Mellon Foundation’s “Imagining Freedom” Grants $125 Million To Art Projects On Incarceration
“A huge new initiative from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation… is pledging $125 million to arts and humanities organizations that focus on mass incarceration,” reports NPR.
Iranian American Artist In St. Paul Shutdown
“The work of the Iranian American artist Taravat Talepasand is cheeky, erotic and defiantly anticlerical. One painting in her new midcareer survey, ‘Taravat,’ incorporates Iranian bank notes whose images of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini have been dosed with LSD… On a gallery wall, ‘Woman, Life, Freedom,’ the slogan of Iran’s recent nationwide protests against the morality police, is written in neon in English and Persian,” reports Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times. “When ‘Taravat’ opened late last month at Macalester College, a left-leaning school in St. Paul, with a focus on internationalism, some Muslim students felt it made a mockery of modest Islamic dress, and thus of them. They expressed their outrage, and… Macalester [has closed] Talepasand’s show, and then, apparently unaware of the irony, [surrounded] the gallery windows with black curtains. Those curtains astonished Talepasand, an assistant professor of art practice at Portland State University. ‘To literally veil a “Woman, Life, Freedom” exhibition?'”
Downtown Greyhound Station Prepped For Sale As High-Rise Locale
“High-rise developers are being courted for the Greyhound bus station site, currently owned by a subsidiary of the Chicago Tribune’s owner,” reports Crain’s. “A Connecticut investment firm that just bought the Greyhound bus station near downtown Chicago has put it up for sale, wagering that a developer will buy it for a high-rise project. Twenty Lake Holdings has hired CBRE to sell the bus depot at 630 West Harrison, next to the Jane Byrne Interchange. Totaling about 88,000 square feet, the site could accommodate a big development, possibly with two towers.” The price is expected to be in the low- to mid-$20 million range. “Under its current zoning, a new owner could clear the site and build one million square feet in its place… The site sits right next to the busiest highway interchange in the city, begging the question of whether people would want to live there, even with extensive soundproofing.”
No Assistance For Directory Assistance
“AT&T has announced that it’s ending operator and 411 directory assistance services for all but its traditional wired landlines. The company points out that most customers can look up what they want online,” reports the Sun-Times. A telephone historian says, “The demise of 411 is not just the demise of an operator but also the final closing of the human element in telephone communication.”
Chicago Development Commission Approves Motor Row Residences; Steep Theatre
The CDC has approved $10 million in Tax Increment Financing district support for Hudson Michigan Avenue Owner LLC’s mixed-use plans for 2222 South Michigan, the Department Of Planning and Development posts. “The $62 million Near South Side project would renovate a century-old Motor Row building to house thirty-eight residences and commercial space including eighteen hotel rooms.” Project details here.
The Community Development Commission also approved $3 million in TIF support for Steep Theatre’s plans for a seventy-seat theater at 5300 North Kenmore Ave. in Edgewater. The $5 million project will rehab an existing 3,500-square-foot building and construct an 1,800-square-foot addition, Chicago DPD posts. Project details here.
Behind Hand-Painted Grocery Store Signage
“High pigmentation is what makes Southwest Signs’ signs pop, what makes them shout the necessary information to passersby, who may not realize they need to know that today center-cut beef shanks are $1.59 a pound,” writes Kelley Engelbrecht at Chicago magazine, tracing the process. “The letters are made with thick strokes by a hand that knows what it’s doing. The confidence in these signs speaks to decades of experience. Even up close, you barely notice the trace amounts of graphite, a light swish of pencil ensuring each letter is the same size so there’s no bunching on either side, like you’d see in a poorly executed homemade lemonade-stand sign.”
How Remote Work Costs Businesses Near Workplaces
A typical Chicago worker spends $2,387 less near the office than before pandemic, Crain’s reports on a local study. “The dropoff is less steep than in many other big U.S. cities, but it’s still a significant hit for downtown businesses.” Plus: Chicago eateries question if the lunch crowd will ever return. Bloomberg suggests remote work is preventing office workers from spending as much as $5,000 each on lunches and other expenses in New York City, costing businesses there as much as $12 billion a year. “Three years into COVID, the in-person workweek has shrunk to just three days. And returning to pre-pandemic work schedules is looking like a lost cause.” Observes New York reporter Choire Sicha, “The framing on this story is so wild and anti-worker. They keep calling it a ‘problem’ that you’re not buying salads on Mondays and Fridays in Manhattan. That money is getting spent elsewhere, which is probably good! The world has changed! Someone will get rich off this too!” The piece’s writer, Emma Court, kind of agrees: “Outer borough foot traffic and spending is up more than in Manhattan. Cities can find ways to lean into these newly vibrant areas, instead of trying to inch back to their pre-pandemic economies.”
