Profiling MCA’s New Curators
René Morales, the leader of the new MCA curatorial team, tells Kris Vire at Chicago magazine, “I’ve always been fascinated with Chicago. It seems to me like just such an incredibly rich and textured and multilayered city. I’ve only just begun to penetrate the layers.” He continues, “Fostering deeper relationships with the local art community has always been a major priority… Not just in the literal sense of presenting their work or acquiring their work for the collection, but just being with them, supporting them in every way that I can, while learning from them. I’ve always been skeptical of the idea of importing some sort of curatorial vision from outside and layering it on top of a community—a vision that could work, you know, whether it’s Australia or São Paulo or Israel or Warsaw, these generic programs.”
Arts Alliance Surveys Pandemic Impact On Sector
“The latest surge in the pandemic continues to hit our already beleaguered sector, and we have set out to gather updated information and data from the field,” writes Arts Alliance Illinois. “Here are some key numbers that came out of our survey: The average cultural organization/business lost thirty-one percent of their revenue in 2021 and is on pace to match those losses over the first six months of 2022. And those same organizations expect COVID-related expenses to climb, forecast at nearly ten percent of total budget for the first six months of 2022. For individual artists, thirty-nine percent have lost more than half of their incomes since the start of the pandemic (March 2020 – present). And sixty percent have lost over one quarter of their income. If you haven’t taken the survey, we still need your story for our collective advocacy.” The survey is open until Tuesday, February 1.
Threewalls Adds Board Members
Threewalls has added three board members and an emeritus board member. “The newly created emeritus board position is an honorary recognition presented to former board members or members of the Threewalls community who have shown extraordinary commitment, financial contribution or commitment to the organization over the years.” The new board members are Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D., Zoë Charlton and Miko McGinty, alongside emeritus board member Gary Metzner. Gallery link here.
Grand Rapids Art Museum Presents Dawoud Bey And Carrie Mae Weems
Through April 30, “‘Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue’ brings together a focused selection of work from a period of over forty years by two of today’s most important and influential photo-based artists,” writes the Grand Rapids Art Museum. “Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems, both born in 1953, came of age during a period of dramatic change in the American social landscape. Since meeting at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1977, the two artists have been intellectual colleagues and companions. Over the following five decades, Bey and Weems have explored and addressed similar themes: race, class, representation, and systems of power, creating work that is grounded in specific African American events and realities while simultaneously speaking to a multitude of human conditions. This exhibition, for the first time, brings their work together to shed light on their unique trajectories and modes of presentation, and their shared consciousness and principles.”
Forty-Story Apartment Tower To Replace Bridgford Foods Processing Plant
“A pair of Chicago developers have led plans for a big project in the Fulton Market District that would include apartments, office space, a hotel and a forty-story tower—among the tallest in the neighborhood,” reports Crain’s.
Nation’s 128th Richest Man Buys Forty-Acre Lake Geneva Estate For $36 Million
“Chicago-area billionaire J. Christopher Reyes and his wife, Anne, are the mystery buyers who paid $36 million for the late investment manager Richard Driehaus’ 14,145-square-foot, Georgian-style mansion on forty acres in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. With an estimated $7.1 billion net worth,” reports the Tribune, “J. Christopher Reyes, the co-chairman of privately held Rosemont-based beer and food distribution firm Reyes Holdings, is ranked as the 128th richest American. Reyes and his wife long have had a home on a large parcel in east Lake Forest, and they also own a 9,000-square-foot-plus mansion on the Atlantic Ocean in Hobe Sound, Florida.”
DINING & DRINKING
Bayless Joins Chorus For Resto Salvation
“Rick Bayless says a psychological and financial blow after two years of pandemic disruption has left the once-vibrant Chicago restaurant industry on the verge of devastation and in desperate need of federal relief,” reports the Trib. “’A lot of the restaurateurs and chefs that I’m talking to are just about to give up… They’re incredibly discouraged. Nobody knows what to do at this point, because the numbers are so low.’ … In 2020, 90,000 restaurants permanently closed as sales fell by $240 billion across the U.S. … While the industry showed signs of recovering last year, the one-two punch of the delta and omicron variants has halted the momentum… ‘We never built back to where we were, but in the fall, we kind of hit an equilibrium that we thought we could maintain,’ said Bayless, 68. ‘The saddest part of the whole thing is that December, when we were all hoping for a strong holiday season, the bottom fell out.’ … He had hoped to fill 145 seats for New Year’s Eve, but sold only 68.” The Boston Globe, earlier: “Some pots of federal money have run dry, spurring calls for more help from Washington. Restaurants are leading that charge as business has plummeted with the Omicron surge. They want Congress to replenish the rescue plan’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which [went] through its $28.6 billion funding last year after only about a third of eligible restaurants received grants to help cover lost revenue from the pandemic.”
