Lee Bey Returns For A Day As Sun-Times Architecture Critic
“Wrecking the Thompson Center robs Chicago of a one-of-a-kind building, taking with it that soaring, spectacular, glass-topped atrium,” writes Lee Bey in an earnest, detailed passage of advocacy at the Sun-Times. “A showstopper of glass, color and motion, the atrium is one of our city’s most special public spaces; so much so that it pushes back against more than 40 years of poor stewardship by the state—the cheaping out on construction details and maintenance. The state dislikes the Thompson Center so badly that it’s already relocating employees to 555 W. Monroe, a building it purchased for $73 million. The state doubled-down on the hate last week by issuing a request for developers’ proposals that doesn’t even suggest finding a reuse for the building as a possibility. All in the service of allowing some developer to wreck the stunningly unique structure and replace it with leasable interior space under private ownership and control. The state might just as well carve out a corner of Starved Rock State Park for a condo development.” (Blair Kamin tweeted his thanks for the piece, adding that it’s “important not only because it backs the preservation of the Thompson Center, but also because it underscores the need for a full-time architecture critic in Chicago, a gap you are perfectly suited to fill with great distinction.”)
Helmut Jahn in the New York Times
The Gray Lady offers a comprehensive obituary for Helmut Jahn: “Mr. Jahn was working on designs until the end of his life. ‘He was so possessed with getting his work done,’ Mrs. Jahn said by phone. ‘He was just a one-man show. He had so many ideas in his head.'”
What Fate For Tallest Chicago Building Of Helmut Jahn’s Career?
“Jahn’s namesake firm and preservation groups continue working to spare the glassy, spaceshiplike James R. Thompson Center, known for its spectacular seven-story atrium, from the wrecking ball after the state of Illinois recently put the Loop property on the market for sale,” writes Ryan Ori at the Trib. “Meanwhile, developers are reworking plans to build what would be Jahn’s tallest building in Chicago, a more than 800-foot-tall residential tower on South Michigan Avenue. Construction of 1000M was halted… just a few months after holding a groundbreaking ceremony and starting work on the foundation.”
Blair Kamin Weighs In After Pritzker Dis Of Thompson Center
“J.B. Pritzker, part of the family that sponsors architecture’s most prestigious prize, is on the wrong side of history when he says the Thompson Center is expendable because it isn’t Helmut Jahn’s best work,” Blair Kamin weighs in on Twitter. “The same argument was made to back the destruction of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler’s Chicago Stock Exchange Building, a huge mistake. While the Thompson Center has undeniable faults, it has ever greater virtues—chief among them the great civic space of its atrium and its stature as a major work of postmodernism. Back off, J.B. It’s time for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox and Chicago’s Landmarks Commission to step up and do the right thing: Bestow city landmark status on the Thompson Center. That way, even if the building is sold, it will be protected from demolition. Chicago’s cityscape is replete with vital, restored historic buildings that politicians were all too ready to send to the scrap heap.” And Preservation Chicago’s Ward Miller tells WGN Radio’s Anna Davlantes: ‘The Thompson Center is a remarkable work of art and architecture and it should be looked at that way.”
Bronzeville Lakefront “Mega-Project” Closer to Reality?
The city is moving to complete a $96.9 million sale of the forty-eight acre former Michael Reese property to a private development concern, writes the Daily Line. “The city’s Community Development Commission [will] consider four sales of city-owned land, including part of the property on the city’s Near South lakefront that was occupied for decades by Michael Reese Hospital. The commission is set to ink the sale on the condition that the development team commits to a lengthy list of public benefits, including more than 1,300 affordable homes set for construction during the project’s multi-decade timeline. The sale must also be approved by the City Council.”
DINING & DRINKING
Dusek’s Reopens In Pilsen
Thalia Hall reopens on May 15, with a new look to the award-winning ground-floor tavern, Dusek’s. The refreshed design is accompanied by new food and drinks by a team of up-and-coming Chicago chefs, including executive chef Ben Truesdell (Pacific Standard Time, The Publican), chef de cuisine Tyler Houston (The Publican, Primehouse) and pastry chef Ashley Robinson (Spiaggia, Japonais by Morimoto). “Dusek’s will present flavorful and honest tavern fare prepared with international ingredients from people who care, for people we care about,” Dusek’s says in a release. “Look for an assortment of vegetable, seafood and meat dishes to be shared and centered around the concept’s wood-fired hearth.” Menu and more here.
