Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, June 23

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Photography Wed Dec 09 2015

Review: Richard Nickel: Dangerous Years: What He Saw and What He Wrote

The interior of Louis Sullivan's National Farmers' Bank.

Students of Chicago's history, photographers and preservationists have been steeped in Richard Nickel's odes to the city and his memory. But the typical discussion about Nickel is only as a legend: the man who gave his life for architecture.

Fortunately, Chicago-based City Files Press published its second book about the photographer and activist, Richard Nickel: Dangerous Years: What He Saw and What He Wrote. This book is a special opportunity to simultaneously experience Nickel's work and understand him as a person through more than 100 photographs and another 100 documents, many of them handwritten by Nickel.

A spread featuring a letter declaring Nickel's studies at the Institute of Design and an early self-portrait.

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David Schalliol

Film Wed Oct 28 2015

Cinespace & Stage 18: Growing Chicago's Film Industry & North Lawndale's Economy

Mark Dengen leans back in his chair and looks out the row of windows lining his office wall. Outside, on the first chilly day of October, the operations of the largest film studio complex this side of LA hum along. Dengen, Cinespace's CFO, smiles as he looks out at the work being done on NBC series "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago PD" and reflects on how much has changed here over the past decade--not only on the Cinespace campus, but in the North Lawndale community at large.

CineSpace Chicago

"This was vacant. Completely vacant," he says. "Saw this completely go south, and then to tumbleweeds, and then from tumbleweeds back to 4,000 people working on this campus."

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Zach Blumenfeld / Comments (1)

Art Wed Sep 02 2015

Around the Coyote Arts Fest Is Back This Weekend in Wicker Park

More than 30 visiting artists will show their work this weekend at the Around the Coyote arts festival at the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park.

Around the Coyote is a three-day festival celebrating the art and artists of Wicker Park. This Friday through Sunday, visitors can stop in at the Flat Iron Arts Building, tour artist studios, listen to live music and see theater performances. The festival kicks off with an opening night reception from 6 to 10pm Friday.

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Nancy Bishop

Art Mon Aug 24 2015

Chicago Architecture Firm Wins Pullman Artspace Project

A rendering of the project by VOA Associates

The Chicago-based architecture firm, VOA Associates, Inc., has been selected as the winner of a six-month architectural design competition, made possible by a grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

VOA Associates, Inc., will be designing the Pullman Artspace in the historic Pullman neighborhood, which will include 45 affordable live/work apartments, as well classrooms, an exhibition space, and workshops. Artspace Project Inc., has its headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington DC.

By designing a creative space, VOA Associates hopes to achieve a sense of honor for the historical "character of Pullman's landmark community" and welcome those who are interested in a creative weaving within the public sphere.

Overall, 20 architecture firms submitted and 10 semi-finalists were chosen. The three finalists for the competition were each awarded $10,000 to finalize their concept and VOA Associates was selected as the winner. The Pullman Artspace strives to preserve Pullman as a leading arts neighborhood with an immersive creative hub for its residents.

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (1)

Theater Thu Jul 30 2015

Albany Park Theater Project Stages a Feast of Cuisines and Cultures

Photos by Liz Lauren.

Feast, the new production by the Albany Park Theater Project and Goodman Theatre, is indeed a feast of color, sounds, cuisines and ethnicities, celebrating Chicago's diverse food culture. It's totally appropriate that it comes to us from Albany Park, one of Chicago's most diverse neighborhoods. Feast tells the stories of how food, its paucity and its plenty, plays a role in family lives and celebrations.

The Albany Park Theater Project, a multiethnic youth theater ensemble, first mounted the show in 2010. This year's revival is based on additional research by company members and is staged in the round for the first time, which helps to create a communal atmosphere.

Directed by APTP artistic director David Feiner, the lively 90-minute production begins in a world marketplace where the 25 performers sing and perform percussive dances. Other scenes move to a farm in the Philippines where we learn about a boy and his cow. (The young actors use their sound effects enthusiastically to narrate the life of the cow and the boy.) Then the acrobatic Meena cavorts with her shopping cart in a supermarket as she spends her LINK card, and the brainy Maia fills out the family application for food stamps (with the help of a big dictionary).

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Nancy Bishop

Theater Fri Jun 19 2015

That's Weird, Grandma Now Featured at Night Out in the Parks, Stage 773, Chicago Fringe Fest

By Jen Kraakevik


Animal, vegetable or mineral? You never know what might make it into a production of Barrel of Monkeys' That's Weird, Grandma. Anything is possible because the authors will be 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in the creative writing workshops led by actor-educators in Chicago Public Schools around the city. The stories produced at That's Weird, Grandma are written by kids for kids (and adapted to be performed by kids at heart) to allow everyone to enjoy clever sketches that truly entertain.

Starting at 6:15 tonight, That's Weird, Grandma begins its neighborhood tour through Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks. The Night out in the Parks series has provided more than 1,000 events and programs at over 250 community parks throughout the city each summer for the past two years. Now, Night Out in the Parks will host productions ranging from movies, traditional performances, community workshops, concerts and more. CPD partners with more than 80 arts and community organizations to succeed in this initiative supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. All productions are located in Chicago Parks and are free to the public.

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Neighborhood Mon Sep 08 2014

Lakeview East Festival of the Arts Celebrates 10th Anniversary

More than 150 juried artists will show their work next weekend during the 10th annual Lakeview East Festival of the Arts. The festival showcases original paintings, prints, sculpture, photography, furniture, ceramics, jewelry and more. In addition to artists' booths, there will be live music on multiple stages, an interactive children's area, wine and food booths. The event is hosted and produced by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

The festival will begin with a special anniversary kickoff party and preview celebration (open to the public) 6:30 to 10pm Friday. Festival hours are 10am to 6pm Saturday with live music, food and drink tents open until 10pm, and 10am to 5pm Sunday on Broadway between Belmont and Hawthorne.

