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Arts Issue






¬ APRIL 2, 2014

THE ARTS ISSUE SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY The South Side Weekly is a newsprint magazine based out of the University of Chicago, for and about the South Side. The Weekly is distributed across the South Side each Wednesday of the academic year. In fall 2013, the Weekly reformed itself as an independent, student-directed organization. Previously, the paper was known as the Chicago Weekly. Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Deputy Editor

Bea Malsky Spencer Mcavoy John Gamino

Senior Editors

Josh Kovensky, Harrison Smith

Politics Editor Stage & Screen Editor Music Editor Visual Arts Editor Education Editor Online Editor Contributing Editors

Osita Nwanevu Meaghan Murphy

Editor-at-Large Photo Editor Illustration Editor Layout Editor Senior Writers

Staff Writers

Senior Photographer Staff Photographers

Staff Illustrators


“... the visual confluence of my interests in urban dynamism, socio-economic inequality, and photography. “

david schalliol...............11


“It’s a fascinating soundscape, always lo-fi and wandering.”

jack nuelle............14


“If this is the picture we have, what can we fill in around it?”

fred schmidtarenales & sarah mendelsohn..........23


“Improvising can fuel composition.”

meaghan murphy...................24

Zach Goldhammer Katryce Lassle Bess Cohen Sharon Lurye Jake Bittle, Emma Collins, Jack Nuelle, Rachel Schastok Hannah Nyhart Lydia Gorham Isabel Ochoa Gold Emma Cervantes Ari Feldman, Emily Holland, Patrick Leow, Stephen Urchick Olivia Adams, Christian Belanger, Jon Brozdowski, Cindy Dapogny, Lauren Gurley, Olivia Dorow Hovland, Olivia Markbreiter, Paige Pendarvis, Arman Sayani Luke White Camden Bauchner, Juliet Eldred, Stephanie Koch, Siddhesh Mukerji Ellie Mejia, Wei Yi Ow, Hanna Petroski, Maggie Sivit

Editorial Intern

Zavier Celimene

Business Manager

Harry Backlund

5706 S. University Ave. Reynolds Club 018 Chicago, IL 60637 Send tips, comments, or questions to: For advertising inquiries, contact: (773)234-5388


@ 75

“The Art Center has not forgotten where it’s been.”

emily holland........................4 AUGUST WILSON MONOLOGUES

“Floyd may be fighting for the words, but he’s not fighting for the inspiration.”

bess cohen.............17


“As a female MC, it’s still shaky.”

kari wei...................8 STORY CLUB

“I tend to think an ambitious failure is better than an easy success.”

sarah claypoole..............22



“The South Side makes me proud to reside in such a divine collective consciousness.”


fanta celah..........28 FIRE ON THE HORIZON

“An ominous quality seems to be working its way into my paintings.”

lelde kalmite.........30

“The dialogue is fluid, natural, and often wrenchingly emotional.”

jake bittle..............29 CHIC-A-GO-GO

“It’s all completely voluntary. We just get to facilitate joy.”

zach goldhammer...........31 PROJECT ONWARD

“ combine the islands of the archipelago that is the Beverly Art Center.”

“His bold compositions and swift strokes, rendered in pastel, charcoal, and pencil, are examples of ‘artism’ “



“That’s about as Chicago as you can get.”

“It bears the footprints of punk shows past and indelible splatters of blood, sweat, and beer.”


cristina ochoa.......34

ON THE COVER “Tippy” Gabe Hoare Gabe Hoare works primarily in sculptural installation and assemblage, transforming print-based works into interactive environments. He creates ritual objects that are both sacred and silly, affi rming belief whilst simultaneously poking fun. After receiving his BFA from the University of Florida, Gabe went on to assist artists at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York City and Tandem Press in Madison, Wisconsin. He moved to the "Heart of Chicago" neighborhood in West Pilsen from his native Gainesville, Florida in 2010 to assist South Side artist John Himmelfarb. Hoare and print-partner Liz Born are the co-founders of Hoofprint Workshop, a gallery and printmaking studio housed in a former funeral parlor on South Oakley Avenue in West Pilsen. Hoofprint Workshop is a Chicago-based printmaking studio specializing in fine art editions; they employ processes

zach goldhammer...........36

george zuniga.........35

emma collins..........39

such as relief, intaglio, plate lithography, monotype, and screenprinting. Hoare and Born work with artists established and emerging, students fine-tuning their craft, and clients who are looking to commission an illustration or have their own imagery reproduced by hand. The gallery at Hoofprint Workshop is committed to showing original work by artists who reside in Pilsen, Chicagoland, and throughout the Midwest. The dual printshop and exhibition space is dedicated to the display of a variety of work that includes—but is not limited to—hand-pulled prints (flat, sculptural, installation, and book-based) with an emphasis on analog and experimental processes. Hoofprint Workshop, 2433 S. Oakley Ave. Fridays and Sundays, noon-5pm. Contact for appointments. APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 3


¬ APRIL 2, 2014


An HPAC Retrospective The Hyde Park Art Center turns seventy-five BY EMILY HOLLAND


crappy” is hardly the first adjective one thinks of upon seeing the Hyde Park Art Center, now located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood at 50th and Cornell. Its eastern façade is sleek metal and glass; its bricks to the south are painted with the word “ART” in giant, bright, clear letters; it houses a popular coffee shop. But its beginning—seventy-five years ago in a former saloon at 1466 E. 57th Street— was more humble, and since then it has been nothing if not nomadic and resilient. Having found, in 2006, a new permanent home, the Art Center’s roots have dug even deeper into Hyde Park and the Chicago art community, but the one thing that has not changed through the years is its mission and philosophy. Still one of the premier venues for emerging artists in Chicago, the Hyde Park Art Center now celebrates both the cutting edge and local heritage in all that it displays. It is no longer just a gallery, but a true institution. Peek into the pottery studio window near the entrance, and you’ll likely see a group of artists (or aspiring artists) hard at work on a set of diverse and pleasantly messy projects. Walk through the largest ground floor gallery, and you’ll encounter an eclectic exhibit (“Not Just Another Pretty Face”) commissioned by Chicago patrons for Chicago artists. Go up the open staircase, and you’ll see Samantha Hill’s project, “Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance,” featuring archival photos from Bronzeville and its surroundings hung up clothesline-style. And, next door, you’ll find a revival of an HPAC hallmark—an exhibit of the works of two less-recognized Imagist artists.. A sense of history emerges; the Art left:


reaction” by art green,


Center has not forgotten where it’s been.


he Hyde Park Art Center opened as the Fifth Ward Art Guild in 1939. As Goldene Shaw recounts in her “History of the Hyde Park Art Center,” the Guild’s original stated goal was to “stimulate community interest in art,” and by 1941, membership in the recently-rebranded Hyde Park Art Center was at 139. In 1942, that number reached three hundred, but support for art began to dwindle as the nation entered World War II. The Art Center moved to a lower-rent space at Cable Court (south of Harper, no longer extant,) and later to 5645 S. Harper. By the 1950s, when HPAC was supplementing its income by “[selling] cokes at the 57th Street Art Fair,” things had settled down somewhat; 1956 (according to Shaw) “marked the end of the old days and the beginning of the Center’s modern history.” Still, the Art Center would move three more times over the next fifty years before finally setting up shop in its current, spacious home at 5020 S. Cornell (an old army warehouse, which the University of Chicago leases to HPAC for $1 per annum). Shaw, writing in 1976, would likely have found it hard to imagine the stability of the Center’s current situation. Early exhibitions showcased “Work of the 57th Street Art Colony” and “Professional South Side Artists.” At first, HPAC’s themed exhibitions were rather prosaic in their titles and their unifying threads (“Hyde Park Art Past & Present,” the “Chicago” exhibits I-III). That began to change in 1965, when the dynamic Don Baum took over as director of the Art Center. He organized a series of exhibitions based around the “Three Kingdoms” of Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral. These were the beginning

of a playful and irreverent ethos that would next manifest itself in the show that brought HPAC to light: “Hairy Who.” Anyone who knows the Chicago Imagist movement knows about the artists who are often grouped under the name “Hairy Who”: Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Art Green, James Falconer, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum. Their work is known for its sometimes dreamy, sometimes nightmarish aesthetic, featuring bright colors and cartoonish figures. The comic book the group designed, as a teaser for their first exhibition, was likely

The Hairy Who artists were daring at a time when it was “almost considered a bit embarrassing to be too personal in your art.”

what first drew many of their patrons to their work, with its unlikely format and impactful displays. But the Art Center itself, Art Green said in a phone interview, “wasn’t an impressive place to look at.” “At that time,” he says, referring to the period between 1961 and 1980 when the Art Center was at 5236 S. Blackstone, “it was an old car dealership; it had black and white tile on the floor.” The lighting consisted of “big glass globes they used to have in schoolrooms hanging down every eight feet or so,” and “the walls weren’t perfect; it was kind of a shabby place.” Still, Suellen Rocca (who, along with Karl Wirsum, also agreed to

a phone interview) says that gallery openings, especially for Hairy Who shows, were “extremely lively and almost outrageously fun.” She spoke about the “community” between collectors, Hyde Park residents, and artists, and recalled graciously hosted dinner parties in HPAC supporters’ homes (Ruth Horwich, a former presiding officer of the HPAC board, was a benefactor consistently mentioned by both Rocca and Green.) And not to be forgotten, according to Green, is the “tremendous” official Art Center punch, memorialized forever in Shaw’s thoughtful history: “one fifth of Wolfschmidt vodka, one quart of Club soda and six ounces of Roses lime juice.” “It would probably be illegal these days,” says Green, gleefully. “It was quite inebriating…[the collectors] all partook and so did we [the artists], and it was a great bonding experience.” As for all the positive attention “Hairy Who” received, Rocca says that “the time and place was right” and that the work was “personal,” with an appeal to humorous elements. This was a departure from the prevailing style of the era, which Green called as “flat and frankly uninteresting as possible.” The Hairy Who artists were daring at a time when it was “almost considered a bit embarrassing to be too personal in your art,” Green adds. Of course, there were naysayers—David Katzive of the Hyde Park Herald compared the “Hairy Who II” exhibit to “half-chewed food, combined with a wet sneeze, cold lumpy oatmeal, and the memorable feeling of resting your hand on somebody’s recently discarded chewing gum”— but they were in the minority. The critic Franz Schulze, who would later coin the term “Imagism,” praised the group as “authentically mature,” and suggested that “some sort of na-



tional attention ought to be drawn to it.” Time would bear him out, but the nascent movement would never have progressed beyond its genesis without what Rocca, Green, and Wirsum agree was a thriving art community in Hyde Park—fostered especially by the “impresario” (as Rocca puts it) Don Baum. After “Hairy Who” exhibitions I and II, in 1966 and 1967 respectively, HPAC continued to host unorthodox shows, notably “Nonplussed Some and False Image” in 1968. Thirty years later, the Art Center was mounting displays such as “10,000 Lincoln Cheese Logs,” which showcased contemporary Midwestern art, along with HPAC standards like “Homegrown!” featuring works by the Center’s faculty, students, and staff. oday, under the direction of Kate Lorenz (who took over from Chuck Thurow in 2010,) the Center continues in a similar vein: pushing boundaries without straying too far from its own backyard or forgetting its humble neighborhood origins (serving the South Side com-



munity is “an essential part of [the Art Center’s] DNA,” Lorenz says.) Lorenz also affirms HPAC’s continuing commitment to emerging artists, and, with the additional space provided by the Cornell location, its ability to give artists “opportunities to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to

When all is said and done, the Hyde Park Art Center is a rare example of an organization that has consistently refused to fix that which was never really broken.

do”—including “major height-specific installations” like “The Beast,” which will soon be installed by its artist John Preus, and access to “a really unique audience for a contemporary art institution.”

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The Chicago art community has changed and is changing. In the words of Wirsum, there are “more smaller galleries available” now, but they’re “kind of scuffling along,” in contrast to the fewer but more uniformly successful galleries of several decades ago. The Hyde Park Art Center, therefore, continues to eke out a unique place in an art scene that is becoming more vibrant but also more competitive—as Lorenz noted, Chicago now has “five top-quality MFA programs” that graduate “some three hundred artists each year into [the city’s art community].” HPAC’s biennial exhibition “Ground Floor” provides a venue for the best of these graduates to show their work, perhaps for the first time, and the Center’s “open submission” policy means that literally anybody can propose or apply to be part of an exhibition (though the quality of work selected aspires to be quite high—the exhibitions committee is chaired by renowned and acclaimed Chicago artist Dawoud Bey.) And, now that the space is available, HPAC makes a point of showing accomplished mid- and late-career

artists as well; Imagists Richard Loving and Eleanor Spiess-Ferris, whose work forms the current “Inside the Outside” exhibition, are ninety and seventy-three, respectively. When all is said and done, the Hyde Park Art Center is a rare example of an organization that has consistently refused to fix that which was never really broken. Wartime turmoil and dire financial straits were never enough to put it to rest, and through it all, the scrappy art center continued not only to provide a venue for some (almost) starving artists, but also an outlet for South Side community members to come together and learn. Lorenz says she “can’t go to a cocktail party in the city without someone telling [her] that they took an art class [there].” Of HPAC’s future, Shaw poignantly wrote that a certain “spark” is “still there,” and that with “community support and encouragement, it will never go out.” ¬



Rita J: Her Art, Her World The MC on gender, the mainstream media, and her future in the music industry BY KARI WEI



h icago artist Rita J is a fifteen-year industry veteran. She released a fifteen-track LP called “Tree House Rock” in 2003 as a part of the nine-member Chicago hip-hop collective Family Tree. In 2009, she dropped her solo debut, “Artist Workshop,” in which she tackled a bevy of issues ranging from the lack of female representation in hip-hop to the materialism that pervades the mainstream music industry. On January 15th, 2014, Miss J released “Lost Time,” her thirteen-track sophomore album. We sat down with her to discuss the origins and goals of a woman who is 8 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

far more than a rapper and even further from being finished—and whose fearlessly distinctive voice is apparent in both the words she speaks and the art she creates. I read a quote from you that said, “There is no female rap industry. There is only one game, and we are just not being represented properly.” Growing up as a hip-hop fan, I had the same issue in that I saw very few artists in my favorite genre that were of my own gender. Can you elaborate on that quote?

