Get Chicago culture news sent to your inbox every weekday morning. Subscribe to Newcity Today here.
Art Institute Finalizes First Labor Contract
“Unionized employees of the Art Institute of Chicago museum and its affiliated school, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, have secured their first contract, which guarantees wage increases ‘across the board’ over a four-year period,” reports ARTnews. “Employees who currently make the lowest wages [receive] the highest raise at 16.25 percent. The Art Institute of Chicago Workers United (AICWU/AFSCME) is comprised of more than 500 workers from the two institutions.”
Fulton Market District Developer Lands $200 Million Construction Loan For New Office Building
“A Fulton Market District developer has pulled off an improbable feat for 2023: landing a construction loan for a nearly $300 million new office building,” reports Crain’s. “A venture led by developer Fulton Street Cos. closed on new debt it will use to finance a roughly 400,000-square-foot office building at 919 West Fulton… The exact size of the loan is unclear [but it’s] close to $200 million.”
Call For Proposals For Small Business Storefront Activities
Mayor Johnson and the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection have issued a Request for Proposal for the Small Business Storefront Activation Program. “The City will select community and economic development organizations to be responsible for identifying vacant storefronts in their respective community areas, negotiating short-term leases with landlords, sourcing local small businesses for storefront activities, managing preparation and operations for the space and providing ongoing support to small businesses operating pop-up stores. These activities will boost local spending and draw additional foot traffic to commercial corridors across all seventy-seven neighborhoods.” More here.
Landlord Bets $50 Million In Loop And Wacker Drive Renovations
“A New York real estate firm is betting $50 million that two of its downtown Chicago office buildings can win over tenants,” reports Crain’s. AmTrust Realty “will pour the new equity into renovations at its forty-one-story office tower at 1 East Wacker and twenty-five-story building at 33 North Dearborn, two of seven office buildings the firm owns in the heart of the city.”
Maker Of ShotSpotter Buying Into PredPol Creator
“SoundThinking, the company behind the gunshot-detection system ShotSpotter, is quietly acquiring staff, patents, and customers of the firm that created the notorious predictive policing software PredPol,” reports WIRED. Recently, “SoundThinking CEO Ralph Clark announced to investors that the company was negotiating an agreement to acquire parts of Geolitica—formerly called PredPol—and [move] its customers to SoundThinking’s own ‘patrol management’ solution… The acquisition of patents and staff would ‘facilitate our application of AI and machine learning technology to public safety.’ SoundThinking’s absorption of Geolitica marks its latest step in becoming the Google of crime fighting—a one-stop shop for policing tools.”
“In 2021, the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern University School of Law analyzed records kept by Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications over a two-year period and found that eighty-nine percent of ShotSpotter alerts in the city did not lead to police finding evidence of a gun-related crime.” Despite campaign promises by Mayor Johnson, Chicago has extended its contract for ShotSpotter. WGN-TV: “All indications are the city is legally bound to honor the $10 million contract. Back in March, then-Mayor Lightfoot approved the ShotSpotter extension into early 2024.” (Chicago’s original 2018 contract is here.)
DINING & DRINKING
Signature Room Shutters Suddenly
“The longtime operator of the Signature Room restaurant near the top of the former John Hancock Center has closed the business, citing ‘economic issues’ tied to a slow post-pandemic recovery for North Michigan Avenue,” reports Crain’s. “In a message posted at the restaurant space on the 95th and 96th floors… Signature Room owners Rick Roman and Nick Pyknis wrote that the restaurant was ‘permanent closing’ as of Thursday.”
Bucktown’s Le Bouchon Reopens After Fire Repairs
“Thanks to everyone who reached out, sent us well wishes, helped us clean up and rebuild,” posts Le Bouchon on Instagram. “We appreciate you all sooooo much! Back tonight with an all new fall menu.” The Bucktown standard’s kitchen was struck by a kitchen fire on September 12.