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Nancy Bishop

Art Thu Aug 28 2014

Neighborhood Joins Together to Create Work of Art

Rachel Painting the Mural - smaller jpg.JPG
Logan Square's CTA Blue Line stop is about to get more colorful. Beauty and Brawn Art Gallery, in collaboration with artist Rachel Slotnick, recently started work on a 200-foot mural at the stop.

Gallery owner Lindsey Meyers has waited almost eight years for the chance to artistically transform this space.

"I had basically given up on adopting the wall until recently when Rachel and I discussed doing a mural that would truly embrace the color and flavor of my neighborhood," she said in a statement. Meyers aims for neighborhood collaboration on the piece, highlighting all of the neighborhood's cultural groups.

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Miriam Finder

Theatre Sun Jun 22 2014

Spectralia Theatre Brings Shakespeare to the Park

two gents -edited.jpg

There is so much to see and do in the Chicago Park District this summer and now you can add seeing Shakespeare to your list! Spectralia Theatre is bringing family-friendly theatre to your backyard with its adaptation of the comedic classic, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Performances will be popping up all over the city this summer, so if you're looking for a little light-hearted entertainment in a tranquil setting, bring your picnic basket and a blanket for a hilarious and relaxing evening.

Set during the 1896 Yukon Gold Rush, The Two Gentlemen of Verona is about friendship, betrayal and love with a "modern" twist. The 90-minute play, which opened this past weekend, casts a wild bunch of characters from prospectors to outlaws in search of more than just gold.

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Megan Daley

Art Tue Sep 03 2013

Positive Babel Mural Celebrates Old Irving Park, a City Melting Pot

Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods, separated by ethnicities. Old Irving Park on Chicago's northwest side contradicts that description with residents from 70 countries. The community's new mural--Positive Babel: The World Lives, Works and Plays in Old Irving--was created to communicate that message.


Positive Babel mural, acrylic and spray paint on mason wall. Photos courtesy of Tony Sparrow.

The new work, created by lead artist Tony Sparrow and a team of eight other artists, was just completed in the viaduct under the Union Pacific/Metra tracks at Irving Park Road and Keeler Avenue. It will be dedicated at 11am Saturday with a program featuring representatives of the Old Irving Park Association, artists and public officials. (See Saturday Slowdown for more information.) Marlena Ascher, president of OIPA, will emcee the event.

Old Irving Park is a one-square mile neighborhood bounded by Addison and Montrose on the south and north and Pulaski and Cicero on the east and west. The neighborhood has many underpasses created by two Metra train lines, the CTA Blue Line and the Kennedy Expressway. All have heavy pedestrian and car traffic every day. The community organization has been "turning those eyesores into assets since 2003," according to Anna Sobor, incoming president of OIPA. The Positive Babel murals are the 10th and 11th.

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Nancy Bishop

Neighborhood Tue Jun 25 2013

Wicker Park Resident Victim of Plantnapping


Wicker Park residents may have spotted an unusual banner hanging at Damen and Augusta over the weekend. In big orange letters, it read "Return my plants, They're sick." Gapers Block reader Friday S. was behind the sign, and emailed us to explain what was going on.

During the shower storm last Friday I took two tree size plants, a five foot tall oleander and a four foot tall Pointy Ficus outside. They were covered by a winter's worth of scale and dust and I hoped the rain would wash them off.

An hour after the shower finished I went downstairs to bring them back up. But someone had taken them and left mounds of dirt. According to the real estate agent, whose office is next door, a young man with a light beard driving a light blue volvo station wagon had asked him if they belonged to him. When he responded that they probably belonged to the store next door the young man said, "No, they're part of the community trust. I'll take them." He already had them packed in the trunk.

I threw a shouting fit for five minutes and threw a broken fan down the stairwell but then furiously made the sign in the photo. On the left side, barely visible in the photo, it reads "hey you, in the light blue volvo." barely readable on the right side is, "they need special care. my two trees!!! ring my buzzer, it's the bottom one or email me,"

So, there you have it. If you took those trees, or know who did, get in touch with their rightful owner so they can be taken care of. And if you have plants of your own, be careful where you leave them, lest they be plantnapped.

Andrew Huff

Art Sun Dec 09 2012

See Potential's First Project Launches

See Potential
Photograph by David Schalliol

See Potential, a collaboration between photographer Emily Schiffer, the Center for Urban Transformation's Orrin Williams and a variety of other partners, launched its first project today at the future site of Kusanya Cafe, 825 W. 69th St. Photographs have been installed at the site to "beautify the community" and raise awareness of food access issues in Englewood.

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

Neighborhood Fri Aug 17 2012

Pint-size Rhyme Spitters

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.

Dyan Flores

Art Sat Jul 28 2012

Hot Pockets: the Air Pockets Project


Marianne Kim

The streets of Wicker Park are filled with upscale boutiques and gourmet taco shops, but the neighborhood was once reborn as an artist's enclave. Like many parts of Chicago, Wicker Park has undergone transformation, both good and unfortunate. The last legs of gentrification usually ensure that the artistic colonizers that first remade the neighborhood are pushed out. And yet, many artistic practices (even those still gaining footing in Chicago's fickle art community) remain. Defibrillator, a performance art gallery, has quickly established itself as an epicenter for emerging and established local, national, and international performance art in the city. For the 2012 Wicker Park Fest, the gallery curated (with a grant from the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce) Air Pocket Project, a series of five inflatable performance installations located at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street. The Wicker Park Fest runs from noon to 8pm today and Sunday, July 29.

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Britt Julious

News Wed Jun 27 2012

Now's Your Chance to Have Some Say in CPS' Arts Education

ccp.pngThis past month CPS announced the creation of the first district-wide CPS Arts Education Plan. David Vitale, President of the Board of Education shared that CPS would launch a public planning process to gather public feedback towards setting standards and policies for improving and expanding arts programs across Chicago Public Schools. Over the next few weeks CPS is seeking your input to propell them down a more art-conscious path.