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It got to the point where I’d been to so many shows, the only girl there, that I thought: “Could that be me?” I started putting myself there, and really, it’s like, be the change you want to see. That’s the mentality you have to have, because no one else is gonna do it. It’s even hard now. These young girls don’t have too many female artists to look up to besides Beyonce and Rihanna, but as a female MC, it’s still shaky.

swer, first of all. But I think, like anything else, the media and the people that own the networks—they don’t want to see it. Because they control what we see. On TV, on the radio, let’s just be honest. There’s a program to all of this. It’s like a male game, it’s like a football team. I just saw this movie called “The Girls in the Band” and the women were saying the same thing: “The men didn’t want us in their club.” They don’t wanna deal with it. And everyone asks me this question: They only want us to be the vixen, “Why do you think that is?” I’ll just the sexy girl, go get my things and do clear that up now. I don’t have the an- sexy things for me; not compete, not


be above me, not, you know, “get this money.” They don’t want it. When you ask men about female MCs, they’re always like, “I don’t wanna hear a girl rap.” I’ve heard that, and I’m like: “Well, why not?” There are female MCs. They exist. I know tons of them. But what does that mean? We’re not getting any exposure, any press, any push—that’s intentional. It’s not because they’re not around. And I don’t think it’s so masculine that we can’t be showcased. It’s not a dude thing. It’s music and words. What got you started in hip-hop? Why’d you choose it? My dad was a total music-head. He’s into all types of music; back then it was soul music, funk...and then hip-hop emerged. As a youngster, I just kind of picked it up. I’d be in the basement with my dad watching videos and listening to songs and it was basically whatever my dad was into, I’d be into. Eventually, I grew with it and it was natural for me to embrace it because it spoke to me. I thought, oh, they look like me, they feel like me, they act like me. Artists like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Brand Nubian—the Golden Age is where I got rooted. I felt like it spoke to me personally because it was of my generation, of my time. To this day, it’s still the number one genre of music that I’m into. Are there any other genres you dabble in besides hip-hop? I definitely listen to other artists. I love Björk, Fiona Apple, PJ Harvey...but I didn’t start getting into other music until my teenage years, so growing up it really was just hip-hop and soul and pop; you know, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Janet—all the stuff that was on the radio was in my brain. Then I just ventured off a little bit and got into different types of music, and now I’ve started listening to music from different countries. Maybe I don’t understand the language or the words—like I don’t know what’s going on—but something about it is speaking to me, still. African vibes, Jamai-

can vibes, French hip-hop...I’m open five other guys, and we put an album to all types of music. out called “Treehouse Rock” in 2003. That was my first exposure on an alHow did your career get off the bum. ground? Over time people grow, so groups For college, I went to Southern [Illi- disperse, unfortunately. I was young, nois State University], in Carbondale, and I was like, “I want a solo alIllinois. I was interested in radio and bum—I’m not going to be in this television in high school, and I tried to group forever.” So I kept that in mind continue that in college. So I took this and worked towards an album, but it audio engineering class, and I had a took five years for it to finally come project where I had to engineer a song out. I would say part of it was because or two for a group, and they were like they were really trying to develop me. “Man, you write poetry and stuff—get That doesn’t really go on anymore— in the booth! Let’s see what you got.” people just try to get on overnight, but you really have to develop a person So I got in there, that doesn’t know did it, they loved anything about it, and I was like how this goes. “Oh, wow.” So “Artists like MC Lyte, I just went back So I had to just home and kept wait that whole Queen Latifah, Brand practicing writfive years and it ing—writing powas super frustratNubian—the Golden etry. I was going ing, but I honestly Age is where I to poetry slams, want to say that it spoken word, was perfect timgot rooted.” and I had a lot of ing when it came friends that were out. It was 2009, just inspiring me. “Artist WorkI was like, wow, shop”, my first solo they can get up in project, and since front of people and just let it go? That’s then, I feel like I’ve been just...going. awesome. Something about that made That path has just kept me going. I’m me interested to see if I could do it thankful that they took the time to too. So first, it was poetry. Then I was wait. They really took time. like, “What if I could write to a beat, instead of just speaking words? What For your debut album, “Artist Workif I could put it to music?” So I start- shop,” did you have a theme or a vied writing over instrumentals. I tried sion in mind? Was there one specific reaching out to other rappers to see idea you were channeling it towards? what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, how do you write bars, Only the title. I was in my bedroom, how do you write a hook—how does it working on the album, looking out all make sense? my window, and everything I needed was in my room. It was my little workAfter college, I moved back to Chi- shop—an artist’s workshop! Also, I’m cago. I went to a club called Slick’s an artist. I’m not only a rapper. So that and met Tone B. Nimble, who was a just gives me more room to explore legendary DJ in the city. He ran an whatever it is I want to explore. independent label called All Natural. Himself and another guy called Cap D Did you have a similar moment for are also a group called All Natural, an “Lost Time”? Why did you choose MC and a DJ. They said, “Let’s get in that particular title? the studio and see what you got.” So I kind of got ushered into a collective So my first album came out in 2009. called Family Tree with maybe four or This is now 2014. That’s four years.

That’s a long time, dude! I just felt like I lost that time. I’m never in a rush, though, to put music out. As competitive and crazy as it is in this industry, especially with me being an indie artist—I’m never in a rush. Whenever that next project is done and I feel good about it, it’ll come out. So I just felt like, damn, lost time, I can’t get that time back, so I’ll just keep moving. It’s not really too deep; both albums, I would say, were collections of songs. I wasn’t trying to make certain points or messages. I was just recording, and I picked from the best songs that I liked. I tried to make it as cohesive as I could, made sure it made sense, but it wasn’t that structured. It’s nice to see an artist who doesn’t feel pressure to fit into a particular timeframe for music releases. Oh, man. I see so many artists do it. Some people put a song out every week! I mean, that’s cool. But I just feel like you need to give people time to breathe, time to receive what you’re giving them. Unless you’re not talking about anything and it’s just playful. But if you’re really trying to say something and you care about everything, the album, the music, the arrangement, then you should take your time. People can feel that. I can feel when something’s rushed or somebody just threw it out. If they’re just trying to make money off the new whatever, I can tell. Just take your time. What were some of your favorite things about growing up on the South Side? What did you find challenging? I had a great childhood. My parents did a great job trying to get out of the city—not all of it is bad, but they grew up there and they didn’t want that for their children. Dolton, where I grew up, is the first suburb outside the city. When I was young, it was real suburb-y. Now, it’s not the same. And people would try to tell me, “You’re not from Chicago! You can’t represent the city because you’re from Dolton.” But that’s so stupid. Whatever.



There were really no bad things about it. All I can say is that I’m disappointed in how it is now. It used to be a beautiful town. But this is twenty, twenty-five years later. I had a great time growing up, but the last time I was there, my car windows got broken out. It was completely random. When I was young we could leave the door open, we could be outside. So you think it’s gotten more dangerous? Oh, a hundred percent. I don’t feel comfortable at my own house. When I go there, I’m paranoid. It doesn’t feel safe. In Chicago now, there are so many different neighborhoods. You could be in the same neighborhood and have a good block and a bad block. Like, on this block, three people just got shot. This other block, it’s got mansions, people going to school. I wouldn’t say the whole city’s dangerous, but there are definitely some bad


neighborhoods and bad blocks.

they’re a pop group in France. I met two of them on my first trip, and over I’m not trying to get away from it, be- time, we connected. I sent them a little cause I know it’s everywhere, but on verse, and they ended up using it on a daily basis? That’s just not the kind an album that actually went platinum. of energy I want I’m like, “What?” in my zone. I’m So then they said, testing this “living okay, you’re on in the city” thing the album, would “Fifty thousand out right now, but you like to come we’ll see what’s up on tour with us? people was the next year, because Uh, yeah! They’re biggest crowd I I’ve been thinking huge. about moving to rocked last year.” France. It’s a big So they were domove for me. It’s ing arenas that, kinda serious. But like, Jay-Z would everyone’s been do. The biggest like, “No, it’s not, ones, sold out. you’ve been there so many times, just Fifty thousand people was the biggest go.” It’s something that’s definitely on crowd I rocked last year, and I was just my brain. It’s just been France, France, like, this is bananas! I met Sting, I met France. Run DMC, I’m backstage with these guys and they’re right there and I’m Last year was my biggest year yet. I right here and I’m like, “What is my got to tour with a group called C2C— life doing right now?” It’s not magic.

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I met these guys and they were just cool—like me and you, right now. Then three years later, you never know. You just gotta be good to people. That’s amazing. I think it’s so important to have role models like that—people who aren’t afraid to get out there and confront those kinds of challenges, who can ask themselves the same questions that their listeners are asking. Thank you. It kinda works like that— someone once asked me, what do you want people to think or say when they hear your music? Well, I just want them to be happy. Whatever reason they like it for, I just want them to have that. When they see me, or they hear me, I just want them to be like “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!” ¬


David Schalliol David Schalliol

This photograph is a part of my Isolated Building Studies, a project that occupies the visual confluence of my interests in urban dynamism, socioeconomic inequality, and photography. By using uniform composition in photographs of Chicago buildings with no neighboring structures, I hope to draw attention to new This photograph is a part of my “Iso- plore the buildings across time of day, ways of seeing the common impact of divergent investment processes on urban communities. lated Building Studies,” a project that time of year, and different kinds of occupies the visual confluence of my weather. To that end, the image inWhile the photographs are clearly trained on the buildings and their surroundings, one of the important aspects of the project has been to explore the buildinterests in urban dynamism, socio- cluded on this page was made during ings across time of day, time of year, and different kinds of weather. To that end, the image included on this page was made during the January polar vortex, when economic inequality, and photogra- the January polar vortex, when it was it was -14 degrees Fahrenheit. phy. By using uniform composition negative-fourteen degrees Fahrenheit. in photographs of Chicago buildings The Japanese press Utakatado The Japanese press Utakatado published the first book dedicated to the project in February, entitled “Isolated Building Studies.” It is available on the South with no neighboring structures, I hope published the first book dedicated to Side at 57th Street Books, as well as through my website. to draw attention to new ways of see- the project in February, entitled “Isoing the common impact of divergent lated Building Studies.” ¬ investment processes on urban communities. While the photographs are clearly trained on the buildings and their David Schalliol, “Isolated Building surroundings, one of the important Studies.” Utakatado. 56 pages. davidaspects of the project has been to


Visions of the East The University of Chicago celebrates China’s artistic traditions BY SHARON LURYE


alk about China in Western media tends to hover between competitive—the country is a geopolitical rival and a burgeoning superpower—and ambitious—it’s the next big market, a capitalistic bonanza waiting to happen in a communist country. But less well known is another vision of China: its artistic vision, drawing from centuries of culture and tradition. UChicago Arts aims to highlight Chinese artistry through a five-month festival called “Envisioning China.” There will be ongoing museum exhibits, concerts, lectures, and film screenings throughout campus from until mid-June. The festival will showcase both traditional Chinese art forms and contemporary artists’ responses to those traditions. The festival has been years in the making. “Several years ago, professor [of art history and East Asian languages] Judith Zeitlin began work on the Smart Museum’s current exhibition (‘Performing Images,’) and spoke with Court Theatre about a production of ‘M. Butterfly,’” said Leigh Fagin, director of the festival. “She approached us with the idea to partner with her to present a Chinese opera company. We soon realized there were other arts organizations on campus working on things connected to Chinese arts and culture, so we invited their ideas.” Fagin noted that there were many faculty and students interested in the art and culture of China, and “there’s also obviously a lot of amazing work being done by Chinese Americans. So we were interested in exploring these john weinstein/the field museum intersections.” Professor Lawrence Zbikowski, M. Butterfly Deputy Provost for the Arts, explained will be offered.” There are over forty events to choose from; here are some that the title of the festival was chosen Court Theatre will finish its 2013“because of the wide range of perspec- of the highlights. 2014 season with a gender-bending tives on China, past and present, that 12 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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romance that explores love, lust, and gender politics. “M. Butterfly,” a Tony Award-winning play written by David Henry Hwang and directed by Charles Newell, skewers orientalist stereotypes


“Performing Images” and “Inspired by the Opera” at the Smart Museum

tianjin peking opera company

with a plot that brings together Chinese opera and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” A French ambassador in China (Sean Fortunato) falls in love with a Chinese opera singer (Nathaniel Braga), unaware that men play all roles in Chinese operas. The affair goes on for decades before the ambassador discovers the truth: his lover is a man, and a spy for the Chinese government. The most unbelievable part of the play is that it’s based on a true story. French diplomat Bernard Boursicot was arrested in 1986 on charges of espionage; he attempted to kill himself

in jail when he learned that his lover of twenty years, opera singer Shi Pei Pu, was in fact a man. Boursicot became an international laughing stock, but in Hwang’s play, the story takes on a tragic resonance: it becomes a symbol of the depth of the West’s illusions about the East. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. May 8 through June 8. See site for showtimes. (773)753-4472.

