Profiling South Side Photographer Akilah Townsend
“Akilah Townsend, whose work will be featured in a collection with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Color Factory Chicago this summer,” writes Reema Saleh at South Side Weekly, “is a self-taught South Side photographer. Born and raised in Chicago in the Bronzeville and Grand Crossing neighborhoods, she is a photographer and art director who focuses on Black beauty representation. Her portraits feature warm, saturated colors, using storytelling and place to empower her subjects and make them feel seen.” Of her photography, Townsend says, “I just start with where I’ve been and where I come from. My experiences as a Black woman on the South Side informs a lot of the stories that I want to tell and the thinking about narratives that need to be told. So when it comes to personal projects, when it comes to casting and thinking about those sorts of things—I’m thinking about what connects the most to me.”
Unsung “Jewel On The Prairie” In Bronzeville Gets Renewal
“A steel-and-glass building on Bronzeville’s northern edge is among Chicago’s finer modernist structures, yet it has gone relatively unnoticed and uncelebrated since its construction sixty years ago,” writes Sun-Times architecture critic Lee Bey. “The long-vacant, two-story former Lake Meadows professional building at 31st and Rhodes is set to come alive again in early 2023 as office space for the Howard Brown health organization… Designed by architecture firm SOM and completed in 1959, the two-story, 26,000-square-foot building originally was office space for telephone company Illinois Bell.” More.
CTA Wraps Trains In Vintage Designs For Seventy-Fifth Anniversary
“As part of a celebration of its seventy-fifth anniversary, the Chicago Transit Authority is wrapping [some] railcars with designs recalling paint schemes dating to the 1950s,” reports Trains. “A Red Line trainset now displays a green, cream, and orange scheme from the 1950s. Still to come is a mint green and alpine white design used from the 1960s to the 1980s. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and Butcher Boy Cooking Oils are sponsoring the wraps. The vintage wraps are a prelude to a seventy-fifth anniversary celebration scheduled for October 1 at Daley Plaza… On that day, vintage railcars and buses will operate in the Loop.”
Oak Park Frank Lloyd Wright “Bootleg House” Sells For $920,000
“An Oak Park house that was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and was one of Wright’s ‘bootleg houses’—so named because they were projects he took on the side without telling his employer at the time–” has sold for $920,000, reports the Trib. “Known as the Robert P. Parker house, the four-bedroom, 2,661-square-foot house was built in 1892 and was designed while Wright was working for the architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan.”
Chicago Mobile Makers Open New Headquarters
“If you’re familiar with the Oak Park native, architectural designer, maker, and educator Maya Bird-Murphy, founder and executive director of the Chicago Mobile Makers,” reports Archinect, “it’s due to her work with Chicago’s local youth and her team of designers and educators leading workshops in their hard-to-miss repainted UPS trucks… Within five years, Bird-Murphy and her team’s dedication to social design practices have led to another significant milestone for the organization. After receiving $30,000 from the Chicago Bulls through the NBA’s seventy-fifth anniversary Legacy Project, the organization now has its first official headquarters within the Kimball Arts Center in Humboldt Park.”
LaSalle Hotel Opens In Burnham-Designed Landmark
The LaSalle Chicago Hotel has opened in the Financial District. “The design-forward and Art Deco-inspired luxury hotel sits on the top five floors of a landmark from famed architect Daniel Burnham. Featuring luxury accommodations, a signature restaurant and lounge, library retreat, beautiful solarium, a state-of-the-art fitness center and over 7,500 square feet of ballroom and meeting space, the hotel offers an elegant experience for both business and leisure travelers alike,” the hotel says in a release. “We are thrilled to offer a luxury experience unlike any other hotel in the Loop,” said General Manager Stefan Gruvberger. “Not only does the hotel evoke the elegance and rich history of Chicago’s past, but also puts guests right in the heart of today’s best attractions, making it easy for visitors to make the most of their time at The LaSalle Hotel.” The LaSalle Hotel is operated by Aimbridge Hospitality as an addition to Marriott’s Autograph Collection. More here.
DINING & DRINKING
The Original SmallBar Turns Twenty
Logan Square-Avondale’s tiny tavern SmallBar turns twenty, and the neighborhood bar on a residential street will observe the anniversary with a block party on July 16, running from noon to closing time. DJs, food and more are slated. More on SmallBar here. Instagram here.
Frank & Mary’s Tavern Celebrates Fiftieth Anniversary
Frank & Mary’s Tavern, the classic Chicago establishment at 2905 North Elston, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary on Saturday, July 9, starting at 3pm. Vintage rock and soul music will be provided by DJ Killer Diller and pop-up barbecue will be served by 1613 BBQ. From a release: “Frank and Mary Stark were hardscrabble siblings who opened Frank and Mary’s in 1972. The gritty space housed bars since Prohibition. Frank and Mary grew up at Belmont and Broadway. When it opened, it was a beloved lunch stop along the Avondale corridor. Regulars included factory workers from the Hammond Organ Company and Advanced Transportation. Longtime Chicagoan Tony Mata was a regular and had been the chef at the Silver Palm train car and later was bartender-manager at the Matchbox. After Mary’s passing, and with Frank’s blessing, Mata became the manager. He gave the old bar a deep clean while retaining its gritty character. New Northwoods murals were painted by Chicago artist Andrea Jablonski. The neighborhood tavern still offers daily lunch specials from Mary’s beloved recipes. The most popular item is Mary’s meatloaf ,with parsley and onions, but no tomato sauce, served on Wednesdays.” Details here.