Revolution Brewing To Distribute In Iowa And Minnesota
“Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, the largest independent brewery in Illinois, is expanding its distribution footprint in early 2022,” reports The Full Pint. “The twelve-year-old craft brewery will begin by joining the Johnson Brothers of Iowa portfolio for statewide coverage beginning in March. In April, Rev Brew will launch throughout all of Minnesota with Artisan Beer Company. This is the largest statewide expansion for the brewery since 2017, and the first time Revolution has expanded distribution west of the Mississippi River.”
Lyra Brings Tastes Of The Aegean To Fulton Market
Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson started planning Lyra about three years ago, hoping to open in October 2020, reports Eater Chicago. “For research, the two partners spent time pre-pandemic eating their way through the Greek islands. On Mykonos, they met Athinagoras Kostakos and Alexis Zopas, the culinary director and executive chef at Scorpios, a popular beachside restaurant. (Kostakos also won the Greek edition of ‘Top Chef.’) The Americans were impressed, not just with the food, but with the overall vibe, and invited the two Greeks to come to Chicago to be the chef-partners in their new venture. ‘We apologized in advance for the weather,’ Stoioff says, joking… Rekhson and Stoioff rejected the blue-and-white color scheme and touristy photos of many Greek restaurants in favor of a rustic, bohemian design that recreates the atmosphere of a small island village.”
Inside Chef José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar
Eater Chicago previews the now-open two new restaurants by José Andrés and Gibsons Restaurant Group. Bar Mar is a “bright happy hour destination with high ceilings and 200 seats on the first floor. Forty-foot floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the building. The centerpiece is an octopus sculpture that hangs above the main bar. There’s also a raw bar in the back with delicacies like crudo and sashimi. Other dishes of note include a fried oyster po’ boy with caviar on a steamed brioche bun. Another specialty is an everything bagel air bread shaped like a fish.” Moving upstairs, “customers pass past a few coolers filled with wagyu and other prized cuts of beef before they enter the moody red Bazaar Meat space. There are two bars, a 10-seater and an eight ‘meat bar,’ both created by Barcelona designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán. Diners can try out unique steaks (there’s a Japanese wagyu program with meats ranging from $30 to $55 per ounce), cured meats, and Iberian suckling pig. This is Andrés’ fourth full-service restaurant in Chicago. He opened Jaleo over the summer in River North, followed by an all-day cafe, also in the Bank of America Tower.”
Speakeasy Pops Up In Logan Square
The Unusual Suspects, a pop-up cocktail bar by Chicago Spirit, is open in Logan Square, “designed to channel the mysterious, black-market underbelly of pre-Prohibition 1920s Chicago,” reports WGN-TV. “The former The Ladies’ Room at Fat Rice has been transformed into the Friar’s Inn, [a] Chicago nightclub, speakeasy and jazz venue frequented by Al Capone.”
FILM & TELEVISION
Lilly Wachowski Announces End Of Chicago-Based “Work In Progress”
Lilly Wachowski took to Twitter to announce Showtime’s cancellation of “Work In Progress”: “Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, I got the extremely disappointing news from the execs at Showtime that ‘Work in Progress’ was not going to be picked up for a third season. It was a major bummer. We had been through a lot. The experience of shooting through covid was extremely difficult. The masks made the experience very antiseptic to me—the intimacy—the ability to convey and receive joy and love was acutely missing and I felt in a profound and harsh way, the grim reality of performing the function of a job that had brought me so much meaning and happiness was reduced to simple stark commerce. Commie-Me seethed at the experience… As we neared the end of the season editorially, the last episodes like train cars coming into the station, I was beaming with pride with everything we had accomplished. Though I still held fast to hope, I had a sinking feeling that we might not be renewed. The productions’ contracts were written in such a way that the actors’ salaries were locked for 2 seasons with an incremental bump from season 1 to 2. The studio would have to negotiate with a whole bunch of folks who had given them a very good deal at the outset and were due for a raise… The network was probably running the numbers and even though a show like ours, super contained, entirely shot on location in Chicago with mostly local talent, the bottom line did not work for them compared to our viewership, which could be optimistically defined as discerning/niche…’Well, it’s a business,’ is what my brain tells my heart. ‘Art and commerce, it’s a deal with the devil. You know that.’ To which my heart always responds, ‘No fucking shit, jerkass.’ Heart often does not mince words. Since our disheartening news though, ‘Work in Progress’ has made 7 top 10 lists and has been nominated for best comedy in the GLAAD awards. But unfortunately, that isn’t enough to overcome the bottom line. Which is frustrating. Because shows like ours get trotted out to illustrate how networks and studios are soooo committed to diversity but then get cut before they can establish a viewership. It is a bit of a vicious cycle. At what point does the ‘commitment and championing of diversity’ end?” More at the link.