A Night at the Peking Opera

The Tianjin Peking Opera CompaDuring the Qing Dynasty (1644- ny and opera star Ling Ke will make 1912), Chinese opera was at the heart their Chicago debuts this April, alof the country’s cultural life, in the lowing audiences a rare opportunity countryside village as much as in the to see Chinese opera live. They will imperial court. perform scenes from Images of the traoperas with such inditional charactriguing titles as “Wu ters and plots of Song Kills the Tiger,” Chinese operas “A Dragon Flirts with The story takes on could be found on a Phoenix,” and “The a wide variety of a tragic resonance: Ghost of the Black decorative objects, Pot.” UChicago Arts it becomes a including prints, worked closely with ceramics, books, the Consul General of symbol of the painted fans, and the People’s Republic even clothing. to bring this show to depth of the The Smart the Chicago stage for West’s illusions Museum displays one weekend. almost eighty of “Chinese opera is about the East. these objects in the an amazing and deepsmall but visually ly historical theatristunning exhibit cal-musical medium “Performing Imthat gives listeners an ages.” Highlights amazing insight into include a colorful stage gown for a the history and tradition of China,” young maiden character that could said Professor Zbikowski. Professor be described as a real-life Technicol- Zeitlin, in an interview for the UofC’s or Dreamcoat; an intricately carved Winter Arts and Culture Guide, notrhinoceros horn cup depicting famous ed that there are four main character scenes; and illustrations of characters types in Chinese opera—the female transformed into mythical beings with lead, the male lead, the villain, and the elaborate masks and make-up. clown —and each require specialized The exhibit next door, “Inspired training. Actors in martial roles often by the Opera,” features photography go through “extensive acrobatic trainand video by contemporary Chinese ing,” while other actors learn the myrartists based on the opera tradition. iad hand gestures that have been codOne series of black-and-white photo- ified over centuries to match each role. graphs, for example, portrays elderly The Saturday performance will allow men who still perform in their old roles audiences to see authentic Chinese opwith the same elaborate costumes and era, complete with traditional instrustage make-up. The “Performing Im- ments, elaborate costumes, and actors ages” exhibit feels like a fantasy come who specialize in these roles, while the to life, filled with dashing characters, free Sunday performance will feature impossible romances, and strange and Ling Ke in a recital of famous arias. ¬ wondrous acts of magic. “Inspired by the Opera” places the opera tradition Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th in its more realistic and bittersweet St. Saturday, April 12, 7:30 PM. modern context. $20 general, $10 students. Sunday, April 13, 2pm. Free. (773)702-2787. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. wood Ave. Through June 15. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10am-4pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday, 10am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm. (773)7020200. APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 13


On the Record A review of “DocRot,” from Manisia Larkins of Hyde Park Records BY JACK NUELLE


courtesy of the artist

anisia Larkins was in full-on manager mode at Hyde Park Records on a rainy Chicago Thursday. “Yup!” she rang out over and over, taking inventory of the compilation records her co-worker named from the back of the store. Larkins, hair buzzed short on the sides and streaked through with blue, cuts a familiar figure at Hyde Park records, having been on staff for the past eight months. She’s also an up-and-coming musician who dropped her first record, “DocRot,” earlier this year. The record, suitably strange and altogether engrossing, serves as testament to Larkins’s eclectic and varied tastes. Labeled alternately as “neopop,” “neo-soul,” and “cosmic jazzhop,” the record is (obviously) tough to pin down. Beginning with “Live or.,” a languid cover of The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” the album progresses through a hazy maze of samples ranging from an extended use of Billy Joel’s “My Life” to snippets of Kanye West’s “College Dropout,” to what sound like public service announcements. These samples are supported throughout by Larkins’s muffled croon. It’s a fascinating soundscape, industrial at points, melodic at others, always lo-fi and wandering. Larkins’s voice forms the backbone of all of the songs, often a warped and twisted imitation of itself, 14 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

transformed into its own changing instrument. For Larkins, the album was born out of two main sources: first, an intense need for self-expression, and second, a wealth of influences. After returning to Chicago from Washington, D.C., where she was a student at Howard University, Larkins started work on the record in piecemeal fashion. “It started off as little tinkerings [that] slowly morphed into an actual thing,” she explained. “I went through this emotional depression. It’s good though! Because it ended up being this thing I got really passionate about, and so then I ended up actually creating something out of it.” Production on the album is lo-fi but effective. Larkins taught herself production, an interest sparked and fostered by the process of completing the album. “I started experimenting with it and then it slowly became something I realized I could do, and now I realized that it’s also a way I can make money,” she said. She plans on slowly starting to produce as a freelancer; she has a few projects lined up and she hopes more are on the way. Music, in one form or another has been a part of Larkins’s life “forever. I was in choir when I was three, and I did it again when I was in the third grade, and I never really stopped after that.” At Howard, Larkins was a music major, an undertaking she says

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brought its own share of difficulty. “It was really hard because I had to learn a lot,” she said. “Being a singer I didn’t really learn a lot of theory and everything like that, so going in straightaway I had to learn so much off the bat.” Her hardships weren’t limited to the academic side of things, either. Larkins says that she faced trouble balancing her particular brand of self-expression with the expectation of the school. For her, “it was really just about expressing myself as an artist, which I don’t think music school really teaches you how to do. I had to get out of there.” So she did, and Chicago seemed the best, and really only, option. “I just really like the indie ,eclectic culture of Chicago...and that’s why I came back. Here, you can really do you and be as funky and weird as you want and still stand out.” Chicago’s eclectic nature is certainly in Larkins’s wheelhouse. Her influences come from all over the map; some are apparent, some are not. The jazz godmothers she cites, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, make sense. Even Kanye, or Kid Cudi, whose unique production styles seem to have influenced Larkins, seem connected. When Larkins throws in Radiohead or Pink Floyd in the same sentence, things start to get loopier. In the end, though, each cited influence adds something perceptible to the mix that is Larkins’s music. Radiohead

provides the electronic backdrops and wild experimental spirit, and the conceptual spirit of “DocRot” is derived from Pink Floyd. “It’s just like now, ‘What have we learned?’ ” she said. “Let’s just collaborate all of that together. That’s like my whole thing, I really like to take from different [genres].” As far as further projects go, Larkins says she isn’t sure. “I don’t know if I really want to be a solo artist,” she said. “It’s fun though to be able to have full creative license over your whole thing...I don’t know, I may continue to do it, but I definitely want to produce as a solo person for sure.” As Larkins headed back behind the counter, she chirped her thanks and then immediately dove right back into business. Hyde Park Records seems to be a musical haven for her, a perfect site for inspiration and a transition from music school to living as a working musician. Being around a slew of records all over the musical spectrum definitely complements her wide range of musical influences. “Being here I get to listen to fucking everything,” she laughed. And combining influences, says Larkins, is all she can do. ¬ Manisia Larkins, “DocRot.” Self-released.





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A Point of Strength

Kenwood Academy students compete with August Wilson’s “Century Cycle” BY BESS COHEN


ut when them red lights came on in the recording studio, it was like a bell ringing in a boxing match and I did it.” Eleventh grader Robert Upton’s eyes grow as if those red lights line the back wall of Kenwood Academy’s drama classroom. “I reached down inside of me, and I pulled out whatever was there. I did my best, and I figure nobody can fault me for that.” As Floyd from August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” Upton begs the invisible Vera for another shot. “Try me one more time, and I will never jump back on you in life.” Robert and two other Kenwood students have a week to prepare for the Chicago Regional Finals of the August Wilson Monologue Competition. On March 10, twenty students from all across the city will compete at the Goodman Theatre for three places in the National Finals in New York. Cree Rankin of Court Theatre, who sits in front of Upton carefully coaching him, has facilitated the program at South Side schools since Chicago first entered the competition three years ago. This year, students from Harper High School, Simeon Career Academy, Sullivan House Alternative School, and Kenwood Academy were among the 390 to prepare monologues and compete, but only three Kenwood students have made it to the final round. No student from the South Side has ever made it to the New York finals. Upton is having a rough rehearsal, asking for a lot of breaks. Rankin lets the eleventh grader take the time he needs, but forces him to stay focused. In addition to serving as Court’s Casting Director, Rankin is also in charge of the theater’s Artists-in-the-Schools program. He coordinates a cadre of teaching artists who work with each participating student to prepare a two or three-minute monologue from Au-

gust Wilson’s “Century Cycle.” Also known as the “Pittsburgh Cycle,” after the city where most of the action is set, the ten plays each take place in a different decade, and are intended to tell the story of the African-American experience over the course of the twentieth century. The monologues present snapshots of Wilson’s complex yet archetypal characters. Wilson’s female characters speak of the challenging men that they can’t stop loving, of their regret or refusal to have children for fear of violent realities. His male characters beg their women to believe in them, and deliberate on what they have to do to believe in themselves, to support their families, and to survive. “Floyd may be fighting for the words, but he’s not fighting for the inspiration,” Rankin explains to Upton. “He’s still coming from that point of strength. Something about robbing a bank, and getting away with it...” When asked if he’s ever felt that kind of power, Upton dramatically raises his hand to his chin to think. “I think when I was thirteen and getting a girl’s number. That made me feel powerful. I was like, ‘Yup I can do it...I did it.’”


hen Sejahari Saulter-Villegas arrives at the Court Theatre to practice with Rankin on a Saturday afternoon, the Kenwood freshman is all smiles and has a seemingly permanent bounce in his step. His Nike sweatpants are tucked into the bottom half of cutoff jeans, a fashion innovation of his own. Saulter-Villegas sinks into a chair to begin King’s monologue from “King Hadley II,” and his bright eyes fade as he falls into a character that Rankin describes as a “cocktail of desperation.” An ex-convict in Pittsburgh, King is

illustrations by ellie mejia

Sejahari Saulter-Villegas, freshman

black, poor, and uneducated. “My fifth grade teacher told me I was gonna be a good janitor, say, she could tell by how good I erased the blackboard.” It doesn’t take long to realize that Saulter-Villegas is not new to the stage; his poetic cadence and controlled choreography creep into his ex-

ecution of this monologue. His mother founded and runs a hip-hop arts organization, called Kuumba Lynx, and Saulter-Villegas is an active participant in the group’s performances. Of performance he says, “I was raised in that.” Last year, his team won Louder Than a Bomb, the annual Chicago slam poetry competition. This year he




n 2012, Mayor Emanuel unveiled the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan to give “every child, in every grade, in every school” at least 120 minutes of arts education per week. He also announced that, in addition to music and visual arts, which were previously required for graduation, dance and theater could be used for the two-credit requirement. Offering all four types of arts courses, according to CPS, would match the example set by the public schools of New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, whose dance programs have been credited with improving outcomes for some of those city’s highest-risk youth. To achieve the Plan’s objective, rolled out over three years, each school must have at least one art instructor as well as an “Arts Liaison” who is tasked with forming at least one partnership with an arts organization in the city by the 2014-2015 school year. The new CPS Arts Plan also requires that neighborhood schools include funding for arts programming in their annual budgets, but the plan does not specify further requirements for this budgeting. The City dedicated an initial $1 million to “launch the plan,” but Emanuel announced that there is no additional future funding allocated for the initiative. Emanuel expects that the partnerships between schools and arts organizations will be self-sustaining. The program’s limited funding means that much of the financial burden of the Plan’s success is placed on the community or arts organizations. On February 21, however, NBC Chicago reported that in 170 schools (about one third of CPS), only twenty-six percent of students were receiving 120 minutes of arts instruction, according to 444 parents and teachers surveyed by Raise Your Hand Illinois. Sixty-five percent of those schools assessed were not offering two hours of art. ¬ (Maira Khwaja)


will compete in the semifinals again, a day before the final round of the August Wilson Competition. “I know which way the wind is blowing. And it ain’t blowin my way,” he concludes. After taking a moment for the wind to take this last line, he bows slightly, and when his head comes up his dimples return. Though Saulter-Villegas seems an old hand at performance, he is one of 180 Kenwood students in six drama classes who studied and performed these monologues. At Kenwood, the monologues are incorporated into the curriculum by drama teachers Mr. Nemeth and Ms. Bolos. Students study in depth the plays from which their monologues are chosen before Rankin and other actors come in to work with them one-on-one. The students also attend plays at Court as part of their course of study. “Kids come back to visit you, and they don’t remember the play you taught them or the activity they did in class, but they remember being taken to plays,” said Nemeth. “Kids are never going to experience this...if they don’t have the chance to, and I would say that, for the most part, over my twenty-five years of teaching, kids typically rise to the occasion.” This year posed a new difficulty for the program at Kenwood. The Chicago Public Schools instated a new policy that includes drama as a way to fulfill the high school arts requirement. This meant that the same allotments of time, money, and resources had to stretch to cover twice the previous number of students at Kenwood. “We cut our coaching time in half,” Rankin says. Expanding the program also meant that more students were taking the drama class simply to fill the district’s requirement, not necessarily because they wanted to learn about theater. When a student hasn’t learned their lines, for example, “you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry I’m not gonna work with you today,’ because it’s an academic class and there are requirements that go with it,” Rankin said. It also means, however, that freshmen and sophomores, like Saulter-Villegas and Kenwood’s third finalist, Kenneth Hastings, can participate in the theater program earlier on in their high school careers. “Once they start learning these monologues and feeling successful

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Kenneth Hastings, sophomore about presenting them,” Nemeth says, “that’s where, I think, that motivation develops.” But he admits this isn’t always the case. “Like Robert, he just wants to win the contest.” On the night of the Regional Finals, Rankin navigates the lobby of the Goodman Theatre in the same way that he navigates the halls of Kenwood Academy. Clad in his White Sox cap, he knows as many professional actors at the Goodman as he does students at Kenwood, greeting each with a compliment or a joke at his or her expense. Accompanying him is Patrese McClain, the lead teaching artist at Harper High School. When working with the Kenwood students before the competition, she led the boys through warm-up exercises with an infectious energy. McClain—a native of the

South Side—is passionate, she says, about working in the “schools that face the most challenges.” “I’m really excited to be able to give these kids exposure to August Wilson, to professional theater, things that are not really an everyday occurrence on the South Side.” She says that when coaching the finalists, she focuses on basics of performing, of starting from a neutral stance, of breath support. But also, she says, “At this point, we’re nurturing young them tools for life...and being a positive influence on what they choose for their life.” McClain attended St. Francis de Sales High School and went on to study theater at Penn State and Howard University. “When I was growing up, I did not have any professional