Soul & Smoke Barbecue Not Just A Ghost Kitchen
“Soul & Smoke, purveyors of some of Chicago’s best chef-crafted BBQ and comfort food,” are opening a walk-up eatery at Rockwell on the River, the restaurant advises in a release. “Soul & Smoke’s Avondale ghost kitchen will be moving to this location, making it the first food merchant at Rockwell on the River.” The space will be counter order with indoor and outdoor seating available. On the menu: executive chef D’Andre Carter’s slow-roasted, smoked meats, including prime brisket, rib tips, pulled pork and sides of signature mac & cheese, collard greens and house-made pickles. Also: custom-made Beer for The Soul as part of a partnership with Sketchbook Brewery. “What goes better with boats and sunshine than BBQ and beer?” chef Carter says in the release. “It’s the definition of summertime Chi. We’re so excited to be joining the Rockwell on the River team and the family of other businesses within the community.” More on “comfort food from the heart” here.
Chef BBQ Returns For Twenty-First Year
Chef BBQ returns September 8 for a twenty-first year. Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, “Chef BBQ attracts over a hundred Chicago restaurants, brewers, winemakers and mixologists. Featured restaurants at the event this year include the Girl & the Goat, Rose Mary, Frontera Grill, Jaleo, Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and Pretty Cool Ice Cream.” General admission tickets include access to all hundred-plus tasting portions of seasonally inspired dishes and craft beverages highlighting ingredients from Green City Market’s local, sustainable farmers. There are also fresh, peak season flavors and vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free eaters. “Chef BBQ is the can’t-miss experience of the year for food-lovers. It’s the only fest in the city where guests can enjoy a seemingly unending array of incredible bites and beverages sourced directly from Green City Market’s local farmers,” executive director of Green City Market, Mandy Moody, says in a release. “The event also serves as a showcase for Chicago’s culinary scene and an opportunity to meet, face-to-face, top chefs who support sustainable farmers.” More here.
Windy City Smokeout Returns To United Center
Windy City Smokeout, first-time winner of the Academy of Country Music Awards “Festival of the Year,” returns to Chicago August 4-7, outside the United Center. Live performances from country music stars are scheduled to include an opening night appearance by Willie Nelson & Family. Windy City Smokeout also features BBQ offerings from some of the best pitmasters in the country and a wide selection of craft beer. More here.
Taco Crawl Returns To Rogers Park
The nonprofit Rogers Park Business Alliance brings back its Taco Crawl this month. Fourteen restaurants along North Clark between Devon and Rogers—”one of the city’s utmost dining destinations for Mexican restaurants”—will offer their signature tacos to ticket buyers, rain or shine. Each ticket warrants one signature taco from each participating restaurant. Thursday, July 21, 3-7pm. Advance tickets are $20 here.
Rebuild Foundation Opens Applications For Culinary Artists-In-Residence
Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation has opened applications for its culinary artists-in-residence program, which is anchored in the Washington Park neighborhood at Rebuild’s Retreat at Currency Exchange Café. The program has incubated two nominated groups of hospitality entrepreneurs and tastemakers. The third set will be the first to be selected from open applications. The space at the Currency Exchange Café has long been a site of creative exploration and experimentation in the culinary arts. In 2019, the space welcomed Chef Cliff Rome’s second brick-and-mortar space for his Bronzeville restaurant Peach’s. Retreat now serves as a nucleus for mentorship, support, investment and growth for BIPOC-owned hospitality businesses. Rebuild Foundation accept applications until Tuesday, July 26. Applicants must have catering or commercial kitchen experience, an LLC or licensed business or organization and kitchen safety certifications like ServSafe. Applicants should email their resume, biography, a sample menu and cover letter to [email protected].
Starbucks Union Membership Crosses 5,000
June marked eighty-two union elections at Starbucks locations, reports People’s Policy Project, and union membership now exceeds 5,000. Also in June, the Starbucks Union “filed forty unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks, bringing the total number of ULP charges to 225. These charges typically allege that Starbucks has engaged in retaliation of one sort or another… The Starbucks Union had successfully organized 187 stores.”
Another Bite Closes In Rogers Park
Rogers Park brunch locale Another Bite closed June 26, reports Block Club Chicago, “with owner John Thomas saying it was a ‘difficult’ decision but one he made because of a labor shortage and rising costs.” Thomas tells the site, “What it’d take to be successful is more than we have right now… You’re seeing fifty-year-old restaurants closing. A year in, cutting it off early is best for everyone.” “Because so many places are hiring, workers with any kitchen experience can go to more established restaurants, Thomas said. Workers would also leave for other opportunities, leaving Another Bite unable to adequately meet customer demand.”
