Michael Rakowitz On Losing Cities You Love
Artist and Northwestern professor Michael Rakowitz, a Newcity Art 50 notable in 2020, 2018 and 2016 who divides his time between New York and Chicago, tells ARTnews that he sees himself as “someone who creates encounters, structures, and objects—his sculptural practice is ‘as an exertion of pressure.'” Rakowitz talks about the reflection of his Iraqi-Jewish heritage in his art: “I think about it as being something that was arduous for [my grandparents], being put in the position where they could no longer live in the city that they loved, identifying as Baghdadis when they left. They could have made their lives a lot easier for themselves by just assimilating.” At the Dallas Morning News, Rakowitz talks about his 2020 Nasher Prize, with in-person activities he may get to participate in as pandemic slackens, and the $100,000 in prize money he will use to continue his work with Iraq at its center.
Making Change, Pocket Change
Buddy gallery launches “Pocket Object,” an “Art 4 Sale Exhibition” today, featuring keychain art, all guaranteed under $100, from ninety-eight artists from Chicago and beyond. Noël Morical curates. Information here and at hi-buddy.org.
Another Obama Presidential Center Lawsuit
On the afternoon of the Pritzker-Lightfoot press availability on the $200-million-plus going toward accommodations for the Obama Presidential Center, Urbanize Chicago reports on a new lawsuit by the nonprofit Protect Our Parks that hopes to block construction. “The group was behind an earlier lawsuit challenging the legality of handing over parkland to a private entity such as the Obama Foundation, and its latest legal complaint makes a similar argument,” Urbanize posts. “The new suit also alleges that the center will ‘permanently destroy’ the integrity of Jackson Park, and that the National Environmental Policy Act review completed earlier this year was in violation of federal laws.”
Concerns After Columbus Statue Sets Sail
The Chicago Park District stands by its decision to temporarily remove a Columbus statue from the near West Side’s Arrigo Park, the Tribune’s John Byrne reports. The site is now fenced off, while the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans argues that a 1973 contract concerning the care of the statue means the group at least should have been consulted.
DINING & DRINKING
Eater Chicago reports the Michelin Guide will return to Chicago, 578 days since updating its roster of twenty-five restaurants. Three on that list have shuttered since the advent of the pandemic: Band of Bohemia, Blackbird and Everest.
Soft on The Cubs
Oatly, the two-billion-dollar Swedish oat-milk empire that drew $200 million for a ten-percent investment last summer from a group led by private equity behemoth Blackstone Group, Inc., including Oprah, Jay-Z, Natalie Portman and other investors, is bringing “rare vegan soft-serve ice cream” to Wrigley Field, reports Eater Chicago, as well as to home games for the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.
Little Goat Still No Sheep
Eater also checks in on This Little Goat Kitchen, the latest addition to Stephanie Izard’s West Loop empire, a test kitchen, private event space and media studio on West Randolph.
FILM & TV
America’s Hometown Grow
At the Sun-Times, Tom Schuba talks to pot-preneurs who hope to turn a shuttered Springfield AMC multiplex into a cannabis co-op complete with dispensary, greenhouse and get-you-high lounge.
“Hoop Dreams” High Closing
At the end of the school year, St. Joseph High School in west suburban Westchester joins the ranks of Catholic schools shutting their doors, the Trib notes. “[T]he 1994 documentary, ‘Hoop Dreams,’ by Chicago filmmaker Steve James, portrayed the school as a positive but domineering and potentially heartbreaking venue for very young, predominantly Black players who would travel out to the mostly white suburbs to play.”
Picturing an End to Wabash Blues
“Rioters destroyed Chicago’s oldest camera store. Can photographers, filmmakers and students bring it back to life? Ask owner Don Flesch!” The latest conversation from the Groundswell Films program The Doc Talk Show takes up the rebuilding of Central Camera, the 121-year-old family business on Wabash. April 20, 7pm, free Zoom reservation here.