Community Engagement Sessions have now been set for all audience groups and the planning process will move quickly. Go to the CPS Arts Plan website to register for a public forum and learn how you can add your voice to this plan (see session dates/information here). Visit Ingenuity Incorporated to learn how you can become involved in improving the educational experiences of our public school children.

In addition to the upcoming CPS Arts Education Plan Community Engagement Sessions, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is conducting upcoming Town Hall sessions to review the draft of Chicago's Cultural Plan. Information and registration links may be found here.

Kelly Reaves

History Wed May 16 2012

May Day: Labor History Tour Vivifies Tragic Origins

By David Pritchard

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!

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A/C / Comments (1)

News Tue Mar 13 2012

Wicker Park Art Center Losing Its Home?

"Who are you?"

It was the question Wicker Park community members had asked over and over again throughout the hour-and-a-half-long March 12 public meeting to discuss the sale of St. Paul's Community Church (2215 W. North Avenue) to the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission. As the new owners, the Midwest-based organization--which represents itself as part of the Roman Catholic Church without Vatican approval--will displace the Near Northwest Arts Council and some 29 other local arts organizations, including the Nelson Algren Committee, the NeuroKitchen Arts Collective, and CIMMFest.

"You keep mentioning your ministry. What is your ministry?" Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) asked the mission's treasurer, Jacek Jankowski, after he spoke about the historic building's purchase--they bought it in December and have been trying to move into the space since late January but, despite piles of eviction notices Jankowski personally left, the arts groups haven't yet left.

Moreno had reason to be skeptical--the mission, which is active in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, used to be headquartered in Chicago's 36th Ward on the northwest side and in 2005 was brought to court by the City of Chicago for zoning issues. Signs outside the building called it a communication center, which required a special-use permit, as did the building's use as a church. The ward's alderman, William Banks, warned Moreno to stay far away from the mission when they bought the Wicker Park church.

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Ruthie Kott / Comments (4)

Event Wed Sep 28 2011

CAM Kicks off in Ravenswood This Weekend

RAW2011-Poster11x17-662x1024.jpgGet 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!

Kelly Reaves

Feature Tue Jul 05 2011

The Urban Canvas

guitar mosiac
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.

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Alan Lake

Art Wed Jun 08 2011

Doe, a Deer

In the past year, what has become noticeable in Chicago's emerging and contemporary gallery scene is the ubiquitous and relative importance of Anna Cerniglia's Johalla Projects. The space not only provides ample opportunities for many locally-based artists to exhibit their work. It also provides a unique platform for more experimental and brief artist projects that connect a wider variety of artistic practices than the traditional exhibition.

In Urban Dwellers, artist Andrea Jablonski in collaboration with Vicki Fuller of VLF Development created and installed large-scale and glittered deer in the empty lot of 1827 North Milwaukee. The deer serve as a reminder for of the original natural surroundings of the area prior to urban development. Urban Dwellers closes June 11.

Britt Julious

Feature Tue May 17 2011

Co-op Image Group Teaches Kids to Sculpt their Own Art Educations

photo courtesy of Mike Bancroft

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.).

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Kelly Reaves

Performance Mon May 09 2011

Strong Works Starts Tonight

In an effort to bring more performance-oriented stuff to the already artistic neighborhood of Logan Square, a few of its residents have started a performance collective called Strong Works, and they'll be bringing a series of staged readings, improv shows, panel discussions, traditional "performance pieces" and live music to the neighborhood over the course of this summer.

"The Cannon," a monthly event starting tonight, will feature six Chicago actors
performing short stories chosen by Will Litton, fiction editor of the literary magazine
Wag's Revue, and Sam Nyhart, company member of Strong Works. Readings will be "performative, polished and punchy," according to Amanda Rozmiarek, production manager of Strong Works.

Tonight's event will be held at Bonny's (2417 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from 9
to 10. Afterward, the Strong Works jazz band will play, followed by DJs, dancing and drinks. A $5 donation will be gently suggested at the door to keep their otherwise entirely unfunded season going.

Kelly Reaves

Art Tue Apr 12 2011

Rumble's in Trouble

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!

There are several ways you can help:

  • Sign the petition:

  • Contact Alderman Roberto Maldonado, 26th ward: 773-395-0143; Fax: 773-395-0146

  • 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.

  • Stay tuned for important updates at and on their Facebook page.

  • Spread the word!

Kelly Reaves

Feature Fri Mar 11 2011

Pulaski Daze: Walking Pulaski Road

This article was submitted by freelance writer John Greenfield.

When I was choosing the next roadway to tackle as part of my project to walk the lengths of all of Chicago's major thoroughfares, Pulaski Road sprang to mind as one the city's iconic streets. So far I'd hiked Milwaukee, Western, Halsted, Archer, Grand, 63rd, Kedzie, Belmont, 79th, King and Lawrence, discovering a wealth of tasty eats, historic sights and friendly folks.

Named after Casimir S. Pulaski, the Polish-American hero of the Revolutionary War known as "the father of the American Calvary," Pulaski Road stretches 21.7 miles across this city, said to have more Poles than any town but Warsaw. But the street was originally named Crawford Avenue after early Chicago pioneer Peter Crawford, and the name change created a controversy that lasted almost two decades.

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A/C / Comments (12)

Feature Thu Feb 17 2011

Hanging on by a Sequin

This story was submitted by Rachel Rabbit White. All photos by Edmund X. White.


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."