PRIMARIES connections, I was just a kid who was dramatic.” She thinks it unfair that students from arts schools like Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), where drama students train extensively, compete with those whose schools may not have the same resources to put toward the program. Both Rankin and McClain have disagreed with the judges’ decisions in past years. They point out a young man walking around the lobby, a 2013 graduate of Kenwood who they think should have been a finalist in last year’s competition. His name is Barton Fitzpatrick, and in addition to being Upton’s uncle, he’s now a freshman studying theater at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “I used to play basketball actually, but after being involved in the competition, I took up acting. So I guess you could say that the competition has changed my life.” “If I could speak to the contestants going into the competition, I would tell them not to go into the competition expecting anything,” he says. He worked with his nephew on his monologue and was excited to see how it turned out. When Fitzpatrick’s sister, Upton’s mother, walks in, she passes Rankin to ask, “Are you as nervous as we are?” Presented en masse by the twenty finalists, the stories of Wilson’s characters weave together, demonstrating that they are all part of a single history, a community whose common, private difficulties form a shared, public experience in Wilson’s words. Indeed, all of

these students have worked tirelessly to tell these stories. However cohesive this narrative, though, after the last performance Master of Ceremonies and competition organizer Derrick Sanders calls all of the students to the stage to announce the three winners. The winners receive cash prizes and a spot in the New York competition. The first place winner will receive a scholarship to UIC. In third place is a ChiArts student, Shea Glover. Applause. Second place: Robert Upton. Rankin jumps from his seat, as do the twenty Kenwood students who took a school bus to the theater with Mr. Nemeth. They comprise the loudest contingent in the audience and spend the bus ride back to Hyde Park in celebration. When asked for her reaction to her son’s win, Gloria Upton had to take a second to think. “What’s a big word that means super excited?” Then she expanded. “I’m just happy that we get a chance to look at a young, black man in Chicago that’s doing something positive.” Upton accredited his confidence on stage to seeing both of his parents, who are not together, in the audience cheering for him. “Seeing them both there made me proud.” In early May, Upton (and first place winner Candace Spates of Lincoln Park High School) will compete in the Finals Round in New York City. It will be Rankin’s first time coaching a finalist in the competition. ¬

Robert Upton, junior




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South Side Stories An interview with Andrew Marikis BY SARAH CLAYPOOLE


tory Club, a nonfiction read-aloud, began in a Wrigleyville bar as a way to combine disparate forms: the freshness of the amateur and the consistency of the professional, the personal prose of the stand-up and the eloquent emotion of the slam poet. After about five years, founder Dana Norris decided it was time to branch out into the South Side, and chose Chicago actor Andrew Marikis for the job. At the South Side Story Club in Bridgeport’s Co-Prosperity Sphere, each storyteller has eight minutes to create a world for a rapt audience. Last week, a year after this new branch of Story Club began meeting monthly, Marikis, host and co-producer (along with Will Hindmarch), spoke with the Weekly about the art of the story, community building, and the value of ambitious failure.

thing, and that thing.” How does the South Side Story Club differ from the other Story Clubs? So, on the North Side, they ask for a theme, and they’ll just put a word out there—it may inspire some stories, or

lenge the form.” So we’ve done “duet,” two-person stories. We’ve done what we call “catch your own tale,” which was [when participants] began and ended [their] story with the same sentence. We’ve done—the one I’m really fond of, and I think we’re going to bring back sometime­—“someone else’s

Where do you think South Side Story Club hopes to go from here? Do you have concrete plans for the next six months, the next few years? You know, you’re coming up on one year !

What distinguishes Story Club as an organization? How does it fit into the larger Chicago live lit scene? There’s no hard line between audience and performer, which I love...I think a lot of other shows tend to be either all performer or all open-mic. And I think that’s one thing that makes Story Club unique that I really dig...It was six years ago that Dana [Norris] decided, to start Story Club, because she kept getting rejected from a bunch of open-mics, and she would tell a story, and they’d be like “We do poetry and music, and that’s it”—they’d all look at her funny, like “What are you doing? This is stand-up. I don’t know what you’re doing.” She was like, “Forget it, I’ll start my own,” and she did. At the same time, a bunch of other people had the same idea, and since then, it’s like, there’s second- and third generation storytelling events. People would go to these and say, “Oh, that’s cool, I want to start my own that does this 22 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

name, and we gave them to actors. We let the actors treat it like a monologue, and they came in, they did the story, and it was really interesting. We crossed gender lines and race lines and age, and we had a lovely black actress do something that was obviously from a gay man’s perspective. It was just really fun, and it was a fun night, and at the end, the actors acknowledged the writers, whatever they wanted to say if they wanted to say something. We like to mess around. I tend to think an ambitious failure is better than an easy success. I like ambitious failures.

isabel ochoa gold

it may link stories that are already kind of together that people are interested in telling...On the South Side, a lot of times—we’ll do that, on occasion, like this month, we’re doing “Foolery,” whoops—but we also like to do what I call “formal” challenges, so “chal-

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story.” So I’m an actor, and I know a lot of actor people, so what we did—and Will’s a writer—we talked to people who maybe don’t perform their stories very often, or had some written down that they didn’t want to perform; we took those stories, we removed the

We regularly get audiences between thirty-five and sixty. I would love to have that number be a solid sixty to seventy or eighty—every month. And I’d like almost all of them to be from the South Side. That’s what I want. I want to start a scene. [laughs] And it’s so arrogant, it’s so arrogant to say, but it’s totally what I want to do. I want to see a scene pop up. I want to see a unique storytelling scene that comes from the life of the people on the South Side, that is native to them, that makes sense to their backgrounds and what storytelling is to them. It may not be like stand-up or like slam poetry. It may be a totally different art, and I want to see what that is, and I would love it if there were a bunch of splintered storytelling groups that came from this, and there was a whole South Side scene that’s different from the North Side scene. I’d think that’d be awesome. ¬


Fred Schmidt-Arenales and Sarah Mendelsohn This image is a still from footage shot on a tour of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The man in the red jacket is our guide. He’s telling us where to look—we’re tourists in our own country. But you can’t see what he’s talking about. If you try, your eyes wander out of frame. He’s talking about the paintings in the room, the building, history. What if I told you that his name is Ryan, and that for him this job is about the money. He doesn’t make a lot, but it’s enough to support him, and it gives him time to develop as a performer. This job is about money but it’s also a way to develop. Any time you’re speaking in front of people it’s good practice. It keeps things limber, keeps things loose. Does he always point like that? Is this tour the same each time he leads it?

I’ve only been on it once. Actually, I’ve never been on it. So have you ever seen that ceiling? No. In our collaborative work we attend to what is right in front of us and what is out of frame. We say, “If this is the picture we have, what can we fill in around it?” Around the perimeter of the ceiling in the atrium there’s a fresco, painted over the course of more than fifty years by three different artists. The fresco chronicles important figures and events from the nation’s early history, eventually running back into itself. American history becomes a closed loop in this atrium, a series of old names and battles and bills chasing one another. Nothing new can happen. ¬



Classical Act Tomeka Reid talks jazz, improvisation, and Washington Park BY MEAGHAN MURPHY


azz cellist Tomeka Reid has a soft-spoken way about her. Despite the major press and attention that’s lately been coming her way, Reid is slightly reluctant to talk about herself. Yet she is a formidable musician and improviser, currently juggling an album release, a doctoral thesis at DePaul, and an impressive international lineup of teaching and performing gigs. Combining her classical upbringing with her affinity for abstract and experimental string improvisation, Reid has recently finished a yearlong artist residency at the Washington Park Arts Incubator. Reid took a moment to talk with the Weekly about her work at the Incubator, her upcoming projects, and her own style of jazz improv and composition.

courtesy of the artist

How long have you lived in Chicago? Maryland for my undergrad. I moved to Chicago and got my master’s at DeSince 2000, so almost fourteen years. Paul in music as well. Actually, it’s crazy. I remember my mom was actually going to go to art Then I started teaching at the Lab school in Texas and we took the train School, actually, for about seven years. all the way from Maryland to Texas Towards the end of my work there I and we had a layover in Chicago. And started a doctorate in music, in Jazz I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, Studies. Both of my degrees are in this place is amazing!” I wanted to classical. I was like, you know, I’m docome back here. I visited a friend at ing a lot of jazz and creative music. I Northwestern my Freshman year of felt like I should know more about this college, and I was like, “As soon as I world, because I had studied so much graduate I’m moving here.” classical music. So that’s why I went back and got that degree. And that’s Can you tell me a bit about your actually what I’m trying to finish this background? semester. I grew up in the D.C. metro area, so I started taking lessons in public schools. I’m grateful to public schools for having music programs. And then I went on and took some private lessons and then I went on to the University of 24 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

So you have a classical training, but now you’ve moved into more jazz. Did you always know you wanted to go into that? I think I’ve always known I wanted

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to do something besides classical. It wasn’t so much that I initially wanted to do classical, per se. But it’s like you play cello so you get pushed in that direction, because that’s the repertoire for that instrument. But I had a mentor in my last year of undergrad and he was like, “You should try improvising. There’s a rock band audition, you should try that.” I was like, “I need to learn my concertos! I need to learn these sonatas!” I felt like it would take away, but when I moved to Chicago I got pushed into the jazz thing by a good friend of mine, a flute player, Nicole Mitchell. She was like, “Come on! Try improvising.” I remember she wanted me to do all these crazy sounds. And I’m like, “What? I just spent how many years of my life trying to not make those sounds, and now you want me to do that in public?” So that was hard. And I was always ac-

tually really shy. So I think it’s funny that I ended up doing jazz. Because, you know, the whole process of you creating on the spot. It’s more personality-driven. Yeah. Since I was always kind of shy I felt like, “Why am I doing this?” But I liked it. So I just kept doing it. What do you see as the bridge between the classical training that people who are really serious about music have to go through, and the jazz world? Do you think there’s a crossover? I think classical players should get exposed to more improvising, I’ll say that. Because it was a part of our tradition in the Baroque time. I think in the Classical era even, people were writing their own cadenzas, so that

was still kind of improvising. But I feel like by the Romantic era the composer, Are you working on more composing what they wrote, was gospel. now? So I kind of wish that string programs at the secondary or at the university level encouraged their players to improvise more. Not everybody is going to be a classical player and there are other ways that you can still enjoy playing. And maybe people would play more if they felt like they could express themselves in other ways, besides just this select repertoire. It seems as though the Incubator has a kind of place-based mentality. The things that they do there and what Theaster Gates talks a lot about is this idea of creating a hub in a specific place in Chicago. In Washington Park. Is that something that drew you in? I guess I felt drawn to the residency because I live practically down the street. And I’m really involved in my community, in Bronzeville. I go to meetings and I’m concerned about what happens in the neighborhood and stuff like that. The Incubator is in the 3rd Ward, which is my ward. So I saw this as an opportunity to use my practice to do something in my community besides just going to meetings and sometimes feeling powerless against the political engine here.

Yeah, well, I’m trying to finish up this paper. But I just recorded my first record as a leader. So I need to go through that and put that out. I’m in Italy for the month of March. And then in April I’m really excited about this Anthony Braxton project I’m going to be participating in, recording one of his new operas. But what’s cool about it is that he incorporates new music and improv. It’s fun, it keeps you on your toes. He’s a composer, he’s a reedist. He’s from Chicago! He’s part of Access Contemporary Music. In June I’m going to Vancouver to teach in the Vancouver Jazz Festival. And then July it’s kind of chill, which I’m happy about. I’m just planning for what’s next, I want to apply for more residencies so I can do more. I mean I can do work here and it’s nice to be home. But it’s also nice to get away so you have more of a focus. Composing is on the top of my list for this year, though. I need to write more in general. What’s your record that you’ve just finished?

It’s a quartet record. Cello, bass, guitar, drums. It’s myself and Jason Roebke, a really great jazz bass player in ChicaIs that what ended up happening? go. Mary Halvorson is on guitar and Tomas Fujiwara on drums. It’s mostly I think so. I ended up putting on some my compositions, so I’m really excited events there, like the First Mondays about it. Jazz Series that’s ongoing. It was only supposed to be for four months, but it’s These pieces on the record, some of been going almost a year now. And a them I’ve had for years. Though some lot of people in the community come of them I wrote between the two resand I think people appreciate it. So idencies I just did the past year and a that’s really cool. half. What was the most surprising thing What is your composition process about working at the Incubator or the like? Logan Center? Did anything happen that you didn’t expect? Usually I use GarageBand and I sing one of the parts. Either the melody or Um, not really. I feel like they were re- the bass line will come to me. Because ally supportive of my work. It was nice I’m just not quick enough to sing it and to say, “Oh, I want to put on a festival,” write it and not lose the pitches. And and they just responded, “Okay, this is then I’ll build from there. going to be a lot of work.” But they supported it, so that was cool. And I Do you think there’s much of a relalike that they kind of gave us free rein tionship between being an improvisto do what we wanted to do. er and being a composer? APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 25

MUSIC [Long pause] I guess it’s hard, because when you’re improvising you are composing but you’re not able to edit in the same way. Because once it’s out there, it’s just kind of out there. I guess you do have different mindsets. You have to have patience in both, but somehow you have to not beat yourself up when you’re improvising, if you didn’t like what you just did. You have to be more gentle with yourself, I guess. Improvising I think can fuel composition. When you’re improvising and you’re not editing yourself you can come up with little ideas when you listen back. Does your composing have any sort of narrative component? I feel like when I write separate pieces I always have someone in mind. Or something in mind. Like I have a song I wrote for my mom. Or I think about a space or a place. It’s a tribute to someone or someplace. Can you describe an example of that? Well, I mean there’s a handful of us


improvising string players. But a lot of my heroes, I guess, are not among the living. So, for example, I always wished I could have played with Billy Bang. So when I learned that he passed I knew that I wanted to write something kind of in tribute to him, called “Billy Bang’s Bounce.” Whenever I would listen to his music it would have kind of a sad character, but it was also kind of bouncy. It was kind of a reminder to myself: if you want to play with your heroes, contact them! Any other projects on the back burner? Any dream projects? I guess just writing more. Right now I feel really swamped with school. I think it would be cool though to have an improvising orchestra. Some sort of string ensemble. And then I think it would be cool to team up with someone to do something like Curtis Mayfield recordings, because that sound is what really made me want to play strings. That type of sound, just a band with strings behind it. I love that sound. I often wish I was born in that time period and could have played on some of those sessions. ¬

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“Paradigm Shift” Fanta Celah

Humankind is living in parallel universes. Internal-external speculations and generalizations could never define such a beautiful reality that exists beyond the mundane surface. As broad a topic as it sounds, I’m using this metaphysical gateway in “Paradigm Shift” to present the cultural revolution that exists on the South Side of Chicago. As an abyss of ancestral and spiritual awakening, a powerhouse of wealth and artistic expression, the South Side makes me proud to reside in such a divine collective consciousness. The poetic, musical, jazzy, neo-soulish, Yoruba-fic, indigenous genius is almost unfathomable. I am an artist and jewelry designer who has been featured on the Diva Show, the Tv3 Network in Gha-


