Josephine Strauss, 101, Helped Start Art Institute Volunteer Program
“Josephine Newberger Strauss helped launch the Art Institute of Chicago’s volunteer program in the 1960s and for many years was a generous donor to the museum,” reports the Trib. The family fortune came from sweater and knitted outerwear firm Royal Knitting Mills. “In the 1980s, Strauss and her husband donated funds to help support the museum’s relocation of its popular Thorne Rooms, which afford visitors a look at miniature models of rooms.”
Times Drops Into Valpo Frosh Dorm-Art Sale Contretemps
“In the face of declining enrollment, Valparaiso University in Indiana wants to raise money to renovate two dormitories by selling treasures from its art museum,” including a Georgia O’Keeffe painting worth millions. “Not everyone is on board,” reports Kalia Richardson at the New York Times. “Richard Brauer, a retired art professor who served as the director of the museum that now bears his name, has told the university’s leadership he wants his name removed if the school goes through with the sale.”
Push For Planes In Peotone Persists
“A long-discussed proposal for a new Chicago-area airport in the south suburbs is again gaining traction, now with a focus on air cargo as e-commerce warehouses and logistics facilities have flourished in the area,” reports the Trib.
Pacing Ford City In The Waning Days Of Malls; Will Elgin Mall Be Transformed?
“Department store closures have resulted in a ‘death spiral’ for shopping malls,” reports Edward McClelland at Chicago magazine. Quoting an observer of malls: “Once a department store goes vacant that tends to be contagious because all those middle-mall stores—the nail salons and the jewelry stores—they are all depending on the traffic coming from the bigger retail stores.” “In the next five years, it is estimated that twenty-five percent of the nation’s 1,000 malls will close for good… That retail apocalypse has already hit Ford City, as I found out when I stepped through the abraded archway of Gate 5. It’s as good an example as any of the Great American Shopping Mall in its feeble dotage.”
The Daily Herald headlines: “East Dundee village trustees hope to override veto of Elgin Mall project”: “The Elgin Mall, which features dozens of independent Latino-owned shops, is a popular weekend destination that attracts shoppers from throughout the region looking for traditional religious items, Western wear, boots and furniture.” After the building owner ended the lease last year, “Vendors formed a new ownership group and focused on a shuttered Dominick’s store in East Dundee for their new home,” akin to the Little Village Discount Mall.
DINING & DRINKING
Chicago’s Guinness Brewery Still In The Pour
“In 2021, the Guinness division of liquor giant Diageo said it expected to have its second U.S. taproom open in Fulton Market by St. Patrick’s Day,” reports the Sun-Times. Summer is now targeted for opening. “Guinness said its partners in the operation include a joint venture of Hyde Park Hospitality and Stefani Restaurant Group.The location is owned by Chicago developer Fred Latsko, who has told media outlets he wants to build a residential tower just west at 375 North Morgan and connect it to the taproom.”
Black Dog Gelato Down To Original Location
The owner of Black Dog Gelato has made the “difficult decision” to close locations in Fulton Market and Logan Square “to focus on the original shop at 859 North Damen, a Ukrainian Village staple since 2010,” reports Block Club. Owner Jessica Oloroso said, “I don’t have it in me anymore—and part of that is from COVID, too—I don’t have it in me to fix the problems that need to get fixed… Damen is tried-and-true, and they put up the numbers we have to come to expect.”
Local Foods And Butcher & Larder Closing
One of Chicago’s “unique grocery stores—home to a first-class butchery—is closing,” reports Eater Chicago. “After eight years, Local Foods will close its public-facing market later this month off the Elston Industrial Corridor. Its wholesale operations will continue.”
FILM & TELEVISION
First Ebertfest Films, “Empathy At The Movies” Theme, And Frank Oz Slated
The University Of Illinois College of Media announced the list of the selection for the twenty-third annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, April 19-22 at Champaign’s Virginia Theatre. “Ebertfest—co-founded and hosted by Chaz Ebert—will honor the tenth anniversary of her husband’s death by screening films and bringing filmmaker guests who exemplify the theme of ‘Empathy at the Movies.'” Ebert is known for his recurrent linking of cinema and empathy. “For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy,” Ebert said. “If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears.” Special guest Frank Oz will appear with his 2020 “Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself,” along with Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” and Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story.” Anvil Orchestra will accompany “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Additional films and guests will be announced here. Passes here.
