers are women -- male to female trans women. La Cueva has been around for 30 years, providing a place for trans Latinas to work and gay Latinos to belong. But the bar has recently been the center of controversy: in September, Little Village residents began protesting for La Cueva to close. Opponents say the bar has become a site for drug dealing and "transgender prostitution."
This story was submitted by freelance journalist and author, Ted McClelland.
At six o'clock on a Friday night, there are no lights on at the Vivekananda Vedanta Society temple, a Prairie-style building on a dark crossroads in rural Homer Glen. But the door is open, so you go inside, slip off your shoes, and follow the intensifying scent of incense, up the stairs, to the sanctuary, where a little man in an orange robe is sliding blue velvet slipcovers over framed photographs of Hindu mystics, which repose on burnished mahogany thrones.
Swami Varadananda does this every night, at the end of prayers.
The Vivekananda Vedanta Society's temple is only two years old, but its roots in Chicago go back over a century, longer than any non-Judeo-Christian religion. The society traces its origins in the 1893 Parliament of Religions, a sideshow to Chicago's Columbian Exposition. The Raja of Khetri provided a wandering monk named Vivekananda with a first-class steamer ticket from Bombay to Vancouver. When he arrived in Chicago, without an invitation, he knocked on doors in the Gold Coast until a wealthy society matron gave him breakfast and introduced him to the Parliament's president.
Vivekananda's appearance at the Parliament was an important moment for both the United States and India. The Hindu monk introduced yoga and meditation to the Americans, who would adopt both practices, although as self-improvement disciplines, not spiritual undertakings. In Vivekananda's homeland, his journey is remembered as the first time the West seriously acknowledged Indian culture.
It's a snowy December night on the South Side and the ballroom has filled up quickly. There are guys in tailored suits, girls in red-heeled Louboutins. There are pop-gothy capes and futuristic glasses. The crowd is gathered around a catwalk -- and everyone is young, black and queer.
This is a ball. An underground LGBTQ contest where participants compete by "walking" -- showing off themed outfits and voguing -- a stylized house dance that continues to evolve. They are competing for trophies and the hope to become "legendary" -- famous not only in Chicago but the entire community, which now spans the globe. Balls found fame with Paris is Burning, a documentary about the New York scene, but Chicago's had its own ball circuit for as long as New York -- one that has its own trends, culture and history. And as the Internet popularizes the community, Chicago is seeing another wave in the resurgence of balls.
Baltimore-based theater group, The Missoula Oblongata, is bringing their newest play, Clamlump, to Ball Hall on Monday, Feb. 14. The description of the play is pretty mindboggling except for the bit about it being set "deep in the hollows of a boarded up stadium," but if you check out TMO's website I think you will be convinced to go whether or not you understand what you're going for. The play will feature a live score performed by Travis Sehorn and an opening act by ventriloquist, April Camlin. BYOP(illow) to sit on. Click here to visit the Facebook event page, or here to visit The Missoula Oblongata's website. Ball Hall's address is secret because the city will try to get their hands into the venue's (empty) pockets if they are given the opportunity. If you wanna go, you've gotta find out where it is for yourself. You can thank the city for that. Admission will most likely require a small donation, but has not yet been specified.
The Smart Museum joins other national museums' decision to screen late artist David Wojnarowicz' 1986-1987 video, A Fire in My Belly. An unfinished and contemplative tribute to the artist's friend Peter Hujar (who died of AIDS), the video was recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery's latest exhibition, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. Despite the exhibition's aim to explore such themes as, "the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America," and how art reflects "society's evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment," museum officials pulled the work following protests from conservative politicians and a vocal religious group.
As part of its exhibition, the Smart Museum will screen the original 13-minute version of the film first edited by Wojnarowicz from 1986-1987, as well as an additional seven-minute chapter found in Wojnarowicz's collection. A Fire In My Belly opens tomorrow and runs through February 6. The Smart Museum is located at 5550 S. Greenwood.
On Chicago's Southwest side stands a community enriched with Mexican influences from its restaurants, businesses and well-known art district. Through efforts from its community, Pilsen showcases its cultural pride and works to assist neighbors and new residents from Chicago and the surrounding areas. Casa Aztlan, a community center and nonprofit organization in the heart of the neighborhood, at 1831 S. Racine Ave., offers those services to help residents in the area and people who relocated to the United States from another country.
