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Gertie and Expo Chicago Announce Inaugural Chicago Exhibition Weekend
Over fifty-five galleries, institutions and artist-run spaces will present a weekend of exhibition openings and events this fall, showcasing art throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods for the inaugural Chicago Exhibition Weekend. The weekend (September 29-October 1) is co-presented by Expo Chicago, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, and Chicago-based cultural agency Gertie. “Expo Chicago is not just one week of the year, our program is year-round. This weekend is a brand new part of that, exemplifying our mission to spark meaningful opportunities for lasting connections with art and showcase Chicago as a national and global center for the arts and culture,” said Tony Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago. “One of the most important ways to create meaningful impact for our city is to convene and celebrate the powerhouse artists, galleries and cultural leaders living and working in Chicago today.” Full details here.
Bear Champ Turns Fifteen
The key icon of the work of artist JC Rivera, “The Bear Champ,” will mark its fifteenth anniversary with print releases and a private artist showcase. “The Bear Champ symbolizes JC, showcasing his love of boxing and his fighting spirit to persist and forge ahead. While the character doesn’t always emerge triumphant, he consistently adapts to adversity and embraces the next challenge. This mirrors JC’s artistic journey, characterized by his unwavering determination to establish his brand and advance his career through relentless dedication,” his gallery relays. The celebration will include the highly anticipated release of a limited edition “Greatest Hits – Volume 2” print following a sold-out “Greatest Hits – Volume 1” this summer. Two exclusive Private Artist Showcase events will also be held, presenting a curated collection of the artist’s work, including select pieces from his personal collection. More here.
Consultants Say Combine CTA, RTA And Pace And Raise Fares
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, “a group tasked with making recommendations about the future of public transit, is weighing changes to fares, sales taxes and the very concept of maintaining the CTA, Metra and Pace as separate agencies,” reports the Tribune (via Yahoo). Among proposals are “moving to a one fare system across all types of public transit, rather than the current, separate fares for the CTA, Metra and Pace.” Also: “raising fares, combined with more funding for existing free and reduced-fare programs, expanding subsidies to include lower-income riders, and other measures to keep fares affordable.”
Bankrupted Loop Landlord Could Delay Office-To-Residential Conversion
The Lightfoot-era plan to turn a historic Loop office building into apartments is troubled, charts Crain’s. “A venture led by Chicago investor Musa Tadros that owns the office property at 105 West Adams filed for bankruptcy protection July 31… just one day before the building was scheduled to be sold in a court-ordered foreclosure auction. The bankruptcy filing blocked the sheriff’s sale, buying Tadros more time to figure out his next move almost three years after his lender filed a $22.8 million foreclosure lawsuit against the venture that owns thirty floors of the forty-one-story tower, known as the Clark Adams Building. The maneuver could delay a $178 million plan from a pair of local developers aiming to convert Tadros’ property into 247 apartments, one of five projects Chicago planning officials selected earlier this year for further review as part of the city’s LaSalle Street Reimagined initiative.”
John Ronan Park District HQ Built With Brick Salvaged From Two Demolished Area Buildings
“Salvaged brick and aluminum screens feature on the exterior of a round building designed by local studio John Ronan Architects to house the Chicago Park District Headquarters and a community field house. The project was built on a former brownfield site in Brighton Park, an historically underserved neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago,” reports Dezeen. “Walls are made of concrete blocks and are faced with Chicago common bricks, known for their pinkish hue. The bricks were salvaged from two demolished buildings in the area. The brickwork helps to ‘root the design in the local building culture and foreground the theme of reclaiming the site for the community,’ said the studio.”
DINING & DRINKING
Taste-Testing The Deep-Fried Side Of The State Fair
“Fairgoers often head straight to the corndog and [corn on the cob] stands, but few snacks feel quite as indulgent—or quite as fertile for fairgrounds—as the array of deep-fried offerings,” tastes Mitchell Armentrout at the Sun-Times. Of the seven sampled: “Named the best dish at last year’s state fair, a full slice of crisp Key lime maintains a bit of its coolness despite the hot wrath of the deep-fryer, a satisfying contrast in temperature and texture. ‘That was another one we tried on a lark that ended up sticking,’ said purveyor Todd Burton of Grafton, who also has s’mores, green tomatoes, pecan pie… on his unholy menu.”
