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SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY MAY 14, 2014 ¬ ARTS, CULTURE, & POLITICS ¬ THE BRIGHTEST PAPER SOUTH OF ROOSEVELT ¬ SOUTHSIDEWEEKLY.COM ¬ FREE

Wyatt’s Wall Hyde Park celebrates the life of a local hip-hop legend and beloved son

PUEBLO SEMILLA, PAINTED CITIES, TYCONS, CHA FOR THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED

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MORE INSIDE


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IN CHICAGO A week’s worth of developing stories, odd events, and signs of the times, culled from the desks, inboxes, and wandering eyes of the editors

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 Osita Nwanevu Stage & Screen Meaghan Murphy Editor Music Editor Zach Goldhammer Jack Nuelle Visual Arts Editor Emma Collins Education Editor Bess Cohen Online Editor Sharon Lurye Contributing Editors Jake Bittle, Rachel Schastok Editor-at-Large Hannah Nyhart Photo Editor Lydia Gorham Illustration Editor Isabel Ochoa Gold Layout Editor Emma Cervantes Sarah Claypoole Senior Writers Ari Feldman, Emily Holland, Patrick Leow, Stephen Urchick Staff Writers Olivia Adams, Christian Belanger, Jon Brozdowski, Cindy Dapogny, Lauren Gurley, Olivia Dorow Hovland, Noah Kahrs Olivia Markbreiter, Paige Pendarvis, Jamison Pfeifer Arman Sayani Olivia Stovicek Senior Photographer Luke White Staff Photographers Camden Bauchner, Juliet Eldred, Stephanie Koch, Siddhesh Mukerji Staff Illustrators 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 SouthSideWeekly.com Send tips, comments, or questions to: editor@southsideweekly.com For advertising inquiries, contact: (773)234-5388 advertising@southsideweekly

Cover photo by Sarah Friedland & Esy Casey.

Stick To Your Guns Thirteen assault rifles were stolen from an Englewood rail yard between last Sunday and this Tuesday. Thieves raided a freight car to steal the guns, which were headed to an out-of-state dealer. All thirteen are semi-automatic weapons with thirty round capacity magazines. It is unclear if the guns were the planned target of the thieves or if they were stolen in the spur of the moment. The investigation is also under some public scrutiny, as news of the theft was not released to the media until Friday. The ATF and the Chicago Police department are currently working to track the guns before they are used for any crimes. Falling Slowly The John Hancock Center in the Loop, otherwise known as the really tall Chicago building you can go to the top of that isn’t the Willis Tower, just added a horrifying new feature to its topfloor observatory. They’re calling it TILT; it’s a new section of the observation deck that leans forward, hanging out from the building at about a thirty-degree angle. Customers will be able to look down at the city with only a (probably very sweaty) pane of glass separating them from a thousand-foot drop onto the swanky condos and Forever XXI outlets of River North. The attraction rolled out this past Saturday.

Gaming the System The Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools is investigating claims that the jump in attendance rates at Benito Juarez High School in recent years was the work of meddling school administrators, eager to get the school out of its decade-long probation. A small group of teachers at the Pilsen school have filed complaints in the past two years that students’ attendance numbers were altered to allow students to matriculate without even coming to school. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who lauded the school last year for its “markedly better results” due to a “very different set of expectations,” will be sad to hear that it was morals, and not standards, that may have changed. Move Over, Mansueto Patrons of the Chicago Public Library system and fans of bizarre gadgetry will soon reap the rewards of a partnership between Chicago and Google. Coming soon to six library branches around the city will be five hundred strange, mouse-shaped robots designed to teach kids how to perform basic coding tasks in various programming languages. These robots can also be requested at any branch, just like books. Sharing is caring, right? No. Sharing is scaring. It’s only a matter of time before these things become self-aware and stage a robo-coup against the unsuspecting members of Chicago’s library system. Either that or Rahm will program them to start campaigning for him. ¬

IN THIS ISSUE “tycons”

jeremiah jones

pueblo semilla

hyde park remembers

a review of

comes to rooms

builds a seed library

Jones’s concern with precariousness goes deeper than online dating.

She held a large, worn, dark green suitcase: Pueblo Semilla’s mobile library.

a hip-hop pioneer

Going through the gallery again, I began to notice pocket knives tucked into the socks of the Samba-clad feet.

olivia markbreiter.............4

julian nebreda..........5

“When house started to go downhill, a lot of those dudes decided they were gonna become hip-hop, but Wyatt was already hip-hop.”

emily lipstein.........10

zach goldhammer.............6 “connect [ ]

ed”

cha for the

painted cities

a review of

formerly incarcerated

mythologizes pilsen

“Is the guy who is working forty hours a week and making minimum wage going to have enough money to pay for a two- or three-bedroom apartment?”

john gamino..................12

“The exhibition aims at examining not only education through the lens of art, but art through the lens of education.”

jason huang.....................11

Like the frijoles, the plainness is part of the point.

maha ahmed........................15


VISUAL ARTS

Glitter But Not Glitz “It’s Kind of Awesome to Be the Precariat” at ROOMS BY OLIVIA MARKBREITER

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eremiah Jones neither worships nor despises technology: he uses it. In a time when everyone seems to be worried that the world is becoming superficial, Jones’s show, “It’s Kind of Awesome to Be the Precariat,” uses cellphone videos, animations, found objects, condom wrappers, fake jewelry, and heavily saturated light to remind us of the sincerity of images. Though it is frightening to be powerless in an industrialized, technology-filled era, Jones defends the integrity of our subjective experiences in a capitalist world. Jones’s show, at ROOMS in Pilsen, is housed in a softly lit gallery, like a house with only the kitchen lights on. As you enter the room, you are immediately drawn to a collection of glitter-filled canvasses, neatly arranged and glowing with projected videos. This animated mosaic feels especially alive because of the materials covering the canvasses: the moving images become a skin over underlying figures painted in gold, glittered arrows, puff balls, and cardboard boxes. Jones edits cellphone videos, a medium we usually leave raw, to brighten and soften them. The images themselves are captivating and playful: an animated scene in a grimy taxicab, a dancing lottery ticket, a nail in a white rectangle; in the center, in the cellphone video, a woman laughs into the camera while taking a shower in a sink. “This installation, is kind of about OKCupid, and being drunk, and love, and confusion, and joy, and all of those things,” explained Rosa Gaia, the subject of the video. “We ended up spontaneously having a very late, very very messy night. And I went home and I took a shower in his sink.” This is not a video of a long-lost love, but the objectification of a joyous moment with an almost-stranger, whom Jones met on the online dating site OKCupid. “I would say that it’s sincere rather than nostalgic,” Jones explains. Having been in a ten-yearlong relationship, Jones is also fascinated by the experience of online dating, and he explores sites like Tinder. “There’s a sort of darkness to it to, you’re in a lot of short, bad relationships. And then having that take the place of this more loving long-term relationship that ended. So then you’re having sex with all of these strangers, and having the emo4 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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tions that go with that. So this piece is kind of about that. There are used condom wrappers, opened and folded out so that they have a shine to [them].” The video of Rosa in the sink suggests that these online relationships can be versatile and transient, yet still meaningful. The subject of this video fits into the larger theme of Jones’s show: the “Precariat.” This word is a combination of “precarious” and “proletariat,” a portmanteau that suggests that our instabilities and vulnerabilities stem from our very real and unstable social situation under capitalism. We cannot choose the forms of mediation that govern our interactions: objects in the street, Tinder, lottery tickets. These are out of our control. They are symptoms of larger societal trends and tools that can be scary, like capitalism and technology. We can’t get rid of these systems, but making meaning and making art may be a way to gain some sort of control, Jones’s work suggests. Maybe we objectify and aestheticize precariousness in order to render it less terrifying. Jones’s concern with precariousness goes deeper than online dating. He is intimately preoccupied with the economic realities of living with and through technology, and the uncertainties of being the precariat. “I was a homeless child,” Jones explained, “my family stayed in shelters, we drifted around a bunch. I’ve been to jail, I’ve been in all sorts of strange situations in my life that have made me aware of how most people in the world are not in the privileged position of art students.” Jones elaborates on this focus in the title piece of his show. There is another image projected onto a canvass: a video continually loops footage of a man scratching a lottery ticket. On the canvas, Jones has boldly scribbled the title, “It’s Kind of Awesome to be the Precariat.” Jones shot the video in a convenience store with his iPhone, but the brightness of the colors, which Jones enhanced using various methods such as micro-beads and compact disks, lends a fullness to the moment that goes deeper than either pity or despair. Jones has a fierce optimism that does not ignore or deny the sinister sides of modernity. “There is something uniquely beautiful about our relationship through images. The old guard of critical thinking