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A/C / Comments (19)

Street Art Wed Jan 26 2011

Packing Tape as a Vehicle for Change

A video about Piñata Factory

As awesome as Chicago is, we have our fair share of problems, from homelessness to gun violence. As much as many of us would like to ignore these problems, it is important that we don't. Luckily there are artists and activists who have taken it upon themselves to bring attention to these problems in creative, even playful ways, encouraging communities to take responsibility for them. One of these groups calls themselves Piñata Factory. Piñata Factory is an ongoing collaboration between Mike Bancroft, working with the youth he mentors in his organization Cooperative Image Group in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, and Bert Stabler, with the students he teaches at Bowen High School on the southeast side.

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Kelly Reaves

Feature Fri Jan 21 2011

Strike a Pose: Chicago's Thriving Underground Ball Scene

This story was submitted by Rachel Rabbit White. All photos by Edmund X. White.


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.

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A/C / Comments (5)

Feature Tue Dec 28 2010

Casa Aztlan Means More than Home

This article was submitted by Iya Bakare.

Casa Aztlan 010.jpg
photo by Iya Bakare

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.

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A/C / Comments (3)

Performance Thu Dec 23 2010

A Deep and Jazzy Marching Flash Mob

Cauleen Smith, a San-Diego-based artist who has been picked up by Threewalls residency 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."

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (1)

Feature Tue Dec 21 2010

The Maxwell Street Market: Fading Chicago Landmark Fights Recession on Economy's Front Lines

This story was written by Ben Craig, Len Kody and Nicholas Moroni.


Audio Slideshow: Visit the Maxwell Street Market

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."

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A/C / Comments (4)

Art Wed Dec 15 2010

The Mystery is Solved, but Maybe Not for the Better


"Safety Star" by Victoria Fuller

Last summer a bunch of sculptures appeared (seemingly magically) along the boulevard on Franklin in East Garfield Park, between Sacramento and Central Park. Some are pretty cool, others are downright hideous. Most of the residents of the neighborhood are happy to see them out there, though, because they represent interest in the area-- something Garfield Park has been suffering from lack of since the housing bubble burst. But now that the mystery of who put the sculptures up and who the artists are is solved, the controversy has shifted from whether or not the sculptures are eyesores to what a bunch of sculptures by white guys are doing in a largely African American neighborhood. Also, why weren't the numerous artists who already live in Garfield Park not invited to participate? Why outsource?

WBEZ, a.k.a. Chicago Public Radio, posted an interesting feature story on their site about it last week. Check it out and share your thoughts.

Kelly Reaves

Feature Mon Dec 13 2010

Walking Lawrence Avenue

This article was submitted by John Greenfield.

I've hiked the lengths of many Chicago streets over the years: Milwaukee, Western, Halsted, Archer, Grand, 63rd, Kedzie, Belmont, 79th and King. So it's surprising that it never occurred to me to hike Lawrence, with its wildly varied strips of shops and restaurants, representing countries from all over the world.

But recently, on my way back from staying in a shack by the Wisconsin border, I took Metra south to the Ravenswood stop and then bicycled west on Lawrence at night. I needed to visit Flo's Algiers Lounge, a dive at 5436 W. Montrose with a flashing Vegas-style sign and support pillars disguised as palm trees, for a magazine blurb. On the way I was dazzled by the neon along Lawrence in Albany Park, with signs in Spanish, Arabic, Korean and maybe a dozen other languages. The street definitely deserved a closer look.

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A/C / Comments (11)

Feature Mon Oct 25 2010

What We Do Is (Unintentionally) Secret


Beidler Elementary students performing at the "Forms of Spectacle and Solutions to Vacancy" Unveiling Ceremony. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

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.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (4)

Business Tue Oct 19 2010

Inkling Makes East Lakeview a Little More Colorful


All photos of the shop are by the author

On an eclectic strip of North Broadway St. in East Lakeview sits a new(ish) store called Inkling, where Stephanie Keller sells her wares-- from hand-printed wrapping paper and greeting cards made by local artists to wacky porcelain knickknacks she's collected at antique stores and estate sales over the years. It's like Etsy, but you get to touch stuff.

The store oozes cozy creativity and smells really good, too. There are so many interesting objects packed into the space that a fair viewing will probably require a good half hour, at least. Take your time. I would recommend bringing a coffee to aid with digestion and a few bucks, because you're going to want to buy something. Luckily, though, a few bucks are all you'll need because the prices are surprisingly low, especially considering that many of the items are hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. $5-$10 will get you a quirky, thoughtful little birthday/housewarming/baby shower gift for someone and $20 will get you an original screenprint.

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Kelly Reaves

Art Wed Oct 13 2010

Bridgeport Art Walk This Weekend


Version Fest @ Co-Prosperity Sphere in 2007, photo courtesy of Co-Pro

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.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (1)

Feature Wed Oct 06 2010

Walking with the King

This story was written by John Greenfield

"For many whites, a street sign that says Martin Luther King tells them they are lost. For many blacks, a street sign that says Martin Luther King tells them they are found." So writes Jonathan Tilove in his book Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street, about his two-year project to document many of the more than 650 streets across the country named after the civil rights hero.

Our town played an important role in Dr. King's career. In 1965 he joined the battle to integrate Chicago's public schools and in 1966 he moved his family into a run-down apartment at 1550 S. Hamlin in Lawndale to draw attention to the city's segregated slums. That summer King led marches through all-white Chicago neighborhoods to demonstrate for open-housing laws.

During an August 5th march through Marquette Park, whites showered the marchers with rocks, bottles and fireworks. A rock struck the reverend on the neck and he stumbled to the ground, but got up and kept walking. He later commented, "The people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate." By the end of the month Mayor Richard J. Daley announced that the city leaders would support fair-housing laws in exchange for an end to the marches.

Chicago's King Drive, renamed from South Park Way less than four months after the reverend's assassination, was probably the first roadway in the nation to be dedicated to the martyred leader. But when Daley and City Council voted for the name change, many people noticed an irony: the street they picked to honor the champion of racial integration ran only through the South Side, almost exclusively in African-American neighborhoods, as it still does today.