Ford To Collaborate On Michigan Battery Plant With Chinese Supplier
Ford said it will collaborate with a Chinese supplier on a $3.5 billion battery plant for electric vehicles in Michigan, despite ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China, reports CNBC.
Tracy Letts And Carrie Coon Sell Bucktown House For $3.1 Million
“Tracy Letts, the actor and playwright whose ‘August: Osage County’ won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play, and his wife and fellow actor Carrie Coon sold their house in Bucktown for $3.1 million,” reports Crain’s. “Letts bought the house in May 2009 for $3 million, Chicago magazine reported at the time. The house sold for three-percent more than he paid for it almost fourteen years ago.”
DINING & DRINKING
Chicago Athletic Association Names New Executive Chef
The Chicago Athletic Association has hired Kaleena Bliss as executive chef. Chef Bliss joins Sasha Suboc, chef de cuisine; Yami Mercado, pastry chef; and banquet chef Juan Hernandez on the majority female-led culinary leadership team at the former men’s club. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Bliss is relocating to Chicago from Seattle. She plans to translate her Pacific Northwest sensibilities to Chicago, and her menu will highlight local wild produce, an array of spring vegetables and fresh seafood. Her cooking is inspired by her time outdoors, and her food focuses on balancing familiarity while implementing her own twist. More here.
Behind The Abrupt Closure Of Rock Bottom Brewery
Employees had clues they didn’t read that they would soon be out of a job in the days before the sudden shuttering of Rock Bottom Brewery, reports Block Club, detailing its demise. “In its final weeks, rumors swirled that the brewpub might be closing… The restaurant ran out of or ran low on staples like ketchup, various liquors, bacon, ice cream and queso, with no plans to order more… Former staff members were told to close down sections of the restaurant, not realizing they were essentially permanently taking those areas out of service.”
FILM & TELEVISION
Production On “The Bear” Season Two Starts Next Week
FX series “The Bear” starts shooting season two in Chicago, reports Screen, on Tuesday, February 21 and is expected to complete work on a ten-episode season (up from eight) around April 28. If FX and Hulu follow the first season’s release, the series should be ready to binge by early summer.
Siskel Film Center Establishes The Sergio Mims Fund For Black Excellence In Filmmaking
After the passing of film critic and Black Harvest Film Festival co-founder and consultant Sergio Mims, the Gene Siskel Film Center has announced the establishment of the Sergio Mims Fund for Black Excellence in Filmmaking to honor his legacy of giving a voice and platform to the next generation of Black filmmakers. “Sergio was a family friend for many, many years,” board chair of Kartemquin Films Sylvia Ewing says in a release. “ As a producer, I recall how delightful it was to be first to book him as a guest on Chicago Tonight and other media to share his wit and wisdom. Sergio was a connector, always bringing people together over shared passions and strong opinions. Sergio was deeply committed to giving Black filmmakers a platform to show their work and engage new audiences. This fund is a worthy memorial to his vision to help bring more Black voices to the conversation around film and the film experience.” The fund was established by a planning committee consisting of Black Harvest Film Festival supporters Barbara Allen, Sylvia Ewing, Amir George, N.K. Gutiérrez, Isabelle Martin, Lisa Mims, Troy Pryor and Cleo Wilson. It is administered by Kartemquin Films. More here.
Milwaukee Oriental Theatre Joins National Register Of Historic Places
The Oriental Theatre, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “the nearly ninety-six-year-old movie palace on Milwaukee’s east side, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Landing on the list was one of the objectives that Milwaukee Film, the nonprofit organization that runs the Milwaukee Film Festival, had in mind when it signed a long-term lease to take over operations of the Oriental in 2017.”
States Legislate For I.D. To Watch Online Sexual Content
“Louisiana became the first state to require an ID from residents to access pornography online. Since then, seven states have rushed to follow in Louisiana’s footsteps,” reports Ars Technica. “According to a tracker from Free Speech Coalition, Florida, Kansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia introduced similar laws, and laws in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia [seem] closest to passing… Some of these laws could be enforced promptly, while some bills in states like Florida and Mississippi specify that they wouldn’t take effect until July… A South Dakota committee voted to defer voting on its age verification bill until the last day of the legislative session. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Jessica Castleberry… failed to persuade the committee of the urgency of passing the law, saying at the hearing that ‘this is not your daddy’s Playboy. Extreme, degrading, and violent pornography is only one click away from our children.'”
Heavier Metal: School Of Rock Workers Organize With Iron Workers
Forty-four workers at the School of Rock in Illinois are unionizing with the Iron Workers Union.
Has The Internet Failed Music?