Black-Owned Bars And Eateries Still In Recovery
The pandemic devastated the restaurant industry, with minority-owned businesses hard-hit, details Eater Chicago. “Many Chicago diners focused on aiding North Side restaurants, which benefited large restaurant groups with deep marketing budgets… That left out many Black and Latinx businesses on the city’s West and South Sides. When emergency relief did arrive, it felt like too little too late for many. In the wake of the pandemic and [after] George Floyd’s murder, programs emerged to help close the gap by providing resources and mentorship to Black-owned businesses. Three years later, efforts backed by big companies continue to offer vital support to startups that lack generational advantages even as coordinated legal attacks on corporate diversity programs have begun.” (Stories, including that of Logan Square’s Funkytown Brewery, here.)
Wieners Circle Cuts Patio Music, But Neighbors Still Say Shut The *@&#! Up
“Owner Ari Levy assured neighbors the famed hot dog stand won’t play music outside except on days it has a permit to do so, but neighbors now want the business to stop all special events with loud music,” reports Block Club. But occupants of the nearby Wrightwood Commons building claim that “the expansion has brought the rowdy atmosphere of its front patio along Clark Street too close to their homes. Neighbors also said Wieners Circle hasn’t hired a community monitor in charge of patrolling the area to address and abate noise, loitering and littering.”
FILM & TELEVISION
Full Spectrum Calls For Curators For Community Storytellers Initiative
Full Spectrum is looking for nominations to assemble a curatorial team of community members and artists to review applications and select the 2023 Community Storytellers. “We’re looking for locals who reflect the people we serve and work with including Black, Latine/x, Indigenous, immigrant, disabled and LGBTQ+ people; artists; cultural workers; activists; educators; faith leaders; filmmakers; and people with knowledge and familiarity of Chicago’s neighborhoods, particularly North and South Lawndale.” Nominations here.
New Clowes Close
Daniel Clowes has a new book coming in October, a collection called “Monica,” reports Library Journal. In the interview, Clowes explains, “[It is] a series of related ideas collected over decades (a few I’ve been saving in notebooks for over thirty years) that began to join each other in a way that suggested a direction forward.” Why does it take this amount of time? “I’ve tried every possible technique over the years, from super-carefully planned-out stories, with every word and image figured out in advance, to spontaneous automatic writing with as little thought as possible. At this point, I’m trying to balance my true, somewhat obsessive nature with a system that’s flexible and open to change, which unfortunately means I have to take a lot longer in the pre-drawing stages. I’d be much happier if I could just draw all the time, but I need for the stories to have a certain energy and mystery.”
Robert Reich On Private-Equity Absorption Of Simon & Schuster
“Paramount announced that it will be selling Simon & Schuster, one of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses in the United States, to the private-equity firm KKR, for $1.62 billion,” blogs Robert Reich. “The acquisition vastly increases the influence of financial interests over book publishing… elevating profits above the love of publishing books.” In the past, “publishers made money in order to publish books. They earned enough on their big bestsellers to take chances on unknown authors like me and put out books that delighted small numbers of enthusiastic readers but never showed a profit… After KKR takes over Simon & Schuster, this prestigious publishing house won’t be taking risks on unknown authors or putting out wonderful books that appeal to small numbers of enthusiastic readers. It’s going to be a profit center for one of the biggest private equity firms on Wall Street, dedicated exclusively to making money.”
“What Happened To Theater In Chicago?”
