ARTnews Posts “Letter From Chicago”
“Chicago is filled with storied architecture, but shining among all the looming structures is an animated constellation of artist-run spaces of a more makeshift sort,” writes Alex Jen at ARTnews.”Thanks to relatively low rent, you can find new art in old buildings here, with a daring, untethered spirit on display in storefronts, apartments, basements, and subdivided studios. Scrappy, straight-out-of-school work coexists with that by veterans of the scene, a number of whom—including Diane Simpson and Richard Hunt—seem keenly aware that they live in a city so attuned to architectural matters like detail, surface, and distance. Their work maintains an inner logic and humble consideration of how people will walk up to and experience it in space.”
Thompson Center A Good Deal?
After the State of Illinois announcement, writer Lynn Becker had points to make on Twitter: “Your tax dollars at work. State of Illinois is selling the entire Thompson Center for $70 million—and then spending $148 million to BUY BACK just seven floors of it. Plus they spent another $73 million to buy 550 West Monroe. True brilliance. Instead of the State just doing the deferred maintenance, which it claimed would cost $320 million (bogus?—since Reschke says he’s only spending $280 million for a gut rehab, including window wall replacement)—the state gets $70 mil and spends $251 million—for less space.” Becker’s figuring comes from the Crain’s report: “It also drastically reduces the risk that Reschke is taking by acquiring the outmoded Helmut Jahn-designed structure, which many high-profile developers in Chicago deemed a long shot to be preserved in the wake of the… pandemic hammering downtown office demand. Officials from the state’s Central Management Services department today said owning the office space in the building was a priority, and that the state would have purchased a property elsewhere downtown if the Thompson Center were not an option… CMS officials today said the Prime Group bid offered the best balance of benefits against risks of a deal falling through.” Becker again: “The amazing atrium is redesigned as a generic colorless lobby that looks like something John Portman would have rejected fifty years ago. Will it be a case of ‘We had to destroy the building to save it?'”
Reschke’s comments to reporters: “At age sixty-six, Reschke said the two-year-plus timetable of the Thompson Center project suits him. ‘I’m not interested in twenty-year projects anymore,’ he said. Reschke emphasized that state government’s former hub in the Loop will need improvements from new insulated glass inside and out to a replacement of its antiquated heating and air conditioning. ‘This isn’t necessarily a historic preservation… We’re saving the building but making a lot of necessary and important changes. We’re saving the patient, but the patient will have new skin, and new guts.'” Helmut Jahn, 2014: “And I might have wanted to change—you know, two years after it opened—the color, but today I wouldn’t change the color.”
Posts former Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin: “Now that Gov. Pritzker has announced that the Thompson Center will be saved, credit should go to established groups like Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago as well as guerrilla bands like the Thompson Center Historical Society.” Architecture critic Paul Goldberger: “Great news! And yes. Credit should go to the many (including Blair Kamin) who worked long and hard to make the case for saving the Thompson Center, which was a real long shot. Everyone who loves Chicago architecture should be grateful.” Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa tweets: “I just left the J.R. Thompson Center Atrium food court. It was packed with excited preservationists, whispering to each other how J.B. is the best Governor since John Peter Altgeld. ‘Pritzker for President!’ was the buzz in the Sbarro’s line—Illinois is PROUD!”
Sterling Bay Lays Out Next Four Years Of Lincoln Yards
“Sterling Bay has outlined the next stages of the Lincoln Yards mega-development,” reports YIMBY. “The new area, now called ‘Lincoln Yards South,’ will be the focus of all upcoming construction with the final delivery of buildings expected in 2025.” Timeline at the link.