“There aren’t places for truly independent music to be discussed. There isn’t space at the big publications for it. There is so much music you can’t expect anything else, but the infrastructure is mostly nonexistent for independent promotion outside of your own personal social media. That sucks. The internet failed at being a place for democratizing music because the internet has turned into a capitalistic funnel,” posts “music-adjacent” writer Miranda Reinert. “There is an ever-expanding gap between the capital needed to make music and the capital needed to get that music out to anybody. There is so much music with zero reach because promoting music is almost impossible without hundreds of extra dollars a month for press that a lot of people just don’t have. I would argue that even if you have the money, that reality of needing a publicist in order to feel like you even have a chance to break through is still a negative. Theoretical easy accessibility of music that is promised by the internet is not the same as an even playing field.”
German Choreographer Smears Critic’s Face With Famous Dachshund’s Droppings
Marco Goecke has been suspended from his position as ballet director at Hanover, Germany’s main opera house after he smeared dogshit on a critic’s face, reports the New York Times. Wiebke Hüster, a dance critic, had panned his latest work. Goecke appeared in front of her during a break from watching a ballet program at Hanover’s main opera house. “Goecke—who is known for his pet dachshund, Gustav, as well as for his work—then pulled a bag filled with dog excrement out of his pocket” and smeared it on her face. “Much of Germany’s dance world is trying to understand why a respected choreographer would attack a critic, and whether it represented a sign of a damaging shift in how artists view criticism.”
New York’s New Ohio Theater Closing After Three Decades
More turmoil for established stages: “At a time when theaters are struggling to reach prepandemic audience levels, the New Ohio Theater [in the West Village], a staple for artists and independent theater companies for thirty years, announced it would present its final Manhattan performance in August,” reports the New York Times. The artistic director sees “a new generation taking on the space.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Michael Jordan Donates $10 Million To Make-A-Wish
“Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is celebrating his sixtieth birthday by donating $10 million to Make-A-Wish America,” reports CBS 2.
Behind The Ohio “Airborne Toxic Event”
The tankers that contain dangerous chemicals akin to those detonated last week in East Palestine, Ohio, on the order of Governor Mike DeWine, wind through other towns and cities, where the next disaster could show more immediate damage than the unfolding mess in the corner of that state, where the train had hours earlier passed through Pittsburgh. Similar trains make their way through the greater Chicago area, and there should be journalistic and governmental investigations coming up, right? East Palestine is in chaos, reports the American Prospect: “An ominous FAQ document, with no company or government letterhead, appeared on the exterior doors of the residents of East Palestine. The document tells residents not to worry about their air quality or drinking water, and compared the inhalation of the chemicals in the air to breathing in smoke from a wood fire. Under the ‘Is my drinking water safe?’ section, the document states: ‘It is improbable that substances from the derailment will impact the groundwater or drinking water wells in the area.’ Meanwhile, according to the EPA, three additional chemicals have been described as part of the release into the air and water, and trace amounts of the chemicals aboard the Norfolk Southern train have been identified in the Ohio River and along the creeks sprouting off the river.”
Here’s a 2016 report from VICE News and the Center for Public Integrity on the deadly danger of the key chemical, vinyl chloride (key to making PVC), and its relation to brain cancers. “Two major North American railways, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, have proposed a $27 billion merger that would make it easier to move freight across North America with the first unified continental rail network,” reports the Guardian. “It would create the first direct route from Canada’s bitumen oil sands mines in Alberta to heavy crude refineries in Port Arthur, an industrial city on the Texas coast,” increasing traffic through Houston and Gulf Coast cities. From WKBN Youngstown: “‘We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open,’ said Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist. ‘There’s a lot of what ifs, and we’re going to be looking at this thing five, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, you know, well water could go bad.'”
From the New Republic: “Here’s what happens when two crew members are operating 141 freight cars: Did a shortage of rail workers cause the Ohio toxic-freight derailment? … Freight trains are much longer than they used to be, and today their length can be measured, literally, in miles. That’s long been a point of contention for railway workers. ‘The engineer driving can’t even see the end of the train,’ Jeff Kurtz, a retired locomotive engineer and an official with Railroad Workers United” said in 2017. “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that security camera footage twenty miles short of where the derailment occurred showed a rail car axle that appeared to be on fire. Why this information was not transmitted quickly to the train crew remains unknown, but it seems likely that the answer has something to do with the [limited] number of people who were in a position to sound the alarm.” The New York Times: “One of the evacuees, Ben Ratner, told CNN that he and members of his family had been extras in a 2022 movie adaptation of the 1985 Don DeLillo novel ‘White Noise.’ In that story, a train derails and spills chemicals, causing an ‘airborne toxic event’ that forces the evacuation of a small, Midwestern college town.”
Send culture news and tips to [email protected]