This history's in the back of my mind as I ride the Red Line south from the North Side to start my walk down the length of King Drive on a crisp September morning. It's the latest in my series of strolls down entire Chicago streets, including Milwaukee, Western, Halsted, Archer, Grand, 63rd, Kedzie, Belmont and 79th in search of memorable sights and experiences.

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A/C / Comments (5)

Neighborhood Sun Oct 03 2010

Chicago Elevated Pedway Tour

PedwayDown[1] (2).jpg Most Chicagoans who work in the Loop have some familiarity with the Pedway, Chicago's network of (mostly) underground passages and tunnels that transports pedestrians from the E,l to shopping, to work, without having to step foot out into the snow or rain. Many of us, however, use it purely to get to work and back, without ever bothering to find out just where the mysterious bends can actually take us. Let's face it--the Pedway can be downright intimidating. So, both locals and tourists will be interested in local improviser and tour guide, Margaret Hicks', reprisal of her Pedway Tour. The intriguing, 90-minute tour begins again this month, and features some of Chicago's most famous buildings, without stepping outside.

"The Pedway is such a weird and wonderful place," says Hicks. "It's like a whole other world down there. Parts of it are scary, parts of it are beautiful but all [of] it is pretty warm - and that's a big plus," says Hicks.

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Emily Disher

Event Thu Sep 30 2010

Join Winifred Haun & Dancers in Oak Park Flash Mob

Winifred Haun & Dancers' Flash Mob at the Milwaukee Ave Arts Festival

You've imagined the stumped looks on the faces of unassuming bystanders. You've be dying to find out what it would be like to bust out your dance moves on a seemingly random day, in a seemingly random public place. Guess what? Here's your chance to join a flash mob!

Winifred Haun & Dancers are hosting a flash mob in Oak Park on Saturday, October 9 as part of Oak Park's annual Artrageous!. One performance will take place on the steps of the Hemingway Museum (aka Arts Center), 339 N. Oak Park Ave., at 11 am, and the other on the plaza of the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. at 12 pm. You'll be dancing to the tunes of Stevie Wonder and George Crumb. There will be professional dancers dancing with you, so you'll have somewhere to turn if you forget your moves.

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Emily Disher

Feature Tue Sep 14 2010

Home is Where the Pride Is


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.

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Ruthie Kott / Comments (1)

Feature Wed Sep 01 2010

Chicago Avenue: A 'Hood in Limbo

This feature was submitted by freelance writer J.R. Williams. All photos are by the author, unless otherwise noted.

Chicago Avenue used to have it all -- shops, theaters, department stores and restaurants. People used to hang out on the stretch of road between Damen and Ashland to catch dinner and a movie and to do some shopping afterward. It was a 1960s urban oasis if you will.

Over the years, the area began to change. Businesses closed down, residents moved out and condos moved in. In a sense, it was like a death to the 'hood. But there is still a strong presence, a scent in the air that smells like a mix between leisure and fun with a hint of old school hard work. This is an area in limbo, trapped between beauty and grit, between no money and new. There's an evolution going on. And you can see it, in the eclectic shops and eateries that stand in the shadows of deserted storefronts and rundown brick buildings. But like many neighborhoods in the city, its charm lies in the unchanged.

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A/C / Comments (7)

Feature Wed Aug 18 2010

Good Deeds in The Back of the Yards


The Back of the Yards Fiesta last June. Photo courtesy of

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.

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Margaret Larkin

Feature Mon Jul 26 2010

A Creative Refuge for Girls

[Editor's note: This article was submitted by freelance writer Michael Moreci.]

All photos courtesy of Ag47

Reaching out to children, as a mentor, is never an easy thing. But the difficulty of finding a common ground works both ways. Often, children have trouble communicating fully with adults; they feel that their voices aren't heard, their opinions not appreciated, or they simply aren't comfortable opening up in the first place. The women who run Ag47, a Logan Square arts mentorship program catering to pre-teen and teenage girls, never take these communication gaps for granted.

"All the girls come because they love the idea of being listened to, being heard by an adult," Executive Director Virginia Killian Lund said.

Ag47 is more than a mentorship program. The foundation of reaching out to children on a creative level is what fosters an environment of expression and the idea that everyone has a story to tell, everyone has a unique perspective on the world. Having just wrapped up its first six-week session, the program is off to a quick start. And the result of this inaugural run? An inspiring collection of photographs, paintings, and poems that is currently touring the city.

The women who started Ag47, including Lund, had all worked together before, with a different mentorship program. When that program closed, the big question was, what next?

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Neighborhood Tue Jul 13 2010

Chicago Elevated Boystown Tour

Margaret Hicks of Chicago Elevated loves Chicago and its many unique neighborhoods, and if you've ever been fortunate enough to take one of her walking tours, you no doubt agree. Sunday evening, I joined her Boystown tour, eager to learn more about a neighborhood I've known to be chill yet vibrant; full of unique restaurants, bars, and shops; and, most importantly, bursting with people who can and do express their individuality with abandon. There's no denying that I was already a fan of Boystown, but there was an awful lot I had yet to learn about the neighborhood. And that's where the Chicago Elevated Boystown Tour comes in.

Roscoeclose (2).jpg Appropriately, Hicks kicks off the tour at Roscoe's, the neighborhood's first gay bar to open up its windows over two decades ago. From here, the tour migrates down Halsted, incorporating such spots as the Leigh Gallery, the former Mandel Bros Warehouse, and down to the Playground Improv Theater. Heading back northward along Boystown's primary thoroughfare, Hicks describes the history of the gay movement in the U.S., how the movement manifested in Chicago, and even how Nixon--yes, Nixon--played an integral (though inadvertent) role in the extended lifespan of gay bars in Chicago.

