Theaster Gates Named Special Advisor For Arts Initiatives At UChicago
Theaster Gates, Jr., artist and professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the College, has been appointed Special Advisor to the President for Arts Initiatives at the University of Chicago. “Gates is a social innovator whose work demonstrates the intricacies of Blackness through space theory, land development, sculpture, and performance. As Special Advisor to the President for Arts Initiatives, reporting to University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos, he will build partnerships and plan the infrastructure for various arts initiatives, including those located off-campus in the neighboring University community,” UChicago announces in a release. “I look forward to working with Theaster in this new role as we work to leverage the city’s tradition of artistic excellence and advance arts practice at the University and more broadly,” says Alivisatos. “Since 2010, Gates has held significant leadership roles at the University of Chicago, including serving as founding Director of Arts + Public Life and as Senior Advisor for Cultural Innovation and Advisor to the Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy. In this new role, he will work closely with David Levin, Senior Advisor to the Provost for Arts, to consider new initiatives and strategize about the role of the arts at the University, and in the University’s relationships across the city and around the world.”
“In addition to his work at the University, Gates is founder and artistic director of the not-for-profit Rebuild Foundation, where he has developed an artist-led, community-based platform for art, cultural development and neighborhood transformation. He has raised more than $100 million in local and national support for arts programming, redevelopment efforts and artists grants. Gates’ diversified and influential work frequently involves restoring distressed buildings to use for community gathering, artist-centered programming and housing. Gates’ art practice has received international recognition, and his Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel is currently on display in London.” “I remain excited about the work that I do on behalf of the community in partnership with the University of Chicago. In this new role, I hope to work with the Office of the President to create more cultural space and greater opportunities for artists at the University, citywide and beyond,” Gates says. “Jackson Park, Washington Park, Grand Crossing, Kenwood, and the corridors of 53rd, 55th, 61st, Cottage Grove and Stony Island deserve more cultural investment and advocates that can restore these once bursting districts of culture to their original grandeur. There is no shortage of talent, but because of structural racism, segregation, and infrastructural divestment, the places for joy and celebration have dwindled. I want to be a part of changing that.”
Logan Square Grace’s Furniture Site No Longer Slotted As Boutique Hotel; Health Club Likely
“Redevelopment of the old Grace’s Furniture building in the heart of Logan Square has taken yet another turn as the developers behind the long-delayed project have dumped city-approved plans to open a boutique hotel on the site,” reports Block Club Chicago. “The proposal still needs landmark and zoning approval… Blue Star Properties and Marc Realty are looking to redevelop the [site] into a mixed-use project with Logan Square Athletic Club as its anchor tenant.”
Public Plaza Coming To Catalpa Between Clark And Ashland
“In early August, alders Andre Vasquez (40th) and Harry Osterman (48th) hosted an outdoor community meeting on a proposal to partially or completely pedestrianize the block of Catalpa (5500 North) between Ashland (1600 West) and Clark (1530 West), creating a new community gathering space,” reports Streetsblog Chicago. “I am pleased to announce that after substantial meetings, surveys, and process, the majority of our community is supportive of complete [pedestrianization] of Catalpa between Clark and Ashland to create a public plaza,” Vasquez announced.
Millennium Park Bike Station Closing This Week
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events oversees the eighteen-year-0ld Millennium Park bike station and is “exploring options to determine the best use of this space,” reports the Sun-Times. “The 16,448-square-foot heated facility [has] over 300 parking spaces for bikes and was one of Millennium Park’s most applauded features during the park’s grand opening in 2004. Beyond parking, it offer[ed] an array of amenities: lockers, showers, rentals, tours—and even a bike shop for maintenance.”