Logan Square Farmers Market Expands Street Closures
“The Logan Square Farmers Market has expanded its Sunday road closures to include unlicensed vendors east of the market,” reports the Sun-Times. The closure of Logan Boulevard “has expanded from Sacramento Avenue to Richmond Street to accommodate forty-five DIY vendors. The boulevard will now close east of Milwaukee Avenue through the end of the season on October 28.”
Times Tastes Chicago In Thirty-Six Hours
“Exploring all of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, is impossible in a single weekend, but it’s plenty of time to get a taste for what has made Chicago beloved by natives and tourists alike: easily navigable public transit, world-class museums, an eclectic mix of architectural styles and an inventive restaurant scene that offers far more than an Italian beef and a shot of Malört. The city is shaking off its pandemic dust, setting records for hotel occupancy in 2023 and getting ready for a big moment in the political spotlight next summer, when the Democratic National Convention comes to town,” writes Midwest reporter Julie Bosman at the New York Times. Key stops: Robie House; Sfera; The 606; Miru; The DuSable; Art Institute; Steppenwolf; Paper & Pencil; Le Midi; Rose Mary; After; Roux; The Lunchroom and Kie-Gol-Lanee.
Zingerman’s, Iconic Ann Arbor Deli, Takes Manhattan
“Zingerman’s Deli, an iconic Jewish delicatessen based in Ann Arbor, is coming to Manhattan on October 7,” reports Eater New York. “The forty-one-year-old deli, located near the University of Michigan” will pop up in Chelsea and “bring seven sandwiches, including its Reuben, pastrami with Emmentaler cheese, and corned beef on rye.”
Portillo’s’ Fast Expansion, As Seen From Denver
“Portillo’s began in 1963 as a hotdog stand in a trailer in Illinois. The company now [has] more than seventy locations,” reports the Denver Post. “Portillo’s fans anywhere in the United States can order online and have the famous Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs delivered to enjoy at home. Colorado puts up ‘huge’ numbers in terms of shipping orders, president and CEO Michael Osanloo [said]. ‘We’re already starting to look at sites in Georgia, Atlanta to be specific, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas.'”
Instacart, Uber, DoorDash To Gig Workers: Drop Dead
“Instacart, DoorDash, and other delivery services regularly deactivate workers. Unexplained deactivations are commonplace for some gig workers, according to accounts from drivers. Some workers are fighting back by requesting arbitration,” reports Business Insider. “Sudden, unexplained deactivations have become commonplace for workers on gig delivery apps, according to accounts… In many cases, workers’ options for getting back on an app are limited to binding arbitration or appealing by email, according to the terms they agree to when they start delivering orders.”
How Wow Bao Got Big
President-CEO of Wow Bao and managing partner with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Geoff Alexander “didn’t invent the bao bun—the pillowy steamed buns were purportedly invented in Northern China way back in the fourth century—but he has sure made them more accessible to Americans,” reports Restaurant Dive. “Wow Bao started as a tiny Chicago storefront, backed by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and now has three brick-and-mortar restaurants, 600-plus ghost kitchens, seven counter service outlets, and fifty vending machines in stadiums, college campuses and airports.” When the pandemic hit, “instead of tossing in the towel or scaling back, Alexander pivoted, coming up with a plan to sell frozen buns, dumplings and bowls (along with the minimal equipment needed) to suffering restaurants [which] could then operate as ghost kitchens, with third-party delivery services taking care of the rest. But Alexander and Wow Bao didn’t stop there, ramping up the brand’s [consumer packaged goods] offerings in 2022 and signing a deal with Walmart in 2023.”
FILM & TELEVISION
“The Bear” Unit Production Manager On Locations
“Not necessarily realistic. But authentic,” writes Michael Phillips at the Trib. “That’s one credo Carrie Holt de Lama, a veteran of the Chicago film industry, has learned through countless hours of driving around, with a location scout, a filmmaker or alone. Her mission: find a building, an intersection, a vantage point or a vacant lot that suits what a script requires. Preferably something that hasn’t been filmed a million times already… ‘The Bear’ operates in its own intense realm of poetic realism, dreamy yet nerve-racking, especially on multiple deadlines in the kitchen. It’s not ‘documentary style’ (a meaningless, generic descriptor). Instead, it’s fueled by series creator Christopher Storer’s memories of growing up in the area, when he first discovered Mr. Beef on Orleans Street.”