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Emily Disher / Comments (1)

Art Thu Jun 17 2010

"Art-About" Tour of West Town This Saturday

This Saturday, Art Adventure! Events is hosting a free Art-About in West Town. With a trusty map in hand, participants are encouraged to stroll their way through the area's art attractions. The festival is meant to highlight the increased art activity in the West Town neighborhood, drawing those interested into this new area to create and learn from each other.

Twenty-five venues are offering a variety of activities, from simply perusing a gallery space to live music to wine tastings, even a tai chi demonstration! For a full listing of Art-About participants and offerings, click here.

The Art-About starts at the Sculpture Courtyard at 935 N Damen at 4pm. Drop by to pick up a map and explore a new area!


Kerrianne O'Malley

Culture Sun Jun 13 2010

Bike Ride in the Buff

naked 1.jpg

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.

Britany Robinson

Art Tue Apr 20 2010

Don't Miss Version Fest

version10.jpgThe 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.

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Kelly Reaves

Art Thu Apr 08 2010

Making Sense of it All

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.

Kelly Reaves

Art Fri Mar 26 2010

A Brand New Op Shop for the Brand New Season

mainimage.jpgAs spring settles in, I have been drawn outside more and more, this week I headed to Hyde Park, where Laura Schaeffer is preparing to open her second Op Shop. Laura's Op Shops start as vacant store fronts or businesses that she transforms into creative retail spaces. With the help of local artists and visionaries Laura will be offering a space for artists and community members to come together and teach, learn, witness and connect, as well as buy, sell, display and observe. This sort of balance is not easy to maintain, but seeing as Laura is also the owner of the Home Gallery, and hanging the beautiful shows she has at Home, definitely qualifies her to make this an absolute success.

Her artistic eye scans everything as it comes together, artists run amuck in the 3,000-square-foot space of 1530 E. 53rd St., and Laura takes pictures and so she is sure to recount the process. In the short time I was there I found out that the space, built in the '30s, was a Walgreen's, a Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore, and a Hollywood Video, but according to a project being done for the Op Shop, the most influential incarnation of the space was the Hyde Park Federal Savings and Loan. Although Laura is directing the resurrection of the Op Shop for Saturday's opening, I would like express that this is an evolving space, the items and projects within the space will alter and grow throughout its existence, which will be until, at least, May 1.

Opening Reception: March 27, 6-10pm
Open Wednesday through Sundays 11am - 7pm
Closing Celebration: May 1, 6-10pm


Art Thu Mar 18 2010

Who Says Politics and Art Don't Mix?

This is just a reminder... don't forget to go to the highly anticipated 50 Alderman/50 Artists show opening tomorrow night at Johalla Projects (1561 N. Milwaukee) from 7 to 11pm.

It should be a lively show-- 50 artists volunteered to make portraits of their alderman for it in an effort to raise awareness of local politics within the art world. Old Style is sponsoring the opening, too, so you can have a undeniably, unapologetically Chicago experience at this show. Don't miss it. If you do, though, the show will be up through April 2.


"Gene and Richard" by Phineas X. Jones

Kelly Reaves

Art Wed Mar 10 2010

Humboldt Cultural Center in a Bind


photos by Jhonathan F. Gómez

Quennect 4 just started out as a space, nothing more. Just a place on North Avenue in Humboldt Park for people to use for concerts and parties. And that's what it was. But over time, somewhat serendipitously, it became something more-- not only a venue for art and music but for communication, harmony, and activism.

One of the many revelatory occasions that contributed to this transformation happened recently, during a benefit at Quennect 4 for the well-known taggers Evol and Afro, who died in a car accident on the highway last April. The circumstances surrounding their death were infuriating--a (probably) drunk cop was involved--so the attendance was immense. The large space was full and they had to stop letting people in at 10:30.

"It should go down in history," said one of the guys who runs Quennect 4, who asked to remain anonymous when I interviewed the crew of volunteers there in February. "Every tagging crew in the city was here. On the streets they're at war with each other but in here they all got along. You could feel the energy in the room. It was very tense. We were all nervous, but nothing happened."

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (1)

Art Tue Mar 09 2010

A Forgotten Culture in a Familiar Place

[Editor's note: This feature story was submitted by reader A.Jay Wagner.]

newwashfountain.jpgBetween 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.

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A/C / Comments (3)

Art Thu Jan 28 2010

Guided Tours of River North/ West Loop Galleries

MexcianRetablosatByronRoche.jpgIt's a relaxing way to spend your Saturdays: Chicago Gallery News leads a free tour every Saturday (rain, snow or shine) through various River North galleries and every sixth Saturday (the next taking place on Jan. 30) they host a guided West Loop gallery tour.

So that means this Saturday, there are two tours to choose from--or do both.

The River North Tour will meet at Starbucks, 750 N. Franklin St. at 11am and will be lead by Addington Gallery. The tour will be showcasing Byron Roche Gallery, 750 N. Franklin St. (which opens Jan. 30 and will be Roche's last showing in this space), Ken Saunders Gallery, 230 W. Superior St., Jennifer Norback Gallery, 215 W. Huron St. and then Addington Gallery, 704 N. Wells St.

The West Loop Tour will be lead by Thomas McCormick Gallery and will visit and meet at Walsh Gallery, 118 N. Peoria St., 2nd floor, at 1:30pm. The tour will continue to Dubhe Carreno Gallery, in the same building; Western Exhibitions, 119 N Peoria St.; and then Thomas McCormick Gallery, W. Washington Blvd.

The tours are free and no reservations are required. For more information visit the Chicago Gallery News website for art tour details.

*The photo above is "Mexcian Retablos" at Byron Roche Gallery

John Lendman

Art Thu Jan 28 2010

A Happy Union Between Politics and Art

50-50+160x600.pngDo you know what your alderman looks like? Mine has a mustache. Ever had the urge to make a painting of your alderman? Now is your chance. Johalla Projects is putting on a show, titled 50 ALDERMAN/50 ARTISTS, which is pretty much what it sounds like. 50 artists from across Chicago (you could be one of them) will choose one alderman to feature in a 16″x22″ portrait, using their media of choice. There is a point to this -- participating artists will be required to interview or at least attempt to interview the alderman they are depicting. The idea is to use art as a vehicle for learning about the people who represent us at city hall -- to foster an understanding of local politics and more involvement in our communities.