Apple Brings Another Science Fiction Project To Chicago
Apple and Sony Pictures Television are partnering on a series, reports Screen, and rumor has it it’s coming to Chicago. The adaptation of the novel “Dark Matter” is expected to film for eight-to-ten months. The series will likely be headquartered at Cinespace Film Studios.
Book Bans, Removals And Reactions Eddy Outward
At the Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Will Bunch looks at a “new McCarthyism”: “Several times a day now comes word of a new bill that would ban classroom discussions around antiracism or books on LGBTQ+ issues or sex education. There’s regularly news of a school district ousting a teacher or a principal accused of radical views, or an acclaimed book being banned from schools or the local library… This right-wing freak-out over what they claim is children becoming indoctrinated with ideas about racism or homophobia feels like a new McCarthyism. But when I spoke this week to Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education for the writers’ advocacy group PEN America, he said the pace of what his group calls ‘gag orders’ against classroom instructors is the worst since the 1920s’ crusade against teaching evolution that climaxed with the infamous ‘Scopes Monkey Trial.’ That trial took place in Tennessee just twenty-eight miles west of where ‘Maus’ was banned in the 2020s.” Art Spiegelman to the Washington Post: “I’m grateful the book has a second life as an anti-fascist tool… It’s part of a continuum, and just a harbinger of things to come… the control of people’s thoughts is essential to all of this… This is a red alert. It’s not just: ‘How dare they deny the Holocaust?’ They’ll deny anything.” Ken Burns: “The history of the Holocaust includes the banning of books. ‘Maus’ is a work of art that has helped generations understand Nazi brutality and how they dictated what people could think, read and say. When you become fearful of ideas you forfeit your freedom.”
A Washington State school is pulling LGBTQ+ books from the shelves, reports Book Riot. “A school principal in Kent, Washington, has removed books from Cedar Heights Middle School’s library in anticipation of potential publicity… This ‘silent’ or ‘quiet’ or ‘soft’ censorship has played out from Pennsylvania to Florida, Wisconsin to Washington… The principal mentioned ‘how bad the school would look’ if a parent complained about it.” After Christmas break, “the principal demanded all ‘sexually explicit’ material in the library be given to her… so she could remove them from the collection. She provided a definition for ‘sexually explicit material’ from the FTC. The principal would need to check every single book [the librarian] wished to purchase for the collection so she could have final approval.” Book Riot also reports on anti-mask activity in Chicago’s western suburbs, in St. Charles and Montgomery. Lacking legal authority, a Mississippi mayor threatens to withhold $110,000 in library funding unless all “homosexual materials” are removed, reports LitHub.
Readers React To St. Charles Library Protests
Rex Huppke’s readers weigh in at the Trib on the St. Charles mask protests that shut down the library there. “The reader response to my column seemed noteworthy, a clear demonstration that most have had it up to here with the performative shenanigans of people hellbent on filling the obnoxious-viral-video-sized holes in their lives. It also taught me one truth that remains in this divided nation of ours: People love librarians and you DO NOT mess with them… I’m turning this column space over to readers who emailed and shared their thoughts on the St. Charles situation and the broader behavior of those across the country who, by virtue of their loudness and willingness to annoy, have decided they’re smarter than doctors and scientists.” One reader: “Empathy is what most librarians have—they help find books, answer questions, guide patrons. The anti-maskers could do well to emulate librarians. The mask is a demonstration of caring for your fellow human—to not spread infection & disease. Doctors have pleaded for everyone to get vaccinated, wear a mask, separate socially—to empathize with the plight of hospitals, nurses & doctors.”