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na, and the Voxafrica Channel in the U.K. I’ve exhibited work in London, Dakar, Senegal, New York, Chicago, and have permanent installations in the African Union and the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. I’ve won a Black Excellence Award for my eco-mixed media collection, “Electric Soul.” I also recently recorded my first single in Ghana, “Traveling...,” which will be released this year. I’ve been working with the legendary Phil Cohran since 2008, and my music ranges from jazz to world, reggae, neo-soul, meditation/cosmic music, and historical time pieces. ¬


Grief and Grace “The Gospel of Lovingkindness” at Victory Gardens Theater BY JAKE BITTLE


ven before “The Gospel of Lovingkindness” begins, its central character, Mary Black, is on stage. Black, played by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, rocks back and forth in a chair as the audience members file in and take their seats. Her presence, with its transgression of conventional theatrical boundaries, puts her character almost too close to the audience for comfort. Even though she does not speak a word until almost twenty minutes into the play, her stern aspect constantly demands the audience’s attention. She is inescapable. “Gospel” itself is, too. It is frank, it is immediate, and it is jarring. It does not hesitate to shake our hearts and our minds. Mary Black first rises from her chair when she gets the news that her son, Noel, has been murdered. Noel (Tosin Morohunfola) was an ambitious teenager whose singing talents got him a gig performing at the White House. A few days after his mother buys him brand-new Air Jordans, another teenager (also played by Morohunfola) shoots him dead trying to take the shoes. “Gospel’s” story then splits into two parallel threads. One follows Mary’s quest to raise awareness about gun violence and social injustice on the South Side, so that her son’s death will not have been in vain. The other goes back in time to follow the downward spiral of Emmanuel, Noel’s shooter, who turns to crime to help provide for his newborn (out of wedlock) child. It is rare that a piece of media can put forward an overt political agenda (education reform, gun control) without becoming stale or distastefully blunt, but “Gospel” has a message subtly woven within its compelling plot. Mary Black’s campaign for justice on the South Side allows playwright Marcus Gardley to insert political statements about subjects ranging from gun control to welfare. The play

suggests institutional reforms, such as drastic overhauls of the public education system, but also provides moral advice for the individual, encouraging the kind of neighborly love whose absence helps pave the way for the play’s tragic events. Despite the sincerity of this message, “Gospel” is never preachy, thanks in part to Gardley’s dexterous writing. Gardley’s characters are constantly miscommunicating their intentions or failing to communicate at all, in ways that underscore the desperation of the play’s world. The dialogue is fluid, natural, and often wrenchingly emotional. The parallel narratives allow the play to cover more ground than its ninety minutes should allow. We watch the hopeless Emmanuel fall victim to his situation in exactly the same ways Noel was lucky not to; by the time he raises his gun to shoot, we see that he has chosen to do so only because economic and social injustices have made it impossible for him to survive otherwise. “Gospel” is also made more subtle and haunting by the sparseness of its style. Most of the few props on set (a door, an L stop sign, a radio station’s “ON AIR” light) are suspended eerily above the stage, illuminated by a spotlight only when they become relevant. And every actor in the play but Bruce (there are only three others) is used for numerous roles, often to chilling effect. Morohunfola plays murderer, murdered, and also a talk show host who discusses the dangers of gun violence. Jacqueline Williams, the play’s other female actor, shows up in a dozen roles, from a postal worker to Emmanuel’s mother to the ghost of Ida B. Wells. The scarcity of new faces on stage gives the play a stirring universality. A character can always pop up as someone else, underscoring the play’s demand for generosity and com-

passion—in a word, lovingkindness— in both personal and political realms. Marcus Gardley was not born in Chicago; he moved here only a few years ago. But there is nothing appropriative about “Gospel” (nor anything wrong with its being shown in a North Side theater). It does not make a spectacle out of the South Side’s struggles with violence, but rather identifies with, and sympathizes with, the tragedy that can befall ordinary, innocent people. Gardley, who is currently writing another play set on the South Side, was raised in Oakland, California, a city that’s no stranger to violent crime issues itself. His play is saturated with a specific, local urban consciousness;

its tones and attitudes feel particularly Chicagoan. Its significance, however, is relevant to urban areas across the country, and the hope with which it ends is a hope meant to be shared by all its viewers. This hopeful moment, however, only comes after ninety minutes of wrenching suffering. It is ultimately that suffering that will remain with “Gospel’s” viewers. We see not only murder but desperate poverty, institutional racism, ruined marriages, and absent fathers. Its story is not true, but we remember it because of the terrifying resemblance it bears to what is true. ¬



“Fire on the Horizon” Lelde Kalmite My painting can be described essentially as an abstract landscape, with no hint of human presence. In recent years, an ominous quality seems to be working its way into my paintings. If creating art is a personal search for meaning, one’s art cannot escape reflecting the spirit of the times. Our own historical period is characterized by ever greater pollution and exploitation of the natural environment—the air, water, and soil—resulting in the extinction of increasing numbers of plants and animals and a threat to the very future of our world. My imaginary landscapes seem to echo this anxiety about the destruction of the natural world. But along with the paintings, I also enjoy drawing what I observe in my environment, particularly garden and landscape subjects. Some of these drawings are manipulated digitally to explore variations on the originals. So my artwork is a combination of lugubrious apocalyptic visions on


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the one hand, and realistic observations of nature on the other. I continue to attempt to resolve these two approaches and bring into my painting some of the elements of the drawings. Since receiving BFA and MFA degrees from the University of Chicago, I have exhibited my paintings in Chicago, across the Midwest, and in Latvia. In 1995 I earned a Ph.D. in art education from the University of Minnesota, and have worked as a teacher, nonprofit arts administrator, and independent consultant. I currently maintain a studio at, and serve as curator of, the Bridgeport Art Center, where my work may be viewed by appointment and during periodic open studios. ¬ Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. (708)369-2355.


Mister Go-Go

The story of Jake Austen and “Chic-A-Go-Go,” the city’s most sincere cable TV show BY ZACH GOLDHAMMER


n Sunday, March 16, Jake Austen promised his fans that he would be staging “Chic-A-Go-Go’s” “weirdest taping ever.” This was a big promise to make for the long-running Chicago Access Network Television show, which is known for inviting fringe musicians to lip-synch and perform live in front of dancing, costumed “children of all ages.” Nonetheless, few were prepared for that Sunday’s scene, which had the “Chic-A-Go-Go” “kids”—whose ages range from five to fifty—boogie in floral- and animal-print pajamas. In their midst was Art Paul Schlosser, the legendary Madison, Wisconsin street musician; behind them, a green screen was calibrated to display various low-budget special effects and arrays of stars, planets, and galaxies. Schlosser performed his songs—“Purple Bananas on the Moon” and “Have A Peanut Butter Sandwich,” among others—in his usual spare, deadpan style, the same style he used to perform “Scott Walker Loves You” in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol during the state’s 2011 protests. Onscreen, the cosmos appeared and disappeared behind the cap of Schlosser’s fluorescent beanie and orange kazoo. Outside of view, Austen moved in a flurry, rushing back and forth from camera to television to stage as his mane of curly gray hair flew behind him. In addition to his technical duties, Austen is also part of the show’s entertainment act. Donning a sock puppet, he switched into the character of Ratso, the show’s rodential host and lead interviewer. The voice Austen uses for Ratso is a raspy falsetto, making him sound something like a helium-huffing Marge Simpson. When he announced that kids would have a chance to take their

picture with Ratso, he was swarmed by children of all ages.


o those who weren’t familiar with “Chic-A-Go-Go,” or who didn’t know Jake Austen’s work, the taping may have come off as an exercise in kitsch, reveling in the haphazard, lo-fi aesthetics of local-access programming. More than green-screen pyrotechnics, however, the show has a core of sincerity, knowledge, and love—one that’s earned “Chica-A-Go-Go” a committed cult following. “There’s a deeper reality behind that show,” says Barbara Popovic, executive director of CAN TV. “Jake brings in this vast knowledge of music and gives it back. He brings people together who might not otherwise socialize in this city and gives them a chance to all dance and have fun together. For me, it embodies the best values of public television.” Part of Austen’s deep knowledge of, and commitment to, communal media comes from his childhood on the South Side. A long-time resident of South Shore and a prominent figure in Hyde Park, Austen says he became entranced at a young age by the music he heard growing up in South Shore. “One of my favorite things I loved about growing up on the South Side was that you would go to a kid’s birthday party, and it would turn out that the kid’s dad or something was in the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians], or Oscar Brown Jr. would be there performing ‘Signifyin’ Monkey’ for the kids. I always thought that was great.” Austen would continue to form relationships with local musicians— including his Kenwood Academy classmate R. Kelly—throughout his

career. Aside from a few years when he left Chicago to study painting at Rhode Island School of Design, he has lived on the South Side his whole life. “You want to be around people you know,” he says. When he returned from art school, Austen began organizing and working with a tight-knit network of fellow music obsessives. One result of this network was Roctober, a music zine Austen founded in 1992 that publishes interviews, reviews, and stories on “unjustly obscure musical heroes.” Roctober publishes local music writers, but it has also attracted some international figures who share Austen’s taste for weird music and cartoon aesthetics. One such collaborator was Nardwuar the Human Serviette, a Canadian radio host who has become an Internet sensation for his eccentric mannerisms and exhaustively-researched interviews with rappers. “Nardwuar calls me for questions for almost every interview he does,” says Austen, “and we still feature Nardwuar in just about every interview of Roctober, so it’s a mutual thing.” Yet while Nardwuar has developed his personal brand by embracing the Internet and viral sharing, Austen’s career is still very much based in local media outlets like CAN TV and WHPK, where he serves as the station’s talk-radio format chief. “ChicA-Go-Go” in particular developed out of his deep love for local Chicago television, particularly the city’s old dance music programs. “Dance music television is one of my favorite things you can do with television,” says Austen, “because it’s one of the simplest: you just point a camera at people and watch them move around. But it’s also one of the most compelling: there are narratives you can make up about

the dancers you know, and there is so much cultural weight to how different people dance, and so much joy in seeing a little kid who can do a dance.” Austen’s interest in dance television peaked when he was sent out to do photographs for a story on “Kiddie a-Go-Go,” a WCIU children’s dance show that was later replaced by “Soul Train,” a soul dance show that became nationally known, in the early seventies. After doing some research, Austen and his wife, University of Chicago media studies professor Jacqueline Stewart, decided they would create a new show as a tribute to the old classics. “Jackie and I had always wanted to do something on local-access cable and were always really interested in grassroots and independent media.” Recounts Austen, “We met with Kelly Kuvo from The Scissor Girls, who in the nineties were a pretty dynamic Chicago band. Kelly was one of the really great eccentric artists on local access. She helped us get started.” With Kuvo’s help, CAN TV provided him with training in production equipment and gave him a time slot where he could broadcast his show. It premiered in May 1996, and has aired on a regular basis ever since. Aesthetically, “Chic-A-Go-Go” evolved by merging the old-school cool of “Soul Train” with Austen’s own cartoon style, which he developed through Roctober. Ratso was lifted directly from Austen’s “Punk’nhead” comic strip, which first appeared in the zine. Initially, the rat puppet was joined on stage by the comic’s titular character, a skateboarding teen rebel with a jack-o’-lantern for a face. After a few episodes, though, Austen decided that having two cartoon puppets was “just too much. It didn’t work.


LOCAL ACCESS Something was off and we knew we needed a human host.” Austen turned to his friend Mia Park. She had been a drummer in various bands—Police Car, Hoo Doo Hoedown, and Lobstar, among others—and knew of Austen through the Chicago music scene. “I was just invited to come on the set,” she remembers, “and Jake comes up to me and says, ‘Are you a professional actress?’ I said no. Then he just says, ‘Good. We don’t want professional actors.’ Then after that, someone came up to me with a box of sequins and some safety pins and said, ‘Here, help put this stuff up.’ And that was it. I was never officially hired or anything, but I’ve been doing it ever since, for fourteen years, and I absolutely love it.” Now in its eighteenth year, “Chic-A-Go-Go” has become one of CAN TV’s most popular entertainment shows. Much of its success is due to the chemistry between the ebullient “Miss Mia” and the cartoonishly sardonic Ratso. Yet the power of individual episodes often comes from how well the musical guest meshes with the absurd, gleeful energy of the show itself. “It usually works because the artists know what they’re getting into. You can’t really volunteer to lip-synch on a show with dancing children and not know what you’re getting yourself into.” The show’s best episodes are unlike anything else on television. Nobunny, the rabbit-masked garage rocker, proved to be a natural fit for the show when he performed in 2005 using a carrot-shaped mic. An intricately choreographed dance routine by OK Go, which the band members acted out while Ira Glass and other WBEZ DJs pretended to play the instruments, wowed the CAN TV crowd. As Austen tells it, OK Go’s routine “was so charming they got invited on Glass’s ‘This American Life’ tour, which in turn helped them get signed to Capitol Records, and when they were about to get dropped by Capitol Records, they recreated that routine with that treadmill dance video that went viral online. If we hadn’t gotten OK Go to do this silly little dance, they might have never become big.” Even when the show seems to go off the rails, it’s often too captivating not to watch. Once, after interview32 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

ing members of the experimental post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Austen decided to play one of the group’s most droning tracks as a dance number for the “ChicA-Go-Go” kids. The studio quickly turned into the set of a Lynchian zombie film, with children performing slow-motion prowls across the set.

Still, Miss Mia says that it was Andrew W.K., the party rocker and motivational speaker, who had the best “human–puppet interaction skills I’ve ever seen. He was so sweet and comfortable, even with the littlest Ratso.” Often, though, the more obscure performers are the ones who really invest a serious sense of meaning in

you would least expect it.” For Park, whose “Chic-A-GoGo” position has been the most stable part of her varied career (drummer and musician, critic, part-time actress, yoga instructor), the show is ultimately motivated by joy. “None of us get paid. It’s all completely voluntary. We just get to facilitate joy. Unfiltered, pure joy.”


jake austen

Roctober publishes local music writers, but it has also attracted some international figures, such as Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Another time, Austen invited AACM co-founder Phil Cohran to the studio and asked him if he could play a particular song. “He looked at me and said, ‘You know that’s in like 16/83 time or something. You can’t dance to that. And we said, ‘Just don’t worry about it.’ They love dancing to anything. They’ll always try.” Ratso’s interviews often provoke surprisingly candid moments from guests. The squeaky-voiced Detroit rapper Danny Brown seemed so at ease when chatting to Austen’s sock puppet in 2012 that it was easy to wish Brown was a co-host of the show.

