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TODAY

Monday, December 9

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Airbags

As an occasional diversion I will feature someone outside of the arts in this column, posing three questions concerning art to someone who services the city and/or its citizenry in one capacity or another.

Life-long Bridgeporter Steven Badauskas has been in the bar business nearly his whole life. In 1965 his father John, a Lithuanian immigrant, purchased the tavern at 3238 S. Halsted, beginning what is today a 40-year-old family business. By trade a trained tool and die man, Steven left his job at McCormick Place to help run the tavern with his brother Mike and his mother Bernice — the tavern's namesake — after his father passed away in 1998. The 2005 guide book, Chicago's Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in the Windy City, by Jonathan Stockton, ranks Bernice's Tavern in the top 10 best Chicago dive bars. Stockton calls Bernice's his Bridgeport hideaway, an unpretentious spot where during his first visit "I asked a young woman how she knew I lived up North. 'Your glasses,' she said. Mine were made in Belgium. Hers were not." Bernice's Tavern holds an open mic every Thursday night, and hosts a DJ from Rock Bottom Records every Saturday, unless live music is scheduled — Bernice's is fastly becoming a go-to tavern for artists trickling into the Bridgeport area. Stop in sometime.

Q: Where do you find art in your work?

Badauskas: That is a tricky question for a semi worn-out bartender. I've virtually been working in this tavern since I was 6 years old. I wish I could say there's been nothing but roses, parties and laughter, but truth be told, there's an awful lot of sadness that comes and goes through the door. That being said, I've met a lot of amazing people who perhaps never might have considered themselves special or great. A strange thing does happen around here more often than one might think. People (customers) disappear and are never seen or heard from again. I occasional remember one of those strangers and miss them: that's a sort of art.

Q: Should art entertain or provoke? Should art jar one's politics, make one question his or her faith? Or, should art just throw politics and faith out the door?

Badauskas: I personally don't like when art and politics intertwine. The result to me is often propaganda. Not that there hasn't been a lot of cool looking propaganda art. I do feel that art should inspire some reflex to occur. Happiness, sadness, awe or wonder. I have personally made art, paintings and drawings. I feel that my art is not complete until somebody else's eyes have gazed upon it, and I sense a change in those eyes, if even for a moment.

Q: Who's your favorite artist, and how would you explain to this person your first experience with his or her work?

Badauskas: There are far too many honorable mentions and so many different fields of art that I find this question impossible to answer. There is DaVinci for his pure genius, Bob Dylan for an abundance of epic lyrics, Hendrix for his sheer rawness, Harry Houdini for showmanship — the list could go on forever. Let me just say that anyone who has caused my eyes to change for that moment I mentioned before, is at that moment my favorite artist.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to tqf@gapersblock.com.

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