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MCA Is “Descending The Staircase”
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has announced the exhibition “Descending the Staircase,” opening on December 16 and running through August 25, 2024. Drawn from the MCA Collection, “Descending the Staircase” considers artistic approaches to representing the human body. Using the MCA’s helix staircase as a central axis, the exhibition spreads across the third and fourth floor of the museum, inviting visitors “to descend into realms of the uncanny and fantastical.” The exhibition explores figures of all kinds, from the fragmented, abject and surreal to the curated, self-aware and media savvy. “Descending the Staircase” features four sections—Mind, Object, Form and Action—that each delve into different questions about the human body through the perspective of the contemporary art world.
The exhibition brings together new works and old favorites—including mixed media, photographs, sculpture and an automaton—revealing ongoing conversations among past and present artists. “Descending the Staircase” also celebrates the MCA’s active participation in these conversations as an institution that has collected and supported groundbreaking work by contemporary artists for nearly sixty years. Artists featured include Marcel Duchamp, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Rashid Johnson and Robert Gober. More here.
Edith Farnsworth House Announces Assaf Evron As Artist-In-Residence
The Edith Farnsworth House announces Assaf Evron as its 2024 artist-in-residence. Evron’s work, they relay, explores the tension between architecture, nature and representation. “Collage for the Edith Farnsworth House” is the fifth project in an ongoing series of works in buildings and interiors designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. These works are based on the architect’s paper collages, made as preparatory pieces for his designs. Evron has designed a 500-square-foot photographic print for the southern glass façade of the house. The print’s composition is based on a Georges Braque painting, whose art was integrated into Mies’ own collages. Evron is a Chicago-based artist whose “work investigates the nature of vision and the ways in which it reflects in socially constructed structures, where he applies photographic thinking in various two and three-dimensional media.”
AIA Chicago And Its 4,000 Members Join Call For Preserving Irreplaceable Consumers and Century Landmark Buildings; Other Advocates Assemble
“AIA Chicago supports the designation of the Century and Consumers buildings as Chicago Landmarks,” reads its November 13 statement to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. “On behalf of our approximately 4,000 members, AIA Chicago joins with many other organizations to advocate for the preservation of the Century Building, built in 1915 by Holabird and Roche at 202 South State Street, and the Consumers Building, built in 1913 by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen at 220 South State Street. These buildings represent significant contributions to the Chicago School of Architecture by respected firms. We stand with the communities calling for adaptive reuse and revitalization of both high-rises.”
“While security concerns for the adjacent Federal Complex are valid… we strongly believe that a design team will be able to address them during the revitalization process, while respecting the existing urban fabric of the State Street corridor. These towers help anchor the street and provide a reminder that Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper. Their demolition would leave a hole in the urban fabric of State Street which would harm pedestrian flows and the [image] of an important commercial corridor.”
“Razing the buildings would be a waste,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago tells the Tribune. “The buildings are among the final works done in the style of the classic Chicago School of Architecture, which revolutionized big city skylines in the nineteenth century by using steel frames to create the first skyscrapers” in “Chicago’s first golden age of architecture and design.” Miller “prefers to see the buildings renovated in a way that answers the security concerns voiced by federal officials. He pointed out that the sixteen-story Century Building, with its elaborate façade and many architectural details, could become as appealing as the nearby Reliance Building, a nineteenth-century structure recently transformed into an upscale hotel. ‘It’s an astounding building and, if you will, a Reliance Building in waiting, anchoring this important corner of State and Adams streets.'”
“You Can Always Go Downtown”: The Loop’s Block 37 Mall For Sale; Jewelers Building Could Become Hotel
“Los Angeles-based CIM Group hires JLL to part with five-level retail property bought in 2012,” reports CoStar. “The deal offers upside for investors who are confident in the return of major city centers from the effects of [the pandemic]. It’s also a rare opportunity to own a highly recognizable retail property in the center of one of the country’s largest cities.”
