Sun-Times Expands “Murals & Mosaics” Series To Free Newsletter
The Sun-Times has been providing invaluable coverage of public art each Sunday since July 2019, and the bright and bold result is anchored by an online interactive map of more than 850 pieces of artwork. It’s easier to keep up with the colorful effort with their new, free weekly email newsletter. You can check out the repository of coverage as well as subscribe to the newsletter here.
South Side Artists Work Through Pandemic
“Although we are almost two years from the start of the pandemic, it’s clear that we can’t go back to the way things once were any time soon. Artists in particular have had to make a lot of changes, but the art never stopped,” reports Isabel Nieves in a series of short profiles at South Side Weekly. “The way that artists have adapted to the ongoing pandemic has shown the resilience of the arts community in Chicago, especially on the South Side. They’ve found ways to continue practicing their art to survive on various levels.”
Spudnik Press Cooperative Founder Stepping Away After Fifteen Years
Spudnik Press Cooperative founder and executive director Angee Lennard is leaving, relays the group. “Printmaking in all of its forms is who I am, so while this is hard to say, the organization is ready for change in order to grow stronger and continue its journey,” says Lennard in a release. “I founded Spudnik Press Cooperative with the aspiration of creating a cooperative space where printmakers can thrive. Together, with the support and dedication of the community, it has grown to become a dynamic organization built on a multi-faceted, welcoming, and resilient studio model.” “Spudnik Press Cooperative is unique in its dedication to printmaking and the cultural traditions surrounding print. Its studio houses professional facilities and rare equipment for traditional print processes and fine art publishing. The 4,800-square-foot studio includes shared work space, private studios and mixed-use spaces for exhibitions, classes and community events.” A letter from Lennard is here.
“Vacancy Fraud” Legislation Could Roust Idle Storefronts
“Chicago small business advocates are throwing their support behind a state bill that aims to punish absentee landlords who take advantage of tax breaks for long-vacant properties,” reports Block Club. “The proposed Vacancy Fraud Act would allow municipalities, school districts, parks and other taxing bodies to file complaints with their county government if a property owner who receives vacancy tax relief isn’t actively trying to lease, sell or renovate the property. ‘We want to pass legislation that will remove the incentives for people to keep their storefronts vacant in a way that is damaging for their neighbors and damaging to the community,’ said bill sponsor Representative Daniel Didech, who represents portions of the suburbs.”
Chinatown Struggles Still
“Chinatown businesses have faced massive revenue loss and xenophobia… Two years later, Chinatown had still not fully recovered,” writes Amina Sergazina at the Chicago Reporter. “Chicago’s Chinatown is a historic neighborhood established more than a hundred years ago. It has always been a magnet for tourists and a special place for locals… Many businesses were forced to close, and those that stayed open still cannot return to the pre-pandemic revenue. In 2021, U.S. Congress announced a Restaurant Revitalization Fund with the Small Business Administration to help Chinatown businesses that managed to stay open. ‘We won some grants, but there was a leaking ship, we had a hole, we’re trying to bail out,’ said Spencer Ng, Triple Crown restaurant owner. ‘These little grants help [but] they’re not going to solve all the problems overnight. Our sales are not back to pre-pandemic.’ Triple Crown is a family-owned restaurant that has been around in Chinatown for over twenty years and stayed with the same landlord. While many landlords were giving extensions and discounts on rent during the lockdown, the restaurant was facing eviction.”
Mayor Could “Re-envision” Soldier Field To Retain Bears Owners
“When it comes to Soldier Field, it’s no secret, I’ve said, we need to significantly enhance the fan experience. It takes too long to get there. It’s too hard,” Mayor Lightfoot told 670 The Score’s “Mully and Haugh” show, reports WGN-TV. “And if you’re on the west side of the stadium or in one of the end zones, frankly, it’s a crappy fan experience… We’ve seen a couple of proposals that are very, very interesting that really kind of re-envision Soldier Field and re-envision that area around Soldier Field… I think we can do this in a way that will be very economically enticing to the Bears.”