Estimated 2,000 Movie Screens Darkened Since Pandemic Onset
“The number of movie screens in the U.S. has shrunk from 41,172 in 2019 to 39,007 in 2022, a 5.3 percent dip,” writes the Hollywood Reporter. “The loss was offset by growth overseas. The number of movie screens grew from 200,949 to 212,590, a 5.8 percent jump… It remains to be seen how many of those closures are permanent and how many will re-open under new ownership,” a report by the Cinema Foundation added. The group also “stressed that the health of the box office recovery is tied to the number of wide releases from Hollywood studios.”
Mississippi Likely To Ban Certain Digital Books For School And Public Libraries
“Digital books depicting ‘homosexuality,’ ‘lesbianism” and other ‘sexually oriented materials’ could be banned from Mississippi’s public libraries and school libraries—for adults and children alike—under a bill the State House passed,” reports Mississippi Free Press. When the Mississippi Senate passed the bill, “it was six pages long and focused on requiring websites where pornography makes up more than one-third of the content to implement an age-verification system. When the legislation reached the House, its Judiciary B Committee amended it, expanding it to also include bans on ‘obscene’ and ‘sexually oriented’ digital materials in libraries. It does not include physical books.” The House Judiciary B Committee Chairman assures, “the intent is to keep it out of the reach of children. And I don’t think we need to throw common sense out and the baby out with the bath water. It’s just limiting access, making stuff harder for kids to get.”
Illinois Considers Book-Ban Ban
“A proposal aimed at discouraging book bans deemed discriminatory at public libraries is being considered by Illinois’ Democratic-controlled legislature,” reports the Tribune. “The legislation, which has the backing of Democratic Governor Pritzker, would allow the secretary of state’s office to deny state grants to public libraries, including those in schools, that don’t adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which holds, among other things, that ‘materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.'”
The Florida War On Books: One Woman Triggers Purges Of Dozens
“Under Ron DeSantis’ book crackdown, twenty books by Jodi Picoult just got banned at one county’s schools,” writes Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent. “One of them is ‘The Storyteller,’ about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. ‘Banning “The Storyteller” is shocking,’ Picoult tells us… ‘Most of the books pulled do not have a single kiss in them… They do, however, include gay characters, and issues like racism… Books bridge divides… Book bans create them.’” Sargent: “The vagueness of DeSantis’ directives appears deliberately designed to create a climate of fear and rampant snitching. It encourages teachers to censor themselves and invites parents/activists to become despotic little commissars of local book purging… We found that one woman made virtually all the objections to dozens and dozens of books that were then removed from schools in this county. She is a rightwing activist. This is how the book-banning machine really works.”
Gannett Vaporized More Then Half Their Newspaper Jobs
“Newspaper conglomerate Gannett’s most recent annual report drives home the fact that no company has done more to shrink local journalism than it has,” writes Joshua Benton at NiemanLab. “While Alden [Global Capital] failed in its bid for Gannett in 2019, it sparked a wave of newspaper industry consolidation that some had foreseen… The two largest newspaper companies in the United States—No. 1 Gannett and No. 2 GateHouse—announced they were merging. The name would remain Gannett, but GateHouse execs were mostly left in charge. At the end of 2018—the last full pre-merger year—the two companies had a total of 27,600 employees… The merger closed in mid-November 2019, by which time it… was diving headlong into a hunt for ‘inefficiencies.’ … As of the end of 2022, Gannett had just 11,200 U.S. employees remaining… In other words, Gannett has eliminated half of its jobs in four years. It’s as if, instead of merging America’s two largest newspaper chains, one of them was simply wiped off the face of the earth.”