Writers Guild Contract Favors Writers Over Automated Plagiarism
“Artificial intelligence was a major sticking point,” reports Nina Metz at the Tribune (via Yahoo) between studios and the Writers Guild, resulting in this language: “AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated material will not be considered source material under the (contract), meaning that AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.”
Virginia Mother Pledges To Contest At Least One School Book A Week
“The majority of all school book challenges in the 2021-2022 school year came from just eleven people. Meet Jennifer Petersen,” writes the Washington Post (free link). “She says she’ll never stop.” She “keeps seventy-three school books she detests in her basement. She ordered most from Amazon. In the last year, she read each one. She highlighted and typed up excerpts from more than 1,300 pages—of the 24,000-plus pages she read—that she says depict sexual acts. Then she filed challenges against seventy-one of the books with Spotsylvania County Public Schools, the Virginia district where one of her children is a student and the other is a recent graduate.”
Petersen “is part of a small army of book objectors nationwide. School book challenges reached historic highs in America in 2021 and 2022, according to the American Library Association. And just a handful of people are driving those records… Petersen is one of these serial filers, whose actions have riven her community, earning her fervent admiration and criticism.”
183,000 Books Plagiarized By One Generative AI Concern So Far; Authors Guild Advises Writers What To Do
“This summer, I acquired a data set of more than 191,000 books that were used without permission to train generative-AI systems by Meta, Bloomberg, and others,” reports Alex Reisner at the Atlantic (via MSN, no paywall). “I wrote in The Atlantic about how the data set, known as ‘Books3,’ was based on a collection of pirated ebooks, most of them published in the past twenty years. Since then, I’ve done a deep analysis of what’s actually in the data set, which is now at the center of several lawsuits brought against Meta by writers such as Sarah Silverman, Michael Chabon, and Paul Tremblay, who claim that its use in training generative AI amounts to copyright infringement.”
The Authors Guild advises writers on what to do here: “Many authors discovered that their books were used without permission to train AI systems. Here’s what you need to know if your books are in the Books3 dataset, as well as actions you can take now to speak out in defense of your rights.”
Poets Invited To Offer Response To Goodman Plays
“Two art forms join forces in a collaboration with the Poetry Foundation during Goodman Theatre’s 2023-2024 season, Susan V. Booth’s first to curate as artistic director,” the Goodman relays. In “Play On Words,” a Chicago-based poet “is commissioned to engage with each work on the Goodman stage and respond in poetic form. Writer and storyteller Barbara L. McBee, a participant in the Goodman’s GeNarrations and InterGens programs, authors the first poem in response to the play Booth selected to open her first season, ‘The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years,’ Pearl Cleage’s romantic comedy set during the civil rights movement. In the second poem penned by the author of ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,’ Erika L. Sánchez, finds inspiration in ‘LUCHA TEOTL’—an interactive play about Mexican masked wrestling.” Read the poems here.
FCC Plans To Restore Net Neutrality
“Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced plans to restore net neutrality rules similar to those that were adopted during the Obama era and then repealed by the FCC when Trump was president,” reports Ars Technica. “Democrats finally have the 3-2 majority needed to regulate ISPs as common carriers.”
Historic Chicago House Club The Lodge Needs $50,000 In Repairs To Stay Open
The Lodge at 5180 South Prairie “has been shut down by the authorities. The historic venue will go into receivership and close for good unless it can raise $50,000 for maintenance work, which must be completed by October 26,” reports RA. “The eighty-six-year-old space—once a cinema and meeting point for the Chicago Suffragists—was opened as a private house music members club in 2015 by local artist Craig Loftis, [who has] been battling with the City Council over ‘minor issues’… for several years. Since 1937, the building has been under the ownership of African American fraternity group The Elks… Loftis, who is a member of the group, [says] that without the means to stay open for business, raising the target amount has become a Catch-22 situation.”