Joliet Area Historical Museum Hosts Blues Brothers Con
The Joliet Area Historical Museum will host a two-day event, which hopes to repeat each year, in celebration of the inaugural Blues Brothers Con to be held at the Old Joliet Prison, August 19-20. The sixteen-acre community-restored prison will transform into a tapestry of sights and sounds to celebrate and honor the “Blues Brothers” movie that debuted in theaters more than forty years ago. Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi will reprise their roles of Elwood Blues and Brother Zee for a ninety-minute performance on August 19. “Since the Museum began operations in 2018, the Old Joliet Prison has become a pilgrimage site for Blues Brothers fans from around the world,” Greg Peerbolte, CEO of the Joliet Area Historical Museum says in a release. “We are honored to work with Dan Aykroyd, Judith Belushi Pisano and the Belushi family to preserve the cultural contributions of one of the greatest films ever made. Blues Brothers Con will also help to repair the effects of the worst aspects of the Prison’s history by partnering with nonprofits and local faith-based organizations that support reentry and restorative justice initiatives.” Other attractions include live performances by blues legends, including Chicago’s Toronzo Cannon and Curtis Salgado, whose name was given to the character “Curtis” in the movie. Saturday, August 20 will feature an ecumenical Gospel music service led by Joliet-area faith based and civic leaders, followed by Chicago blues veterans Mondo Cortez & The Chicago Blues Angels and Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. More here.
Seventh Annual Thirsty Ears Festival Returns To Ravenswood
After a record attendance of 5,000 in 2021, Access Contemporary Music will present the seventh Annual Thirsty Ears Festival, Chicago’s only classical music street festival, returning with performances by fourteen ensembles and soloists with craft beer, local food, community vendor booths and a kids’ area. Highlights include the annual tradition of an outdoor screening of ACM’s most recent Sound of Silent Film Festival on the street Saturday night, a performance by the five-piece bass ensemble The Growlers and a set from violist-composer Rose Wollman of music spanning 350 years, from the Baroque masters to contemporary works performed for the first time. There will be a world-premiere live performance of ACM’s series “Songs About Buildings and Moods,” an ongoing video project featuring music written specifically for architectural showpieces. This year’s special performance focuses on the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana. The dates are Saturday, August 13, 2pm-10pm and Sunday, August 14, 2pm-9pm. More here.
Chicago Shakes Announces Creative Team For “The Notebook”
Chicago Shakespeare Theater has announced the cast and creative team for the world premiere of “The Notebook,” a musical based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks that also led to a popular movie. “Allie and Noah, both from different worlds, share a lifetime of love despite the forces that threaten to pull them apart, in a deeply moving portrait of the enduring power of love.” Broadway directors Michael Greif and Schele Williams team with singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson on music and lyrics, with a book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter and choreography by Katie Spelman. Performances begin September 6. Cast and more here.
Aerial Dance Chicago Presents World Premiere
Aerial Dance Chicago presents “Broken Compass,” an evening-length contemporary aerial dance work choreographed by three award-winning dance creators, Chloe Jensen, Karen Fisher Doyle and Tracy Von Kaenel. “Through original choreography both grounded and airborne, the concert follows a powerful and enchanting journey though the human experience, contemplating key questions along the way. At each stage in our lives, how do we know which direction to go? What tugs at our moral compass? Designed for a universal audience, the concert integrates original rigging design by artistic director Chloe Jensen and features a multigenerational cast of twenty dancers that includes the eight professional dancers of the company, six youth dancers and six senior dancers, with an age range spanning sixty years.” Friday, July 8 and Saturday, July 9 at Ruth Page Center for the Arts. More here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Finding Peace On A Seventy-Two-Hour Train Ride Across America From Chicago
“When you’re traveling alone on the California Zephyr, the two-and-a-half-day Amtrak train from Chicago to San Francisco, you take your blessings as they come,” writes Jordan Salama for National Geographic. “I was anxious, tired, and deeply lonely. I knew I needed to do something to get away from it all—something purely for myself, something that I knew no one else would ever agree to do with me. So there I was, heading west on a train across America. This actually requires two trains: The first, the Lake Shore Limited, departs New York at 3:40pm, bound for Chicago, where a six-hour layover leaves just enough time for a brisk walk to Lake Michigan and to stock up on [food] before returning to board the westbound California Zephyr.”
Auction Set For Collection Of Jim DeLoach’s Estate Of Magic
A life’s selection of antique to modern magic apparatuses, posters, books and artwork from Jim DeLoach will be auctioned July 16, including props by Okito, Collectors Workshop, Norm Nielsen, Abbott’s, Petrie & Lewis and other prominent magic manufacturers of the last century. “The ingenuity and craftsmanship evident in the apparatus that make up Jim DeLoach’s collection are all on display,” says Gabe Fajuri, president at Potter & Potter Auctions, “which showcases some of the finest magic props created in the last half-century.” The event will be held online and livestreamed, with bidding at Potter & Potter’s website here.
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