Street Smart Chicago

Museum review: Catholic Chicago

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Nestled on the second floor of the Chicago History Museum, the “Catholic Chicago” exhibit graces with a superb twelve-foot painting of “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” which was created on Mexican paper and done using gold leaf and pigmented dye. This large piece is flanked with an array of photos showing kids in Catholic school and finally footage from the International Eucharistic Congress of 1926—the first and largest pilgrimage event in America. Despite the airy feel of the building, these striking images alone could appear intimidating, particularly those not necessarily affiliated with the Catholicism. Despite this, expect to be greeted with an exhibit that intertwines the very roots of Chicago with the Catholic Church to a dizzying degree—creating a very personable approach to a incredibly broad topic. “Catholic Chicago” goes beyond the common facts and pertinent Catholic local figures; instead, the exhibit once again attempts to engross the audience—going so far as to feature a short film on Catholic school in front of two school desks (from a real Catholic school mind you), and offers a replica of the church experience, complete with pews, altar and piped-in music from different services and congregations. Perhaps most telling is that the exhibit strives to exemplify the diverse notions of what it means to be Catholic by covering a number of denominations and cultures (there’s an audio tour in both Spanish and Polish). Because of this widespread approach, “Catholic Chicago” is approachable by not only those who are themselves Catholic but really for anyone curious about both the religion and how it guides a person’s way of life. (Thomas Barbee)
“Catholic Chicago” through January 4, 2009, at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark, (312)642-4600.

Museum review: Museum of Modern Ice

Events, Loop, Museums No Comments »

While calling it the Museum of Modern Ice may be something of a misnomer, this vibrant exhibition in the heart of Chicago’s Millennium Park is nevertheless quite delightful. Canadian artist Gordon Halloran installed what is the centerpiece of this “museum, ” a spectacular ninety-five-foot-long ice wall that has been wonderfully colored using the artist’s own special technique. The ice wall serves as the perfect contrast to the other landmarks situated in the park, specifically the Pritzker Pavilion and the Cloud Gate sculpture which are directly behind and in front of the ice wall, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum review: And Freedom for All

Hyde Park, Museums No Comments »

With the echoes of his words sweeping over the exhibit through speakers fixated in the ceiling, the “And Freedom for All” exhibit at DuSable Museum highlights Martin Luther King and the famous civil-rights march in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Containing fifty unpublished photographs taken by famed photojournalist Stanley Tretick, the exhibit is exceptionally powerful as it lets the photographs speak for themselves. Instead of the usual factoids that go hand in hand with an exhibit, “And Freedom For All” bucks the trend by merely offering quotes from leaders who in some way helped or participated in the march, such as A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King himself, as supplemental anecdotes. The simple presentation forces visitors to take in nothing but the photos themselves and in some way feel as if they are a part of this great event in history. Located in the downstairs exhibit hall of the DuSable Museum, you are greeted with an oversized photo of Martin Luther King delivering a speech at Soldier Field in Chicago with an equally large plaque displaying the words to his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. These images juxtaposed to hearing his speech when walking up to the first photos create a chilling effect. While some may argue that it lacks any real substance beyond the photos that are on display, having the opportunity to see such well-done unpublished photographs is quite a treat—especially when they pack the narrative quality that Tretick’s photographs possesses. (Thomas Barbee)
“And Freedom for All” runs at DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 East 56th Place, (773)947-0600, through June 1.

411 Seven Days in Chicago: Saved Treasure

Events, Hyde Park, Museums No Comments »

When Dr. Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, stops by the Oriental Institute Museum in a few weeks, he’ll probably try to tell you the real story is the artifacts themselves, the archeological treasures from the cradle of civilization. But George has a helluva story, too. The acclaimed archeologist witnessed firsthand the looting of the priceless antiquities inside the Iraq Museum when the U.S. forces invaded in 2003. “It was worse than we expected because whole premises were under attack,” he says. “They were taking everything: furniture, computers, printers, fax machines.” Things turned worse for George in 2006, when he heard from close friends that high-ranking officials wanted him out because he was a self-professed Christian, forcing him and his family to flee to Syria. “I am sure I would have been assassinated had I not left,” he says. George will lead tours of the Oriental Institute  on Sunday, January 6, at 1:30pm and 2:30pm.

Museum review: The Canary Project

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Lost in the shuffle amongst the droids, Darth Vaders and Storm Troopers stands a modest exhibit at the MSI that represents an interesting and dynamic approach to the issue of global warming. With more than twenty poignant photographs on hand, “The Canary Project” isn’t meant to scare the wits out of you, but rather give a tangible visual representation of the effects of global warming and what people are doing to try to deter the process. The name represents the efforts of the husband-and-wife team Edward Morris and Susannah Saylor in their attempt to be like canaries, which warn of deadly methane levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Spertus Institute

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One of the most impressive buildings in Chicago’s recent history was unveiled last week, much to the delight of organizers as well as those in attendance. After witnessing the magnificent façade of the Spertus Institute’s new facility for months, it can now be confirmed that it more than lives up to the expectations set by its challenging exterior. Designed by the highly touted Kreuck + Sexton Architects, the firm which also designed the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, the ten-story building is not only beautiful but also environmentally friendly, as it is LEED certified. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mapping the Universe

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While the Adler Planetarium may not seem like an obvious candidate to be a part of the Festival of Maps, it only takes a few minutes in touring the exhibit to be proven wrong. “Mapping the Universe” shows an array of mapping treasures that, in some cases, have never been publicly shown until now. One such artifact is a celestial globe, which stands over six feet in height and features gold leaf stars contrasting against the blue globe. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum review: Maps: Find Our Place in the World

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Amidst the recent rise in popularity of Mapquest and the overwhelmingly intricate Google Earth, the Field Museum’s simply titled “Maps” sets out to show that maps were once hand-written and delightfully flawed. Historical heavy-hitters like Charles Lindberg’s New York-to-Paris flight chart and J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary depiction of Minas Tirith highlight the exhibit, but nearly all the pieces exist within their own subjective realm. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum review: Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination

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It would be easy to write off the new “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry as a money-grubbing attempt to capitalize on what has steadfastly remained, despite widespread criticism of Lucas and the newer films, one of the most celebrated phenomena in pop culture history. That said, shameless ploy or not, it’s still pretty damn cool—in the most nerdy, uncool, rabid otaku-like way possible, of course. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum review: Mapping Chicago: The Past and the Possible

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Ah, the map: one of the most underrated of all directional tools, faced with the undesirable future of forever being locked in the glove compartment by angry fathers who would rather find themselves trampled beneath their own tires than be forced to consult the handy square of fold-out paper. Read the rest of this entry »