Mirage Tavern Photographer Jim Frost Was Seventy-Nine
“Whether he was bopping wayward hogs on the nose with a slingshot on his family’s farm as a boy or shooting bribe-taking city inspectors, exquisitely placed lemons or sashaying supermodels as a Chicago Sun-Times photographer, Jim Frost always had good aim,” writes Mitch Dudek at the Sun-Times. “His most famous images came while perched in what amounted to a journalistic deer blind at a dive bar on the Near North Side. The game he was hunting: crooked city of Chicago inspectors. It was all part of what came to be known as the Mirage tavern sting.”
“Bloodshot Records is gearing up for 2023 with a slate of new releases that finds the iconic record label, known for its brand of Insurgent Country, embracing its past, present and future,” the label, under new ownership since 2021, relays. “This fall will see new records from returning Bloodshot artists Scott H. Biram, Lydia Loveless, and Jason Hawk Harris. Mid-year will mark Bloodshot welcoming The Watson Twins to the family with brand new music alongside the already announced eighty-one- years-in-the-making debut record from legendary Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Layng Martine Jr., ‘Music Man.’ Bloodshot’s roster of 2023 releases will be the first new music from the label in over two years.”
Twenty-Seven-Year CSO Bass Daniel Armstrong Retires
Daniel Armstrong, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s bass section for twenty-seven years, marked his retirement at the end of the 2023 North American Tour in Toronto. “Growing up in Canada, his first bass was a plywood instrument bought by his father from a hardware store in his hometown of Kitimat, British Columbia, near the Alaska panhandle; coincidentally, that bass was manufactured in Chicago.” During his CSO tenure, Armstrong performed in concerts across Chicago and the world, including CSO tours and the 2017 and 2018 Concerts for Peace organized by Yo-Yo Ma. A “passionate music educator, Armstrong has also been heavily involved in Negaunee Music Institute programs, performing in schools, after-school programs, community centers, prisons, senior centers and hospitals, as both a soloist and with a string quintet. A founding member of the contemporary music ensemble Present Music, Armstrong continues to play with them as time allows.” More here.
“Feel The Illinoise!” Chicago Shakes Sets Sufjan “Illinois”?
Over the weekend, Trib theater critic Chris Jones whispered, “So Chicago Shakespeare is expected to host next season the official world premiere of ‘Illinois,’ a new show based on the 2005 album by Sufjan Stevens with book by Jackie Sibblies Drury and choreography/direction by Justin Peck. Bard College previewing this summer.” (Pitchfork previews the troubadour’s Bard outing here.)
Peter Brosius Departing Children’s Theatre Next Year
Children’s Theatre Company has announced the departure of artistic director Peter Brosius at the end of the 2023-24 season. Brosius’ “artistic vision has transformed the theater into the nation’s leading theater that serves a multigenerational audience,” CTC says in a release. In his tenure since 1997, CTC “has produced more than 187 productions, championed more than seventy new works from commission to fully developed works on the stage, served more than five million children and community members, founded innovative educational programming, and championed equity, diversity and inclusion efforts to eliminate barriers to participation for those underrepresented in theater.” The more than seventy new plays and musicals commissioned by, developed, and premiered at CTC are by more than a hundred writers including Cheryl West, Nilo Cruz, Naomi Iizuka, Larissa FastHorse, Itamar Moses, Jerome Hairston, Barry Kornhauser, Lloyd Suh, Will Power, Liz Duffy Adams, Carlos Murillo, Kia Corthron, Philip Dawkins and Greg Banks. A major new initiative, Generation Now, is a partnership between CTC and Penumbra, Latino Theatre Company, Mai Yi, and Native Voices at the Autry to commission and develop sixteen new plays and musicals by Black, Indigenous, AAPI and Latinx writers for a multigenerational audience.
“During Brosius’ time, CTC more than doubled its annual budget from $6 to $13 million, expanded its endowment from $2 to $12 million and increased its physical space with a $30 million expansion in 2005 adding the Cargill Stage, the McGuire Education Center and production shops. Today, CTC is one of the top twenty-five regional theater companies in the country and the largest children’s theater in North America.”