Mike Reschke’s Prime Group has been chosen as buyer of the landmark Jewelers Building at 35 East Wacker, CoStar also reports. “The Chicago developer teaming with Google to redevelop the James R. Thompson Center into offices for the tech giant is working on a new deal to buy a landmark office building less than a half-mile away in a potential hotel redevelopment,” the forty-story Jewelers Building. The price is estimated north of $39 million.
Northwestern Sweetens Offer To Evanston Residents By Over $150 Million
Northwestern “made a new $157.5 million public benefits offer that prompted the council to defer its final vote on Northwestern’s $800 million football stadium project,” reports the Sun-Times. Adds Evanston Review (via the Tribune): “The project would see the aging stadium demolished and rebuilt at the cost of $800 million with funds donated by the Ryan family. Northwestern also wants to host up to six concerts at the stadium annually along with other events to get more use out of the structure beyond football season. In order to allow this, the City Council has to approve zoning changes to the district the stadium is housed in—a residential neighborhood at the northern edge of the city abutting Wilmette.”
DINING & DRINKING
Cellar Door Provisions, With Bib Gourmand, Adds Reservations
The Michelin Guide awarded wine bar Cellar Door Provisions a 2023 Bib Gourmand; it’s one of five Chicago restaurants to receive the distinction bestowed on restaurants that “offer good food at an incredible value.” In response to the announcement and increased business, Cellar Door is now taking dinner reservations. Bar seating remains first-come, first-served. Reservations here or at Resy.
Staff Of Four Grinding Out 104-Year-Old Family-Run Stewarts Coffee
“Overshadowed by national brands, the small local company sees more grocery distribution and other sales outlets, doing it all with a staff of four people,” reports the Sun-Times. Much of the business “comes from Chicagoans who moved elsewhere and still want the Stewarts ‘private blend’ of one hundred percent Arabica beans the company says is unchanged from its founding… It’s costlier than mass-market Folgers or Maxwell House, and its cans are somewhat smaller. But Stewarts would tell buyers they could use less coffee to get a flavorful cup. It used to include a plastic ‘scoon,’ smaller than a tablespoon, in each tin until the scoon manufacturer went belly up. ‘The clientele for Stewarts is very loyal across multiple generations. I always like it when people remember those scoons,’ CEO Joey Cappuccitti said. As for the higher price, Cappuccitti couldn’t resist a joke: ‘The reason is because we’re not putting sawdust in the coffee.'”
FILM & TELEVISION
Andy Davis Presents “Stony Island” In Forty-Fifth Refrain
Filmmaker Andrew Davis “will be the first to tell you that Chicago is in his blood and in his dreams and, for all to see, in many of the movies he has made,” writes Rick Kogan at the Trib. “Chicago,” says Davis, “has been my cinematic playground.” Writes Kogan, who will moderate a discussion, “An event at the Siskel Film Center marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the film as well as its release on cable, satellite and digital platforms.” The film “holds up well, capturing a city rough around the edges, a real city. It also touches on local politics, featuring the funeral of Richard J. Daley in 1976; rain-splattered sidewalks and a sort of encouraging racial harmony that [Davis’ brother and co-star] Richie knew firsthand growing up one of the few white kids in an all-Black neighborhood.” Says Davis, “Things change, of course… This is no longer the city of my youth. But the memories are still there. Richie and I may now be a couple of old bald guys but we can still remember the energy, the dreams we had.”
Over 2,000 Poets And Writers Boycotting Poetry Foundation
“Over 2,000 poets and writers—including Danez Smith, Franny Choi, Safiya Sinclair, Daniel José Older, Jamel Brinkley, Hala Alyan, and Javier Zamora—have pledged to boycott the Poetry Foundation (as well as its poetry journal, Poetry),” relays Literary Hub, “citing ‘a recent instance of prejudiced silencing’ in which Joshua Gutterman Tranen’s review of Sam Sax’s collection ‘PIG,’ which engages with anti-Zionist politics, was shelved indefinitely because the magazine didn’t want to be seen as ‘picking a side’ in the ongoing genocide unfolding in Gaza.” The letter is at the link. Several events have been canceled (schedule here). Unconfirmed, from the LitHub posting: “Poetry Foundation has also been removed as the main sponsor of the upcoming Southern California Poetry Festival.”