Carlos Arango, executive director of Casa Aztlan, said although the center focuses on the Pilsen community and the Southwest side of the city, some residents travel from all over the state of Illinois and as far as Indiana for services. The organization helps about 12,000 people year in various capacities, said Arango.
Casa Aztlan is an established figure in the Pilsen community that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of the oldest organizations that fights for social justice. Its roots stem from 1970 when Mexican immigrants migrated in large numbers and settled in Chicago. Originally, Casa Aztlan served as a Bohemian settlement house in the late 1800s. From the Howell Neighborhood House to the Neighborhood Service Organization, the community organization made a shift and changed its name to Casa Aztlan, reflecting a part of the community's Mexican and Aztec heritage.
Cauleen Smith, a San-Diego-based artist who has been picked up by Threewallsresidency program, is in the process of trying to fund her experimental film and LP project, The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band. Basically, this is a marching band flash mob made up of musicians of all ages that appears in different locations around Chicago, gingerly plays a Sun Ra song and then scatters. What's better than that? According to Smith's mission statement, "The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band brings many Chicago communities together to interrupt ordinary life in the city with fleeting ecstatic moments of visual and aural incongruence."
Bobbie Henry, of Chicago, began selling handmade jewelry and art pieces at the original Maxwell Street Market in 1976. She relocated to the new Maxwell Street Market, on Canal, in 1994. Today, she has a booth on a prime spot at the market's latest location, on Desplaines, just north of Roosevelt.
Henry's next move is a commentary on the market's current, diminished state and its uncertain future.
"Another thing that's fading me out of this," Henry explained, "is I'm going on eBay with most of my art."
The present Maxwell Street Market is open Sundays, from 7am to 3pm, on a short stretch of Desplaines Street north of Roosevelt Road. But many of the people who bought and sold goods at the original market say that its current incarnation, sanctioned and organized by the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office of Special Events, hardly measures up.
"I was selling leather clothes and bags [on Maxwell, and on Canal]. I would make $3,000 every Sunday." Henry said, "Now, I only make $200 or $300."
Kate Bush is not a recluse as much as she is an artist who understands the importance of patience (and perhaps perfectionism) when creating music. Her work ethic is counter to contemporary music trends where a new record must be released each year to sustain an increasingly finicky international audience. This great span of time between albums has subsequently helped sustain an entrenched cult fan base whose devotion is now heard through musicians such as British chanteuse Bat For Lashes, Icelandic gem Bjork, Tori Amos, as well as newer singers like Lia Ices or Glasser.
It is in the interest of Bush's local fanbase that writer Joe Erbentraut (along with promoter Joshua Wulbert) created "A Tribute to Kate Bush," an evening dedicated to Ms. Bush, as well as the numerous singers whose aesthetics are closely related to or influenced by her work.
The idea for the evening originated organically. One bout of procrastination a few months ago led Erbentraut to his vinyl collection which includes many albums by the singer. He then mentioned the idea to Wulbert, a DJ and promoter for the monthly "gothy, dark, and swirly" party Procession, held at Late Bar.
"In recent memory, I've heard of tribute nights to Bjork, Robyn, Annie Lennox and Fleetwood Mac, and thought Kate more than deserved the same here in Chicago," Erbentraut said. The event is not only unique to Chicago; it is also unique across many cities nationally, as Bush's fan base has, only recently, begun to celebrate her truly unique sound.
One of the cultural institutions I have often overlooked has been the Instituto Cervantes, or the Cervantes Institute. Upon arriving at the opening of Women & Women, a traveling show featuring 5 female photographers, I quickly realized how much I was actually missing. It is odd for me to have not frequented the Instituto Cervantes, as both an artist and a Spaniard, I could have been influenced by a culture I am proud to be connected to, but if I were to be honest, know very little about.
Everyone knows the story of gentrification. Artists and other progressive people move to low-income neighborhoods looking for a good deal on a big space in the city. This attracts investors and developers, and the next thing you know, the original occupants of the neighborhood — including small businesses, families and even the artists themselves — are priced out of their homes to make room for culturally bankrupt replacements. The charm of the neighborhood is beaten out of it.