Production Of Plays In High Schools Cancelled In Midwest
“In Florida, Indiana, Kansas and Pennsylvania plays and musicals have been challenged or canceled recently. Parents or school officials have complained that the content isn’t family friendly,” reports NPR. Says one director of a cancelled production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “I think we all see what’s happening nationally with censorship. And I never thought that I would be dealing with it. But now, after all this, I’m starting to question everything I’m doing.”
“Annie” Solicits Chicago Orphans
Open casting call auditions were held over the weekend for the musical “Annie,” reports CBS 2. “Producers are looking to cast orphans ahead of the 2023-24 national tour.” Child actors of eight or older were sought, “shorter than four-foot-seven.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Rick Kogan On A Hundred Years Of Chicago-Born Golden Gloves
“The real thing has long been a fixture in this city. Boxing remains a significant part of the landscape, even if its reputation has been sullied over the last few decades, and its popularity challenged more recently by the flashier offerings of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling,” Rick Kogan writes at the Tribune. “The city is in the midst of the latest edition of the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament.” It will continue “through preliminary bouts until the championships take place in mid-April. It will include 470-some male and female boxers in three-round bouts taking place at the Cicero Stadium. Our city is one of thirty Golden Gloves national outposts… This is the hundredth year of this venerable event in Chicago and this story is meant not only to note that anniversary but to celebrate the longest-running and largest non-national amateur boxing event in America.”
Texas Federal Judge Who is Prepared To Ban Medical Abortion Drug Demands To Rule In Secret
“The Texas judge who could undo government approval of a key abortion drug has scheduled the first hearing in the case for Wednesday but took unusual steps to keep it from being publicized,” reports the Washington Post. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk “scheduled the hearing during a call with attorneys Friday.” The Trump appointee and rightwing Christian activist whose rulings are often considered “rogue” “said he would delay putting the hearing on the public docket until late Tuesday to try to minimize disruptions and possible protests, and asked the lawyers on the call not to share information about it before then… Public access to federal court proceedings is a key principle of the American judicial system, and Kacsmaryk’s apparent delay in placing the hearing on the docket is highly unusual. The judge and his staff did not respond to emails requesting comment on Saturday evening.”
How Many Bad Laws Can One State Consider? (Florida, For Instance)
A new Substack, SWORD, is dedicated to chronicling “the Florida GOP’s march of hate and civil liberties violations [as they reach] unprecedented heights. More than ever, the legislature has produced a slew of unhinged… legislation that targets vulnerable communities, diminishes our freedoms and serves special interest groups at the expense of working people. The barrage of bills filed by Florida Republicans is overwhelming, so we’re listing them all one by one.” An example: “SB 1248: Probably one of the dumbest bills filed this legislative session, it would abolish the Florida Democratic Party due to its past support of slavery in the 1800s. It’s a wildly unconstitutional proposal that its sponsor even admits is just a troll, which is to say another dumb performative stunt that does zero to help Floridians.” Updates on the 2,000-plus-word accounting are promised as well.
Today In Child Labor: Ohio Senate Says Work Will Keep Kids Off TikTok
“Ohio senators who supported a bill extending the hours fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds can work during the school year say remedying the workforce shortage won’t come with increased risks to children,” reports Ohio Capital Journal. “‘Nobody in this chamber would ever do anything to endanger our children here,’ said state Senator Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland. ‘I hope we all would stipulate to that… This is less time that they will be spending on social media, like Tik Tok and others.'” The bill’s sponsor said the law ” would not only help children learn necessary skills to start their life as workers, but also take a small step in addressing staffing shortages in certain business groups around the state.” He said, “When we have short-staffing situations, that flexibility can be critical.”
Arkansas Removes Some Child Labor Restrictions
“Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed legislation into law that eliminated age verification requirements for young workers,” reports the Washington Post. “Federal officials have pledged a crackdown on child labor law offenses after regulators discovered hundreds of violations in meatpacking plants, and after news reports emerged of children working in hazardous occupations around the country.”
“The Horrifying And Shameful Return Of Child Labor”
“Child labor only came to an end through a combination of muckraking journalism, political campaigning and labor organizing. That remains the only remedy,” writes Jeet Heer at The Nation.
Send culture news and tips to [email protected]