DINING & DRINKING
Los Angeles Times Food Columnist On Why Chicago Beef Belongs In Chicago
“I am from Chicago,” writes Lucas Kwan Peterson, food columnist at the Los Angeles Times. “I feel duty-bound to say a few words about the divinely delicious, distinctly Chicagoan and oft-misunderstood Italian beef sandwich… This is what an Italian beef should be: a six- to eight-inch long sandwich filled with thin-sliced marinated meat on a French roll drenched in juice and swaddled tightly in waxed paper or insulated foil wrap. When you pick it up, it should feel heavier than expected; sodden like a wet diaper. [It is] a sandwich that is soaking not only with jus but also the olive oil from a spicy giardiniera that belongs on top—or sweet peppers if you can’t handle spice (or both). It’s sloppy and unwieldy, and best eaten immediately while standing up… I won’t insult the sandwich and romanticize it unnecessarily by calling it ‘humble,’ though its origins are indeed relatively modest—it was created by Italian immigrants as a way to stretch a cut of meat for as long as possible.”
New York Times Slots Two Chicago Boîtes On Best U. S. Restos
They call it “The Restaurant List 2022,” and the New York Times includes Dear Margaret and Evette’s: “These are the fifty restaurants we love most in 2022.” Of Dear Margaret: “Ryan Brosseau and Lacey Irby know that French-Canadian cuisine is misunderstood. That’s why a message at the top of their restaurant’s web page warns, ‘No, we don’t serve poutine!’ What they do serve is smooth duck liver pâté crowned by pink lemon marmalade and buckwheat granola; split pea panisse riding stewed mustard greens with housemade paneer; and beef-tallow-fried smelts from Mr. Brosseau’s native Ontario.” And Evette’s: “Mitchell Abou Jamra struck upon novel ways to make a splash with tacos in a city already rich with taquerias. The most ingenious may be the tortillas he fills with jalapeño tabouli, whipped feta and bacon-y crisp halloumi in a gloss of Aleppo pepper oil… Mr. Abou Jamra named [the sunny little café] after his Lebanese grandmother, …[let’s] daydream of what could happen if the chef ever turned his talents to Middle Eastern enchiladas.”
Foxtrot Lays Off Workers
Foxtrot laid off close to four percent of its employees last week, just as the upscale convenience store is expanding around the country, reports Crain’s. “The Chicago-based company remains ‘deeply optimistic about the future,’ but economic trends and the current funding environment led to the ‘difficult decision'” to cut jobs.
Barcocina West Town Opens in Old Tecalitlan Property
Where Tecalitlan once served burritos and margaritas for nearly half-a-century on Chicago Avenue, Barcocina has settled into a second location. “The popular modern Mexican concept from River Partners Hospitality” opens in October at 1814 West Chicago. The second site will echo the Lakeview location’s “energetic environment and playful approach to hospitality while offering a variety of exciting new menu items tailored to the surrounding community. The bright and modern bar and dining room area leads out onto an expansive patio through a series of garage doors, creating an inviting space to be enjoyed year-round. One of the largest in the area at 4,000 square feet, the patio features Barcocina’s signature ivy and summertime cabanas. Barcocina will also offer heated igloos during the wintertime.” In the kitchen is executive chef Ramiro Piza, creating a menu that “encapsulates the restaurant’s signature fusion of traditional Mexican fare and multicultural flavors.” Barcocina favorites such as the signature Balsamic Guacamole and Elotes Corn Salsa, as well as creative tacos like Pineapple Pork and Bang Bang Shrimp, are on the menu along with additions including Scallop Ceviche Bites with Jalapeno, Strawberry and Hibiscus Caviar. The beverage menu reflects the spirit of Barcocina, with signature cocktails such as Summer Sangria, House Party, and Skinny Punch on draft. Happy hour will be Monday-Friday. (Eater Chicago has some renderings here.) More here.