Wright Stuff, Right Time
Chris Borrelli writes about the arrival of “The Man Who Lived Underground,” a previously unpublished novel from eighty years ago by Richard Wright, author of “Native Son” and “Black Boy.” His agent and publishers “anticipated a book titled ‘Black Hope,’ about domestic workers. Wright gave them a novel devoid of hope, about a Black man pulled off the street by police and falsely accused of murder, then beaten and tortured, only to escape into the sewer system where he is transformed by an epiphany that life aboveground was impossible. Wright saw the book as a creative leap forward, as existentialist as his prose had been realist… To read ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’ today — it arrives on April 20, intact for the first time, published by the posterity-minded Library of America — is to recognize an author who knew his work could be shelved for decades without depreciation. Because this is America. Because police misconduct, to use the genteel 2021 term, is ageless. Check the copyright page… Yes, this was written in 1941. Yes, it’s eighty years later. Yes, Wright died in 1960, at fifty-two, having never scaled again the commercial heights of ‘Native Son.’ Yet somehow ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’ found its way into bookstores at the right time…”
Whiting Foundation Names 2021 Recipients
The Whiting Foundation has awarded in its thirty-sixth anniversary $50,000 each to ten diverse emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.The award is one of the largest and most esteemed in the field. The 2021 recipients are Joshua Bennett, poetry and nonfiction; Jordan E. Cooper, drama; Steven Dunn, fiction; Tope Folarin, fiction; Donnetta Lavinia Grays, drama; Sarah Stewart Johnson, nonfiction; Sylvia Khoury, drama; Ladan Osman (Lit 50 2016), Xandria Phillips (Lit 50 2020) and Marwa Helal, poetry. (Four past Whiting winners—Jericho Brown, poetry; Anne Boyer, nonfiction; Colson Whitehead, fiction; Michael R. Jackson, drama—were recipients of 2020 Pulitzer Prizes.)
Who Defines a “Mass Shooting”? The Media?
“While national media outlets tend to omit Chicago,” posts South Side Weekly, “local media oversaturates news coverage of crime without substantial discussion of context and solutions.” Madison Muller surveys observers: ““There’s a hierarchy to gun violence,’ said Lakeidra Chavis, who reports on gun violence in Chicago for The Trace. ‘I think the way we talk about mass shootings—in a very specific way that excludes the mass shootings that happen in Chicago—creates a hierarchy that disproportionately leaves people of color out of the conversation.'” Chavis will moderate a Chicago Headline Club event, “How We Report on Police,” via Zoom on Thursday April 29, including reporters from WGN, the Tribune and City News Bureau. Tickets here. “Our panelists will examine the roles of crime and accountability reporting within journalism and share how they dig for the truth while on deadline.”
A Trib Op-Ed On Adam Toledo
“Adam Toledo is not a martyr,” photojournalist Mateo Zapata writes in an urgent Tribune op-ed. “Adam’s life is the reflection of a reality experienced by Black and brown youth throughout our city every day. It’s a reality that conditions us to internalize stigmas, glorify trauma and normalize violence instead of challenging the systemic design of American oppression in our communities… A reality that most politicians don’t want to confront, at the risk of exposing how disconnected they are to the communities they claim to represent… We need solutions that begin with telling our own stories so that we can take back control of our narratives and defend the humanity of Adam and all the other kids like him. We need to heal from the collective trauma caused by a global health crisis and undeniable systemic inequality. Adam Toledo did not deserve to be killed by Chicago police. He, like many children from our side of the city, deserve more. We are Adam.”