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the show. “My favorite guest was this guy Alan Gilette,” says Park. “He’s this very peculiar character from Peoria who does karaoke versions of pop songs. He takes himself very, very seriously but he wears this huge cowboy hat, and it’s hard for some people to keep a straight face around him. But we took him very seriously and were very respectful. Then, when I asked him about why he [wears the hat], he went into this long, amazing answer about the meaning of his work, which you would never expect. I think that’s part of the beauty of the show, that you can get a response like that when

espite the joy of the show and its volunteer staff, there are fears that “Chic-A-Go-Go” and many of the other CAN TV programs may be in jeopardy. A city contract with Comcast, the cable company, is currently up for a ten-year renewal. Comcast has one of three cable franchise agreements with the city. (The other two are held by RCN and WideOpenWest.) The sticking point in negotiations between cable providers and the city is often public-access television, which is rarely profitable for cable companies. So far, Comcast has been hesitant to pledge its full, continued support for CAN TV. Instead, the company has opted for a three-month extension, which began in March, on its negotiations with the City Council’s Committee on Finance, with an option for an additional three months to be granted at the discretion of the city’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection. As a result of the extension, the financial future of CAN TV remains unclear. Austen suspects that Comcast may be buying time to lobby the city in an attempt to downgrade its funding commitment to public access. (A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on its negotiations with the city.) According to Barbara Popovic, if Comcast downgrades their funding agreement the station will also receive significantly less funding from RCN, a smaller provider. The contract between RCN and the city, which was negotiated in 2012, includes a “most favored nation” clause that guarantees the company will provide no more public-access funding than Comcast does. “If both Comcast and RCN downgraded their funding agreements,” says Popovic, “seventy-five percent of our operating budget would be affected.” The suspicion that Comcast may downgrade its support is not without

PRIMARIES precedent. In 2009, legislation in California allowed Time Warner to cut its funding to Los Angeles’s fourteen public-access stations. (Time Warner is in the process of merging with Comcast.) “We don’t want to become California,” Austen says. With Gordon Quinn, artistic director of Chicago documentary studio Kartemquin Films, and a few other dedicated activists, Austen has formed the Committee for Media Access. The group is organizing a call-in campaign to bolster public-access support from aldermen. Austen insists that for Comcast, the issue is “not a lack of money” (by revenue, Comcast is the largest communications company in the world). Productions costs are low, and Austen and other CAN TV producers are not paid. “They just don’t want to have this extra stipulation to provide us with funding,” he says. “Any time local access is under threat, we share that threat,” says Park. “If CAN TV lost its funding, our show would probably continue somehow, but it wouldn’t be the same” Austen is not unaware of financial pressures. He makes part of his living as a freelance music journalist, working for publications such as the Reader and Cleveland-based Belt Magazine, but finds, not surprisingly, that his time-intensive research process does not always receive ideal compensation. His three books—one on televised music programs, one collecting his interviews with obscure rock and soul stars, one on the history of minstrel figures in music—have not sold well, he says. He hopes to be able to sell his new book project, a chronicle of The Jackson 5’s time on the South Side, but has had trouble finding a publisher. Roctober has also had to cut its subscription services due to high shipping costs. Austen even worries that his now-famous friend Nardwuar—whose show is currently produced by Pharrell Williams’s I Am Other collective—“hasn’t really figured out how to make money from what he’s doing.” But for Austen, Park, Stewart, and the rest of the “Chic-A-Go-Go” crew, the show is one thing in their lives that doesn’t revolve around money. “It’s rare in life that you just get to be completely who you are” says Park, “but on ‘Chic-A-Go-Go,’ you can.” ¬



Lemonade Tea, Afternoon Conversations A look at the Beverly Arts Center’s new executive director BY CRISTINA OCHOA


n one of Chicago’s few pleasant March days, a group of community residents and art patrons from across the city sat basking in the sunlight in the gallery of the Beverly Arts Center (BAC). They were all drinking Arnold Palmers. Concocted from fresh ingredients sourced from community gardens across Chicago, the drink was as revealing of the mission of the Beverly Arts Center as newly appointed Executive Director Heather Robinson. Although she has been on the job for only three weeks, Robinson already has big plans for the BAC. As the keynote speaker of that afternoon’s event, “Progressive Conversations on Changing Landscapes,” she was quick to point out not only the good that the BAC has already done, but also what she hopes to help the center achieve going forward. It should be no surprise that Robinson speaks so passionately about the Center—in


many ways, she is herself a testament to what it has historically provided for its own community. As a student, Robinson enrolled in theater classes at the BAC, where she was able to cultivate a youthful passion for theater. However, upon graduating from drama school, training for years, and performing in various plays, Robinson realized that she “didn’t want to smell a theater, see a theater, or go see a play.” But she did want to provide kids with the opportunity to cultivate their artistic passions, just as she had been able to do as a young adult. Thus her arrival at the BAC. Some of Robinson’s biggest hopes are to begin to encourage relationships between the many diverse groups who use the BAC performance space and to encourage more collaboration between the different arts programs (in order, as she puts it, to “combine the islands of the archipelago that is the

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BAC”). One of the biggest hurdles Robinson faces, though, is the Center’s lack of notoriety. In order to offer these chances of collaboration and discovery to others, Robinson’s first plan for the Beverly Arts Center is to increase foot traffic, welcoming those from both the immediate community and beyond. She hopes to show those in the surrounding area just how much Beverly as a neighborhood has diversified in recent years by bringing together young artists of different zip codes, interests, and backgrounds. The BAC’s curator, Carla Winterbottom, described the families that reside in the homes of Beverly as a kind of a checkerboard pattern in the community: “white, black, white, black, and sometimes black and white in the same house.” Robinson hopes to use the diversity already in Beverly as an example of the type of community she

wants to foster at the BAC. Robinson says there will be more “Progressive Conversations” at the BAC. These conversations will be about the ways the space is changing, as well as the ever-pressing question of how to tell more people the stories of how much the BAC can do for kids and their artistic passions. Just like the lemonade, tea, and simple syrup concoctions in each of the attendee’s hands that day, Robinson hopes to create a satisfying blend of art and artists that will serve as a new prospect of what youth and art can do to refresh a community. Robinson finished off the sunny lunchtime chat on a hopeful note: “Once you get the kids, they go home and talk about it.” ¬ Beverly Arts Center. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm.


“Girl on Swing” George Zuniga George Zuniga is a professional artist with studio space at Project Onward, a nonprofit studio and gallery housed in the Bridgeport Art Center. Project Onward supports the career development of adult artists with mental and developmental disabilities. George’s bold compositions and swift strokes, rendered in pastel, charcoal, and pencil, are examples of “artism,” a term George coined to describe the work of an artist with autism. A self-taught expert on Cold War­— era military armaments, television newscasters, Japanese animation, and heavy metal music, George is an obsessive collector of information, both visual and auditory. He is continually absorbing new material and finding inspiration in his constantly playing Sony Walkman cassette recorder. George is a prolific artist whose

portraits are honest and vibrant; he has exhibited nationally and his work is in a number of public and private collections. George’s work is available now for sale at Project Onward and will be featured, along with the work of seventeen of his fellow artists, in the exhibition “Smile With Your Mind: Autobiographies of Autism,” on display April 4 through May 24. ¬

Project Onward at Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St., fourth floor. Tuesday-Saturday, 11am5pm. (773)940-2992. APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 35


The Springtime in Chicago Playlist COMPILED BY ZACH GOLDHAMMER


un Ra’s “Springtime in Chicago” never became a seasonal jazz standard on the level of Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York.” The song only appears a couple times in Sun Ra’s vast recorded catalog and has been the subject of just a handful of interpretations by other musicians, compared to the countless renditions of Duke’s East Coast ode. But there is something about Sun Ra’s composition, with its breezy, lilting saxophone melody, that quite accurately evokes the mood of the spring season. The second half of the song, however, with its chimes, harsh hammering piano strikes, and pioneering use of electric keyboards, presents itself as a whole sonic world perfectly in tune with Chicago’s history of tumultuous innovation. Inspired by Sun Ra’s theme, we reached out to some of our favorite South Side musicians, performers, DJs, and music journalists to see what songs they would pick as the definitive sound of Chicago spring. Here are some of the responses we received: A self-described “post-genre” artist, Ramon “Radius” Norwood has been called by the Reader one of the “local hip-hop scene’s most under-appreciated artists.” The South Side-born DJ and producer’s highly regarded 2012 release, “Sleeping Wide Awake,” lays down space-age mystical auras over gritty breaks and classic vinyl textures. Along with his group of like-minded producers, Beyond Luck, Radius often performs live at various clubs and venues throughout the city. A self-described “post-genre” artist, Ramon “Radius” Norwood has been called by the Reader one of the “ local hip-hop scene’s most under-appreciated artists.” The South Side-born DJ and producer’s highly regarded 2012 release, “Sleeping Wide Awake,” lays down spaceage mystical auras over gritty breaks and classic vinyl textures. Along with his group of like-minded producers, Beyond Luck, Radius often performs live at various clubs and venues throughout the city. 1. Minnie Riperton “Les Fleurs” [GRT Records, 1970] The whole “Come to My Garden” LP represents Chicago in spring. The vibe here is that winter is over; it’s now time to enjoy life in the sunshine. Minnie speaks about planting seeds and flowers being born, about looking within and acknowledging who one truly is. Spring is a time for discovery and finding a new light. The snow, ice and lack of sunshine during the winter cause us to forget how beautiful the city and those around us can be. Spring is essential for ridding ourselves of that mood. It makes sense that Minnie’s 36 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

songs would embody this theme since she grew up here, on the South Side. She always reminded me of a mother figure, a true beauty. Simeon Viltz made his name as an MC, trumpet player and producer with the classic Chicago hip-hop group, the Primeridian. He is now also half of the Ray Elementary duo, whose debut eponymous album was released earlier this year. Simeon Viltz and his Ray producer partner, Mulatto Patriot, were also interviewed for our feature story in this year’s February 19 issue of the Weekly. 2. Black Lightning “Trouble” [MCA Records, 1974] This Black Lightning track sits with me personally because my dad, Ed Viltz, is playing trumpet along with his friend [the AACM reed player and UofC jazz ensemble leader] Mwata Bowden on baritone. It is also fitting because Chicago just endured one of the most brutal and “troubled” winters in recent memory—and now there has already been a shooting off 51st and King Drive on the first spring week-

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end of the year—so going into this this track, but I selected it, I think, to spring will be a bittersweet time. distance myself from Chicago and the harsh weather that we’ve all been bur3. Chance the Rapper dened by. “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro)” Jake Austen is the creator of the local-ac[Self-released, 2013] cess cable show “Chic-a-Go-Go,” editor of the music zine “Roctober,” and Format The Chance track had great timing in Chief for WHPK’s talk radio programthat it was dropped last year in the ear- ming. He is also the subject of our page 31 ly part of spring and has that new year music feature in this issue. feel—it has that “things are going to be just fine” vibe to it. Chance has also 5. The Five Stairsteps has endured hardship and loss due to “Ooh Child” Chicago’s city-wide violence, a theme [Buddah Records, 1970] which is reflected throughout this album. This song ends everything on a “Ooh Child” is probably the springiest high note, though. Chicago could use Chicago song, for me. It’s a song about more sonic innovators like Chance. rebirth—”things are going to get bet[Editor’s note: Viltz also worked with ter” and all that—and it’s so sweet and Chance as an after-school mentor nice. At the same time, though, it’s a through the YOUmedia Digital Youth good song for the South Side, because Network.] it’s not saying that everything’s going to be great. It’s saying there is a strugDeclared Chicago’s “most interesting DJ” gle, but it’s also saying you can get out by the Tribune, Joe Bryl has continued from that struggle and make it to the to promote his extremely eclectic musical other side. That’s about as Chicago as taste through his sets at Maria’s Com- you can get. munity Bar in Bridgeport, among other South Side venues. Bryl’s odd shows Jamal “Jaytoo” Jeffries (a.k.a.”the DJ yo and multiple aliases have made him a mama loves,”) is a frequent guest of the frequent guest in the pages of our weekly Hyde Park Records All-Vinyl In Store music calendar. DJ Series and a co-host of the Lake Shore Drive radio show on WHPK. 4. Gnonnas Pedro “Yiri Yiri Boum” 6. Donald Byrd [Ledoux Records, 1981] “Wind Parade” [Blue Note, 1975] Best known as the lead singer of Africando from 1995 to 2004, Gnonnas “Wind Parade” comes to mind when I Pedro heralded from Benin where think about the sounds that the trees he started off his career playing, like make when the breeze blows through many other African coastal musicians, them during spring in Chicago. The in elegant hotels and nightclubs for very beginning of the song always both tourists and a rising middle class. feels like the music is waking up— His recording of Silvestre Mendez’s swirling and building bit by bit until “Yiri Yiri Boum” became an instant Kay Haith’s vocals come in. Then the hit in the early eighties and is consid- song goes airborne. The song is breezy ered one of the best Afro-Latin pro- but anchored by some strong rhythm. ductions of its time. For myself, this The song always conjures up April or fusion of Cuban rhythms with a lyrical May in the city to me. It’s also good African sensibility evokes feelings of a to groove to during a drive down Lake listless and sunny spring afternoon lost Shore Drive or a walk through the in relaxation and contemplation. There park. ¬ is no direct connection to Chicago in


VISUAL ARTS Compiled by Katryce Lassle

Frozen Borderline New work by SAIC MFA candidates in Sculpture Kyle Nilan, Jeff Prokash, and Danny Floyd. “Frozen Borderline” examines and de-familiarizes architecture and the “built environment” in relation to our interactions with our world and with one another. Archer Ballroom, 3012 S. Archer Ave. Through April 8. Hours by appointment.

Monochrome This exhibition features a collection of artists working across various media, guided only by the restriction of using a chosen monochromatic palette. 33 Contemporary Gallery, 1029 W. 35th St., 1st floor. Through April 12. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, and by appointment. (708)837-4534.

I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived

This show features watercolors by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five convicted and imprisoned in the early 2000s. The paintings depict the harsh and unjust treatment that Guerrero underwent “from the very first day” of his imprisonment. Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Through April 13. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm. (773)4453838.