courtesy of the artist

on our society mediated by images is that we are alienated and turned into commodities. And in a way we are; we do live within this capitalist system. The perennial product of being the people we are now is that we have certain things that we have grown so accustomed to. That comfort food can be this terrible plastic-wrapped thing that we can still have sincere feelings about. Even though it’s maybe an unfortunate thing that has happened to us, we also have those things woven into the fabric of our being.” “In this small but rather moving exhibit, there is an abundance of glitter. Jones embraces cheap materials, fake jewelry, online dating; things that initially represent shallow encounters, and the disposable

gaudiness of consumerism. But the colors he uses are painfully beautiful, created through an impressive material inventiveness. These colors remind us that our experiences involve the mediation of our gaze: the way the artist is looking at it, remembering it, experiencing it, is what can make it beautiful. And yet, perhaps Jones places too much hope in the power of mediation. The way Jones looks at the world renders is meaningful, colorful, and manageable. But if you remove the beautiful lights and the textural canvases and the hip gallery space, some people are just left with a Tinder photo and a lotto ticket. ¬


PLANTS

Monarchs, Seeds, and Milkweeds

Pueblo Semilla seeks to grow roots in Pilsen

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very March, cloud-like swarms of monarch butterflies leave Michoacán, Mexico, to travel north. Chasing spring and summer’s rising temperatures towards the United States, the mass migration spans half a year, thousands of miles, and generations of butterflies. The monarch is the national butterfly of Mexico and nine US states. Among these is Illinois, where thousands of monarchs settle in the last warm days of Au-

gust. On one of the first genuine days of Chicago’s elusive spring, around the beginning of the monarch migration, Victoria Thurmond met me in the Mary Zepeda Native Garden in Pilsen, one of many community gardens that serve as a planting and learning space for Pueblo Semilla. Pueblo Semilla, a community-driven seed library and learning group, was started three years ago by Thurmond and Veronica Buitron while they were students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Buitron has since graduated and moved back to her home country of Ecuador, but Thurmond, now a fourth-year student, continues to work with Pueblo Semilla as it expands to include more members and projects.  The garden is a simple and pristine space squeezed between two brick apartment buildings in northern Pilsen. Its murals, painted by Hector Duarte, a Pilsen based Mexican-American artist, feature monarchs in flight. Students from nearby school El Hogar del Niño painted each of the orange butterflies’ wings individually. The garden serves as both a plant-raising learning center and a playground for the school.  “Pilsen is a very dense neighborhood,

BY JULIAN NEBREDA and there aren’t a lot of green spaces,” Thurmond explained, sitting on a small hill in the middle of the garden. She held a large, worn, dark green suitcase: Pueblo Semilla’s mobile library. Thurmond opened and sifted through the contents of the suitcase: seeds of different native Chicago plants, seed-growing instruction booklets, checkout tabs, small

acclimatized to the environment of Chicago,” Victoria explained. The project creates a growing library of seeds conditioned to Chicago’s harsh climate and soil, while educating residents and students at Mexican-American community schools on how to cultivate seeds locally and affordably. The Pueblo Semilla booklet, printed in both English and Spanish, includes stories,

wei yi ow

glass enclosures with growing plants, and miscellaneous paperwork. The library is a completely mobile network of seeds, constantly on the move. Sometimes it travels door-to-door, lending out seeds directly to patrons. Seed borrowing through Pueblo Semilla is seasonal, and each planter gets a handmade booklet with two pouches. Whether planting indoors or outdoors, in patios or in apartments, Pueblo Semilla patrons check out and grow their seeds over the course of one season. At the end of each season, they are expected to cultivate new seeds from their grown plants and put them in the next pouch. “With each generation the seeds become [more] local and

sketches, and detailed growing instructions. There’s also a map of the neighborhood with various areas marked as either planting spaces or toxic sites; Thurmond is part of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO). On the booklet’s cover is Pueblo Semilla’s logo: an open palm holding a milkweed seed. The milkweed seed is a recurring symbol for the group. Monarch butterfly larvae feed exclusively on the milkweed plant, so milkweeds are essential to the success of the monarch migration through the United States. However, over the last few years, the gradual disappearance of the plant, due to more efficient cropping mechanisms and changes in temperature, has put the mon-

archs at risk. Monarch populations have been decreasing at alarming rates. After leaving the garden, Thurmond led me on a tour of the other gardens and projects Pueblo Semilla is affiliated with in Pilsen. “[Pilsen has] changed a lot just over the last three years,” she said. “Half of the businesses on 18th Street have opened over the last year.” Thurmond was concerned about her own role in this change, too. “People are starting to have to move away with rent rising. It sucks to feel somewhat a part of that process.”  However, Pueblo Semilla works in opposition to this displacement. By bringing together Pilsen residents and working with other organizations to create and promote green community spaces, Pueblo Semilla is helping to make a more united and rooted Pilsen. New parks such as La Huerta Roots & Rays, which is slated to feature cultivating beds, picnic tables, lounging gardens, and a playground, will serve the community with the goal of helping residents become more connected and rooted. As we sat in the Mary Zepeda Garden, Thurmond handed me a milkweed seed. Light brown and the size of a fist, the hard-shelled seed had an opening down its side like the seam of an oyster. Tufts of soft white feathers peeked through, each connected to individual seeds waiting to be blown away and settle into new ground. The Pueblo Semilla booklet contains a tale about a party held by the milkweed for the monarchs as the butterflies arrive each year. The story ends with an instruction: “Grab a handful of milkweed silk in your hand and gaze down at it. You might feel like a space giant holding a handful of stars...Launch a handful of silken stars to drift down a Pilsen sidewalk and dream of next year’s butterflies.” ¬ MAY 14, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 5


Wyatt’s Wall

Hyde Park celebrates the life of a local hip-hop legend and beloved son BY ZACH GOLDHAMMER

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n the last weekend of this past March, a crew of artists, filmmakers, musicians, and friends gathered around a memorial wall on the side of Hyde Park’s Kinko’s, in the alleyway a few doors downfrom the Medici on 57th Street. The wall itself has been in continuous transition over the last decade, cycling through stages of decay, renewal, and transformation. But one figure has been constant: a goofy, fish-eye perspective portrait of a young man grinning eagerly down at the passers-by. Though many Hyde Parkers recognize the image, few seem to know the story of the young man memorialized on the wall. Fewer still know that this year marks the tenth anniversary of his death, or that those men with spray cans, and the young women filming them, were there to celebrate the life of one of Hyde Park’s earliest hip-hop pioneers as well as one of the neighborhood’s most beloved sons.