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Kelly Reaves

Art Thu Jan 28 2010

The Burning Whale

In Pilsen, there used to be place called the Whale. It was actually just a residence, but it represented much more because it was the base of operations for a society of creatives and intellectuals (but not the hoity toity type) called the "Order of the Lamprey." People from every imaginable background would meet there to enjoy the finer things in life-- mostly art making, pig roasting, doohickey inventing, cold beer, and heated discussion.

Now the Whale is gone, and everything in it, because it burned down on December 17. Kenneth Morrison, Michelle Faust, and Nat Ward, the trio who started the Order of the Lamprey and lived in the building, lost all of their posessions. Since the fire, though, an astounding number of Chicagoans have stepped up to the plate, coming together in support. A Facebook group has been started which serves as a vehicle for recovery, or at least the first step, helping friends of the Whale connect with each other. Check it out, join the group, and if you have any money left over after helping out the Haitians, help these guys out too by donating to their Paypal account. (The email address to use to donate to them through Paypal is Also, Bridgeport's wonderful Co-Prosperity Sphere is hosting a benefit party for the Whale on February 5. Check out our listing in Slowdown for the details.


The destroyed kitchen at the Whale

Kelly Reaves

Neighborhood Thu Dec 10 2009

Cocktails and Clay

If you've always wanted to get down and dirty--in an artistic way, of course--join the folks at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell, for "Cocktails and Clay." Held the second Friday of every month, this fun-filled event allows you to try your hand at pottery during clay-making sessions in a ceramics studio; also, you can peruse the center's exhibits, enjoy a cocktail, and listen to good music.

"Cocktails and Clay" will be held on Friday, Dec. 11, from 8pm to midnight. There is no fee; however, donations are suggested. Contact the center at 773.324.5520 for further information.

LaShawn Williams

Art Mon Nov 23 2009

AREA Chicago Won a MacArthur Grant

2757607464_474d795324.jpgI want to make sure that everyone knows how awesome AREA Chicago is. AREA is a local art/research/education/activism organization that is manifested in both a biannual magazine and a series of sponsored events. For the past four years, since AREA was created in 2005, they have focused on producing and strengthening networks among grassroots practitioners and given a voice to underrepresented Chicagoans and Chicago issues.

I got an email from them on Friday, letting me know that they've just received a $6,000 MacArthur grant for being so awesome. Check out their website, read some articles, go to some meetings if you want, and bathe in the awesomeness yourself. In such a segregated city, it is important that we reach out and stay connected with fellow Chicagoans so we know what's going on around us and so we can network with and support each other.

Kelly Reaves / Comments (1)

Art Mon Nov 16 2009

Opportunity for the Arts

The directors of Home Gallery, in Hyde Park, have an exciting and interesting pilot event coming up called the Op Shop. The name refers to Opportunity Shop, and the idea here is to open a temporary space where artists can bring their work, as well as services and ideas, in order to barter, sell and openly exchange. I don't want to give the impression that this is a just retail space, although that is one aspect of what will happen within this space. Artists are being encouraged to be a part of this event organically, utilizing the space to create a dynamic and evolving installation. All mediums are welcome, so artists may host a workshop, lessons, or performances as well as sell paintings or sculptures.

Another aspect of this pilot project, which, if all goes well there will be more of, is to work in conjunction with property owners, bringing attention to their vacant spaces while helping to keep the Op Shop's costs down. This will also attract new consumers to an area and will aid in revitalizing neighborhood shops that may have seen a drop in sales over the past few months. This Op Shop will be located in a vacant space currently owned by Mac Properties in Hyde Park at 1613 E. 55th St.

If you are interested in participating in The Op Shop, you should contact the Laura Shaeffer immediately. They are also looking for people to donate time to help run the space during its open hours.

The planned timed and days for this event are as follows

Dates: 11/27 Fri - 12/31 Thu
Visitor hours: 11am-7pm, Thu-Sun,
Evenings, coinciding with events.

Opening reception: 11/27 Fri, from 6-10 p.m.
Silent Auction: 12/5 Sat from 6-10 p.m
Closing party: 12/31 Thu from 6-10 p.m.

MartinJon / Comments (2)

Neighborhood Fri Nov 13 2009

DuSable's Dollar Days

DUSABLEThe DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., is commemorating its 48th anniversary; to celebrate, admission for everyone this weekend is only $1.

For your dollar, you can visit the Chicago Blues Museum exhibit, "The Soul of Bronzeville," participate in a treasure hunt (one for adults, one for children), renew membership (or join museum) to qualify for a chance to win roundtrip airline tickets, and meet Chicago media personalities.

Not bad for a buck, eh?

The special admission price is for Saturday, Nov. 14 and Sunday, Nov. 15 only. Museum hours: Saturdays, 10am-5pm; Sundays, 12pm-5pm. Call 773.947.0600 for more information.

LaShawn Williams

Art Thu Nov 12 2009

Ork Posters to Open Mini Shop for Holidays

OrkPoster.jpgMaker of those now-iconic neighborhood typographic prints, Ork Posters will be opening an exclusive holiday shop which will feature their own typographic t-shirts, prints, postcards and posters as well as artwork from other various artists.

Ork World Headquarters is hosting a grand opening for their shop on Nov. 14, set to run through Dec. 23, in West Lakeview, 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave, Suite 133.