Further Flak Against “Chicago Not In Chicago” Ad Blast
“Recent Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune editorials savaged the city’s puzzling new marketing slogan—’Chicago Not In Chicago,'” reports Axios Chicago. “The campaign focuses more on other cities and how they were influenced by Chicago innovations. Why it matters: While the slogan was created for free, it could still end up being costly. Branding is important as local tourism recovers from massive pandemic-related damage. Even at the peak of summer last year, hotel occupancy reached just sixty percent of what it was in 2019… If it’s not a tourism campaign, why is the city putting ads for it in national newspapers?” Freelance journalist Justin Laurence tags the campaign: “In 2035 the Chicago Not in Chicago posters are gonna be all the rage with the ironic kids re-gentrifying Wicker Park in the metaverse.”
Konkol Corners “Dibs Snitches”
“During a dibs outbreak, certain people—let’s call ’em dibs snitches—call 311 to rat out their law-breaking neighbors,” Mark Konkol reports at Patch. “Now, we know where they live, sort of. City officials protect the identity and exact address of anti-dibs complainers, and for good reason… But a public records request for all dibs complaints from January 1 to February 1 does offer a glimpse of which wards are home to the most anti-dibs snitches, and where pro-dibs folks call home. In all, 311 operators fielded more than 1,500 calls from dibs snitches during that period.”
DINING & DRINKING
Gladstone Bakery Closing After Nearly A Century
Gladstone Bakery is closing after ninety-three years in West Town and Elk Grove Village, reports WGN-TV. “Gladstone Bakery opened in 1929 at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue and moved to Elk Grove Village in 2004… Amid the pandemic and supply chain issues that followed, keeping the business open has proven too difficult for longtime owner Joseph Lochirco.”
A Rhodes Scholar Barista And The Fight To Unionize Starbucks
It’s happening across the country, and not only in Chicago: Starbucks workers are pushing to unionize Starbucks, and Starbucks is busy working to prevent that. Greg Jaffe profiles twenty-four-year-old Jaz Brisack, a key organizer, in Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post. “A big reason baristas were standing outside on that frigid Buffalo morning was because a year earlier, Brisack, fresh off a Rhodes Scholarship, had walked into the Elmwood Starbucks and applied for a job. For the next eight months, she learned to froth lattes and blend Frappuccinos. She rose before sunrise to help open her store and picked up shifts at other Buffalo Starbucks where she met other baristas who told her about their lives, frustrations and concerns with the company. And she waited. Brisack had been working toward this moment since she was a home-schooled teenager in Alcoa, Tennessee, and read a speech delivered by the legendary American socialist Eugene Debs that hit her with the power of a revelation. ‘While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free,’ Debs told a jury that was about to convict him of inciting resistance to the draft during World War I. ‘It was so radical,’ Brisack said. ‘So, in your face.’ Debs’ words sparked an obsession with the great labor battles of the early 1900s—violent tales of avarice, betrayal and sacrifice—and propelled her to a full scholarship at the University of Mississippi, a part-time job on a failed campaign to unionize a Nissan plant and, finally, a Rhodes Scholarship.” Meanwhile in Minnesota: “Workers at two Twin Cities Starbucks locations ‘overwhelmingly’ signed cards indicating their intent to unionize… Those are the first Minnesota links in the multinational coffee chain to move toward unionization, joining a national wave that began last year in Buffalo, New York. The caffeinated labor movement has spread to more than seventy stores in at least twenty states.”
FILM & TELEVISION
Why Netflix’s Four-Hour Ye Doc Took Two Decades
“Relying on casual footage chronicling the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of West’s 2004 debut album, ‘The College Dropout,’ the four-hour-plus film lingers on quieter, pre-fame moments: chats with his mother, Donda, about the difference between confidence and arrogance; the desperation of trying to play his demo CD for disinterested peers; a more respected artist being disgusted by West’s orthodontics retainer. Behind the camera throughout was Clarence Simmons, a stand-up comedian-turned-director known as Coodie, who along with his creative partner, Chike Ozah, has been compiling video of West for more than twenty years. But that wasn’t always the plan. Originally conceived as a ‘Hoop Dreams’-style feature, the documentary was supposed to end in the early 2000s, with West—who is now legally known by his old nickname, Ye—winning his first Grammy Award. But as West developed from a nerdy Chicago beatmaker for Jay-Z to a polarizing, era-defining artist across music, fashion and more, he grew apart from Coodie, an old neighborhood friend, and changed his mind about the project, leaving hundreds of hours of tape in limbo,” writes Joe Coscarelli at the New York Times.