FILM & TELEVISION
Chaz Ebert Honored At FACETS’ Screen Gems Benefit
FACETS’ Screen Gems Benefit 2022 celebrating the life and career of Chaz Ebert this Wednesday, September 28, has sold out. There will be a special award presentation by Tribune film critic and Filmspotting guest host, Michael Phillips. Says FACETS executive director Karen Cardarelli: “Chaz is so deserving of this honor as she is passionate about programs that help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color and that provide education and arts opportunities for women, children, and families. We are inspired by her extraordinary contributions to the industry and eagerly anticipate honoring her this year with the FACETS Legend Award.” More here.
Oscar Micheaux’s “Within Our Gates” With Live Jazz Accompaniment In 35mm
Tonight at the Music Box, presented by the Chicago Film Society, the Alvin Cobb Jr. jazz trio “will team up with a Chicago landmark: the earliest surviving silent feature by Black filmmaking pioneer Oscar Micheaux, ‘Within Our Gates’ (1920),” writes Michael Phillips at the Trib. “The film was made here, on Chicago streets, in Chicago brownstones and studio spaces, in the wake of the notorious bloodshed of Chicago’s ‘Red Summer’ of 1919. Chicago censors held up release of Micheaux’s film for two months, deeming its storyline and content ‘pre-eminently dangerous’ in the wake of the fatal violence the year before.” The Library of Congress has provided the 35mm print. The CFS on the jazz trio: “Composed by its leader, an original film score will be performed live by the Alvin Cobb, Jr. Trio, a Chicago-based music group led by drummer-composer Alvin Cobb, Jr. featuring bassist-vocalist Katie Ernst and pianist Julius Tucker. Heavily inspired by straight-ahead jazz trio playing, their music also incorporates folk melodies, free improvisation, and modern Black music elements.” Tickets and more here.
Paige Taul Finds Blackness Through Film
“I make a lot of work about Blackness and defining Blackness, because it is simultaneously definable and indefinable,” filmmaker Paige Taul [Newcity Film 50 2020] tells Vocalo in a profile. “Taul moved to Chicago as a student to join and learn from the ever-growing community of filmmakers in the city… Taul uses both analog and digital formats, as well as archival film, to focus on real stories and human topics—especially pertaining to Blackness and identity. She makes it clear she’s no documentarian, and describes her work as experimental nonfiction. Rather than inform or teach through her films, she hopes people will relate to her works based on their own lived experiences.”
Chicago Folk Music Stalwart Jim Post Was Eighty-Two
“Jim Post was one of the most irrepressible stars of Chicago’s folk music scene in the 1970s and 1980s,” writes Maureen O’Donnell at the Sun-Times. “He could sing, act, write a hit song and plays, make you believe he was Mark Twain reincarnated, shred on his guitar and reach—and endlessly hold—the high notes with a ringing tenor that would raise goosebumps. ‘He was a lovable imp on stage,’ said theater producer Richard Friedman, a longtime friend. ‘He’d do anything to entertain.’ … He recorded [with] or shared stages with performers including John Prine, Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc, Ed Holstein and Fred Holstein, Michael Smith, Bob Gibson, Anne Hills, Bill Quateman, Steve Wade and Ginni Clemmens. He opened for Cream and hung out with Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. Friends say he also spoke of having had a brief meeting while in California with Charles Manson, when Manson was trying to break into music.” He also “often appeared at the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Earl of Old Town.”
Can Pay-What-You-Will Ticketing Help Classical Music?
“I’m a cellist, and I have played in orchestras my entire life,” Blake-Anthony Johnson, the president and chief executive of the Chicago Sinfonietta, told The New York Times. “I used to ask the other musicians, ‘What is the most you would pay for your ideal concert?’ And it was nowhere near what our patrons actually pay.” “Johnson was describing a slow-moving crisis in the performing arts: Ticket prices have risen far more precipitously than most Americans’ earnings… ‘Removing socioeconomic barriers is one of those things we have to be ahead of,’ said Johnson, whose Chicago Sinfonietta introduced a pay-what-you-can ticketing approach last season. ‘I sleep really well at night, to have someone say, “I’m able to bring my family to these concerts.”‘”
Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Get Four-Year Contract
“Effective immediately, the new contract replaces a two-year deal signed during the pandemic in September 2020, which required a twenty-five-percent pay cut for the musicians until audiences returned in full. With attendance relatively strong again, … musicians were able to make some modest gains in the new contract,” reports Minneapolis’ Star Tribune.