What started out as Chicago-import Jenny Beorkrem's search for a neighborhood poster with clean typographical design in 2007, has led to a print design sensation sold in a growing number of framing and print shops, such as Lakeview's Foursided, 2939 N. Broadway St., among other locations. Today, there are more than a dozen different designs featuring many cities or locations (Boston, Brooklyn, the Great Lakes, and even a map of the human heart and brain).

Artists being featured include Yellena James, Andy Pratt (who creates colorful watercolor prints of city skylines from Manhattan to Hong Kong), Frank Chimero, local printer/designer Starshaped Press (who can be commissioned to create stationary, invites or custom illustrations), The Little Friends of Printmaking, and many other spectacular prints begging to be hung in your apartment.

John Lendman / Comments (1)

Art Wed Nov 11 2009

Art is Everywhere All the Time (Today)

dubi-something-new-229x250.jpgI'll be honest with you. I don't exactly know what the hell is going on. I just found out about this. It sounds pretty darn awesome, though. Apparently what is happening, right now, is a 24-hour decentralized art show all over our wonderful city, ending at midnight tonight.

The show is called "Something New." It was organized and curated by Nikola Tosic (an internet artist and poet based in Serbia) and Sarah Weis (multi-media artist, performer and creative director of i^3 hypermedia.) Check out this webpage to find out exactly what artwork is being shown today and where. The idea is basically to turn the whole city of Chicago into an art viewing space for one day, a sort of choose-your-own-adventure concept, relying heavily on the participation of the audience.

Continue reading this entry »

Kelly Reaves

Art Mon Nov 02 2009

The Calumet Region, An American Place: Photographs by Gary Cialdella

calumet cover.jpg

A collection of Gary Cialdella's photographs of an area that begins in southern Chicago, and ends somewhere in Northwest Indiana, has just been published in a new book. This book of photographs took me a long time to digest, mainly because I know the Calumet region and was not very familiar with this sort of documentary photography. I don't know the area quite as well as Gregg Hertzlieb, editor and contributing essayist for this book, but I have spent enough time in the area to be familiar with the subject matter. It isn't easy to look at photograph after photograph of things you've seen before, all taken in black and white from a six foot eye level. It becomes monotonous and tiring after a while, but I am beginning to understand that there is a lot more here than was originally able to see.

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Music Wed Oct 21 2009

Graduation Week @ The Old Town School of Folk Music

Last night was my final West African Dance class of the current session, and we had a recital onstage at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The school is housed in a grand building on Lincoln Avenue that was once a library and retains traces of its bookish past; above the stage is a WPA mural underscored by the words "enjoy toys, the world we live in, making airplanes, boats, books tell us of King Arthur, costume and pioneer days, building skyscrapers, electricity." My fellow classmates and I - six of us in all, got on stage to the rhythm of live djembe drumming, and brought the house down. After spending eight weeks dancing in the studio classroom, it was gratifying to perform in front of an audience, and the group assembled at the Old Town School couldn't have been less judgmental - everyone in the auditorium had to get on stage at some point, making the atmosphere less American Idol and more like talent night at summer camp. We practiced our dance moves in the hallway as a group of musicians rehearsed Will The Circle Be Unbroken, it was a quintessential Old Town School moment.

The six of us stood across from each other on the stage, three on each side, and at the appropriate drumbeat - what our teacher calls "the break," we started moving towards each other in dance formation until we'd found our mark, faced the audience, and moved to the next step. Midway through the dance we formed a circle using dance steps and then moved back to our original spots, a maneuver that wowed the audience. I was standing up front at stage right, and could see the audience - mostly guitar students, with instruments in their laps or in cases sitting next to them. Our dance lasted all of three minutes, and we received a truly raucous round of applause and shouts for our efforts. It was fantastic. Three West African Dance classes performed in a row, ceaseless drumming spurring on one class after the next. After that came the Middle Eastern Belly Dancers in all their jangly, hip-centered self-confidence, the metal disks on their hip scarves bouncing in unison like a school of small, shiny fish.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (1)

Feature Tue Aug 18 2009

Chicago Revenant: Dunning/Schorsch Village

Editor's Note: Chicago Revenant is a new occasional feature by Gapers Block writer Dan Kelly examining some of the less well-known neighborhoods of Chicago -- or as he likes to put it, "shambling through the Second City." This is the first in the series, visiting Dunning and Schorsch Village on the Northwest Side.

The neighborhood of Dunning is a perfect place for a horror film — and I mean that in the nicest way.

Situated on the northwest side, Dunning (and its next-door neighborhood Schorsch Village), will charm your pants off with gingerbread houses, neighborhood stores and pleasant parks. Simultaneously, the place hosts three graveyards, a mental health facility, a semi-abandoned troubled children's facility and a camouflaged potter's field. It's a pretty place, and I met some nice folks, but it's ripe for a cinematic boogyman.

Naturally, I took my 19-month-old son Nate with me. Blithely unaware of anything beyond fire trucks and giraffes, Nate offered little commentary during the three hours we drove around Dunning. Mostly he babbled in the car seat, or tried to outrun me on his stubby little legs whenever we made a stop. I didn't bother with explanations. I didn't need to. Nate's world consists of home and the playground, with little elaboration. It made no difference to him if the Kentucky bluegrass and dandelions he ran across covered the bones of the insane dead or not — especially if a puppy was nearby.

Dada knew better. Dunning is the name of community area 17, bordered by Cumberland, Irving Park, Narragansett, and Belmont and containing the neighborhoods of Irving Woods, Belmont Terrace, Belmont Heights, Schorsch Village and Dunning proper. The place dates back to when the Northwest Side was still a rural area on the city's outskirts. The name came from Andrew Dunning, a speculator who bought 120 acres of land there not too long after the Civil War. First Dunning built a nursery. Then, assumably fantasizing about naming a village after himself, he set aside 40 acres for future settlers. But Mr. Dunning failed to consider the effect his peculiar neighbors might have on potential homesteaders.

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Mr. Dan Kelly / Comments (20)

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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