National Resto Crisis Identified: Who Wants These Jobs?
“Restaurants are only as wonderful as the people who work in them. And to truly save the restaurant industry—not just its owners—we have to ensure that restaurant workers are paid a full, fair livable wage,” write Saru Jayaraman and Mark Bittman at The Guardian.
How Greek Is It?
Florida’s Wild Fork Market, specializing in meat and fish, will open its first Midwest store in Greektown, reports the Trib, “bringing another newcomer to a Chicago neighborhood that has lost some of its oldest businesses — and a part of its identity — in recent years… In October, the restaurant Santorini closed after thirty-one years. Its exit followed closings of other decades-old Greek restaurants in recent years, including Pegasus Restaurant and Taverna, The Parthenon and Roditys.” “It’s incredibly sad to see any business close, and the Santorini closure hit hard,” George Reveliotis, co-owner of the Greek cafe Artopolis and one of the commissioners of Greektown’s special service area, told the paper. But, he insists, “We’re going to see continued diversity in the neighborhood, with a very strong Greek element remaining.”
The Hot Dog Box Expands To Portage Park In August
Bronzeville’s father-daughter enterprise The Hot Dog Box is taking their loaded dogs to a second, larger location with new menu items at 4020 North Milwaukee in Portage Park. Eater Chicago reports that recent press notice and acclaim has led to days of Bobby Morelli and 9-year-old daughter Brooklyn closing early when all the comestibles ran out early. Eater Chicago also offers thirteen suggested eating spots in Bronzeville.
Max & Issy Bump Paddy Long
After fourteen years, the owners of Lakeview’s Paddy Long’s have closed the “beer and bacon bar” and replaced it with a New York-style pizzeria, Max & Issy’s, Eater Chicago reports.
The Sun-Times reports on Urban Growers Collective, which is teaching people how to grow fruits and vegetables at farms around the city, especially in communities without access to produce.
FILM & TELEVISION
Chicago Filmmaker McKenzie Chinn Invited to Sundance Director Lab
Chicago actor-poet-writer-director McKenzie Chinn (Newcity 2018 Film 50) will be part of the intensive Sundance Directors Lab in June with “A Real One,” her screenplay about a bright teenager in a working-class Chicago South Side neighborhood who learns “the power and beauty of true friendship when her illicit relationship with a teacher is discovered amid the final weeks of her senior year in high school.” Chinn’s poetry has been nominated for awards including a Pushcart Prize, and she is part of Growing Concerns Poetry Collective, which released the album “BIG DARK BRIGHT FUTURES” (2020), and the poetry collection “Five Fifths” (Candor Arts 2018). She also received the inaugural NBCUniversal Grant of the Bentonville Film Foundation.
DOC10 Announces 2021 Schedule
The 2021 edition of the always-estimable Doc10 nonfiction event will be a hybrid combination of socially distanced in-person events, drive-in screenings and virtual attractions. “Doc10 is the first stop on the awards circuit for documentaries,” the founders of presenter Chicago Media Project, Paula Froehle and Steve Cohen, say in a release. Doc10 opens with a drive-in screening of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”, winner of the Sundance grand jury prize as well as audience award. The closing night film is “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” directed by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville. Doc10 will also present Bing Liu and Joshua Altman’s “All These Sons” at a screening at Pilsen’s ChiTown Drive-In. “This year’s slate is extraordinary, eclectic, and profoundly timely,” says Doc10 senior programmer Anthony Kaufman says in the release. “More than half of this year’s ten films are directed by people of color, and half are directed by women. And at this inflection point in our history, we’re proud to showcase four titles that center and put renewed focus on the Black experience in America.” Doc10, presented by CMP, runs June 17-20, 2021 at the Davis Theater and the ChiTown Drive-In. Learn more and order tickets here.
AMC Sneaks Chance Pic
River East hosts three days of advance screenings of Chance the Rapper’s forthcoming self-distributed concert film, “Magnificent Coloring World,” May 14-16.