Talking With Evanston Native, “Godfather Of Queer Lit” Edmund White As He Turns 82
“Soon after he left Evanston, not long after college, Edmund White became an editor at Saturday Review; soon after that, he cowrote ‘The Joy of Gay Sex.’ At the time of the Stonewall uprising in 1969 (which he witnessed), he was a staff writer for Time-Life Books. He was friends with Toni Morrison, James Merrill, Robert Mapplethorpe, Foucault; he was frenemies with Susan Sontag. He cofounded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1982, then learned a few years later that he was HIV-positive. Today he’s often described as the godfather of queer lit. Despite all of that, not to sound reductive and puerile, but when I think of Edmund White I think about sex. Which is partly intentional on his part,” writes Christopher Borrelli at the Trib.
Prolific Chicago Author Daniel Kraus On Research And Organization
Daniel Kraus wrote eight books last year. He talks to Max Booth III at the Dog Ears newsletter. “Even though I’m working on multiple books [at a] time, there’s usually a chief project. There usually is one, that’s sort of the A project that I’m spending…if I write six days out of the week, I’m spending four of those days on this main project… You start a new year and you look at what you got going on and you think, all right, I’ll write a couple of books this year maybe. Then it gets to the end of the year and somehow it’s some tremendous number that seemed impossible. I’m not entirely sure how it happens, but it’s definitely something to do with me just getting better at it, you know? And this is despite my continual attempt to make it harder. It’s very easy to just sort of do what you know how to do, right? … Largely I’ve gone off in various Byzantine directions trying to create new problems that I can’t get comfortable with. And then I have to hurdle new problems and throw up new obstacles that will make me have to think differently. The idea now of writing two books that are similar in feel—in sequence—just feels impossible to me. It feels like death. It feels like why would I possibly want to do that? Except for financially, of course.”
Former Chicago Tribune Theater Critic Richard Christiansen Was 90
“I would have had no career if not for Richard’s support, and can safely say the same is true for a generation of Chicago theater makers,” writes Robert Falls. “He was a rare gentleman, a fierce advocate for excellence, and a kind soul. We owe him everything.” Tribune theater critic Chris Jones posted on Twitter late Friday, “Richard Christiansen has died at 90—a critic who sparked a glorious theatrical fire in a city he loved.” Jones writes in his obituary, “If any journalist could be said to have lit the spark for an artistic movement, that scribe was Richard Christiansen, longtime chief critic at the Chicago Tribune and perhaps the single individual who did the most to put homegrown Chicago theater permanently on the global map.” Sid Smith, a former Tribune critic tells Jones, “We should all count ourselves lucky to have known this man. Richard was, first and foremost, a top critic of theater and the arts in general. But he was also an affectionate colleague, a beloved friend and a great mentor and teacher, helped by his near photographic memory and spot-on accuracy. He also boasted a rich and effusive sense of humor. If you worked near him, you laughed a great deal of the day.” “Christiansen’s tenure at first the Daily News and then the Tribune was marked by his fervent enthusiasm for his beat. ‘All my life I have been eager to go to the theater,’ he said in his 2004 book ‘A Theater of Our Own: A History and a Memoir of 1,001 Nights in Chicago,’ perfectly describing one of the essential qualities of his affectionate and generous writing.” Robert Falls quotes Brian Dennehy: “There was no group so small, no venue so foreboding, that he would not find himself climbing stairs or descending onto damp cellars to see what delights or disasters the latest groups of young thespians would deliver.” Chicago Shakespeare: “A true icon of Chicago Theatre! We are unendingly grateful for his contributions to the cultural landscape in our city and beyond.” Jason Zinoman: “Countless people including myself learned about Chicago theater through the eyes and prose of this critic. His work will be read for a long time.”