The T-Shirt Behind The Reader Cover Story On “The Last Men’s Hotel”
Writer Katie Prout makes her Chicago Reader debut with her richly detailed, immersive cover story, “The Last Men’s Hotel,” as the man who’s kept Ewing Annex going for the past two decades prepares to retire. “A single stairwell lit by fluorescent lights runs from the ground floor on up to the fourth, linking the hotel’s two wings like a spine. To choose your wing, your room, and your future, you must first open the thin glass door that’s sandwiched between Coco’s Fried Lobster and a nameless party store advertising scratch-offs and Bud Light. Follow the stairs to a landing where Mike, serene in his black zip-up and mask and lacquered behind COVID-protective glass, greets you. From here, any door besides the lobby requires permission from staff and a buzzer to open if you’re a male resident, or the buzzer plus the accompaniment of Mike if you’re a woman like me.” Prout apologizes for “getting sincere & emotional on main” on Twitter. “I won a Reader tshirt at the Do Division Fest in 2008, I can’t remember for what,” she tweets from behind the scenes, “I was 20, very unsure of my writing & my future, & treasured it. Really one of those, ‘Someday, I’m gonna be in here’ feelings. That shirt is paint-stained, sweat-stained, & traveled thru Ireland with me as I farmed. I told people in pubs there abt a cool local alt paper I hoped to write for one day. It’s now a muscle t I like to bike and sleep in. During my 20s it was really like a talisman to me of what could be. It was w that shirt in Greece where my friend Kaya introduced me as a writer to everyone, never mind that I had no bylines & felt like a fake. ‘You’re a writer!!’ she said, ‘duhhh.’ She helped me believe it. Anyways, some people’ve asked me what they can do to support the men and the hotel. I’m going down soon to pass out copies of this story, & I’ll ask them, but for now, I’d say support Chicago Reader &/or your local journalism. Without these outlets, stories like this disappear.”
Is it Live or Is It Livestreamed?
Live Nation is installing all the tech for “turnkey livestreaming” at over sixty venues, reports Digital Music News. House of Blues is one of the first venues for the transformation. In a statement, Veeps co-founder Joel Madden sells, “Now, with the flip of a switch, every artist playing in these venues can make their show a global event. We’ve already seen how livestream shows drive engagement across every other area of an artist’s business and the added ticket revenue will allow them to re-invest in their art and make what they’re offering their fans even better.”
Stunning Spectacle From Black Monument Ensemble
Chicago magazine catches up with Damon Locks: “‘You’re like, Is this theater? Is this a band? What is happening?'” Locks asks of audience reaction. “He wants audiences to have the same response he had when he’d catch cutting-edge acts like Bad Brains and Sun Ra Arkestra as a youth… A Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble concert is designed to stun,” Jacob Arnold evokes. “Half a dozen dancers, barefoot and dressed in black costumes with thick diagonal white lines, move in graceful arcs. Six singers sway in unison as they harmonize. Two percussionists pound out rhythms while a clarinetist and a cornetist blast out melodic lines and free-jazz wails. All the while Locks, operating a digital sampler, is triggering electronic squiggles or sound bites from civil rights activists. Intermittently, he’ll issue spoken-word missives of his own over a microphone that sounds like a bullhorn. In short, it’s a spectacle.”
More And Bigger Playgrounds For Second City
At American Theatre, Jerald Raymond Pierce looks at new blood and new money at Second City after a year of virtual offerings. “This successful online venture now has Second City leadership focused on its potential to scale. As their view shifts to global potential, the door may be opening for new audiences, new kinds of shows, and new partnerships. For [new executive producer Jon Carr] that means finding unique programming while still maintaining the decades-old Second City core. When discussing what that programming could look like moving forward, Carr emphasized the importance of an inclusive and representative season and being intentional about what is populating Second City’s seven stages. The longterm goal, he said, is to create a space that allows patrons to walk in and be met with a true variety of options, offering differing perspectives and ideas. This would not only keep the theatre feeling fresh, Carr said, but would offer the theatre’s artists new challenges and ‘a bigger playground than we’ve ever created before.'”
ARTS & CULTURE
Chicago Fire, Suffrage and Footwork: National Endowment for the Humanities Awards
The National Endowment for the Humanities named its grant offers for 2021. The Chicago American Library Association got an outright grant of $249,999 for “Let’s Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage Project,” providing resources and training for a nationwide reading and discussion program focused on the history of suffrage and its aftermath. Melanie Welch is project director. The Chicago Historical Society received an outright $376,503 for “Fire! The Great Chicago Fire at 150,” a permanent exhibition and accompanying public programs that analyze how the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 shaped the city. Kris Nesbitt is project director. And at Xavier University in Ohio, ShaDawn Battle receives a $6,000 stipend for “Re-Imagining Community and Interrogating the Politics of Home through Dance,” “for the research and writing or the first chapter of a larger book project examining Chicago footwork, a contemporary dance form.”