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he name of the young man in the portrait is Wyatt Mitchell, but to some in the neighborhood he was better known as Attica. This, his tag name, was a common sight for those who were paying attention to street art in Chicago during the late eighties and early nineties. Wyatt, who was initially associated with the Chicago-based Jam Crew, was one of the most prolific taggers on the South Side at a time when the city was beginning to crack down hard on graffiti. According to LaVie Raven—legendary graffiti writer, rapper, teacher, and co-founder of the University of Hip-Hop, an organization dedicated to teaching the elements of hip-hop in the context of community activism, as well as a close friend of Mitchell’s—Wyatt was one of the last graffiti writers remaining for a generation that was “either getting in trouble, going to jail, or getting jobs.” “Attica had so much covered on the South Side,” Raven says, standing in front of the spray-painted portrait of his late friend, who also sometimes used the tag names Glue2 and Wiot. “Eighty-nine through ninety-two was a time when graffi6 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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courtesy of the mitchell family

A group photo of Stony Island with LaVie “Super LP” Raven (left), Wyatt “Attica” Mitchell (center), and Alex “Lunchbox” (right). ti had down-sloped and there were basically five writers in the city: Attica, Nerd, and a few guys on the West Side—who were still killing it.” Raven first met Wyatt—then a wiry high school kid who kept his blond hair tied back in a ponytail—at Raven’s apartment on 53rd Street and Kimbark Avenue. The two quickly bonded, not only over graffiti, but also their shared dietary restrictions. Wyatt was an adamant vegan, while Raven, a self-identified Black-Hebrew Israelite, maintained a kosher diet, and neither man could eat the pork chops that Raven’s roommates were grilling in the apartment. Wyatt soon told Raven that he was also interested in becoming more active in hiphop and was learning how to rap. Though Raven notes that, at the time, Wyatt’s flow was “a little off-beat,” he was impressed by his enthusiasm. “I loved his energy, so I brought him to the crew,” he says. Part of that crew was a rap group called Stony Island, which included LaVie “LP”

Raven as the lead MC and Alex (“Lunchbox”) , both of whom showed up this April in front of Wyatt’s wall. But the crew was also much, much bigger than the three of them and their DJ. “We had the rap group, but we also had this massive, extended group,” Raven says. “SB [Spray Brigade] were the graffiti writers. There were the Brickheads, who were the break[danc]ers, and there was Stony Island, who were the rappers. We had like forty people total, many of them were ‘renaissance hip-hoppers,’ which means someone who practiced more than one of the art forms. We kind of all bled together and performed together.” The extended crew was one of the earliest hip-hop collectives in Chicago at a time when the South Side music scene was dominated by house. “Chicago was house nation,” Raven says, “but there were two nations going on at the same time: house and hip-hop. When we were younger, house was bourgeois. I couldn’t afford the

clothes.” This class divide between genres led many Chicagoans to either ignore or actively shun the city’s earliest hip-hop crews. In a 1993 cover story for the Tribune, William Upski Wimsatt—along with Chicago music columnist Greg Kot—turned to his friends in Stony Island and asked them to explain why Chicago rappers were not getting the same attention as east and west coast artists. Wimsatt, a fellow graffiti writer, would later gain attention for his provocative essay collection, Bomb the Suburbs, which he published in 1995 at the age of twenty-one. In the Tribune piece, which ran with the headline “Why Chicago Artists Have Been Outcasts Of The Hip-hop World,” Raven wrote that part of the problem came from hometown animosity. “Back in the day when we used to rap out in front of Kenwood [Academy], they used to throw berries and rocks at us because it was a ‘house’ school and house was the mainstream.” The lack of interest in Chicago hiphop confined Stony Island’s following to a core group of local supporters. With Wyatt, the group released three albums, including two cassettes, Creatures from the Urinal and a self-titled follow-up, as well as a vinyl LP called Supertransfer Good All Day. The cassettes were recorded by Dr. Dosage, the alias of a drummer from the Chicago punk band Naked Raygun, who charged them a discounted rate of a dollar an hour for studio time because they thought “that there was something deep going on in the lyrics,” according to Stony Island’s beatboxer. The group also drew some attention for what was labeled at the time as their “multicultural” appeal. The fact they had Wyatt, a white rapper, was not necessarily a novelty—Raven points out that the graffiti community was far more racially diverse than is often acknowledged today—but it did attract attention from different communities. “With Wyatt,” Alex says, “we were able to get into ska shows, rock shows, all different sorts of venues.” Yet for Raven, Wyatt stood out more for his talent than his race. “I don’t think Wyatt’s being white was an issue at all,” he says. “Wyatt had at-


MEMORIAL

sarah friedland and esy casey

“Wyatt was part of this active artists’ community,” Raven says, “so it’s almost like a part of Wyatt never passed.” titude, he was a street performer. He was willing to battle too. He could battle his whole crew and beat them.” Wyatt also separated himself from other white artists involved in hip-hop, according to Raven, because he was more aware of the place he occupied on the South Side. “Wyatt was the first white person to talk to me about white privilege,” says Raven. ”Wyatt [was the one who] said, ‘I know that when I’m in a particular place with a black man, the police can pull us both over, but I can talk my way out of it [because] I’m blond haired and white.’ He would always check himself. I never heard a white person honor it and say that they wouldn’t step in a certain way because of that,” says Raven. Wyatt’s group did manage to attract attention from two high-profile New Yorkbased hip-hop groups: the Beatnuts and the Beastie Boys. The latter provided funding

for Raven to start the University of HipHop. The Beastie Boys were initially interested in Stony Island’s beatboxer, though they later became friends with Wyatt. In 1993, they invited him and the rest of the crew, including the Brickheads, to come backstage before a show in Detroit. “Wyatt was the only one that got on-stage with them though,” Raven says, “because Wyatt was brave.” Despite Stony Island’s high-profile supporters, the group never managed to sign a record deal. Their last vinyl LP was self-produced and self-released, and the results proved lackluster, according the group members. Though the last release did include the classic CTA-themed anthem “The Train Goes Slowly On The South Side,” the album itself quickly went out of print. Today none of Stony Island’s music

is officially available for purchase, though a couple of their later tracks can be found on YouTube and some of their cassettes and LPs remain in the hands of friends, family members, and collectors. By contrast, two of the other “outcast” artists profiled in Kot and Wimsatt’s piece—Tung Twista and Common Sense—did not remain outcasts for long. Both rappers signed record deals with major label subprints and released albums the following year, under new abbreviated monikers: Twista signed with Warner Music Group subsidiary Atlantic Records, while Common signed with Relativity Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment. Both are now household names in hip-hop across the nation. Stony Island, meanwhile, is a name known only to few. The differences in fame, however, do not, to Raven, reflect a difference in cred-

ibility. The Stony Island MC claims that Common and Twista were really “latter”-era hip-hop artists, who built upon the styles of earlier hip-hop artists after the genre gained more widespread support. “When house started to go downhill, a lot of those dudes decided they were gonna become hip-hop,” Raven says, “but Wyatt was already hip-hop.”

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s Wyatt was becoming a local legend in the hip-hop world, he was also living a life somewhat typical of a Hyde Park kid. His community was largely centered around Ray Elementary and Kenwood Academy. At both schools he gained a reputation for being charismatic, kind, and loyal. And as a member of Kenwood’s improv group, Those Damn Kids, he also proved himself to be a natural performer and entertainer. He also had MAY 14, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 7


courtesy of the mitchell family

In the studio at Antioch College, Wyatt found inspiration in the works of Vermeer and Diebenkorn.

courtesy of the mitchell family

Wyatt’s surviving paintings include an unfinished self-portrait, above, and several figurative drafts. talent for constantly meeting and forming relationships with new people within the neighborhood. “He could go to a movie,” says Christine Mitchell, his mother, referencing a story told to her by Wyatt’s then-girlfriend, Chloe, “and Wyatt would go to wait in line. Five minutes later he would come back with four new friends.” The son of Doug Mitchell, an alumnus of the UofC and a longtime editor for the university press, Wyatt grew up in a family with deep connections to the UofC and the academic world of Hyde Park. Doug is a jazz drummer for the Curtis Black Quartet, which plays Sunday night sets at Jimmy’s 8 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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Woodlawn Tap, and has helped to publish many significant critical works on jazz. Wyatt inherited his father’s interest in music, and jazz in particular, and also learned the basics of drumming. Yet Wyatt initially differed from his father in his struggle with reading. According to his mother, Wyatt grew up “somewhat dyslexic.” Though he later became an avid fan of authors like James Joyce and Thomas Mann, his early years were mainly occupied by non-verbal art forms. His mother, who is also a painter, recognized early on that her son had a particular knack for visual expression. “Drawing was our way of communicating,” says Christine. “One thing that he had, that was really a gift, was a sense of color.” This gift manifested itself not only on the walls where Attica left his tag, but also in the studio at Antioch College, where Wyatt began developing his skills as a studio painter, finding inspiration in the works of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer and the Bay Area figurative pioneer Richard Diebenkorn. While he was finishing high school, Wyatt’s parents urged him not to let his music career derail his pursuit of a college degree, though they were generally supportive of his interests in hip-hop and graffiti. Christine Mitchell, was particularly worried about the fact that her son rarely seemed to take precautions. “I’m not one for only idealizing those who are dead,” she says. “[Wyatt’s] major flaw was not being cautious, not looking around the corners.” “I knew Wyatt’s parents,” says Raven, who used to pick Wyatt up from his house before going to paint walls around the city. “They were cool with the rapping stuff, but I think any parent who knows their son is involved with graffiti, and knows there’s another graffiti writer coming to pick them up, is going to be uneasy.” Graffiti, however, was not what ultimately got Wyatt into trouble.