Tribune colleagues remember Christiansen: Ann Marie Lipinski: “Richard Christiansen did more to secure Chicago theater’s ascendancy than any single individual. All those nights reviewing storefront plays, which he took as seriously as the blockbusters. He was also among the finest colleagues I’ve ever worked with.” Blair Kamin: “It was a pleasure + an honor to work on the same staff as Richard Christiansen. He had an enormous, positive impact on Chicago theater and was a model critic—passionate about his field, yet searchingly discerning. A wonderful soul.” Mo Ryan: “I loved Richard Christiansen. The epitome of the hard-working, forever curious critic. He loved finding a new company in a tiny hole in the wall & was as excited about what they were doing as what big theaters were doing. I learned much from him about truth, compassion, rigor.”Michael Phillips, himself a former theater critic: “[T]he most passionate theater lover who ever covered a Chicago opening, let alone thousands of them.”
Greg Kot: “This gentleman/critic/mentor was a crucial voice in the explosion of Chicago theater. Richard’s curiosity about the world & the arts in particular was boundless. He helped me and so many others understand the responsibilities of covering one of the great arts scenes in the world.” Kris Vire: “Apart from the AP Stylebook, perhaps, the book I referenced most often throughout my time writing about theater in Chicago was Richard Christiansen’s ‘A Theater of Our Own.’ The scene wouldn’t be what it is without him—a humble titan.”Aaron Cohen: “Richard Christiansen showed me how important it is to not just be open minded but widely open minded. I was initially taken aback that he was such a fan of Iggy Pop—as well as Jackie Chan—but his writing told me that I should not have been so surprised.” Marc Caro: “He loved Iggy—and told me he’d seen the Velvet Underground the first time ’round. I was impressed. He also liked Arctic Monkeys. Oh, and he asked John Lennon about the ‘more popular than Jesus’ hubbub at the Beatles’ Chicago news conference.” Lauren Warnecke: “I wish it was possible today to have the sort of career in criticism Richard had. He may have had the benefit of timing, but his insatiable curiosity, generosity of spirit and incredible work ethic set the bar for those of us soldiering on.” Dave Kehr: “Richard Christiansen played a big role in my life, as he did with practically every artist and art writer who came out of Chicago in the latter half of the 20th century. Irreplaceable.”
“Fastest Feet In The Land” Tyrone “Ty Skippy” Winfield Was 61
“Tyrone ‘Skippy’ Winfield danced like he was on wheels,” writes Maureen O’Donnell at the Sun-Times. “He’d glide around floors as if they were made of ice, feet imperceptibly propelling him ‘like a James Brown,’ said his wife and dance partner Celeste. They were a formidable steppin’ team, winning dozens of trophies for performing the smooth swing dance and, some years, as much as $20,000 in prizes. They’d draw extended applause for fluid turns that seemed to involve telepathic communication between the partners. ‘They looked like they were on skates,’ said WLS-TV photojournalist Ken Bedford, a promoter of steppin’ events.”
Art On TheMART To Illuminate Year Of Chicago Dance
With DCASE setting 2022 as Year of Chicago Dance, Art on theMART announces four projections for the yearlong celebration to spotlight Chicago dancers, choreographers and visual artists. Choreographer and Chicago native Carrie Hanson has created a new projection with her dance company, The Seldoms. Derived from an earlier work for the stage, “Floe” “spotlights climate change, extreme weather, vanishing ice, denialism, bodies of water and, ultimately, bodies. “Floe” will be on view during Art on theMART’s summer season, May 6-June 29.
“Trap Moulin Rouge” by Jasmin Taylor, in co-production with Motion/Pictures Dance Project, “takes audiences to Chicago’s South Side to showcase the vibrant culture and dance that emanates from it. Taking sonic and aesthetic inspiration from the 2001 film ‘Moulin Rouge,’ ‘Trap Moulin Rouge’ combines classical, R&B and jazz melodies with a variety of dance styles with the aim of creating and promoting equity in Chicago through the performing arts.” “Trap Moulin Rouge” runs September 8-November 17. Also featured in Art on theMART’s fall season will be a new projection by dance company leader Shkunna Stewart and filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel which will feature youth dance groups including Bringing Out Talent that are known for performing at parades and in dance contests across the city. More here.
ARTS & CULTURE
Racetrack Owner Dick Duchossois Was 100
“Richard Duchossois, whose gift of a horse to an academically lagging son sparked a long equine adventure, culminating in the purchase of Arlington Park and rebuilding the racetrack after it burned to the ground,” has died, reports Crain’s. “He began his career as an industrialist, but was better known as a colorful and sometimes cantankerous racetrack owner who often riled politicians, horse trainers and fellow track owners in pursuing all things Arlington.”
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