Because of the housing market crash, along with foreclosures, the gentrification process has pretty much come to a halt in many parts of the city. A classic case of this in Chicago, for better of worse, is Garfield Park. Real estate in the neighborhood was highly sought after during the real estate boom because of its proximity to downtown and to the CTA and Metra trains, as well as the beloved Garfield Park Conservatory and the sprawling park itself, but has since been given up on by many developers. Now it is home to clusters of vacant lots and buildings, but what a lot of people don't realize is that a surprising number of the buildings that are occupied are occupied by artists. Not just any artists, either. Artists who aren't afraid to take risks, who dance to the beat of their own drums, who make some of the most engaging work and eclectic work around.
Bridgeport is home to a surprisingly bustling artistic community, from Co-Prosperity Sphere, run by the Public Media Institute to the Zhou B. Art Center. In an effort to raise awareness of that fact, the cultural spaces down there have teamed together for a "Bridgeport Art Walk" this weekend. At least seven (but probably more) exhibition/production spaces will open up to the public for us to meander around and gawk at their wares. The CAR website says that the walk will kick off each day (Friday, Oct. 15, Saturday and Sunday) at the Bridgeport Art Center at 1200 W 35th Street with the artists of Eastbank studios and then scatter throughout the neighborhood.
Have you ever wondered how to experience Italy without even having to go to O'Hare or Midway? For the attendees of the fourth annual Italian Expo, no plane tickets or passports were needed; just a trip downtown was all that was necessary for a fabulous Italian getaway.
Held this weekend at Navy Pier and hosted by the Italian American Chamber of Commerce-Midwest (IACC), the Expo focused on the country's Lombardy region, (Lombardia in Italian); over 100 vendors and organizations from both Italy and the United States provided Chicagoans with a true taste of the country widely known for its rich and diverse culture.
For Fulvio Calcinardi, IACC's Executive Director, Italian Expo allowed attendees a chance to truly experience Italy in Chicago and provided the opportunity to see "gorgeous fashion, cutting-edge product design and hand-crafted masterpieces, all of which and more can be enjoyed right here in Chicago during Italian Expo."
Former Gapers Block writer and photographer extraordinare, Brian Leli, has started a website called Noun/Verb where he posts his interviews with and profiles of interesting artists of all sorts, among other things. "Noun/Verb is devoted to artists and their actions," he explains. "Those driven to look further inside and out, to inspire and to be inspired--Noun/Verb explores boldly passionate individuals and the things that they do."
A substantial part of this project will be the "Live Talks" series, which is what it sounds like-- live interviews with artists in public places. The first of the series, an interview with Matt Shaw of The Spend, will take place tomorrow evening at The Hideout. Click here for details on that event. Whether or not you're not able to make it out to that, definitely keep an eye on Noun/Verb and keep your ears peeled for future Live Talks events.
Approaching the marquee at 175 North State Street at noon, 2500 light bulbs await dusk to emblazon the façade of The Chicago Theatre. A group of tourists pauses for pictures. The iconic structure, once home to silent films and impressive organ concerts, persists as one of Chicago's most-recognized landmarks, continuing to draw crowds, even during hours when the stage is quiet.
A few steps into the main lobby quickly begins to confirm for visitors why this iconic building was dubbed "the Wonder Theatre of the World" upon its opening on Oct. 26, 1921. The lavish marble interior, intricate moldings, and grand chandelier provide the air of a luxurious and bygone era. The windows above the doorway boast the coat of arms of theatre builders Balaban and Katz in Tiffany stained glass. Visitors of the 1920s would have been greeted by professional ushers, trained at the Balaban and Katz School for Ushers, as well as local beauties, costumed in white coifs and elaborate gowns matching the French Baroque interior. Standing at the bottom of the grand staircase today, these details are not difficult to imagine.
This story was submitted by Gapers Block Book Club and Drive-Thru writer, Ruthie Kott. All photos in this article were taken by Louis Terry.
The Chicago Temple's Dixon Chapel was packed for the July 23 open mic the night before the seventh annual Chicago Disability Pride Parade, and the food at the back of the room was just crumbs by the time Eli Clare got up to the microphone. His was the last performance of the night, and people were excited to hear him speak. When he introduced one of his poems, "How to Talk to a New Lover About Cerebral Palsy," the audience laughed. "I know that I'm home when people laugh," said Clare, a writer and speaker who was born with CP. When he shares the poem with more able-bodied audiences, he said, they just look sad.
He started to read: "Tell her: Complete strangers / have patted my head, kissed / my cheek, called me courageous." And when he got to the part about the woman asking about the difference between CP and MS--"refrain from handing her an encyclopedia"--the audience in the room laughed again. Clare briefly interrupted the poem. "Yeah, I'm home," he said, smiling.