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is friends and family are unsure exactly how it was that Wyatt became involved with the use of hard drugs. Raven believes Wyatt may have experimented with drugs after moving to school in Ohio. “Antioch and Oberlin were drug experimentation havens,” he says, “because they are these small liberal arts schools in the middle of the country.” Wyatt’s use of hard drugs, however, didn’t begin until several years after he had graduated from college and moved back to Chicago. Wyatt had spent some time travelling before he returned home in December

1998. According to family and friends, his use of opiates was connected with relationships he formed while working on the North Side. Raven remembers seeing Wyatt with groups of people from Wicker Park whom he had not seen around him before, and whom he suspected of being active users. Wyatt’s dependence did not become apparent to Raven until he came back to Hyde Park, where he worked for a while at the Medici, across from the wall where his memorial now stands. There, he saw that his old friend was in bad shape. “We knew that he had been having the battle with the psychosomatic aspects of addiction when using certain things,” Raven remembers. Wyatt’s parents devoted much of their time to home interventions and efforts to try to help their son get clean. “We don’t have a lot of money,” Doug says, “so we couldn’t afford to send him to one of the live-in clinics that charge $30,000 for their stay.” Starting in 2001, Wyatt did manage to kick his habit for several years, mainly through self-determination and treatment. He also realized that he needed to leave Chicago and the neighborhoods he now associated with his addiction. He was deeply affected by 9/11 and decided to move to New York to be closer to the people living there, as well as to begin work at a spraypaint manufacturing and distribution company. Two years later, he moved to Atlanta, where he returned to studio painting and began selling some of his artwork, and planned to open his own gallery and pursue an MFA. In both cities, he managed to abstain from drug use. It was only after he returned to Chicago, about a week after his thirtieth birthday, that he relapsed. The night of Wyatt’s return, his friends held a celebration. Some of these were old friends, like the members of Stony Island. Others were later acquaintances who were themselves still dealing with drug abuse, and may have been enabling. The night ended at the local bar. “Raven was the last person to ever see Wyatt alive,” Doug says, while setting up for his weekly set at the Woodlawn Tap. “They had their last conversation right here in Jimmy’s.” That night, Wyatt returned to his room, where he died of an accidental overdose of opiates, roughly fifteen minutes after midnight. His mother found him in his room the following morning. The only item found in his backpack was one of her books: a paperback copy of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

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yatt’s death came as a shock to his friends and family, yet the nature of his death did not change the memory of his life for those who knew him well. It was the result of single fatal accident, a “bad mistake” in the words of his mother, not representative of his life or his work. As a result, the memorial, which was held at Promontory Point two weeks after Wyatt’s death, was not so much a grim funeral procession as it was a cathartic memorium for the life of a Hyde Park artist and son. As Doug Mitchell recounts, the memorial also included “a very moving post-memorial ceremony at Jimmy’s, where our rhythm section backed up the rappers who freestyled in honor of Wyatt, and formed a prayer circle for me during the break.” The service included speeches from people who had, or were currently, struggling with drug addiction, as well as eulogies from Wyatt’s friends and family. Doug’s friends and associates from the university spoke, including art historian W.J.T. Mitchell and literary theorist Wayne C. Booth. The typed transcripts of the speeches, which were delivered by friends and family members, have been saved, for the last decade, by the Mitchell family. Wyatt’s sister Gloria wrote in her eulogy that “Wyatt and I were raised in a tradition of free thought rather than one of religious guidance. We are not in what people think of as a traditional setting for a memorial, nor are we having a traditional service.” An art professor of Wyatt’s described his iconoclastic style as a student—one who would often call out his Yale-trained mentor for having “wack” ideas, but would also produce “paintings that were like prayers.” His cousin, Miles Chatain, wrote about Wyatt “as an artist, a performer, [and] a poet” whose “truly special gift was people: the way he could talk with people and find an instant connection, a bond, with just about everyone he came across.” Some of the most powerful of these eulogies, though, were the ones left unpreserved. Doug Mitchell remembers the tributes given by Raven and other members of Stony Island—unwritten, off-the-cuff, and improvised—as perfect embodiments of his son’s life. “I’ve asked LaVie if he’ll write them down one day,” he says. “I would like to collect them in a book.” Instead of writing down his words, however, Raven chose to preserve his own memories of his late friend through his art. After the ceremony at the Point, Raven and several other artists from the collective repainted the 57th Street wall, which had been a permission wall where graffiti artists


MEMORIAL associated with Wyatt were allowed to put up their pieces. Some of Wyatt’s original artwork still remains on the wall today. The most striking aspect of the wall, though, is the portrait of Wyatt, which was re-created from a fish-eye lens photo of the Stony Island crew. Wyatt grins prominently in the center of the frame. While the wall at 57th Street was being remade and dedicated to the deceased artist, another tribute to Wyatt was being sprayed on the other side of the country in Queens, New York. There, the aerosol artist Nic 1 created a piece dedicated to Wyatt’s afterlife, complete with harp-strumming angels, and heavenly clouds adorning the word “Mitchell.” Now, after his death, it was safe to link Wyatt Mitchell’s street-art with his legal name. The piece was put up at 5 Pointz, the historic mecca for graffiti in Queens, New York, and it was later included in a profile about the legendary building in the August 8, 2004 issue of The New York Times. 5 Pointz was whitewashed in November 2013. Other pieces created by Wyatt and his associates in Chicago were also whitewashed in 2006, when Alderman Toni Preckwinkle ordered the removal of the 47th St. Metra murals. A third permission wall associated with Wyatt’s crew, the graffiti mural that once stood on 53rd Street behind the Mobil gas station, was removed earlier this year in order to make way for the new Vue53 apartment complex. The 57th Street mural, however, remains. “This was Wyatt’s wall first,” Raven says, “It was always called the Wyatt wall.”

style, but I chose to recreate his phrase across the top. That was his slogan.” Doug Mitchell is unsure why his son chose that phrase as his motto, considering that “he was never a big Hemingway guy.” Yet the quote proved, in a way, prophetic of the future of the wall, which continues to be renewed, though the signature remains the same. Some have tried to have the wall removed. Doug Mitchell says he was once, by chance, standing in the alley with a co-worker when a huge graffiti-removal truck pulled up in front. “If I hadn’t been there at the time, I don’t know what would have happened,” he says. He also says that he has heard complaints from some in the community who say that the lives of those involved with drugs shouldn’t be memorialized. Wyatt’s parents object to this limited view of their son’s life. “It was only two years out of thirty that Wyatt was involved with drugs,” his mother says, “He really wasn’t himself at that time. That period shouldn’t define his whole life.” For Wyatt’s family and friends, the

best way to understand and connect with Wyatt’s life today is through his artwork. “Wyatt was part of this active artists’ community,” Raven says, “so it’s almost like a part of Wyatt never passed.” This community and many of Wyatt’s friends, who travelled from all over the world to revisit the mural in Hyde Park, came together to commemorate his life and the tenth anniversary of his passing. Many knew Wyatt as a small child, and returned carrying small children of their own in their arms. Some knew him as a painter, a rapper, a friend, a brother, a son. Everyone there described him in the same terms: funny, warm, supportive and loyal. Many of those gathering at the wall also returned to Jimmy’s later that night, to the place where Wyatt had celebrated his last birthday, to watch his father play with the Curtis Black Quartet. As the band opened their set with Thelonious Monk’s “Nutty,” it was hard not to be impressed by the strange and amazing web connecting lives throughout Hyde Park and beyond, all bound together by the life of this young artist, whose image remains, still grinning, over 57th Street. ¬

Special Thanks: This story is very personal, not only for those who knew Wyatt during his lifetime, but also for myself. Doug Mitchell is a close friend of my father, Arthur Goldhammer, a French translator whose first books were published by Mitchell in the late seventies. I became a Stony Island fan without having any knowledge of Doug’s relationship to the group. It was my friend Julia Dratel, a former employee at Numero Group—a reissue label which has recently expressed interest in re-releasing the old Stony Island cassettes—who first showed me a YouTube clip of Stony Island’s “The Train Goes Slowly on the South Side” two years ago. That song has remained one of my all-time favorites written about Chicago. After I published a short article which mentioned the song, Doug reached out and generously shared not only his son’s story but also his own copy of Stony Island’s last vinyl LP, a gift for which I’m forever grateful. I am deeply indebted to Doug and the Mitchell family and the Stony Island crew for sharing their story.

