In the early nineties, we were living in the historic Manhattan Building in the South Loop. Our east-facing apartment was situated at the building’s setback, where its width narrowed for the higher floors, meaning we had a small, private rooftop to our south. If we opened the bedroom windows, we could climb out on that roof, and we frequently deployed our Smokey Joe grill for family barbecues. Our east view was unimpeded; long before we arrived, a surface parking lot had replaced the Cheap Willy’s store, along with the peep show and burlesque house that had once occupied the parcel of land below. Soon, a massive construction project occupied the site, and we watched the creation of the Harold Washington Library from directly above. Eventually, its colossal ornamental owl consumed our eastward view.
For some reason, in my memory Thomas H. Beeby, the architect of the library’s postmodern flagship, was from out east somewhere. Probably because most of the famous architects of that movement were. But when we decided we wanted to feature the owls in some way on this month’s cover, ideally in the form of architectural drawings, I “remembered” that Beeby in fact was a Chicago architect, one of the legendary “Chicago Seven,” in fact. His firm, now called HBRA, is still active here in Chicago, though Beeby is now emeritus, and they graciously shared the drawing you see on our cover.
Not long after the Harold Washington Library opened at the end of 1991, we published the first Lit 50. Over the years since, thousands of literati have been chronicled in this feature and yet, every time we publish it, dozens of new faces show up. An interesting note on this year’s edition is that all three of the writers of Lit 50 this year—Donald G. Evans, Billy Lombardo and Mary Wisniewski—are themselves alumni of the list.
Institutions like the library give a city a big part of its character over time, physically and spiritually. The skyline of Chicago’s neighborhoods are filled with the spires of other longstanding institutions, its churches. Many of our historic churches are no longer in use or in decline, and the future of their landmark-but-expensive-to-maintain structures is a real concern to those of us who love the city’s history. In this issue, Mary Wisniewski looks into the subject in “No Sanctuary.”
And you might argue that art museums are temples of our times, making curators their priests. Carla Acevedo-Yates is quickly making her mark at the MCA, with two major exhibitions, including one opening this month. Jennifer Smart tells us her story in “The Choreography of an Exhibition.”
We’ve timed this issue to precede Printers Row Lit Fest in September, but you might also consider it your summer reading issue and take one of the many books by Chicago writers discussed in these pages to the beach. Or do a long walking tour, taking in some of the city’s temples—of the spirit or of the culture.
Look for Newcity’s August 2023 print edition at over 300 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at Newcityshop.com.
IN THIS ISSUE
The Choreography of an Exhibition
Curator Carla Acevedo-Yates discusses her path to “Entre Horizontes” at the MCA
Are historic churches the lost souls of a city?
Lit 50 2023
Here are the writers you need to know—and read
“How To Time Travel”
A new poem by Timothy David Rey
And so much more…