Lightfoot Questions Bucktown Private Police Force
“Mayor Lori Lightfoot Wednesday spoke out against a plan by Bucktown neighbors to hire a private security firm to patrol part of the North Side neighborhood,” reports Block Club Chicago. “The neighborhood group behind the program has refused to answer specific questions about how it will work.” WGN-TV reports: “In response to surging crime in Lincoln Park and Lakeview, council members and police look to prevent further attacks, issuing notice to locals that additional patrol is imminent. Ald. Michele Smith (43th Ward) says more than fifty additional officers will patrol the neighborhoods in a move the council member says directly reacts to the rise in crime.”
Ravenswood Sculpture Brings The Bees
The Ravenswood Sculpture Garden will have new residents soon, reports the Sun-Times. “Artists Janet Austin and Emily Moorhead-Wallace want their art to not only catch the attention of residents but have a functional, environmental purpose. Their latest sculpture doubles as a pollinator, meeting the optimal dwelling needs of indigenous pollinators, solitary bees and other insects. ‘In the urban environment, educating people about pollinators as well as giving a place for those pollinators to nest creates the best habitat overall for people and for the wildlife,’ Moorhead-Wallace said. It is made of corten steel, which can rust outdoors without deteriorating. ‘This will last longer than we will be alive,’ Austin said.”
Fat Tiger Closing
January 9 is closing day for streetwear pioneer Joe Freshgoods’ storefront, Fat Tiger Workshop, reports Block Club Chicago, which was started eight years ago by Freshgoods, Joe Robinson, and designers Terrell “Rello” Jones, Des Owusu and Vic Lloyd. “The collaborators announced the closure on social media, saying the shop is thriving but ‘was never intended to go on forever.’ … ‘We don’t consider the closing of the store as a moment of sadness, it’s a moment of triumph and now it’s time for us to move on and chase down different dreams,’ the founders wrote in a shared statement. ‘This may seem unorthodox but in many ways Fat Tiger Workshop is like Wu-Tang. We’re just a gang of talented and eccentric brothers that the gods put together to tell a story.'”
DINING & DRINKING
Tiki Flak Takes Aback
John Greenfield, who wrote Newcity’s December feature story, “Is This the End of the Tiki Bar? We Asked Local Pacific Islanders What They Think,” is taking flak from expected quarters: “It’s odd how right-wingers like this Fox News editor are misreading my Newcity article as arguing tiki bars are offensive to Pacific Islanders, when the piece features multiple Pacific Islanders saying, ‘I spend time at tiki bars on a regular basis.'” Looking into the comments section: “The irony of grim puritan missionaries trying to impose their will on a laid back, happy-go-lucky culture here is not lost on me. With the divine providence of our sociology degrees, we shall break these accursed savages from their wonton paganism and the flames of their unholy umbrella-festooned demon rum cocktails.”
Five Boroughs Shaken By Omicron
Signs of things to come? “New York City diners have seen their social media feeds flooded in recent days with announcements from restaurant after restaurant that they were temporarily closing because staff members tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus,” reports the New York Times. “‘I feel like it happened in three days,’ said Cat Alexander, who on Wednesday closed Pheasant, her restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, after an employee received a positive test result. She is waiting for her remaining twenty-two employees to test negative before reopening… ‘It was pretty unbelievable and shocking to me, the rate of how much it could spread within such a safe environment,’ said Jamie Erickson, the owner of Poppy’s, a cafe in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Her staff of thirty is vaccinated and always masked on the job, but the cafe’s commissary kitchen in Red Hook closed during the weekend after Thanksgiving because of a COVID outbreak.”
Surveying Chicago’s Indoor Dining Situation
“Omicron, which was identified just before Thanksgiving has made its first appearance in the city,” writes Aimee Levitt at Eater Chicago. “This puts Chicagoans in a bind. It’s winter, which means it’s a tough time for socializing or eating outside. Already this week, several restaurants, including Arami (still open for takeout), AO Bistro, Steingold’s of Chicago and the newly opened Moonflower have shut down temporarily because staff members have tested positive… Should we keep drinking and dining in bars and restaurants? Here are the latest numbers and recommendations…”
FILM & TELEVISION
Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation Grants NYU Martin Scorsese Institute
“Martin Scorsese’s alma mater, New York University, is establishing the Martin Scorsese Institute of Global Cinematic Arts after a gift from George Lucas and Mellody Hobson,” reports AP. “A large donation from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation—the nonprofit run by the Star Wars filmmaker and his wife, Mellody Hobson, co-chief executive of Ariel Investments and chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation—made the new institute possible.”