Clare, a disability-rights and LGBTQ activist, was the 2010 parade's grand marshal. Living in Vermont's Green Mountains, he says, "I've made home in the disability community for nearly 25 years, and to be honored by that community in this way is bigger than I can express in words." It's a burgeoning community, one that's only recently begun to discover its voice, and Chicago, with the first disability-studies PhD program in the world at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a center for disability-rights activism. People come from all over the region to participate in the parade, also the first of its kind in the world--in the past, there have been groups from Norway (they've since started a disability pride parade in Oslo), and this year there was a contingent from Korea.
A columnist at the Associated Press has compiled a list of what's "hot" in Chicago culture and narrowed it down to her top five picks.
Of course, the list contains notable institutions such as the Field Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago--two that would be featured on anyone's list. As we all know though, there is so much more to Chicago's cultural landscape than the aforementioned, and that's what concerns me about "lists" like this one.
These lists are necessary because they provide a basic guide for visitors; however, a lot of times, they tend to overlook Chicago culture that extends beyond downtown.
There is a lot of culture in the way of museums, theaters, art galleries, etc., all over town that shows the city in all its diversity, and it would be great if the compilers of these lists branched out and displayed this more often.
Summertime in Chicago has become synonymous with outdoor festivals, and this year is certainly no different. The African Festival of the Arts, one of the city's largest festivals, has truly become one of the "must attend" events of the summer.
A staple event of the African International House, this four-day festival, taking place over the Labor Day holiday weekend, offers the best in African culture; in addition, the festival features a variety of vendors with unique African-themed sculptures, paintings, fashion and other forms of art. For festival producer Patrick Woodtor, this event is not only for the African community, but also for all of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods. "The festival offers something for everyone and all communities in Chicago," said Woodtor. "Our mission is to educate our audiences about Africa, the cradle of civilization, while celebrating her significance and impact on mankind."
The Back of the Yards Fiesta last June. Photo courtesy of BYNC.org
If you haven't been to the Back of the Yards neighborhood, then you should visit it, not because it's fancy, but because it has a long history, most famously described in Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle (you can also read the entire book here), which linked the area to the grim stockyards. It's a dynamic area where various immigrants have lived, and currently houses a largely Latin American population. Most of the people are from Mexico, and many other residents are from Central America, including Honduras and Guatemala.
But the neighborhood that's been described in various books and articles throughout the years looks different today. It's not a grimy, dirty neighborhood, but has a lot
of space, wide streets, houses, and even trees. The main commercial area is 47th street, where you can go to discount food stores, chain stores, and get fast food. (The larger area is called New City, which includes Canaryville). There are a few gangs and people who are struggling to pay their bills, but it's not an entirely sad, hopeless place.
Well, I guess Chicago can't be number one in everything; according to the folks at the popular African-American culture blog Bossip, when it comes to black museums, the Windy City has a little more work to do.
In its list "The Top 25 Black Museums in America," the DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E. 56th Place, came in at number 10, just before Baltimore's Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and right after Detroit's Charles Wright Museum of African-American History.
To see how other black museums in the country ranked, click here.
The reception is free, and takes place at 33 E. Congress Parkway, basement lobby, room # LL11. A media lounge, where guests can check out CDs and published work by participants, performers and ASAE members, will be open all night.
Comedy isn't often both hip and queer, at least according to one of Chicago's hippest, queerest comedians, but it will be this weekend when The Hot D8 Campaign kicks off a mini tour in the midst of Gay Pride weekend.
"It's the opposite of that Gay Gays of Gay-type Tour," said Cameron Esposito, who performs with ukulele-strumming funnyman Ben Lerman and awkward-come-lovely comic Mo Welch in the queer-themed standup show.
"I think it's really hard for people to get on board if you're not also being like, 'Hey, here's something less shocking,'" Esposito said. "I like just getting into people's heads and rocking their world, but not making them feel uncomfortable while they're doing it."
I'm sitting on the edge of the bed. The room is dark, filled with the sound of flesh smacking flesh and throaty "ahhhhhs." Next to me are huddles of middle aged men, standing, pants-off, half-hard. I'm sitting upright, purse in lap feeling a bit overdressed.
In front of me is a triple set of couples, all in the doggy-style position, fucking in front of a mirror. Guy on girl, guy on guy, guy on girl. The earthy smell of anal sex filters the air.