The Poetry Foundation’s original response to the situation, which prompted the open letter, is here: “We at the Poetry Foundation are saddened and deeply disturbed by the humanitarian crisis and ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel. While we believe in the power of words to transform lives, it is not a practice of the Poetry Foundation to insert itself when it cannot add to the conversation or may divert attention away from the work being done by those directly impacted and involved,” it reads in part, including details of editorial process. “Staff had scheduled a review of a poetry collection to be published on October 9, which included a discussion of the reviewer’s and poet’s identities as anti-Zionist Jewish writers. Because of the events that began on October 7, a decision was made in the immediate aftermath to postpone publication to be sensitive to those directly impacted by the violence and avoid exposing both writers to potential backlash.”
“Staff informed the review author that we would put the piece on hold temporarily, to which they initially agreed; as conversations with the author continued, they informed us that they would be withdrawing the piece and pitching it elsewhere. We respect the author’s decision, and let them know that they could proceed as they wished. The Poetry Foundation does not censor poets or dictate what topics they might discuss while writing for, recording with, or performing at the Foundation. It’s unfortunate that this was how the interactions were interpreted and that it generated misinformation and misunderstandings within our communities.”
Univision Goes Right, Curries Kushner
“A softball interview with Trump is unnerving staff inside Univision, and inside the White House, as the formerly left-leaning Spanish-language network—now under new leadership, and with surprising new Republican allies—undergoes a dramatic pivot to the right,” reports Puck. Inside Univision, “the hour-long sit-down raised alarms for another reason. The interview, which was conducted by a non-Univision journalist who did little to question or push back on Trump’s claims, effectively functioned as a propaganda special, current and former Univision journalists have protested. In it, they saw glaring evidence of a broader effort by their new parent company, which has close ties to Trump and especially to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to curry favor with the former president and push the network further to the right.”
Coverage Of Trump Calling Opponents “Vermin” Is Muted
“Former President Trump repeatedly pledged to ‘root out’ his political opponents, who he claimed ‘live like vermin within the confines of our country’ and want to ‘destroy America.’ Experts on authoritarianism are comparing the unhinged rhetoric to that of genocidal fascist dictators—but that has not compelled significant coverage from several major newspapers and broadcast networks,” tallies Media Matters. “CBS News and ABC News have not mentioned Trump’s remarks at all on their morning news, evening news, or Sunday morning political talk shows. NBC News also did not discuss them on its morning and evening news broadcasts, and ‘Meet The Press” sole coverage consisted of host Kristen Welker reading the comment to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and asking her, ‘Are you comfortable with this language coming from the GOP front-runner?'”
“The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal have not covered the former president’s comments in the news sections of their print editions. (The New York Times did cover it online, but its report on the remarks drew criticism for its initial headline, ‘Trump Takes Veterans Day Speech in a Very Different Direction.’) The Washington Post did publish a print article, but kept it off the front page.”
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association Reports On Its 132nd Season
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association reports that its 2022-23 season represented the culmination of thirteen years of artistic partnership between music director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and included the ongoing artistic contributions of CSO Mead composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery and CSO artist-in-residence Hilary Hahn, who were recognized by Musical America in 2023 as composer and artist of the year, respectively. The season, which included the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of Symphony Center, also marked a return to pre-pandemic levels of concert activity and programming with the organization presenting 429 public programs, an increase of ninety-eight events from the previous season. This included 230 free programs offered at Symphony Center and in community venues across forty-one weeks through June, preceded by the CSO’s annual six-week residency at the Ravinia Festival in Summer 2022.