Chicago’s Jeff Garlin Fired From “The Goldbergs” After Four Years Of Warnings
Second City veteran Jeff Garlin, “who had starred as patriarch Murray Goldberg on the ABC comedy from producers Sony Pictures Television for the past eight-plus seasons, has departed the series following an HR investigation that stemmed from multiple complaints about his behavior on the set of the 1980s-set series,” reports The Hollywood Reporter. “The cast and crew… were informed of Garlin’s departure during production Wednesday when a veteran producer informed staff that the decision was a mutual one between Garlin and Sony.”
In early December, a Vanity Fair report by former Tribune critic Maureen Ryan put the complaints in the public eye: “I have not been fired from ‘The Goldbergs,” Garlin told Ryan. “Well, to be honest with you, there is no story. And I’m saying that in all sincerity, because that’s the thing that has me confused. Even with Sony—we have a difference of opinion, Sony and myself. Okay. My opinion is, I have my process about how I’m funny, in terms of the scene and what I have to do. They feel that it makes for a quote ‘unsafe’ workspace. Now, mind you, my silliness making an unsafe workspace—I don’t understand how that is. And I’m on a comedy show. I am always a kind and thoughtful person. I make mistakes, sure. But my comedy is about easing people’s pain. Why would I ever want to cause pain in anybody for a laugh? That’s bullying. That’s just uncalled for.”
Trib Guild Negotiates With Alden Global Capital To Preserve Insurance
The Chicago Tribune Guild on negotiations that began December 16: “We know health insurance costs rise every year, but imagine you’re told your rates are jumping 22% or FOUR TIMES the national average. That’s what some Chicago Tribune journalists now face… That’s not only wrong, but illegal… We have reporters with life-threatening or debilitating illnesses who are seeing rates jacked up by more than $100 a paycheck, and they’re still unable to afford additional costs of all prescribed procedures… One reporter left the profession—even though she loved her job—because she could not justify paying the Tribune’s sky-high premiums, and that was before Alden tried to impose even steeper rates… What’s illegal about what Alden did? We don’t have a contract yet. So we’re in what’s called the ‘status quo’ period. If it costs the company more for health insurance, the burden is supposed to be split under the same formula already in use. And yet, without talking to us first, Alden announced formula changes. People making [less than] $35,000 would see premiums spike 22% for one plan. People making $200,000-plus? No increase. And under the high-deductible plan, our members would now pay 20% of all costs for IN-NETWORK coverage – kinda defeating the purpose of health insurance.” Tribune Crime and courts reporter Annie Sweeney: “‘Be open and fair, and don’t break the law.’ This is Trib Guild request as healthcare negotiations begin.”
Cancellations Strike Broadway
“The coronavirus pandemic has upended the theater industry’s longstanding ‘show must go on’ philosophy, supplanting it with a safety-first strategy,” reports the New York Times. “The result: a raft of cancellations unlike any in history… A growing number of Broadway shows have had to cancel performances because of the coronavirus, including ‘Ain’t Too Proud,’ where some patrons arrived Tuesday only to find out that night’s performance had been canceled.” While in the United Kingdom, reports the BBC, “Fears about the Omicron variant and a desire to stay safe before Christmas have led to a sharp decline in bookings and attendances at many entertainment venues, industry figures have said. The Music Venue Trust said audiences dropped by 23% in the past week, which is ‘catastrophic’ for its members. Lower than expected cinema takings last weekend were also blamed on Omicron.” Plus, New York’s Met Opera will mandate boosters for staff and audiences, reports the New York Times.