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ow, ten years later, Raven and others from the crew have returned to paint the wall again, for the third time, as a celebration of their fallen friend’s life. They were invited to re-do the piece after one of Wyatt’s former co-workers, Kai Shkymba, contacted Sarah Friedland and Esy Casey, two filmmakers from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in New York. He asked if they wanted to film the wall for their documentary project on American memorials and alternatives to traditional funeral services. The filmmakers had no idea that it would be the tenth anniversary of Wyatt’s passing. “It was just the serendipitous beauty of the universe and harmonic convergence,” Raven says. This time, Raven added a line from Ecclesiastes 1:5 above Wyatt’s original piece: “The Sun Also Rises.” “That was a phrase that Wyatt put across the wall the first time.” Raven says. “Now, I put it up in a completely different

douglas harper

Doug Mitchell remembers the tributes given by the Stony Island members as perfect embodiments of his son’s life. MAY 14, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 9


School’s Out Forever “TYCONS” at Lacuna Artist Lofts BY EMILY LIPSTEIN

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or a stubborn child who couldn’t hold her pencil correctly, walking into an exhibit where the central motif was penmanship paper was like being accosted by a long-forgotten foe. It soon became clear, however, that I had nothing to fear. The gaping exhibition room at Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen pulsated with the beats of DJ Chuck Inglish. Upon walking in, I was greeted by a large white wall overlaid with three sets of solid red and blue lines, the spaces between them bisected by dotted blue lines. This was a painted facsimile of penmanship paper, adorned with huge block letters that spelled out “TYCONS” and “feat MAURICIO RAMIREZ” and, below, the words “Art Exhibit” in elementary school-style cursive. This image of penmanship paper appears in many of the featured pieces, either woven into the amalgam of neon images in each painting or in the background. One piece includes the classic white, red, and blue paper painted messily onto the side of a freight container. Spray-painted typographic and graffiti-style letters in neon hues hang in front of the container, casting shadows of nonsense poetry over the lines. Most of the time, the artist uses the lines to guide his signature, a perfectly block-lettered MAURICIO RAMIREZ. Paintings in the gallery are divided into distinct, physically separated categories: paintings with white backgrounds and brightly colored lettering and icons, paintings that incorporate these elements in addition to grayscale and shades of black and white, images rendered in shades of a single color, and a set of works that utilize crisp white lines to make the canvasses look like comic strips. The exhibit is youthful, designed to evoke memories of grade school. Clusters of lockers serve as makeshift walls, supporting hung artworks and delineating different areas of the room. In the back of the space, visitors compete in a beanbag toss where both the platforms and beanbags display the “TYCONS” logo: graffiti-style lettering of the word where the T wears an Adidas sneaker, the O is replaced by a pixelated Super Mario ghost, and the S is a snake from the Jungle Book. “TYCONS” is a combination of the words typography and iconography, two forms of visual expression that Ramirez aims to reinvent by giving them a youthful, ur10 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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ban twist. Mauricio’s iconography of choice includes widely recognizable cartoon and video game characters, and his typography combines graffiti with oft-used typefaces and handwritten script. In many of his works, Disney characters smile out from behind the curved and jagged edges of stylized letters that appear ready to burst due to their vivid coloration and simulated depth. Ramirez’s use of graffiti has its origins in his own upbringing: on his website, he writes that much of his early artistic training consisted of copying the sketches and gang symbols his older cousins drew. Adult attendees recaptured a childlike sense of wonder and excitement through these paintings. People studied them, trying to decipher the words spelled out by the letters (though few of the paintings actually featured recognizable words) or straining to pick out pop-culture figures of their youth from amidst the fray like a grown-up version of “I Spy.” When viewers spotted a familiar figure, their eyes lit up and they called excitedly to their friends to share their discoveries. However, the exhibit was not simply a way for viewers to relive the days of their youth. One painting, in fact, was decidedly dark: it was an impeccable rendering of Donald Duck and Baloo from “The Jungle Book” in front of a gradient background and sequences of stylized letters that exclaimed, “PLAYA,” “BITCH,” and “ME SIDE.” It was only upon realizing what the letters spelled that I noticed the concerned look on Donald’s face. Going through the gallery again, I began to notice pocket knives tucked into the socks of the Samba-clad feet in most of Ramirez’s works, as well as the plaintive graffiti on the walls of the venue that reads “ALL YOU SEE IS CRIME IN THE CITY.” Ramirez made “TYCONS” both to celebrate the spirit of youthfulness and to highlight the undercurrents of danger, fear, and repression that accompany youth education, particularly in urban environments. School is not the place that it once was: fraught with teacher strikes, standardized testing, and school shootings, childhood is, quite literally, not all fun and games. By transgressing the boundaries of lined paper through a new kind of writing—these free-form, brightly colored ABC’s that feature heavily in his works— Ramirez fights back against this new age of education. ¬


HOUSING

Reentry for Ex-Offenders A new pilot program to reunite ex-offenders with families in public housing BY JASON HUANG

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or many released from prison, the struggle to return to normalcy is an arduous process. Recent support from Rahm Emanuel for a reentry pilot program may relieve the burden for some ex-offenders, however. In late March, he joined the Chicago Housing Authority in announcing the creation of a pilot program that will allow fifty formerly incarcerated individuals to return to their families in public housing. Individuals will be chosen from three reentry service providers for ex-offenders: the Safer Foundation, St. Leonard’s Ministries, and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Over the next three years, CHA will observe the reintegration of the group of ex-offenders, after which they will decide whether or not to expand the program to include more of the formerly incarcerated. Nationwide, recidivism—the relapse into criminal behavior after release from prison—continues to be a major problem for the criminal justice system. An April study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 67.8 percent of 404,638 prisoners in thirty states were rearrested within three years of release. Nearly seventy-seven percent were rearrested within five years. Additionally, in 2011 the Pew Center on the States estimated that more than half of the 45,000 individuals serving time in Illinois state prisons would return to prison within three years. St. Leonard’s, Safer Foundation, and Lutheran Social Services all provide employment training, individual counseling, and referral services to assist ex-offenders’ transitions into life outside of prison. Participants also have access to anger management and substance abuse counseling. After one year with one of these organizations, ex-offenders will be eligible for selection for the pilot program. Service work at one of the organizations does not guarantee placement in the program. “The pilot program isn’t just for anyone. You will have to bust your butt to get

this opportunity,” says Charles Austin, co-chairman of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’s (CCH) Homeless Reentry Committee. It was the Coalition’s partnership with CHA that led to the pilot’s creation. According to Austin, after demonstrating exemplary performance within these programs, individuals will be selected to participate in reentry. After revisiting families who will be in CHA-managed public housing or in Section 8 subsidized housing, the pilot program will follow up with intensive case management for a period of up to two years. The family and the ex-offender will engage in counseling, education, and busi-

Roger Ehmen, director of community reentry and employment services for the Westside Health Authority, manages numerous cases of ex-offenders seeking reentry. “Everybody needs to be loved, everybody needs a support system,” he says. “If I get out and can’t live with my family, that is an obstacle to successful reentry. There are a lot of folks who want to get that to happen.” Recent ex-offenders often lack job skills, transportation, and a paycheck, without which successful reentry often proves difficult. Ex-offenders face even further challenges in moving back in with their families. “The person and family who want to