Increased levels of concert activity led to nearly 270,000 tickets sold across 199 paid, ticketed concerts, representing a significant increase in ticket revenue. which totaled $22.1 million, the highest reported annual ticket revenue since fiscal year 2018, when ticket revenue reached a record high level of $23.3 million. Ticket sales in 2022-23 also represented purchases from nearly 53,000 unique households, including more than 25,000 first-time ticket buyers and representing the highest level of unique households on record since fiscal year 2018 with 54,000 unique households. Donor support remained strong with 15,347 individual gifts received and representing $21.8 million in direct operational support. The CSOA’s total revenues from earned revenue, operations and contributions were $75.6 million, and total operating expenses were $77 million, resulting in an operating deficit of $1.4 million. Financial highlights from the 2023 Annual Report are here.
The Music Box, Rockford Downtown Music Venue With Cheap Trick Ties, In The Works
“A downtown Rockford storefront that most recently housed an art shop is being turned into a live music venue with ties to rock band Cheap Trick,” reports the Rockford Register Star. “The former home of The Midwest Rustic, will be an ‘upscale listening room and bar located in the heart of historic downtown Rockford.'” The venue plans to host local and national artists.
Joffrey Announces Fourteenth Annual Joffrey Academy Winning Work
The Joffrey Academy of Dance, the official school of the Joffrey Ballet, will present five world premieres as the culmination of Joffrey’s national call for ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists to submit applications for the Joffrey Academy’s Winning Works Choreographic Competition. In addition to an added weekend of performances, new to this year’s program is the selection of a first-ever Chicago-based choreographer as a fifth candidate, set on the students of the Joffrey Conservatory Program, a preliminary training program for aspiring Trainee dancers ages fourteen to eighteen. This year’s Competition winners—Jainil Mehta, Martha Nichols, Manoela Gonçalves, Houston Thomas, and Chicago-based winner Xavier Núñez (recipient of the Zach Lazar Winning Works Fellowship), each will choreograph an original work created for the Joffrey Academy Trainees and Studio Company, to a commissioned score by a chosen composer collaborator. March 8-10, 15-17, 2024. Tickets and more here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
City Council Sets Rules To Stem Citizen Protests
“The Chicago City Council’s sergeant-at-arms is laying down the law in a belated attempt to stop raucous, profane and threatening behavior by members of the public that has left alderpersons fearing for their safety during meetings,” reports Fran Spielman at the Sun-Times. The new rules would ban “profane, vulgar, threatening, abusive or disruptive language; demeaning, discriminatory or harassing behavior and speech directed towards others; banners, fliers or signage; backpacks, large bags and sharp objects; food and beverages, including in metal water bottles or canisters.” (Members of the public must carry ‘clear bags not tinted in color’ smaller than twelve-by-six inches and those bags are ‘subject to search.’) “Those in the gallery must also remain seated, standing only when delivering public comment. They must silence their cell phones, use small hand-held devices only when seated and avoid interfering with the ‘view or hearing of others.'”
Vic Mensa Partners With Community Organizations On Care Packages For People Released From Jail At End Of Money Bail
When Illinois fully implemented the Pretrial Fairness Act on September 18, 2023, the state became the first state to completely end the use of money bond. The law has led to reducing the Cook County Jail population by at least 700. The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice raised thousands of dollars from community members across Cook County to create care packages for people being released from Cook County Jail. The care packages will include toiletries, grocery gift cards and ‘Know Your Rights’ guides to make sure people know what to expect under the new system. Network members will assemble the packages on November 15 and distribute them the week of Thanksgiving.
Chicago rapper Vic Mensa is partnering with the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice. The rapper and owner of 93 Boyz, the first Black-owned cannabis brand sold in Illinois dispensaries, is providing duffle bags for the care items and American Express gift cards. Says Mensa, “I am so excited to see the monumental impact the Pretrial Fairness Act has had in just a few weeks. No longer will families be forced to choose between paying the rent or paying a ransom to free their loved ones. We are all safer when finances don’t determine freedom.”
Mapping Every Chicago Cannabis Dispensary
Block Club has “put together a quick guide to Illinois’ history with legalized pot—including a handy map of every recreational and medical dispensary in the Chicago [area]—plus [information] on new and upcoming shops. There are twenty-five active adult-use recreational dispensary licenses in Chicago.”
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