Hell In A Handbag “Bette’s Bawdy Brunch” Benefit This Sunday
Bette’s Bawdy Brunch, Hell in a Handbag Productions’ twentieth anniversary benefit, will be held this Sunday, December 19, 11am-3pm at the Chicago Yacht Club with “a festive afternoon of food, drink and show-stopping entertainment from Handbag diva Caitlin Jackson, reprising her popular role as Bette Midler.” All proceeds benefit Hell in a Handbag Productions, Chicago’s leading camp and parody theater company. Tickets are $100-$150 here.
Remembering Actor John Mohrlein
“Having John around the table meant many things—thoughtful conversation, impeccable food, countless rounds of stories, good wine—everyone would be good-n-drunk by the end of the night, and the uproar of laughter was endless. (His giggles really were infectious—and once they took over, even rehearsals had to periodically hold until all the giggles subsided.) Honestly, being with John meant being on a grand adventure, always inspiring us to get out there and try everything—because you never know what you might find,” writes Heather Meyers at the Reader with other American Blues Theater stalwarts of their late ensemble member. “John looked out for his fellow artists, particularly the younger ones. He’d share his wisdom while tackling the boards onstage, but also whisper in your ear about the best backstage hiding spot for a quick nap. And if you were really lucky, John would generously adopt you. I’m not kidding: you never knew who would end up in his back seat journeying on a late night ride home, or crashing on his sofa, or eating an impromptu meal at his kitchen table. He let me call him Poppy for years after I lost my own dad.”
ARTS & CULTURE
How Garfield Park Got Its Roller Rink
“In a once-vacant lot on Chicago’s West Side Garfield Park neighborhood, a new outdoor roller rink has made space for kids and adults alike to spend their summer days on eight wheels in a beloved Chicago pastime,” reports Anjulie Rao at City Bureau. “But the rink didn’t appear overnight; nine months prior to its opening, Studio Gang Architects… were tapped to design a community engagement process that would work collaboratively with Garfield Park organizations and residents to generate ideas and feedback on the roller rink. Called the Neighborhood Activation pilot, the group’s process was guided by the city of Chicago’s Our City, Our Safety, a plan that focused on reducing the ‘safety gap’ in Chicago’s Black and Brown neighborhoods by [making use of] vacant spaces… According to firm founder Jeanne Gang, the roller rink is ‘one of a number of outcomes of our larger Neighborhood Activation project in West Garfield Park,’ which include physical improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, tree plantings, and general beautification, as well as services like homeless outreach and violence prevention.”
Landmarks Illinois Awards Grant Funding To Fourteen Preservation Projects
Landmarks Illinois has awarded $35,000 to preservation projects in Illinois through its three grant programs. The grants, given to fourteen preservation efforts in more than a dozen Illinois communities, were awarded between August and November of this year through the Preservation Heritage Fund, the Barbara C. and Thomas E. Donnelley II Preservation Fund for Illinois and the Timuel D. Black Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side. Chicago recipients: Harmony International Development Inc., $2,500 for roof replacement on a carriage house at 1432 South Harding in the city’s North Lawndale neighborhood, which will be used by the nonprofit to house ex-offenders reentering the workforce and provide social work services and a computer library; PullmanArts, $1,000 to seal the concrete flooring in the Block House Gallery, a community run art gallery where PullmanArts offers classes and highlights the work of resident artists living in the Pullman Artspace Lofts, an arts-based affordable housing development in the Pullman neighborhood; Stone Temple Baptist Church, $4,000 to make repairs to the floors and walls damaged by water infiltration at the nearly hundred-year-old church in the North Lawndale neighborhood; Saint Basil Visitation Church, Englewood, $2,500 to aid in the restoration of eighty original stained-glass windows at the Gothic-style church that has been at the heart of the historical richness and cultural diversity of the Englewood neighborhood since it was built in 1899. More here.
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