After revisiting families who will be in CHA-managed public housing or in Section 8 subsidized housing, the pilot program will follow up with intensive case management for a period of up to two years. ness training. At the end of the period, CHA and the service providers will analyze the results to determine whether an expansion of the program could work. There are, however, some restrictions on eligibility. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a list of banned crimes, including arson, production of methamphetamine, and public housing fraud. Anyone convicted of any of these offenses will be automatically disqualified.

live together can’t get CHA housing, so that means they leave subsidized housing,” Ehmen says. “But is the guy who is working forty hours a week and making minimum wage going to have enough money to pay for a two- or three-bedroom apartment?” Currently, individuals who have been convicted of a crime within the past five years are denied public housing. According to Austin, an individual convicted eight years ago could serve four years of prison, four years of conditional release, and could

wait an additional five years before reaching the top of a wait list to claim a housing voucher—in total, a thirteen-year wait for subsidized housing. It is also illegal for ex-offenders to return to families on housing vouchers after release. “People would go back and commit crimes in their original environment, so the CHA would not put them back into an environment where they started their crimes,” says Austin. “The CHA initially resisted because you have the backdrop of violence of public housing,” says Anthony Lowery, policy director for the Safer Foundation. “That has always been [true], and even to this day remains to be true, and will be true once we start. There were some staff members who feared the negative publicity of poorly picking clients or feeling that participants would push people off of the waiting list or take their spot,” says Austin. It wasn’t until Emanuel offered direct support for the program that plans for its implementation began to move forward. There are questions, though, as to whether the relatively small pilot program will be able to provide sufficient data on its own effectiveness. “[The initial fifty] was a number the CHA was comfortable with, and there will be an increase in numbers after a successful proof of viability of the project,” says Lowery. But the small sample size could make measuring substantive change difficult, and an additional challenge, Lowery says, may be families’ willingness to take in whatever ex-offenders they have. “They burn a lot of bridges after going to prison.” Still, he hopes that participants in the program will become examples of strength for other ex-offenders in the reentry process. “By successfully reintegrating into their communities,” Lowery says, “these individuals can reach out and prove that you can have success after incarceration.” ¬

MAY 14, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 11


BOOKS

What the Murals Say Painted Cities writes the crampedness and poignancy of Pilsen BY JOHN GAMINO

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myth is not the same thing as a story. A myth begins as a story, or many stories, but becomes something else. A myth, however personal, is never wholly one’s own. And so it is that Painted Cities, a fictional debut based on the author’s childhood, becomes something more than mere autobiography: from this collection of short stories a mythology arises. Its subject is Pilsen and its people. There are guarded, attentive young boys who seem to serve as stand-ins for the author, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewksi, but then there are also street guitar players, mural artists, husbands who become murderers, and mothers who become martyrs. The Pilsen this book paints is not a pretty one. It takes only a few pages for the reader to learn that another nickname means another gang. It takes only a few more to understand that the book’s refrain will be the urge to get away—sometimes physically, sometimes in the making, or imagining, of myths. In “Freedom,” the narrator and another boy build a home for themselves on the roof of a pierogi factory; in “God’s Country,” a young boy takes imaginative refuge in a fabled, long-lost Sonoran past; in “Growing Pains,” another boy relishes the smell of airplane exhaust because it means “travel, long-distance travel,” and because it isn’t the same exhaust he smells from the trucks and delivery vans back home. In the penultimate story, “Supernatural,” a polluted canal produces the appearance of a green toxic haze at night, “the perfect ghetto miracle,” attracting devoted crowds. But when the day comes, and “the truth becomes apparent,” there is “an aura of defeat to the crowd.” Galaviz-Budziszewksi is at his best when he lets us feel what’s behind this urge—when he doesn’t just tell us how everyone attempts to get away, but also tells us why. The strength of his collection hinges on its ability to convey what it’s like to live in this neighborhood, where myths are so preferable to the truth. His stories are unmistakably set in 12 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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Pilsen: we hear of 18th Street and 22nd, panaderias and taco joints, the El Milagro tortilla factory and Benito Juarez High School. We hear of fires and concrete and old railway lines. And we smell it all, too— from the fried food to the fumes. But this does not come as a barrage of details. Painted Cities speaks in plain prose. It is minimal, but not the kind of minimal that’s heady and raw. It is minimal in the sense that it is simple and direct and that it doesn’t want to be anything else, like the pots of frijoles scattered throughout its pages: garlic, onions, lard, and no more. And the stories themselves are like this. They are short and direct. They introduce us to a character, a scene, and then, before long, they end. What is interesting about this collection is that, like the frijoles, the plainness is part of the point. And so what builds a sense of Pilsen as a particular place also hinders it from fully coming together. Plain prose and brief cuts of life are precisely the modes of expression for conveying the feeling of being stifled in a neighborhood; nothing new seems to happen here. But they can also leave us, as readers, with the feeling that we are not always being told enough. Such sacrifices on the part of the author may be necessary, but are they worth it? In the title story, the neighbors who see a certain mural call it “ ‘poignant,’ though many were unsure of what the word meant.” They use it over and over again because they don’t know what else to use. They don’t know what “humility” is, either, though they use that word too. The words are familiar but they don’t feel right, probably because every tragedy is poignant, every apartment humble, and still nothing ever seems to happen. In “1817 S. May,” the narrator’s uncle, for lack of space, sleeps every night in the family pantry. Yet the uncle himself is almost an afterthought, just another feature of the “crampedness” of the neighborhood. “All these things,” like his parents’ fights, like the fights he could hear from the


apartment next door, like the “drunks or dope addicts,” “simply were.” They were not poignant or humble or anything else, beyond mere “crampedness.” They could not be afforded adjectives, or anything beyond the ordinary. Because they were ordinary. We need, to understand this as readers, the sort of narrators who only give us “crampedness,” or always fall back on the same words. Sometimes this works very well, as when the narrator in “1817 S. May” breaks from recounting how he panned for gold in his childhood to add that “May Street was a place where I saw drunken men brawling to the death, I saw wives get beat by husbands, I saw children get hit by cars and then watched those cars get chased down by neighbors and the drivers get beat into bloody pulps.” At other times this means we hear things through a flat phrase or a cliché, and fail to catch the emotion

unsure what humility means, but “they use it anyway, while they wait for miracles.” And while they wait for miracles, they imagine them. They mythologize. The painted cities of the title story are found in the tears of the mural’s ten-yearold girl. Within each tear is a city, and the tears somehow fall like tears fall, until we read further on and find that this is only what the “the neighbors say,” that only then do the “painted cities come alive, [and] movement can be seen, the L’s slithering like hobby railroads.” The entire page-long description of the mural, in what is only a three-page story, turns out to be the stuff of the imaginary. Other moments of myth-making in Painted Cities—mystical spelunkers, that green fluorescent river, a boy who brings dead bodies back to life—are not directly acknowledged as unreal. As moments of

Plain prose and brief cuts of life are precisely the modes of expression for conveying the feeling of being stifled in a neighborhood; nothing new seems to happen here. that should be there. “I felt like we were all in the same boat, like our neighborhood, Pilsen, was just a rut people fell into,” the narrator in “God’s Country” observes. But what is poignant has no place in ordinary speech; it is the fact that one can routinely suffer and live anyway. The mural in “Painted Cities” is of a ten-year-old girl, “who disappeared the summer before last” (a fact which does not stand out in these stories). Everyone remarks how “she could just sit for hours, contented, smiling to herself occasionally when something funny came to mind.” In the mural, too, she seems content, though tears also run down her cheeks. This is where poignancy takes place. What we see in the title story, then, cannot last. The fact that a girl can know the affliction around her and hardly betray it, or that a boy can feel the crampedness around him and “squat on the curb and pan for gold,” is, in its own way, beautiful. They take refuge in the imaginary without forgetting the reality. But in order for these brief moments to be beautiful, the surrounding realities must be bleak and bare. The stripped down language of Painted Cities echoes a larger failure of words. If this is at times a fault, it is also knotted to its greater purposes. We see, ultimately, how the myths arise. The characters are

unreality they don’t quite seem to fit in with the stories’ hard truths, though there is no clear break between the stories that have mythical moments and those that don’t, or even between the mythical moments and the other moments. Nor is there any one person conjuring these unrealities from behind the scenes. There is no one narrative voice, and such moments seem beyond any one single narrator, anyway. They only really seem to fit in when read in light of the hint from the title story, that such moments are only what “the neighbors say.” They arise organically, collectively, as myths. And so Painted Cities haltingly, but purposefully, presents a picture of this place. The hint of what’s behind the myth-making is dropped just one other time: at the end of a story about a man who is shot and then proceeds to walk to a bar, so he can order a beer and get the change to call an ambulance. “No one knew if any of this was true,” the narrator admits near the end. “No one really cared if the stories had been passed down with accuracy or not.” They didn’t care because they were myths. ¬ Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Painted Cities. McSweeney's. 180 pages. MAY 14, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 13