“What the heck happened?… The landscape of the Chicago, and the broader American, theater, has changed so much since 2019 it is almost unrecognizable,” columnizes Chris Jones at the Trib. “All over the city, albeit with some exceptions, theaters have been weighing the pros and cons of letting their difficulties be known without looking like they are asking donors to throw money at a lost cause.” After tens of millions of dollars poured into edifices, “leadership at top Chicago nonprofit theaters has almost all changed over… Both of Steppenwolf’s top leaders in 2017—artistic director Anna D. Shapiro and executive director David Schmitz—are no longer with the company, which reports it has since lost some twenty-percent of its subscription audience. Neither is Writers Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam. Nor are Chicago Shakespeare executive director Criss Henderson and artistic director Barbara Gaines.”
Jones makes a partial list: “Victory Gardens has gone dark in all but name, leaving the previously restored Biograph Theatre as an empty eyesore… The Royal George Theatre, a long-standing venue with a clutch of differently sized spaces, is being redeveloped for condos. Stage 773, once… known as the Theatre Building, is now a bar and art exhibit… Lookingglass Theatre, which operates in a rent-free space on storied Michigan Avenue, has put out an existential SOS.” And, he lists: Akvavit Theatre, AstonRep Theatre Co., Awkward Pause Theatre, Black Button Eyes Productions, BoHo Theatre Company, Broken Nose Theatre, Brown Paper Box Co., Chicago Theater Works, Chicago Mammals, Dog and Pony Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, First Folio, GayCo Productions, Gorilla Tango Theatre, Interrobang Theatre Project, Irish Theatre of Chicago, The New Coordinates, Provision Theater, Quest Theatre, Red Tape Theatre, Refuge Theatre Project, Right Brain Project, Route 66 Theatre Company, Side Project Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, 16th Street Theater, Stockyards Theatre Project, Strange Tree Group, Underscore Theatre Co., Vitalist Theatre, Waltzing Mechanics, WildClaw Theatre and the Windy City Playhouse. Jones notes that his list is not complete and wrangles with the nationwide crisis in his piece.
“Sitting down with Chicago director Georgette Verdin in early July had a bittersweet tinge to it,” reports Jerald Raymond Pierce at American Theatre. “Interrobang Theatre Project, where Verdin served as managing artistic director, [announced] that they would officially be concluding their operations at the end of August. It’s another gutting blow for the Chicago storefront community, especially for a [strong group] of theaters that got their start in the city in the late aughts. AstonRep Theatre Company (2008), 16th Street Theater (2007), New Coordinates (2008), Sideshow Theatre (2008), and Interrobang (2010) have all now closed their doors… It is a storefront scene that has, for years, mixed artists just starting out with those who may have just completed a show at the Goodman the month before. And it’s a scene where an artistic leader like Verdin has been able to cut her teeth, make her mark, and do it all while working on projects that mean the most to her.”
“Last year, Verdin was the Goodman’s Michael Maggio directing fellow. She’s now an ensemble member at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and an associate artistic director at Northlight Theatre. In talking to Verdin, one gets a sense of feuding feelings: excitement about a promising next chapter, and pain surrounding the rocky road that led to saying goodbye to the space that helped her get there. ‘The universe has a way of putting you where you need to be,’ Verdin said, ‘doing what you need to be doing.'”
Susan V. Booth Era Begins At Goodman
Goodman Theatre’s 2023-2024 season, Susan V. Booth’s first as artistic director, begins with works by Pearl Cleage, Atlanta’s first Poet Laureate and Booth’s longtime creative collaborator and friend, the Goodman relays. The season opener, “The Nacirema Society,” directed by Lili-Anne Brown, will play in the Goodman’s 856-seat Albert Theatre with a cast including E. Faye Butler, Ora Jones, Tyla Abercrumbie and Demetra Dee. “The Nacirema Society” is the centerpiece of a citywide salute to Pearl Cleage—including events produced in partnership with Black Ensemble Theater, Congo Square Theatre, Definition Theatre, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, MPAACT and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, with more details about the Pearl Cleage Festival to be announced later in September.
There is also a program change: the new musical comedy “Female Troubles”—music by Curtis Moore, lyrics by Amanda Green and book by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden—has been rescheduled to January 2025. A new musical for spring 2024 will be announced soon. “The Nacirema Society” appears September 16-October 15. Tickets ($25-$90) are here.