It's a swinger party. Or "lifestyle party" if you prefer. But something here is different. This party, Private Encounters, is Chicago's first and only all bisexual lifestyle party. Usually, guy on guy sex is sort of not allowed.
Impending thunderstorms didn't stop Chicagoans from baring it all and taking to the streets last night in the 7th annual World Naked Bike Ride. The event is a bold statement in celebrating freedom from oil, and in light of recent events in the gulf coast, this year's ride was particularly meaningful. Spectators and city officials alike seem to embrace the blatant display of public nudity and traffic disruptions each year in continued support of Chicago as a bike friendly city.
Up until July 7, Sense Objects exhibition at Noble and Superior opened this past Friday. The show consisted of a photo series and installation dealing with depiction through performative action and interactive perception of objects. Both works dealt with experience in contrasting manners, one through documentation, the other through experience.
Through the classic lens of black and white photography, Kate O'Neill's work does what it depicts. In her series, Third Law, she subjects the body into positions of oppressive banality. These portraits consist of a body, usually hers, in a posed position with part of the body either hidden or out of the frame. Hints of theatricality appear because all of the images are spontaneous but posed pictures based on performances. Through a cyclical point of view in Third Law, a critique of the "boring" is reiterated. Since this series is based on performances, the momentary element is present but her compositions are all too simplistic. Why try so hard to be boring? This series gave me nothing to remember it by except the fact that it bored me. As a young art consumer I was not attracted to these compositions.
In contrast to O'Neill's series, Rebecca Kressley's installation ON THE SOUTH LOCK OVER SHINE was one I was interested in experiencing. She has accumulated a plethora of natural but processed materials meticulously arranged on the space's floor. The scent of the peppercorn and mint was not pungent but begged the viewer to kneel onto the floor to waft in this unique mixture of glass shards and earth. The fragrance like the installation isn't permanent, ephemeral by design because the moment of experience, like the installation, is temporary. A sound loop, "Dragging the Hound," ran in the background, subtle but ostensible because of its striking low pulse. A deep whistle echoes in the room and creates a vibrancy that ties together the artifacts of the piece. It amplifies the fact that one is still present in this quasi environment. The reminiscence of nature conglomerated with man-made articles is vivified in this installation.
Humboldt Park's glorious yet hanging-on-by-a-thread art/culture venue, Quennect 4, has put together a benefit music compilation that promises to be thoroughly awesome, and you can get a sneak peek at it today through Bandcamp, and you'll be able to download the whole thing there on May 7 with a download code. There are two ways to get a download code. Either make a donation to Q4 on Kickstarter (which is one of the best ways to spend your money that I can think of) or attend the Compilation Release on Friday, May 7 at Elastic Arts.
The May 7 event will feature live music by the Chicago Gypsy Experiment ( Eyes Manouche/Ode mashup ), Rambos, and Wake Up Siouxsie. You can also expect special guest performers, and raffles for Q4 artwork. It starts at 9pm and is an all ages event. They are asking for an $8 donation which will get you admission plus a download of the compilation. No one, however, will be turned away for lack of funds.
The illustrious Version festival starts this Thursday with Territories, a group exhibition at the Zhou B. Art Center. Also, starting that night at midnight Version fest presents six episodes of experimental television featuring works submitted to this year's festival. Watch every night of the festival at midnight to view a 30 minute episode on Chicago Cable Access Channel 19 (CANTV).
On Friday the opening party for Version Festival kicks off at 8pm at Co-Prosperity Sphere, promising more unabashed creativity and wild rock and roll than any one human being could hope to completely absorb in one night. The meat and potatoes of the show Friday will most likely be the live music by amazing local acts including Mahjongg, Brilliant Pebbles, and Mr666 (among others), but the show will be garnished by art and entertainment by Telefantasy Studios-- a group of artists specializing in Sci-Fi/fantasy film productions who claim that their aim is to "transport people to realms never before imagined and to tell heroic stories with dazzling special effects." For the Version fest opening party they will create a temporary soundstage for performance, and they want everyone to come in costume as a Sci-Fi/fantasy character to be filmed, photographed, interviewed, and auditioned.
AREA Chicago just sent me an email about this shiny new website that aggregates all the activism, education, art & cultural happening-type stuff that's going on around the city onto one calendar. This upgrade & evolution of their existing print calendar features a "map view" of events, a "post to Facebook" option, weekly events email digests, and event feeds to iCal, RSS, and Twitter. Check it out.