CAKE Pushed Away Until At Least 2023
“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of our 2020 and 2021 in-person Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, and we had tentatively chosen June 2022 as a potential return date,” CAKE relays in a release. “Putting on a show like CAKE requires certain assurances and lead time. Because we are unwilling to jeopardize the safety of our exhibitors, public guests, or volunteer staff, we have unanimously voted to delay the expo again, with an as-of-yet undetermined future date. If you were accepted as an exhibitor for 2020’s expo, your acceptance and table fee will carry over to the next expo, whenever it happens. We are not planning a virtual fest of any kind for 2022, as we feel it is better to honor the expectations of our exhibitors that they will have a physical table at a physical expo as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Libraries Are More Popular Than Ever…
“But library workers don’t earn livable wages,” reports Book Riot. “Libraries are far from dying.. Library programming has doubled since 2004, with nearly 6 million library programs offered in 2019. Over half of those programs are for kids, and programs for young adults have grown fastest, with a 40.5% growth in offerings since 2014. Public libraries averaged about ten programs per thousand people… Although there have never been more public libraries in the U.S.—nearly 17,500, or an average of 5.4 libraries per 100,000 people—wages for library workers lags. There are roughly 144,600 library workers across the country, of which 35.4% are librarians… The average library staff person in the U.S. in 2019 earned $44,700 before taxes. The average salary may have increased in the past decade, but that number still represents library staff being paid thirty-five-percent below a living wage for a family of three.”
On Book Challenges And Internet-Borne Tactics
“Books in schools and libraries increasingly have targets on their spines. The more partisan the battle has become, the more it manifests as a power struggle rather than an effort to find common ground on how best to serve children,” reports the Christian Science Monitor. “There were roughly 476 challenges between September and the end of 2021, compared with 377 total in 2019, the last year schools and libraries were fully open before the pandemic… However, caution library scholars, clashes over books, not deliberative conversations make the news. But that doesn’t mean those conversations aren’t taking place in communities across the nation, with challenges resolved or compromises forged before they erupt in acrimonious headlines. Ten years ago, challenges ‘were very local,’ says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. What happened in one school district did not significantly affect what happened elsewhere. Today, with activists exchanging tactics and information online, challenges are popping up everywhere. … The books are kind of incidental. What we’re really arguing about is, what does it mean to be a citizen of the United States? How do we want our children to be educated? What do we want to say about our history?”
The Increased Struggle Of Literary Magazines
“The Believer’s shuttering isn’t isolated. Across the country, universities are slowly, quietly, cutting funding and shutting their literary publications down. Even magazines not connected to universities are closing their doors or changing publication strategies—a trend made worse by the ongoing pandemic,” reports CNN.
Trib Columnist Rex Huppke Out After Nineteen Years
“To clear the air, know this: The decision to leave is mine entirely,” writes Rex Huppke at the Trib. “Later this month, I’ll become a columnist at USA Today. It was time for a new challenge, and I’m looking forward to writing for a national and international audience and receiving fresh hate mail from different locales… I feel lucky beyond measure to be leaving the Tribune on excellent terms, and I’m grateful to the folks in charge for giving me a chance to wind things down easy and say a proper farewell.”
Radio Newsman-Political Consultant Dick Stone Was 80
“Dick Stone was a reporter and news director overseas and in Chicago before starting a political consulting and media communications firm,” reports the Tribune. Stone’s wife of thirty-seven years, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman, survives him.