Reminders Of Rahm
The Financial Times scoops that the Biden administration will nominate Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan. (Was Atlantis taken?) “Biden has chosen Rahm Emanuel, a former congressman and Chicago mayor, to be US ambassador to Japan, according to eight people familiar with personnel discussions inside the White House,” Demetri Sevastopulo reports. “Foreign policy experts had expected Emanuel, 61, to be given a high-profile post. There was early speculation that he was being considered as the envoy to China but that job is expected to go to Nick Burns, a former top US diplomat… Emanuel will resurrect a tradition of sending influential former lawmakers to Japan, a trend Tokyo has appreciated because it is felt they have gravitas and more direct access to the White House.” Former Sun-Timeser Tina Sfondeles, now at Business Insider, reminds that Rahm has been busting chops behind closed doors for some sort of bone. “Back in December, we reported on Rahm Emanuel’s whisper campaign to get into the Biden cabinet: ‘Knowing Rahm, he’s trying to will it.'” Chicago publishes an interview with Chuy Garcia, in which Emanuel’s former mayoral opponent says flatly, “If Rahm hadn’t withheld the Laquan McDonald tape, I would have won that race. I have no doubt about it.”
Homepage Editor Leaves Trib
Charlie J. Johnson tweets that he’s leaving his gig as Chicago Tribune homepage editor and reporter to return to school, but “what I’m most proud of, however, is the co-founding of the Chicago Tribune Guild. Without it, there would be fewer journalists doing less journalism for lower pay today than there are. It’s giving us a shot at creating a better, sustainable life for journalists here, and helped restore some dignity.”
Former WTTW And WFMT Trustee James W. Mabie Was 85
“James W. Mabie, a noted Chicago businessman, philanthropist, and civic leader who served as a WTTW and WFMT trustee for more than twenty years,” passed last weekend, report the stations in a release. “Jim was a mission-driven and trusted advisor, most recently serving on the governance, development, and finance committees of the Board,” said WTTW and WFMT president-CEO Sandra Cordova Micek in the release. “Jim’s thoughtful leadership, service, philanthropy, mentorship, and sense of humor will be greatly missed. Our staff will remember Jim’s enduring encouragement and his highest praise–‘first rate!’”
Penny Tyler: Doyenne of Chicago Jazz
“We are saddened to announce that one of the Jazz Institute’s founding mothers Penny Tyler has passed,” JIC announces in a release. The group notes the “matriarchal role she played on Chicago’s jazz scene for more than four decades. She created the Jazz at Noon concerts at Andy’s in the late 1970s, then ran them for years, and did the initial booking of evening shows that have made the club world-famous. She helped relaunch the Jazz Institute of Chicago, also in the 1970s; and when Mayor Jane Byrne came to the still-young Jazz Institute in 1979, with the idea of producing a free week-long jazz festival in Grant Park, Penny and a handful of others booked a stellar lineup – with Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Mel Torme, McCoy Tyner, Fred Anderson, Lee Konitz, Muhal Richard Abrams, Von Freeman – on about three weeks’ notice. She shepherded the jazz festival for the next quarter-century or so, during which time she was also president of the JIC and became the point person for jazz at what is now the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events… She may have died in the birthplace of jazz, but her years in Chicago had an impact that shaped the scene and continues today.”
Joffrey Adds South Loop Space
The Joffrey Ballet announced new studio space and training facilities at 1920 South Wabash, formerly the Chicago Dance Academy studios, a major step toward completing the organization’s five-year “Joffrey for All” strategic plan. “A foundational principle of the Joffrey mission that dates back to Robert Joffrey himself is that dance is for everyone,” Joffrey board chair Anne Kaplan says in a release. “The Joffrey is focused on the growth and expansion of the Joffrey Academy and Joffrey Community Engagement to make Joffrey education even more accessible. By widening our presence beyond our State Street studios at Joffrey Tower, the Joffrey is making a significant investment in our students, teachers, and community, which is also an investment in the cultural vitality of Chicago and its future arts leaders.” More information here.
Court Theatre Adds Seven To Board
Court Theatre, under the continuing leadership of Charles Newell, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director and Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre, announces in a release the appointment of seven new members to its Board of Trustees. The new members are John Culbert, Felicia Davis, Andre Guichard, Frances Guichard, Tracie Hall, Nicole Robinson and Lise Spacapan. The expansion is the largest yet of Court Theatre’s Board of Trustees. “I am thrilled that such a committed and skilled group of Chicagoans have agreed to join Court Theatre’s board,” executive director Angel Ysaguirre says in the release. “This group represents remarkable passion for the art form, impressive networks of relationships, and the highest levels of expertise in their fields. That they have decided to serve the theatre in this way is invigorating.”