Not Now That I’m Able (Pt. Two)

Washed-out photo albums, voicemails, emails, letters and writings, newsreels, old family footage. These objects and images form vague maps of our pasts. Our experiences disappear into foggy memory, and what is left is a task for modern archeology. The artist Rami George continues their explorative project of amassing and presenting disparate, often surreal images and objects from the past to reconstruct their own family’s history, this time in the gallery space at the experimental community center Forever & Always. The installation forms a loose narrative from these pieces of history, to be reconstructed by viewers. What is revealed is a strange and emotional story of custody battles and new-age religious leaders. A Google Street View image of a house is half-pixelated and blurred; it is broad daylight and there are seemingly no people around, or inside, the building. These are the sorts of images—spattered with as many gaps and unanswered questions as particular details—that Rami George uses to communicate their history. The images function like memory: simultaneously clear and out-of-focus. The story they create is intensely personal. The complex and pained familial narrative of separation and drama presented here does not attempt to document and explain itself completely. What the artist does with “Not Now That I’m Able” is far more ambitious. It is an expressive achievement, one that conveys the difficult emotional world we inhabit when visiting our own pasts. Presented with a subject and story so beautifully captured in its full emotional density, one leaves the gallery in stunned, retrospective silence. Forever & Always, 1905 W. 21st Pl. Through April 13. Hours by appointment. (Julian Nebreda)

Question Bridge

The “Question Bridge: Black Males” project has been grappling with the mis- and underrepresentation of black men in America in different capacities since 1996, using an open question-and-answer video format to prompt black men from across the country to discuss the complexities of black male identity. DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl. Through May 18. Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. $5; free for members. (773)9470600.

Performing Images

Operatic motifs are frequently found on Chinese ceramics, scroll paintings, books, fans, and textiles. “Performing Images: Opera in Chinese

Visual Culture” compiles a stunning array of such objects from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through June 15. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Closed Mondays. (773)702-0200. (Lillian Selonick)

Inspired by the Opera

Running concurrently with “Performing Images,” the Smart also presents “Inspired by the Opera: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video.” This show explores Chinese art as it exists today, showcasing modern works that both revel in and stray from older Chinese artistic traditions. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through June 15. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Closed Mondays. (773)702-0200.


One of three parts of the University of Chicago’s “Imaging/Imagining” exhibition, the Smart Museum presents “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art.” Curated by UChicago physicians, the exhibition explores anatomical representations as art. Parts two and three are the Regenstein Library’s Special Collections show, “Imaging/ Imagining: The Body as Text,” and Crerar Library’s show, “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Data.”Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through June 22. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Closed Mondays. (773)7020200.


Artist Gary L. White uses sculpture to explore his own rich Native and African American roots, focusing on the shifting meanings and impositions of identity, as it exists in “a post-modern world.” Cobalt Studio, 1950 W. 21st St. Opening reception Friday, April 4, 5pm-10pm. April 4-April 27.

Activities for a spare hour. Culture vultures. Feed your brain. Going in a group. Going solo. Mood. Chill

Curated by New York exhibition space Bodega, this show will feature work by artists Gene Beery, Nicholas Buffon, and Nora Slade. As always, Queer Thoughts leaves us with no choice but to see the show to find out what it all might mean. Queer Thoughts Gallery, 1640 W. 18th St. #3. April 6-May 4. Hours by appointment.

Smile with Your Mind

For Autism Awareness Month, Project Onward presents “Smile with your Mind: Autobiographies of Autism.” Featuring works by Project Onward artists with autism, the exhibition aims to communicate to viewers the realities of living and working with autism. The event promises to “purposefully over-stimulate viewers,” presenting the art in tight spaces and close proximity, in an attempt to articulate through imposed experience the constant overstimulation and sensory overload experienced by many individuals on the autism spectrum. The works featured will allow insight not only into the shared themes and experiences of autism, but the artistic methods unique to autistic individuals. Project Onward, 1200 W. 35th Street, 4th floor. Opening reception Friday April 4, 6pm-9pm. April 4-May 24. Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-5pm; third Friday of each month, 11am-9pm. (773) 940-2992.


Sunday Project presents a group show featuring artists Andrew Birk, Vabianna Santos, and Lauren Taylor. This show will bring up (potentially uncomfortable) questions about agency in the artist-audience relationship. Sunday Project, 1344 W 18th Pl. #1F. Opening reception Saturday, April 5, 5pm-8pm. April 5-April 27.


Featuring new work by Michael Milano, Alyssa Moxley and Milad Mozari, “Rounds” consists of both sonic and visual patterns created both

individually and as collaborations among the artists.ACRE Projects, 1913 W. 17th St. Opening reception Sunday, April 6, 4pm-8pm. April 6-April 21. Sunday-Monday, noon-4pm.

SAIC Design Show

With a healthy dose of interactive works included, the SAIC Design Show showcases works by graduating BFA and MFA candidates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Visual Communication Design department.Chicago Art Department East, 1932 S. Halsted St. #100. Friday, April 11. 6pm-10pm. (312)725-4223.

Fences and Migrants

Artist John Pitman Weber displays woodcut prints that reflect the exclusion and imprisonment of oppressed groups, especially migrant laborers, as epitomized by the form and force of barbed and razor wire fencing. URI-EICHEN Gallery, 2101 S. Halsted St. Opening reception Friday, April 11, 6pm-10pm. April 11-May 3. By appointment only. (312)852-7717.

Model Pictures

Artist Ross Sawyers built and subsequently photographed scale replicas of model homes. The photographs presented in “Model Pictures,” his first major Chicago solo show, highlight current housing and economic crises by way of images of unfinished and hauntingly empty new houses. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Opening reception Sunday, April 13, 3pm-5pm. April 6-June 13. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520.

Round Trip Ticket

Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery presents a two-part retrospective featuring the works of the late Irishborn artist Kieran McGonnell, The first half of the exhibition, starting on April 11, will feature McGonnell’s earlier works, watercolor and oil paintings that heavily evoke medieval Celtic art and Irish mythology. The second half of the exhibition, beginning May 9, focuses on his later and more well-known paintings: images of koi fish, bicycles, and butterflies; pop-art-inspired portraits; concentric circles that echo the Celtic themes of his earlier paintings. “Round Trip Ticket” will feature some works by Kieran McGonnell that have never before been displayed, including stage backdrops commissioned by modern dance companies. Admired for their impossibly vibrant colors and intricate details, McGonnell’s works exist as the bright and beautiful legacy of a brilliant man whose life was cut tragically short. This retrospective brings it all together in one space, a three-month-long testament to the talent he shared with loved ones and strangers alike.Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery, 1750 S. Union Ave. First installment opening reception Friday, April 11, 6pm10pm; second installment opening reception Friday, May 9, 6pm-10pm. April 11-July 6. Saturday-Sunday noon-6pm, and by appointment. (312)927-7546.

The Beast

Formerly Theaster Gates’s lead fabricator and Creative Director of the Rebuild Foundation, artist John Preus is ambitiously taking over Hyde Park Art Center’s Gallery 1 to create “The Beast.” A colossal and surreal depiction of a steer carcass made almost entirely from found materials— many of which came from recently closed Chicago public schools—“The Beast” will house public performances, discussions, sermons, and other community activities throughout its time at the Art Center. Preus, who has been participating in the Art Center’s Jackman Goldwasser Residency for the past year, will certainly not be going out with a whimper. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Opening reception Sunday, April 13, 3pm-5pm. April 13-August 10. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520.

On the second Friday of every month, Pilsen’s Chicago Arts District hosts 2nd Fridays Gallery Night to sate the artsy voyeur in you. Galleries and studio spaces alike are open to the public, allowing you to not only visit some of Pilsen’s running exhibitions, but also to catch a glimpse of works in progress and the artists behind them. Chicago Arts District, 1821 S. Halsted St. Friday, April 11 and Friday, May 9, 6pm-10pm. Second Friday of every month. (312)738-8000 ext 108.

Simone’s Art Show

Artists Jessica Gorse and Kriss Stress display works created in what Gorse calls “a Chicago-specific style referred to as Repetitivism.” Gorse’s collection includes drawings done in collaboration with Chicago band Daymaker. Stress will present portraits from his ongoing portrait-a-day project called “Blank Expressionism,” featuring portraits stripped of their faces against text-based backdrops, chosen by the subjects of the portraits themselves. Simone’s Bar, 960 W. 18th St. April 11-April 16. Sunday-Friday, 11:30am-2am; Saturday, 11:30am-3am. (312)666-8601.

Black Ink Book Exchange

Featuring various workshops, a reading lounge, and ongoing book bartering system, the “Black Ink Book Exchange” will exist as a place to find, give, and trade books by black authors and about black culture.Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd. April 15-May 31. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, noon-3pm. (773) 702-9724. artsandpubliclife/ai

The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Tradition

This fine art exhibition features works that—subtly, rather than blatantly—allude to criminal acts that often are accepted and go unpunished around the world, including “honor killing, child marriage, acid attacks, bride burning and more.” Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St. April 18-May 18. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm. (773)445-3838.


Featuring visual art as well as poetry, “Fixation” includes works by dozens of artists surrounding the theme of obsession.Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St. Opening reception Friday, April 21, 6pm-10pm. April 18-May 11. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. (773)523-0200.

Andy Kincaid and Jiyoung Yoon

ACRE Projects, 1913 W. 17th St. Opening reception Sunday, April 27, 4pm-8pm. April 27-May 12. Sunday-Monday, noon-4pm.

Artemisia After 40: Current Work by Past Members This exhibition will feature the works of artists who were members of the Artemisia Gallery, a Chicago women’s cooperative that existed from 1973 until 2003. This exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of Artemisia’s opening.<i>Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. Opening reception Friday, May 2, 6pm-10pm. May 2-June 13. Monday-Saturday, 8am-6pm; Sunday, 8am-noon. (773)247-3000

Jeremiah Jones

Organized by ACRE Projects, the Jeremiah Jones solo exhibition will take place at ROOMS Gallery. ROOMS Gallery, May 5-June 15. (312)7331356.


This show will add a voice from the art world into the ongoing dialogue about education in America. Chicago Art Department East, 1932 S. Halsted St. #100. Friday, May 9, 6pm-10pm. (312)725-4223.

2nd Fridays Gallery Night APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 37

ARTS CALENDAR Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints

The DuSable Museum explores the rich cultural history of Brazil with “Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil.” Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, millions of Africans were brought to Brazil as slaves, and now Brazil is home to “one of the largest populations of African descendants in the world.” Over the centuries, the mixing and sharing of African, European, and native South American traditions has created a culturally rich and diverse nation, with the northeastern part of Brazil now considered the “historic and cultural heart” of the country. “Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints” features art as various and multicultural as the nation and region from which it hails. Curated by Professors Emeriti Marion Jackson and Barbara Cervenka, from Wayne State University and Siena Heights University respectively, the exhibition features works gathered in the curators’ travels to Brazil, and their work with artists as well as scholars to compile a comprehensive and diverse collection representative of the rich cultural history of northeast Brazil. DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl. May 9-August 17. Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)947-0600.

Mindy Rose Schwartz Artist Mindy Rose Schwartz will be creating “a large sculpture” for the Queer Thoughts gallery space. Queer Thoughts Gallery, 1640 W. 18th St. #3. May 16-June 15. Hours by appointment. qtgallery. net

Josh Hoeks, Adam Wolpa, and Charlotte Woolf ACRE Projects, 1913 W. 17th St. Opening reception Sunday, May 18, 4pm-8pm. May 18-June 9. Sunday-Monday, noon-4pm.

Fault Lines Artists Jennifer Mannebach and Brian Dortmund present works that stem from the surprising geological revelations brought out by “tectonic moments.” Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St. May 23-June 22. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Satur-

day, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm. (773)445-3838.


“Facetime” will feature works by the most recent group of teens participating in the Hyde Park Art Center’s youth-oriented “ArtShop” program. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Opening reception Thursday, May 29, 5:30pm-8pm. May 25-August 10. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520.

ChiArts Senior Exhibition

Mana Contemporary provides an exhibition space for this year’s senior class of the Chicago High School for the Arts. Mana Contemporary, 2233 S. Throop St. Opening reception Friday, May 30, 6pm9pm. May 30-June 15. (312)850-8301. artmanafest. com/Chicago

STAGE & SCREEN Compiled by Hannah Nyhart Bad Grammar Theater Local writers read aloud every third Friday amid Powell’s stacks in the South Loop. “Bad Grammar Theater,” Friday, April 18, 8pm; Friday, May 16, 8pm. Powell’s Books, 1208 S. Halsted Ave. Friday, February 21, 6pm. Free. (312)243-9070 Beverly Arts Center Part community center, part art gallery, part theater, BAC offers family-friendly programming far south in the “village in a city.” “Lipstick Mom,” Comic Patti Vasquez. Friday, May 2, 8pm $25. “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” BAC Professional Theater Series. June 13-15, Friday-Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 3:30pm. $22. Beverly Arts Center, 2704 W. 111th St. (773)4453838.