Marin Alsop At Ravinia Three More Years; “Breaking Barriers” Tunes Up
“Marin Alsop’s tenure as Ravinia Festival’s chief conductor will continue through 2025,” relays WFMT. This year also sees the introduction of “a new, Alsop-led programming push: an annual weekend called the Breaking Barriers Festival, which… ‘will celebrate diverse artists and leaders’ in classical music. In her role as chief conductor, Alsop curates and conducts a three-week stretch of programs with the CSO. Embedded within that residency will be the Breaking Barriers Festival; this year’s focus will be on women conductors and include tributes to Margaret Hillis, the founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, as well as Leonard Bernstein, Alsop’s mentor.”
Chicago Actress Mary Ann Thebus Passes
Tribune theater critic Chris Jones posts that longtime teacher, three-decades-plus Chicago stage actress Mary-Ann Thebus, mother of director Jessica Thebus, has passed. (Jones reflected on “the second oldest working Chicago actor with a union card”’s on-book performance in “Doubt” in 2019, when she was 86.) Her 2016 Goodman bio is here.
Remembering Richard Christiansen And The Art Of “The Pull Over”
“If he liked a show, his words could help make the reputations of actors, directors and companies. An oft-cited case in point was his 1983 review of Jack Henry Abbott’s ‘In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison’ at Wisdom Bridge Theater, a production directed by Robert Falls and starring William L. Petersen,” reports Neil Genzlinger at the New York Times in his notice of the passing of longtime Chicago Daily News and Trib drama critic Richard Christiansen. “Mr. Christiansen wrote of Mr. Petersen’s stage mannerisms and craftsmanship, then said this: ‘These qualities are admirable in acting, and can be accounted for, but how do I account for the fact that minutes after leaving the theater Thursday night, I had to pull my car over to the side of the street so that I could clear the tears from my eyes?’ Afterward, the Chicago theater world was said to refer to a rave from Mr. Christiansen as ‘a pull over.'”
Will Dance Companies Continue To Offer Recordings?
“Many concert dance troupes were left with few options to save their seasons and, more importantly, their companies during COVID-19 shutdowns,” surveys Dance magazine. “Some opted for site-specific works, but for those without amenable weather, open spaces or, more simply, the desire to stage live works in a pandemic, putting dance online became a natural alternative. [Dance on screen] provided an attractive platform to explore new directions for choreographic works.”
ARTS & CULTURE
Miami Scandal Could Affect Chicago Casino Award
“A cloud of scandal in Miami is casting a shadow over the Chicago casino race,” writes Greg Hinz at Crain’s. “A lawsuit charging that the owner of the Miami Dolphins offered cash to throw games could affect who wins the Chicago gambling prize.”
Names Chosen For Brookfield Zoo’s Asian Small-Clawed Otter Pups
Two male and four female Asian small-clawed otter pups that were born at Brookfield Zoo on November 18, 2021, have been named, relays the Chicago Zoological Society: Otto, Otis, Wishes, Hermione (Her-My-O-Nee), Sachiko (SAH-chee-ko) and Olivia. “The six pups are thriving and bonding with their parents, Pearl and Adhi (AHH-dee), behind the scenes. This past month, the playful pups have begun a diet of fish and are exploring a small pool of water. If the pups continue to demonstrate swimming proficiency, staff anticipate the pups and their parents will be able to have access to their habitat at ‘Tropic World: Asia’ in early March. The smallest of the otter species, Asia small-clawed otters are native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. The species is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Population numbers are declining due to several threats, including residential and commercial development, deforestation, the illegal pet trade, pollution, climate change and poaching.”
Worldwide Loss Of Creative Jobs: Ten Million
“Ten million jobs in creative industries worldwide were lost in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and the increasing digitization of cultural output means it is harder than ever for artists to make a living, a UNESCO report has said,” reports the Guardian. “COVID has led to ‘an unprecedented crisis in the cultural sector,’ said Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, in a foreword to the report. ‘All over the world, museums, cinemas, theatres and concert halls—places of creation and sharing—have closed their doors. What was already a precarious situation for many artists has become unsustainable, threatening creative diversity.'”
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