ARTS CALENDAR VISUAL ARTS Ruthless Powers

The dead are rising at the antena project space in Pilsen. Artists Liz Born and Victoria Martinez will use dead plants, trash, and roadkill to attempt to answer the question, “How does a body become a monument?” Their works address decayed bodies, both architectural and biological, and the footprints they leave behind in the world of the living: the exhibition will feature portrayals of abandoned buildings, artificially preserved corpses, and the like. Born makes chiefly woodcuts, while Martinez creates found object assemblages that are inherently narrative. Art creates life, death creates life, and life creates art and death creates art. antena, 1755 S. Laflin St. May 16-June 13. Opening reception May 16, 6pm-10pm. Saturdays, noon-5pm. Free. (773)340-3516. antenapilsen. blogspot.com (Emma Collins)

Collaboration Show

Do you yearn to go to art shows, but never have the time? If so, you’re in luck. Starting on May 16, Cobalt Studio will be offering at least a year’s worth of art viewing in one fell swoop in their “Collaboration Show.” The gallery will showcase the work of over twenty-seven artists in a variety of mediums and techniques. Some are collaborative works, while others are by individual artists. Bring your friends, bring your family, bring your neighbors— there’s something for everyone. Cobalt Studio, 1950 W. 21st St. May 16-June 8. Opening reception May 16, 6pm. Hours by appointment. Free. cobaltartstudio.blogspot.com (Emma Collins)

Continuum

Prospectus, an art gallery in Pilsen that chiefly features Latin American art, will be displaying a collection of works by artist Ginny Sykes, created from 1993 to 2013. Sykes’s approach to art is multifaceted: she makes collections of abstract paintings that are tied together by common color schemes, public murals and mosaics, and even an outdoor sand installation called “Healing Grounds.” Prospectus will curate a selection of her work, in what is sure to be a vibrant and varied show. Prospectus Art Gallery, 1210 W. 18th St. Opening reception Friday, May 9, 5pm-10pm. Through June 27. Wednesday-Sunday, noon-5pm; Monday-Tuesday by appointment. prospectusartgallery.wordpress.com (Emma Collins)

The Art of Influence This fine art exhibition has been curated to feature works of art 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.” Immortalized in artwork, these acts—and the surprising absence of consequences for those who commit them— speak volumes. “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Tradition” promises to amplify the content and spark discourse about the perversion and pervasiveness of unpunished crimes. Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th

St. Through May 18. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm. (773)445-3838. beverlyartcenter.org (Katryce Lassle)

Shovel, Spoon, and Braid

What happens when a trio of artists relocates to a rural valley in central Wisconsin? An upcoming show at ACRE, “Shovel, Spoon, and Braid,” answers this question, and explores themes of sustainable living in intentional communities and coexistence with natural environments. Artists Adam Wolpa, Josh Hoeks, and Charlotte Wolf are collaborating for the show: Wolpa and Hoeks will be displaying visual evidence of their radical lifestyle change, including carved wooden spoons and diagrams for rural construction projects, and Wolf will be showcasing her photography, which documents the relationships of women to natural environments. ACRE Projects, 1913 W. 17th St. Opening reception Sunday, May 18, 4pm-8pm. May 18-June 9. Sunday-Monday, noon4pm. acreresidency.org (Emma Collins)

Model Pictures Artist Ross Sawyers built and subsequently photographed scale replicas of unfinished model homes, (in) complete with holes in the walls and plastic in the windows. The photographs presented in “Model Pictures,” his first major Chicago solo show, highlight current housing and economic crises by way of images of these unfinished and empty new houses. Haunting and uncanny, the model model homes bridge the surreal and the (unfortunately) real. Unlike life-sized abandoned model homes, though, Sawyer’s models are swiftly destroyed after their insides are documented. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through June 13. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. hydeparkart.org (Katryce Lassle)

Imaging/Imagining One of three parts of the UofC’s “Imaging/Imagining” exhibition, the Smart Museum presents “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art.” Curated by UofC physicians, the exhibition explores anatomical representations as art. Selections from a wide range of places and times come together in an exploration of anatomical accuracy and artistic imagination. 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-Wednesday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. (773)702-0200. smartmuseum. uchicago.edu (Katryce Lassle)

Round Trip Ticket Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery presents a two-part exhibition featuring works by Kieran McGonnell. McGonnell’s work has taken the art world by storm, gaining an underground following in Chicago, New York, Ireland, and the further reaches of the galaxy. Three years ago, the artist’s life was cut tragically short. Ugly Step Sister

WHPK Rock Charts WHPK 88.5 FM is a nonprofit community radio station at the University of Chicago. Once a week the station’s music directors collect a book of playlist logs from their Rock-format DJs, tally up the plays of albums added within the last few months, and rank them according to popularity that week. Compiled by Andrew Fialkowski and Dylan West Artist / Album / Record Label 1. Cloud Nothings / Here and Nowhere Else / Carpark 2. Oozing Wound / Retrash / Thrill Jockey 3. The Yolks / Two Dollars Out the Door / Randy 4. Protomartyr / Under Color of Official Right / Hardly Right 5. Valerio Tricoli / Miseri Lares / Pan 6. Old 97’s / Most Messed Up / ATO 7. St. Vincent / St. Vincent / Loma Vista/Republic 8. Quilt / Held in Splendor / Mexican Summer 9. Flesh Panthers / Flesh Panthers EP / Tall Pat 10. Frankie Cosmos / Zentropy / Double Double Whammy 11. 31Ø8 / s/t / Trouble in Mind 12. Pure X / Angel / Fat Possum 13. Axemen / Derry Legend / Luxury Products 14. Ringworm / Hammer Of The Witch / Relapse 15. Fu Manchu / Gigantoid / At The Dojo

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Art Gallery has curated a three-month-long retrospective of the late artist’s works: the current installment features his early paintings, while the next will showcase his later and more widely known works. “Round Trip Ticket” highlights McGonnell’s signature use of serious subjects, oil and watercolor, and vibrant use of color, in an attempt to preserve his legacy. Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery. 1750 S. Union Ave. Through July 6. Saturday-Sunday, noon-6pm. Other hours by appointment. (312)927-7546. uglystepsisterartgallery.com (Mark Hassenfratz)

speculationscapes During May and June, Jekyll&Hyde in Hyde Park will host “speculationscapes,” a group show focused on critical inquiry about the world in which we live. The exhibition will explore landscape, seascape, and cityscape as the media for intellectual scrutiny by bringing together the architectural expertise and creative vision of a talented group of artists. “speculationscapes” inquires about the role of high-density human impact, relationships between machines and their makers, and light events such as the existence of widespread laser beams in landscapes. Featured pieces will include dark spaces paired with food coloring and leafless flowering stems. “speculationscapes” promises to deliver a unique and speculative approach to the surroundings we inhabit. Jekyll&Hyde, 1227 E. 54th St. Through June 7. Gallery open by appointment. (773)6919541. jekyllhydepark.tumblr.com (Arda Sener)

STAGE & SCREEN Chicago Freedom Summer 2014

This summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer, a momentous moment at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. The Social Justice Initiative at UIC, in partnership with several Chicago organizations, is taking up the task of commemorating that watershed event. The three-day Chicago Freedom Summer 2014 conference will look both forwards and backwards, featuring a keynote speech by SNCC cofounder Julian Bond, conversations with participants in Freedom Summer, and sessions that address contemporary problems in social justice and organizing. The conference will also host the Chicago premier of new PBS documentary Freedom Summer from filmmaker Stanley Nelson. UIC Student Center West, 828 S. Wolcott Ave. May 28-30. Free, donations accepted. Registration and event schedule online. (312)3555922. chicagofreedomsummer.org (Rachel Schastok)