Checking Into Collaboraction’s Youth Program
“Now in its third year, Collaboraction’s youth program offers young artists a chance to create art at the intersection of performance and social change,” reports American Theatre. “The Light selects participating artists through an audition process and meets two or three times per week during the summer; the young artists are paid $18 an hour for their time. Performers range from actors to singers to poets to dancers to musicians, and all share a passion for inspiring change in the community around them.” The group is preparing “a performance tour of Chicago parks as part of the Chicago Park District’s ‘Night Out in the Parks,’ highlighting a growing new branch for Collaboraction as a social justice organization. ‘We believe that we can all come together and make the city a better place,’ said artistic director Anthony Moseley. ‘And we believe that art is our greatest asset to do that in the city of Chicago.'”
Production Residencies Support Two Chicago Dancemakers
With the support of Walder Foundation, Chicago Dancemakers Forum is continuing its “City-Wide Production Residency Project,” which matches local dancemaking artists with performance venues for experimentation and creative development in a technical theater space. The project promotes paid artistic development, experimentation with production elements, employment for designers and technicians, and new collaborations. The 2023 artists-in-residence, Maggie Bridger and SJ Swilley, were selected by the host venues in collaboration with Chicago Dancemakers Forum, with Bridger’s residency at Links Hall, and Swilley’s at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Are Chicagoans Muscled To Pay Donations For Street Fest Entry?
“Star Events sold tickets online to free street festivals without telling attendees a donation is optional. And fans say aggressive volunteers at fest gates routinely say a fee is required to enter,” reports Block Club. “Under city rules, fests that take over city-owned streets can request a donation and often have ‘suggested donation’ amounts posted at the gate. But events in the public way can’t charge a mandatory entrance fee. They’re also required to post signs at the festival entrances indicating that entry is free, according to DCASE, which regulates street fests.”
Half Of Chicago School Bus Driver Positions Vacant
“In Chicago, about half of the district’s bus driver positions are vacant,” reports the New York Times (via the Tribune). “The school district is battling its driver shortage by offering free Ventra cards—which are used for the city’s public transit—for qualifying students and one companion.” Adds CBS 2, “The first day of school for the Chicago Public Schools is on Monday of next week, and the CTA is bringing back its ‘First Day, Free Rides’ program for all K-12 Chicago area students. Free rides on CTA buses and trains will be available not only for CPS students, but for all students—whether they attend public, private or parochial schools.”
German KulturPass For Eighteen-Year-Olds Generated $3.5 Million In Arts Spending In Just Two Months
“Some 136,000 eighteen-year-olds already have activated their 200 Euro vouchers” from the German government since the June 14 start to the program, tallies Publishing Perspective. “More than 196,000 expenditures have been made on the KulturPass, generating more than $3.5 million in revenue in Germany’s cultural sectors.”
Six Months In Guilty Plea For Hate Crime Against UpRise Bakery
“A twenty-five-year-old man pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime last summer at Lake in the Hills UpRise Bakery and Cafe that was preparing to host… a family-friendly drag show,” relays the Daily Herald. He’s getting 180 days in jail.
Pritzker Calls “Bullshit” At State Fair, “Salty Zinger,” Says Crain’s
At the Illinois State Fair, Governor Pritzker “spent most of his eight-minute speech lambasting Republicans, particularly the far-right end of the party occupied by former President Donald Trump and Pritzker‘s nemesis, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis,” newsletters Crain’s. “They spend all of their time screaming conspiracy theories about the purge, about Disney, about green M&Ms and space lasers,” Pritzker said.
“The governor elevated his daytime speech from a G-rated to PG-rated affair, saying, ‘Republicans think that if they lie about something often enough, if they deny the truth long enough, maybe we will start to believe their lies. The problem is this: Here in Illinois, we have a low tolerance for bullshit.’ After the salty zinger earned Pritzker a standing ovation, the governor praised his party efforts, declaring, ‘Illinois Democrats have done more in the last five years to push back on the wave of authoritarian, anti-democratic, MAGA-Republican nonsense than any other place in the country.'”
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