Underscore Theatre Company Closing After Over A Decade
The board of directors of Underscore Theatre Company have announced its closure after eleven years of producing musical theater in Chicago, including sixteen world premieres. The company’s Chicago Musical Theatre Festival will be shepherded by Kokandy Productions, another company dedicated to the musical theater community. Underscore’s remaining assets will be transferred to Kokandy to ensure the Festival’s future as an incubator for new works. “We chose to dedicate our time during the pandemic, when we could not produce, to a nearly yearlong strategic planning process talking with writers, producers, directors and new musical makers from all across the country about what is most beneficial for their work in the musical landscape,” founding executive director and board vice president Laura Stratford says in a release. “Underscore, like many of its peers in the storefront theatre community, operates with limited resources both in capital and human capacity. What we learned from our planning process was that to maintain a sustainable future, our model would need to undergo a dramatic shift, especially as the community continues to recover [from the ongoing pandemic]. After some deliberation, the Board has elected to take this opportunity to seed a new start for the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. As an additional gift to the Chicago musical theater community, we will publish the findings of our strategic planning process, with the hope that they may be of use to those who continue this work.” Underscore founding artistic director and board member Alex Higgin-Houser says, “While Underscore is closing its doors, our mission isn’t over. When we founded this company over a decade ago, it was with the goal of making Chicago a hub for new musicals. We’re thrilled Kokandy Productions is committed to carrying the torch of new musicals into the future by taking the reins of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival. We also want to thank Artistic Director Whitney Rhodes and Executive Director J. Sebastian Fabál for their tireless work and leadership, particularly through the pandemic. We wish them both all the best in their future endeavors.”
AstonRep Theatre Company Launches Fifteenth And Final Season With Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child”
The fifteenth and final season of AstonRep Theatre Company begins with a revival of Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child,” directed by ensemble member Derek Bertelsen, October 21-November 19 at The Edge Theater. The production features ensemble members Rian Jairell and Robert Tobin with Stephanie Baires, Liz Cloud, Roberto Jay, Jim Morley and Jorge Salas. “A surprisingly twisted look at disillusionment and morality, Shepard’s masterpiece is the family reunion no one anticipated.” The production team includes Jeremiah Barr, scenic and props designer; Andrés Mota, costume designer; Samantha Barr, lighting designer, production manager; Becca Venable, sound designer; and Robert Tobin, fight choreography. Tickets and more here.
Stage Left Theatre Announces Forty-First Season
Stage Left Theatre’s forty-first season begins with “Man of The People” by Dolores Díaz, directed by Anna C. Bahow, October 25-November 20 at Chicago Dramatists. Stage Left will continue its monthly Off Stage Left, online readings of new works on the third Monday of select months. The season will continue in the spring with an in-person production of “In The Back/On The Floor” by Ken Green, directed by Rachel Van. The season will conclude with Stage Left’s “Leapfest,” which allows playwrights to interact with audiences in the performance of an emerging new work. More here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
“Walking Man” Leaves Hospital After Four Months
Doctors initially said that seventy-five-year-old Joseph Kromelis “was not expected to recover after he was lit on fire for nearly three minutes the night of May 25. His upper body was engulfed in flames, and he suffered third-degree burns over sixty-five-percent of his body,” reports the Sun-Times. But Kromelis has been discharged from Stroger Hospital, awaiting further recovery “at a rehab facility and will have to undergo additional surgeries. ‘He is grateful for everyone’s concern and asks that his privacy be respected,’ according to a statement from Cook County Health.”
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