Street Smart Chicago

Museum Review: Burnham 2.0: A Patchwork Plan

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In 1909, Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett imagined the restructuring and beautification of a contemporary American city, “The Plan of Chicago.” A hundred years later, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Architectural Club and the Chicago History Museum have composed “Burnham 2.0.” This competition and exhibit takes “The Plan of Chicago” to the next level: in the new century, what would a utopian, sustainable and pluralistic Chicago look like as the hub of a high-speed rail network? The gallery space is small and simplistic, but the ideas within are big, dense and complex. Though some of the entries approach the challenge analytically, the majority are far-fetched, science-fiction speculations about utopias, heavy on the metaphors and light on plausibility. Joliet, Cicero and the fragmented districts of the Loop and South Side are given super-duper green makeovers. Vacant lots and auto dealerships are replaced with multifaceted parks and civic centers. Notable entries include a comic-book-style walk-through of a high-speed railway station and the replacement of the Presidential Towers with a series of gothic, counter-culture artist bungalows. The most impressive entry belongs to the winners of an international design competition, an imaginative yet realistic re-envisioning of Union Station as an intermodal transportation hub. (Laura Hawbaker)

“Burnham 2.0: A Patchwork Plan” runs at Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark, (312)642-4600, through April 12.

Fall Forward: Museum exhibit previews 2008

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Twisted Into Recognition: Clichés of Jews and Others
Historical artifacts, material culture and modern art and film can reveal the existence and perseverance of stereotypes. Stereotypes and clichés comfort us in facing the unknown, but can also have ugly side effects. Explore how these images and objects represent us and affect us and how we respond to their resolve in this progressive multimedia exhibition. Opens September 26 at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies

Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures
Take the opportunity to look deep into the chests of some of Chicago’s most notorious women in history. The Chicago History Museum will have more than sixty significant couture pieces on display providing an intimate glance into Chicago’s elite past, from 1861-2008. Opens September 27 at the Chicago History Museum

Fast Forward … Inventing the Future
Join in on the celebration of the Museum of Science and Industry’s seventy-fifth anniversary by looking to the future. The museum’s newest rotating exhibit displays cutting-edge technologies and innovations developed by the world’s brainiest inventors and scientists. Opens September 3 at The Museum of Science and Industry

The Aztec World: A Unique View of a Mighty Empire
After centuries of investigation, experts are finally beginning to understand the culture and history of the Aztecan people. Take this opportunity to enter into the everyday lives of their compelling Mesoamerican culture. Observe rare Aztecan artifacts, such as sacrificial altars and royal treasures, amassed for the first time in history. Opens October 31 at The Field Museum

Boom Towns!
With a thick influx of immigrants, industrial advance and social regulation, Chicago underwent a colossal, unprecedented population boom at the end of the nineteenth century. Discover how Chicago’s experience compares to the modern day booms in China and the Middle East by evaluating iconic works of architecture in each region and era. Opens September 23 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation

Cranes and Conversations
Sandhill cranes, the oldest birds on Earth, follow a similar route from north to south each year. Two avid admirers and good friends, Jill Metcoff and Diane Farris, also pursued the route. Jill, of Wisconsin, trailed the birds in the north and Diane welcomed their arrival in Florida. Metcoff and Farris, thirty years later, have reunited in Chicago to compile their inspiring migration photographs, collages and film montages. The exhibit may even inspire you to get outside and admire as the fleet soars along our lakefront from mid-October to mid-November. Notebaert Nature Museum starting October 17

Hands in the Air: John Dillinger robbed banks for a living

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Although recent inquiries may prove that J. Edgar Hoover was not a transvestite after all, he still doesn’t have anything on John Dillinger, whose following, either from sheer devotion or anticipation for the release of Michael Mann’s newest feature, couldn’t be stronger. As far as Mike Flores, a local playwright, is concerned, “J. Edgar Hoover was a prude,” and tonight, perhaps all of Lincoln Station will agree, for today marks the seventy-fourth anniversary of John Dillinger’s untimely, unarmed death alongside the Biograph Theater at the hands of a sloppy FBI job.
At least that’s how the latest installment of the story unfolds by the ones who love to tell it. For the past several years, the “John Dillinger Died For You Society,” fronted by Flores and folklorist/ghost-hunter Richard Crowe, has been keeping the Dillinger tradition alive. “I became a Dillinger fan when I found out his real story,” Flores remarks, and the joke is on the FBI. However, until the real story is revealed at the 10pm ceremony in front of the Biograph Theater, where Dillinger was reported to have viewed his final talkie, fans and locals alike gather at the bar. A man in a kilt downs the last from his flask while enthusiasts talk about anything ranging from their MySpace fan sites dedicated to Chicago’s very own Robin Hood or about their first-hand experience as an extra alongside Johnny Depp on the set of Mann’s upcoming movie.
But when 10pm rolls around, the crowd is escorted to the front of the bar where a bagpipe procession leads a true “rebel” jaywalk across the street to the notorious theater in front of which Flores delivers Dillinger’s story, which, to put it frankly, isn’t what will be appearing on the silver screen any time soon. “If the new Dillinger movie had told the truth, it would have made an incredible impression on people and also let people understand the control that J. Edgar Hoover had over the media,” Flores proclaims. “We have been bullshitted so long about the Depression Era and are living in a matrix reality created by J. Edgar Hoover.” Slightly too intoxicated, or possibly indifferent, to rally at this statement, the procession meanders to the adjacent alleyway for a rendition of “Amazing Grace” sung painstakingly slowly to bagpipe accompaniment just before Crowe provides an account of first-hand paranormal experiences at the death site. Recapturing the audience’s attention, a line of ladies clad in red—dressed in the true fashion of Dillinger’s culprit Anna Sage—form a straight line hoping to bag a $100 prize. When the winner, aided by her sideline companion, is chosen after having answered a trivia question correctly, she is praised with an uproar of applause and an honorary pouring of a can of Miller on the hero’s death site. “Johnny Boy, we’re doing this for you!” (Elise Biggers)