DuSomething Creative

The DuSable Museum invites its patrons to unleash their inner artist and take part in an evening of “hands on” artistic demonstration. As part of the museum’s “Art, Wine, & Entertainment” series, this event promises an evening of art, spoken word performances, photography, screen printing, and animation workshops, as well as wine and light refreshments. DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl. Friday, May 16, 7pm10pm. $15 in advance, $20 at the door. (773)749-0600. dusablemuseum.org (Meaghan Murphy)

Three Women

A German film director leaves Weimar in 1923 and moves to Hollywood. Three Women is Ernst Lubitsch’s third Hollywood film. His style is a comedic one, marked by subtle revelations and strategies of desire, rather that the signature slapstick of his era. The Film Studies Center at UofC intends for their screening of Three Women to give us a taste of Lubitsch’s masterful, concise, and witty style of silent filmmaking. The screening is hosted by Cinema and Media Studies Professor, Tom Gunning, and is presented with live accompaniment by Chicago pianist, archivist, and composer David Drazin. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Thursday, May 15, 7pm. (773)702-8596. filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu (Meaghan Murphy)

Medium Cool

It may be nearly impossible to single out the most important political event of 1968, but the Chicago Democratic Convention has left a distinct historical mark. Medium Cool documents the Convention from street level. Inspired by the style of Studs Terkel’s Division Street, the film sets out to involve everyday Chicagoans in the unfolding action, from the most caustic of the Convention’s protesters to most average passersby. The screening, sponsored by the Studs Terkel Festival and the UofC’s Film Studies Center, will conclude with a discussion with Director Haskell Wexler and special guests. Logan

Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Friday, May 9, 4pm. (773)702-2997. arts.uchicago.edu (Meaghan Murphy)

Jacob

“And Jacob was left alone, in his luxurious high-rise in downtown Chicago.” Timothy Gregory, actor, director, playwright, founding artistic director of Provision Theater, and host of HGTV’s New Spaces, has wondered what every Chicagoan-with-a-luxurious-high-rise wonders to themselves when looking from their sweeping windows at the bustling loop below: what if I were to wrestle with an angel until the breaking of the day? From this, he brings to us Jacob, a new production at Provision Theater that brings Genesis’ tale of Jacob wrestling the angel to a modern Chicago. Therefore, to this day, the people of Chicago do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, even when piled beneath dripping peppers in Italian beef sandwiches. Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. Through June 15. (312)455-0065. provisiontheater.org (Isabel Ochoa Gold)

M. Butterfly David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play, M. Butterfly hits the Court Theatre to close out the season. An arresting reimagining of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly through a post-colonial lens, Hwang’s play chronicles the affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and the male Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu. Under the direction of Charles Newell at Court, M. Butterfly takes an aggressive look at sex, espionage, and imperialism. Hwang is a masterful and adventurous playwright and he offers a deconstruction of his source material’s Orientalist angle that is both playfully imaginative and downright powerful. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. Through June 8. See website for show times. $15-$35. (773)702-7005. courttheatre.org (Shanice Casimiro and Meaghan Murphy)

MUSIC Maggie Brown’s LEGACY

Maggie Brown, jazz singer, songwriter, and music educator brings her one woman show, LEGACY: Our Wealth of Music to the Chicago Theological Seminary for a look back through the storied past of African-American culture and music. The critically acclaimed show spans basically the whole extent of African-American musical experience, from African chant, to early ragtime, jazz and modern blues. Brown, the daughter of late-entertainer and activist, Oscar Brown, Jr., has spent the last nineteen years touring. The aim of Maggie Brown’s work is to educate and inform as much as it is entertain. Armed with a powerhouse voice and a mission to impart the vibrant, rich, and significant scope of a long musical tradition to a wider audience, Brown is a Chicago favorite, and not to be missed. Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th St. June 1. 3:30pm. $5 Youth; $20 Adults. (773) 896-2400. ctschicago.edu. (Jack Nuelle)

Chicago Women in the Blues Festival

A boisterous blues revue is on its way to Reggie’s in the first weeks of summer. The show highlights some of the best female blues singers in the city and celebrates Chicago’s rich blues history. A rotating cast of performers keeps each show different and will also include various special guests. These women represent a group of powerful voices, instrumentalists and performers. Billed as a mini-festival staged in conjunction with the larger Chicago Blues festival, this “bevy of blues-belting bombshells” will be sure to keep things proud, loud, and nostalgic in the South Loop. Reggie’s. 2109 S. State. June 13. 7pm. $10-15. 17+ (312)949-0120. reggieslive.com/show/ chicago-women-blues-festival. (Jack Nuelle)

Rock Your World

Joe Bryl is no stranger to the Chicago music scene. As the former co-owner and director of famed, but now-defunct, Chicago nightclub Sonotheque, Bryl has over twenty years of experience in the music industry, and he has the Tribune’s “Most Interesting DJ” award to prove it (I’m not making that up, I swear). His musical taste is as wide and eclectic as it is obscure, exposing Chicagoans to genres such as acid jazz, neo-soul, and rare groove. See if you can recognize any of them at Maria’s, where he will be part of a showcase of international rock bands. So if you’re a fan of Siamese soul or Zulu stomp, or if you just want to find out what the hell those are, you should go. Maria’s. 960 W. 31st St. Friday, May 16. (773)890-0588. community-bar.com (Mark Hassenfratz) ¬


Learning, Unedited “Connect [ ] ED” at the Chicago Art Department BY MAHA AHMED

A

t Pilsen’s Chicago Art Department, Nat Soti and Edyta Stepien ran around frantically, doing last-minute installations of pieces for their exhibition, “connect [ ] ED,” and putting up tape to prevent people from venturing into restricted spaces. It was 6:29. The opening reception, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, was supposed to start at six. Yet it was this frenetic haphazardness that lent the entire exhibition an air of genuine passion, highlighting the fact that those involved are deeply invested in the problem of youth education. Stepien, who worked with Soti for a year to curate the exhibition and develop its concept, passionately described the motives behind this politically driven collection of works by artists and educators. “There’s this concept called ‘connected learning,’ which aims at building an environment of community- and interaction-based learning through creativity—in theory. In reality, none of these conversations really involve artists, educators, or students.” In light of the recent closure of fifty CPS schools and the increased police presence in public schools around Chicago, this conversation is especially urgent, and artistic attempts to find a place in the ensuing dialogue, like Jayne Hileman’s “Big Map II,” a series of large maps on a wall that outline the “safe routes” suggested to students by CPS, are all the more provocative and crucial. Another series of prints by Sarah Atlas, three framed pieces resembling sidewalk crossing signs combined with metal detectors and a traditional sign-post silhouette in a police hat, questioned the necessity and role of police presence and traditional safety measures within public schools. Many of the pieces were made by educators, for whom “connect [ ] ED” served as their first foray into the art world. One such piece was a poem entitled “REVOLUTION,” written in black, heterogeneous handwriting on a white wall. “I know the future fears and / awaits your possibility / I believe in your profundity.” This direct address to and connection with

the things we carry-maha ahmed

students seemed to be missing from most other works in the space. “The exhibition aims at examining not only education through the lens of art, but art through the lens of education,” said Soti, whose video installation called “Un-Edit Learning” sums up the aims and accomplishments of “connect [ ] ED” and also focuses on the youths served by CPS rather than the policy-based dialogue that other artists interrogate. His installation consisted of a video, projected onto two walls of the space, that displayed a loop of children from within Chicago’s public school system going to rivers to collect water samples, testing the merits of self-built remote-controlled vehicles. “This installation composes but presents our footage of learning un-edited,” read Soti’s placard. “In stripping away the need of telling a story or promoting a message, we are only left with students learning, doing, and making.” ¬ "Connect [ ] ED." Chicago Art Departmenr, 1932 S. Halsted St. #100-101. Through May 23; closing reception 6pm-8pm. (312)7254223. chicagoartdepartment.org

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