First off, let me admit- I occasionally indulge myself in a McDonald's cheeseburger and french fries, and when the Shamrock Shake made its 2010 Spring debut, I made a special trip for the frosty green milkshake.
But when I arrived at the Grand and State redline stop this afternoon, before I could even consider indulging in my McCraving, I was confronted by a Ronald McDonald-esque clown and a group of smiling activists armed with posters and petitions. These folks are part of Corporate Accountability International- a group of people that take action against corporate powerhouses to challenge abuse and protect people's rights. Their latest endeavor is the "Value the Meal" campaign, which is "challenging corporate abuse of our food." CAI is asking that McDonald's retire its cultural icon- Ronald McDonald, a character that is widely recognized by children around the world. They claim that McDonald's is directly targeting children by using Ronald McDonald, thus encouraging kids to eat unhealthy fast food. The flyer they were handing out lists some interesting facts about the impact that this clown character has on our youth, stating that "Ronald is one of the most recognized and effective icons in marketing to children, setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits and ultimately, chronic disease."
If you're downtown and you're looking for something unusual to check out this evening, check out the new show at The (Con)Temporary Art Space (208 S. Wabash) tonight, starting now. Part time cab driver, artist, writer and sometimes homeless 60+ year old gentleman, James Bruce King is showing his hyper, surrealistic, Chicago-centric drawings with Bruner and Bay in the back room and Reuben Kincaid on Youtube karaoke. Click here for details.
Chicago is home to unpredictable spring weather and now it is home to avalanches, a 40-foot tornado, 80 mph wind tunnels and avalanches with the Museum of Science and Industry's latest exhibit, Science Storms.
Science Storms weaves modern technology (think instant replays and touch technology ala iPhone) with historic moments, facts and figures (think giant Tesla coil generating a 10-foot lighting bolt over your head) to educate museum goers about weather events and the science that is behind them.
[Editor's note: This feature story was submitted by reader A.Jay Wagner.]
Between Chicago and Division streets, just east of Clark sits an unassuming square of green, at its center sits a weathered fountain, its yellow paint flaking away. Spokes of sidewalk radiate from the fountain to the edges of the park. It marks the home of the majority of the trees in the neighborhood and also houses a handful of snowed over flower beds.
The park sits just south of the hulking Gothic mass of the Newberry Library, a privately owned research library that houses awe-inspiring special collections. The northeast corner of the park sits adjacent to the aqua accented spires of the now shuttered Scottish Rite Cathedral. The eastern and southern sides are bordered by modern office towers and tony apartment complexes.
A motley collection of folks occupy the park on a weekday afternoon. A trio of aging Polish women sit chatting on benches. A few business men clad in ties and khakis enjoy the unseasonably warm weather while having their lunches. A pair of homeless men have docked their shopping carts side-by-side and carry on an animated discussion. But Washington Square Park's current tranquil appearance belies it past as a home of kooks, communists, and everything in between.
If you don't know the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon, this exhibition is for you. If you think it's preposterous that anyone wouldn't know the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon, well it's for you, too.
The Field Museum's newest exhibition, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, opens this Friday and is expected to be pretty popular. The museum has gone all out for this one, creating hands-on life-sized dioramas and virtual experiences for visitors to explore and imagine themselves as cavemen.
On Sundays, after the main service at the First Free Church in Andersonville has ended and the congregants have filed out and made their ways home down Ashland, or to brunch somewhere on Clark, a smaller congregation files in. They make their way down mostly from the north, from Albany Park and Rogers Park and Edgewater, where they move anonymously among the swarms of Asian immigrants, pushed between the embrace of something universal and the isolation of anonymity. A grinning, thin-framed boy of 17 named Ha Tha Thing hands an outline of the week's service to each as they stream in, one page of printed paper folded back on itself like a book jacket.
This is where the congregation of the Chin Baptist Church of Chicago--in all, about 70 or so of the 150 Chin living in Chicago, Christians of a variety of denominations that fled forced labor and religious discrimination in Burma--meet (under the Baptist banner for the sake of cultural unity and preservation) to praise the Lord. Conspicuously among them this past Sunday was a reporter, whom Ha Tha welcomed as he would anyone, with a smile and a handshake, then walked him down the chapel's aisle insisting he sit in the front row. This was the service following Chin National Day--February 20, the date the Chin people established democracy in the far western frontiers of Burma, though it's been largely ignored by the ruling military junta.