Fiberglass Giants: The last bastions of marketing kitsch

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By David Witter

You are driving along Ashland Avenue near 63rd Street and there he is. Geronimo, standing forty-five feet high on the roof of Midwest Eye Clinic, holding up his arm to say “how!” to the people below, wearing glasses and holding up a massive optometrist’s eye chart. But Geronimo is not alone. Near the corner of Grand and Pulaski is another legendary figure, Paul Bunyan. Towering some forty feet over Ceds Auto Service, the dark, bearded giant extends what looks like a tire iron to beckon customers below. On the far Northwest Side, Maurie, a twenty-foot hotdog dressed in a Tarzan tunic flexes his muscles as Flourie, a female version of the popular American sausage, gazes at him admirably from the roof of Superdawg.
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411: Building onto the Future

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With 2009 on the horizon, Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago, the nation’s first feat in metropolitan planning, will look at its one-hundreth year as both an urban and regional standard. So, without much further ado, Chicago will welcome two of the world’s most renowned architects, Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel, to erect pavilions in Millennium Park next June to inaugurate the city’s greater involvement in the Burnham Plan Centennial Celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Pride 2008: Out Intersection, Filmmaker Ron Pajak shines a light on history

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By Elise Biggers
After accommodating more than 400,000 people last summer, some speculate this week’s Pride Parade may very well top the half-million milestone. Given Chicago’s turbulent LGBT history that had, within the last eighty years, witnessed the transformation of lightly attended, sidewalk-confined Pride demonstrations into a highly acclaimed yearly celebration, a rich oral tradition had been awaiting documentation up until its translation onto film in 2007. Since filmmaker and Columbia College instructor Ron Pajak’s screening of his documentary “Quearborn & Perversion” last November, Chicago’s LGBT community has connected to stories that have seldom been told by earlier generations—stories that reveal the little-known history of the Chicago’s LGBT cultural identity that began just north of the river not too long ago.
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Pride 2008: Book of Record, Tracy Baim and the new “Out and Proud in Chicago”

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By Jeremy Gordon

Chicago’s gay community stays pretty busy in the month of June, but Tracy Baim, a born-and-raised Chicagoan and executive editor of the Windy City Times and “Out and Proud in Chicago,” an upcoming book that delves into the history of Chicago’s gay community, isn’t just looking forward like everyone at the parade, but back through time.
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Pride 2008: School of Thought, Retired Northwestern prof David Hull reminisces about a life in the community

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By Andy Seifert

When retired Northwestern professor David Hull sat down to write his memoirs with the aid of forty scrapbooks to help remind him of his past, he couldn’t stop remembering things that had been lodged in the back of his mind and forgotten for years. “I didn’t think it’d come to four volumes,” he says, before revealing the title of the first installment. “‘Where Were the Child Molesters When I Needed Them?’ What I really mean was, where was one gay person who could take me aside and tell me what the dangers are and what you can get away with and what to do when you got busted.” He pauses, and then simply says, “Nobody.”

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Pride 2008: Out of the Closet and into the Museum, CHM shines a spotlight on Chicago’s gay history

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By Sam Feldman

In 1924, German immigrant Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. It was the first known gay-rights organization in America, and among the most short-lived. Seven months later, the police raided Gerber’s Old Town home without a warrant, putting an end to the organization and arresting its officers. “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” blared the headline in the Herald-Examiner the next day.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Out-Speak

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Grab a cocktail, grub and a gay-and-lesbian history lecture at the Chicago History Museum’s “Out at CHM” lecture series kick-off event Thursday. The first lecture of the three-part series—titled “Sexual Politics: From the Lavender Scare to Larry Craig”—will be an examination of the history of how the sexuality of gay men has emerged as a hot-button topic in American politics. “We try to keep it so it’s the topic in mind, so it’s geared toward what people are talking about in their homes,” says Chicago Museum spokesperson Melissa Hayes. This lecture marks the fifth year for the “Out at CHM” series, a program brought to the public by The Center on Halsted and The Chicago History Museum as a continuing effort to bring LGBT history to Chicago’s public. “Gays and lesbians in Chicago is such a part of this city’s history,” Hayes says, “and try to tell that history from all different perspectives.”