Court Theatre Before its summer hiatus, Court brings a powerful, understated season to a close with another Chicago premiere. “M Butterfly,” May 8-June 8. WednesdayThursday, 7:30pm; Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 3pm, 8pm; Sunday, 2:30pm, 7:30pm. Prices vary, see site. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. (773) 753-4472. Dream Theatre The company’s original works are energetic nightmares; cinematic tropes and children’s lit twisted into gaudy, gory feats. AN Y LUCK? Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th St. (773)552-8616. Eta Creative Arts Foundation Dedicated to producing African American-fueled art, eta’s spring show is pitched to push audiences of any color toward hard questions on race. “Saviour?,” Through May 11. Friday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. $30, discounts available. “Two Twenty-Seven,” May 29-July 20. FridaySaturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. $30, discounts available. Eta Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. Chicago Ave (773)752-3955. Logan Center for the Arts The University of Chicago’s art center features a combination of student and professional programming across its nine-plus stories. ”A Night at the Peking Opera,” Ling Ke. Saturday, April 12, 7:30pm. “Buried in Bughouse Square: A Studs Terkel Circus,” May 1-11. Thursday-Friday, 7:30pm; Saturday, 2pm & 7:30pm; Sunday, May 11, 2pm. $6 advance, $8 door. “Sleuth,” May 22-24. Thursday-Friday, 7:30pm; Saturday, 2pm. “Much Ado about Nothing,” Wednesday, May 28-Saturday, May 31, 7:30pm. Logan Center Courtyard. “Cabaret,” June 5-7. Thursday-Friday, 7:30pm; Saturday, 2pm & 7:30pm. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. (773)7022787. Provision Theater Provision returns to its oft-travelled biblical themes this spring with an updated parable from founder Tim Gregory. “Jacob,” May 7-June15. Friday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. Prices vary, see site. Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. (312)4550065. Red Clay Dance The local company hosts a concert of groups from across Chicago. “Dance4Peace 2014,” Saturday, April 5, 5:30pm. $10. Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside Ave. (773)624-8411. Story Club South Side A blend of old hands and open-mic, Story Club offers tall tales every third Tuesday. Just down the street from Maria’s and Pleasant House, the event is billed as BYOB and BYOPie. Read our interview with host Andrew Marikis on page 22 of this issue. “Foolery,” Tuesday, April 15, 8pm. Free. “Cross-Town Classic,” Tuesday, May 20, 8pm. Free. Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan St. (773)837-0145. Beverly Arts Center Part community center, part art gallery, part theater, BAC offers family-friendly programming far south in the “village in a city.” “Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts,” Wednesday, April 2, 7:30pm. $7.50. “August Osage County,” Wednesday, April 9, 7:30pm. $7.50. “Gloria,” Wednesday, April 30, 7:30pm. $7.50. “Her,” Wednesday, May 14, 7:30pm. $7.50. Beverly Arts Center, 2704 W. 111th St. (773)4453838. Black Cinema House Rebuild Foundation’s


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intimate theater screens free films drawn from decades past. RSVP recommended. “Black Orpheus,” Sunday, April 6, 4pm. “Stony Island,” Sunday, May 11, 4pm. “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise,” Sunday, June 1, 4pm. “Purple Rain,” Sunday, June 15, 4pm. Black Cinema House, 6901 S. Dorchester Ave. Doc Films As the oldest continously running film society in the country, Doc Films offers nightly programming and occasional special events. Showtimes vary slightly week to week; see website for full listings. “Road Trips & Walkabouts: Journeys in Film,” Mondays, 7pm. “Passion and Reason: Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland,” Tuesdays, 7pm. “American Exuberance: The Films of Robert Altman,” Wednesdays, 7 and 9:30pm. “Love Unto Death: Alain Resnais (19222014),” Thursdays, 7pm. “Avant-Terror: Contemporary Art-House Horror,” Thursdays, 9pm. “The Dream Factory: Pixar Studios,” Fridays, 7 and 9pm; Saturdays, 3:30pm; Sundays, 1pm. “The Wolf of 59th Street: Spring Bankers,” Saturdays, 7 and 9:45pm; Sundays, 3pm. “Touch of Genius: The Sound Films of Ernst Lubitsch,” Sundays, 7pm. Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St. (773)702-8575. Logan Theater The University of Chicago’s art center hosts screenings from its Film Studies department and outside artistic collectives. “American Arab,” Chicago Underground Film Festival hosts. Sunday, April 6, 8pm. “It’s a Living” Friday, May 9, 8pm. Free. “Tatsu Aoki: Visions x Sounds” Friday, May 23, 7pm. Screening Room, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. (773)702-2787. DuSable Chicago’s Museum of African American History hosts screenings to supplement its exhibits, often with director Q&A or discussion. “Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth” Thursday, April 10, 7pm. Free. DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place. (773)9470600

Butterfly Lovers Billed as the “Chinese Romeo and Juliet”, “Butterfly Lovers” once again takes the screen by storm at The Film Studies Center in Logan as a part of “Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture.” Why once again, you may ask? Because this film was first privately screened for Charlie Chaplin in Corsier-sur-Vevey Switzerland in 1954. And if was good enough for him, who are we to decline such an event? In the film, Zhu Yangyi disguises herself to attend an all-male school, where she meets Liang Shanbo. The two spend the next three years as soul mates, but what will come of them when their paths diverge? There will be an introduction by Xinyu Dong, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Sunday, April 6, 2pm. Free. (773)7022787. (Mark Hassenfratz)

The Art and Science of Urbanism Urban development may appear to be all about the facts and figures (and the politics). But urbanism greatly depends on the influence and input of both the arts and sciences. The importance of art and science to the modern city and its development will be explored at a panel discussion, succinctly titled “The Art and Science of Urbanism.” Sponsored by the Arts|Science Initiative and the University of Chicago Urban Network, the event’s featured panelists include Director of Cultural Planning for the City of Chicago Julie Burros, architect Brett Cochrane, and Mark Bouman of the Field Museum. The event will be moderated by Emily Talen, curator of the Neighborhoods exhibit and a visiting professor on the University of Chicago’s Committee on Geographical Studies.

VISUAL ARTS Grey City Lab, 915 E. 60th St. Thursday, April 10, 5pm. Free. (773)702-5116. (Emily Lipstein)

Let’s Get Working Studs Terkel, Chicago’s greatest listener, is getting a three-day festival at the UofC—just a few blocks away from its Law School where, he once said in an interview, he spent “the most bleak yet fascinating” years of his life. Terkel, who passed away in 2008 at age ninety-six, was born in New York but spent most of his life giving voice to the lives of ordinary Chicagoans. Instead of practicing law, he worked in radio, where he developed a candid style of interviewing that he would use in oral histories like “Division Street,” which chronicled 1960s Chicago, and “Working,” in which—as the book’s subtitle declares—“People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” A celebration of Terkel’s life and legacy, the festival will include film screenings, panel discussions, musical performances, and art installations. Confirmed guests include NPR host Ira Glass and journalist Alex Kotlowitz. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. May 9-11. (773)702-2787. (Harrison Smith)

Savior? On the heels of journalist and playwright Esther Armah’s exclamatory “Entitled!” comes a question. Her play “Saviour?”, which makes its Chicago debut at eta Creative Arts Foundation, revolves around a white liberal anti-racism activist who hires a black lawyer to represent him in a case of reverse discrimination. He claims that the nonprofit he worked for promoted a black woman to CEO instead of him due to her race. The dialogue—and, at times, discord—between these two characters explores questions of white privilege and liberal hypocrisy, and works to uproot the notion of a “post-racial” society. “Saviour?” provides a sharp, honest, and timely look at issues of race in America, and is sure to spark a discourse that will extend far beyond the theater’s four walls. Eta Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. Chicago Ave. Through May 11. Friday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. $30 general admission, $15 for students and seniors. (773)752-3955. etacreativearts. org (Emma Collins)

Cesar Chavez Chicago actor Michael Peña stars as César Chávez, the famous Mexican-American labor organizer, in a new film directed by Diego Luna. Also starring America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson, this film tells the story of Chávez’s attempts to organize and unionize thousands of bracero farm workers in California who suffered brutal working conditions and harsh immigration measures. This film is notable not only for its historically and politically important story, but also for its mainstream distribution. Having been heavily discussed and promoted among Latino communities online and throughout the country, “Cesar Chavez” is open and showing in theaters on the South Side. AMC Ford City 14, 7601 S. Cicero Ave. See website for show times. (888)262-4386. (Meaghan Murphy)

MUSIC Sasha Go Hard Sasha sells out show in Sweden. Now say that three times fast. Sasha sells out show in Sweden. Sasha sells out show in Sweden. Sasha sells out show in Sweden. That alone should be your reply to anyone who spouts a tired narrative of the music industry being dead. You don’t even have to leave Chicago to see evidence to the contrary. Just look at a YouTube video of Sasha Go Hard’s soldout show at Slakthuset in Stockholm, and watch Swedes spill over the stage in a sea of bodies and flashing lights. The Internet and its unrestricted channels of distribution have cut annual global sales of recorded music in half since 1999, but those same channels have also washed away the divide between mainstream and underground music as well as the geographic barriers which

once kept artists divorced from their international fandom. In this version of the music industry, Sasha Go Hard, a 21-year-old female drill rapper from the South Side of Chicago, has fans a world away—in Stockholm, Berlin, Bordeaux, and London—and is able to perform for them all in one week on a tour of Europe. Living in this version of the industry, the most regional, niche music, full of city-specific references and themes, is able to find a transatlantic audience. In fact, as a female driller, Sasha Go Hard really occupies a niche within the niche, as you can count on one hand the number of female drillers that have risen to prominence within the subgenre. Sasha’s most recent single, “Out the Bottle,” was produced by the ubiquitous Diplo, who’s worked with the biggest names in pop music, including Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. What eulogizers of the music industry fail to realize is that while sales of recorded music have been cut in half, the value of the live concert has soared. Now, with free music on the Internet whetting the appetites of fans across the globe, an unsigned, drill rapper like Sasha Go Hard is able to have Stockholm going crazy with sounds from Chicago. See Sasha Go Hard, and see what stirred Sweden. Reggies, 2105 S. State St. Thursday, April 3, 8pm. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. (312)9490121. (Tony Lashley)

Lance Lipinsky

Self-professed to have been “born too late,” pianist and songwriter Lance Lipinsky is perfectly suited to portray rockabilly legend Jerry Lee Lewis in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet. Detailing the fabled Sun Records sessions with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, the musical has played at Chicago’s Apollo Theater since 2008. Lipinsky himself is a talented performer who channels (to minute detail) the flamboyant and excessive playing style of the fiery Jerry Lee Lewis. Born in Wimberley Texas in the mid 1980s, within shouting distance of the thriving live music destination of Austin, Lipinsky was raised on a steady diet of recordings from the dawn of rock n’ roll. He taught himself piano in his early teens and never looked back. Taking the cavalier undertones of his idols to heart, Lipinsky dropped out of high school at age seventeen to play piano in the Legends in Concert revue show in Las Vegas, and has been playing ever since, often as a Lewis impersonator. Now twenty-eight, Lipinksy and his band, “The Lovers,” work to draw from the music he has so long recreated as an impersonator to create original rockabilly recordings, often on traditional equipment and instruments. Billed as a “retro revival” Lance Lipinksy and the Lovers seek to bring their own brand of rockabilly to a new generation. Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. April 11, 8pm. $20 members, $22 non-members. (773)445.3838. (Jack Nuelle)

Brand Nubian

This Memorial Day weekend, one of the most influential hip-hop groups of the 1990s, is reuniting at The Shrine. Its been twenty years since Brand Nubian first released their debut album, “One For All,” which many critics have praised as being one of the best hip-hop albums of the 1990s. Along with several like-minded hip-hop groups including the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Black Sheep and A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian became one of the original members of the New York-based Native Tongues collective. As members of the collective, they also helped pioneer the use of the jazz samples and Afrocentric, Nation of Islam-influenced lyricism which would soon come to define the sound of East Coast alternative hip-hop. The three MCs (Grand Puba, Sadat X [Formerly Derek X] and Lord Jamar) have been pursuing solo careers for the past decade or so. Now, however, they’re holding a reunion concert here in Chicago. This show will probably be a) awesome b) politically charged c) nostalgic and d) free. That’s right: according to The Shrine’s website, the show is free if you “RSVP before 11pm.” So hop on it and get that deal while you still can. The Shrine, 2109 S Wabash Ave. Friday, May 23, 9pm. (312) 753 5700. (Jake Bittle)


antonio martinez

he history of Pilsen’s Cobalt Studio can be traced in the constellation of cracks and stains that cover its concrete floor. It bears the footprints of punk shows past and indelible splatters of blood, sweat, and beer. Its fractures and oil spots also recall the space’s original function as a used tire store. Paint smears joined this colorful medley in 2010, when artist Antonio Martinez and his former studio-mate Adriana Baltazar converted the space into an art gallery. Martinez, who works as both a full-time painter and a full-time plumber, named the space after cobalt-based blue pigments, an affectionate salute to his blue-collar roots. The gallery takes a decidedly inclusive approach to its exhibitions. It has showcased the work of established artists from all over the world, up-and-coming artists based in Pilsen, and young artists from ElevArte Community Studio (formerly Pros Arts) and Benito Juarez High School. It is also a hub of community activism, hosting events for organizations like Projecto Latina, a group of Latina poets and authors, and the Chicago Community Darkroom, a business that aims to provide affordable access to film-photography equipment and facilities. Cobalt Studio’s location often inspires its exhibits and events. It has celebrated Pilsen’s Mexican community with arts-and-crafts events during the Dia de los Muertos season in the fall, and has hosted a series of lectures and workshops about the medicinal properties of wild plants that grow in the neighborhood. Remaining true to both the enterprising spirit and DIY ethos of the space’s forebears, Martinez personally finances the bulk of the gallery’s expenses, while community contributions and commissions on art sales cover the rest. “Cobalt is a place for artists, poets, musicians, craftsmen, misfits and creatives,” says Martinez. Cobalt Studio, 1950 W. 21st St. (Emma Collins) APRIL 2, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 39

Illustration by Illustrated Press (2014)


May 9-11, 2014 A festival celebrating Studs Terkel through oral histories, screenings, concerts, talks, art installations, and more at the University of Chicago

FEATURING 1001 Chicago Afternoons Anthology of Chicago Matt Austin Maggie Brown Chicago Public Library Community Media Workshop Andrew Davis Tom Dyja Ira Glass Guild Literary Complex Haymarket Brewery The Hideout Illinois Labor History Society Illustrated Press David Isay Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Rick Kogan Alex Kotlowitz Sydney Lewis Manual Cinema Maria’s Community Bar Media Burn Archive The Museum of Broadcast Communications The New Press Old Town School of Folk Music Rick Perlstein Audrey Petty Pleasant House Bakery Public Media Institute Read/Write Library South Side Projections StoryCorps Street-Level Youth Media Studs Terkel Centenary Committee The Third Coast Audio Festival Voice of Witness WBEZ Haskell Wexler WFMT and The University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture Chicago Studies Committee on Creative Writing Department of Cinema and Media Studies Theater and Performance Studies Franke Institute for the Humanities Human Rights Center Institute of Politics

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts Smart Museum of Art 40 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

¬ APRIL 2,

Sponsored by UChicago Arts 2014Franke Institute for the Humanities Logan Center for the Arts


April 2, 2014 | The Arts Issue  
April 2, 2014 | The Arts Issue