Singer Called To Perform Lead Only A Week Ahead Of Performance
“When an unexpected family emergency caused baritone Nathan Gunn to have to withdraw from Chicago Opera Theater’s season opener, ‘Soldier Songs’ only a week before the performance, David Adam Moore heroically agreed to take Nathan’s place,” COT relays. “Currently working at the Metropolitan Opera on ‘Dead Man Walking,’ David had to get special [dispensation] from the Met to travel to Chicago for this performance. He will arrive in Chicago a little more than twenty-four hours before the performance, spend only one day rehearsing, and then sing the only role in ‘Soldier Songs’—an hourlong one-man show… David has sung the role before, and is one of ‘Soldier Songs’ composer David T. Little’s most frequent collaborators.” More on “Soldier Songs” here.
Chicago As The Ultimate Local Comedy Scene
“A new book argues that the isolation of a pre-social media era helped fuel a fertile Chicago ecosystem for offbeat stand-up comedians,” observes Jason Zinoman at the New York Times (no paywall). Zinoman, who says he was here during the 1990s comedy renaissance but missed it all, writes, “Chicago has long been known as a place for artists to get good, not famous. It’s far enough from the coasts to keep industry executives at bay. This has produced many eccentric artists and chips on shoulders. For stand-ups, the fact that it was renowned as an improv town was one chip; the second was that the only major club, Zanies, did not book many local acts.”
“‘The best thing that ever happened to comedy in Chicago was Zanies saying you can’t perform here,’ author Mike Bridenstine told me… Rejection fueled comics to start their own shows, presenting bills in restaurant back rooms, bars and scrappy festivals. The isolation of these shows, their lack of publicity, meant that crowds were locals not tourists, die-hards not casual fans. Originality mattered as much as killing. ‘There was pressure, in a really good way, to be different and weird,’ the comic Brooke Van Poppelen says in the book.”
Juilliard Latest Acting MFA Gone Free
Juilliard “received key funding from scholarships and theater producers Stephanie P. McClelland and John Gore totaling $15 million,” indicates the Hollywood Reporter, so the “Master of Fine Arts in Acting program will become tuition-free for students starting in fall 2024. The four-year program will then be free in perpetuity… This follows other acting programs that have stopped charging tuition, including the Yale School of Drama, which became tuition-free for all students in the school starting in 2021 after a $150 million gift from David Geffen.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Big Night Chicago New Year’s Eve At Navy Pier Tickets On Sale
Big Night Chicago takes place at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom on December 31, with more than 3,000 expected to attend and take part in the celebration, music, and fireworks. “Last year, we welcomed 17,000 people to our unforgettable New Year’s Eve extravaganza,” Rich Shea, President of HiBall Events says. “This year, we’re thrilled to host an exclusive event just for Chicago, featuring an open bar, delectable cuisine, and a wide array of performances, experiences and activities.” Details and tickets here.
Twenty-Seven Buses Of Migrants To Chicago Since Saturday
Texas Governor Abbott’s destabilization plan for cities with Democrats as mayors continues apace, reports the Trib (via MS). Hundreds of migrants “have arrived in Chicago in the past week with an uncertain future, as the number of asylum-seekers has surpassed 15,000 with the arrival of twenty-seven buses since Saturday, including seven on Wednesday. With the city running out of room to house them—as thousands sleep on police station floors and at airports awaiting shelter placement—Mayor Johnson defended his administration’s decision to contract with a private security firm to help place the asylum-seekers in base camps before winter. What started as a political stunt by Texas Governor Abbott in an effort to criticize the nation’s immigration policies and relieve what he says are overburdened border towns in his state, has turned into a full-blown crisis for Chicago and other sanctuary cities, with volunteers scrambling to step up and fill in the gaps where the government can’t.” More from Block Club.
Send culture news and tips to [email protected]