2 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY
OCTOBER 23, 2013
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 Votes on Gay Marriage on the Horizon
SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY The South Side Weekly is a newsprint magazine produced by students at 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 Executive Editor Managing Editor
Harrison Smith Claire Withycombe Bea Malsky
Senior Editors John Gamino, Spencer Mcavoy Politics Editor Osita Nwanevu Stage & Screen Hannah Nyhart Editor Music and Zach Goldhammer Video Editor Visual Arts Editor Katryce Lassle Contributing Editors Ari Feldman, Josh Kovensky, Sharon Lurye, Meaghan Murphy Photo Editor Lydia Gorham Layout Editor Olivia Dorow Hovland Online Editor Gabi Bernard Senior Writer Stephen Urchick Staff Writers Bess Cohen, Emily Holland, Jason Huang, Jack Nuelle Staff Photographer Camden Bauchner Staff Illustrators Hanna Petroski, Isabel Ochoa Gold Business Manager
5706 S. University Ave. Reynolds Club 018 Chicago, IL 60637 SouthSideWeekly.com Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
For advertising inquiries, contact: (773)234-5388 email@example.com
Cover photo by Luke White.
In the same week that New Jersey has legalized same-sex marriage, Illinois looks like it is bending in the same direction. A poll published by the Windy City Times hints that there is likely a majority of supporters in the Illinois House for a bill to legalize. However, per the current legislation, if a vote were taken on the matter next week, in the House’s upcoming session, it would require a 71-29 majority to pass any such measure. That specific regulation could be changed. Alternatively, lawmakers could just sit around until January 1 when it expires, and only a 60-40 majority is needed. Hopefully Illinois’ same-sex couples won’t do anything drastic, like move to New Jersey between now and the New Year.
Allende Gets Nobel Consolation Prize in Chicago
This Wednesday, Isabel Allende will be given her own bit of Chicago literary cache. Along with Michael Lewis, author of “Moneyball,” she is being awarded the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award, presented each year to writers whose writing has “enhanced the public’s knowledge of the written word.” Allende’s books, known by kids rolling their eyes in high school English classes the world over, have collectively sold over 56 million copies, which probably counts as a literary PSA of highest magnitude. She was last seen congratulating fellow public-knowledge enhancer Alice Munro on her “well-deserved” Nobel Prize.
Lame Fight Happens at Chuck E. Cheese
A fight erupted in a Lincoln Park Chuck E. Cheese Sunday after a serious disagreement over tickets and—this always happens—the possible combinations of prizes for exchange. Two groups got into a tussle while waiting in the prize line at the fine dining establishment—and right in the middle of the dinner rush, too. By the time police intervened, over thirty patrons of the culinary mecca were involved in the
scuffle. No one was hospitalized, but several egos were pretty badly bruised after the involved parties realized they got into a fight at Chuck E. Cheese, where, rumor has it, kids defecate in the ball pit.
Bring Your Own Regulation
Liquor may soon flow less freely in Chicago. Alderman Deborah Graham of the West Side hopes to impose new regulations on the city’s relatively lax BYOB policy. While Graham rescinded her initial proposal to ban BYOB in dry precincts due to a general lack of enthusiasm among her colleagues, BYOB regulations remain a topic of decidedly sober deliberation within the Chicago City Council. No alternate plan has been formulated yet, but some of the proposed regulations include requiring BYOB businesses to make annual payments in order to maintain a “corkage license” and imposing limits on the quantity of alcohol an individual can bring into a business. While the new legislation brews, BYOBers should enjoy as many as they can.
Last Thursday, about twenty-three miles away from Chicago as the chicken flies, the Lake County Zoning board hosted a heated discussion on the birds and the bees. The board considered reforms to ordinances on backyard bee and chicken keeping, settling on two hives per quarter-acre. The relaxed recommendation is a boon to a growing movement of suburban farmers, whose agricultural ambitions must conform to tight spaces. While beekeepers had pushed for further loosening of the ordinances, there was a buzz of mild approval. Poultry proponents, on the other hand, were on the brink of a chicken coup when the board denied their push to allow birds on lots of the same size. The board did recommend opening half-acre lots to five-bird flocks. Some residents clucked that chickens might prove a nuisance to neighbors and their pets, but no cats or dogs were present to voice objections.
IN THIS ISSUE solveig øvstebø
pullman national park
south shore opera
“At the end of the day it’s the
“When we die we shall go to the Pullman Hell.”
“I’m not the star. The opera is the star. William Grant Still, Langston Hughes, Verna Arvey, they’re the stars.”
artists and the exhibitions that are in the center. And here, I have confidence.”
katryce lassle............4 manual of violence
red line playlist
“Half of the battle is to give kids the tools to articulate the bad.”
“The train goes slowly on the South Side / Slowly on the South Side / But only on the South Side.”
zach goldhammer...14 OCTOBER 23, 2013
SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 3
courtesy of the renaissance society
New Talent Solveig Øvstebø tweaks the Renaissance Society BY KATRYCE LASSLE
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he Renaissance Society, existing quietly and discreetly on the fourth floor of the University of Chicago’s Cobb Hall, is no stranger to artistic genius. Since its founding in 1915, the non-collecting contemporary art gallery has hosted visionaries that are now household names: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Réné Magritte, to name a few. Susanne Ghez, executive director and chief curator of the Renaissance Society from 1974 to 2013, carried the space and its featured artists into the twenty-first century. From confessional artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois to celebrated photographer Jeff Wall; from postmodernist Mike Kelley to conceptual artist On Kawara, or the much-discussed and oft-debated Jeff Koons (recently in the spotlight for designing the album art for Lady Gaga’s “Artpop”), Ghez managed somehow to consistently keep the Renaissance Society at the forefront of up-and-coming contemporary art for her entire forty-year tenure. This summer, the Renaissance Society said a bittersweet goodbye to Ghez and began a new chapter in its rich and colorful history. Solveig Øvstebø, previously the director of the Bergen Kunsthall gallery in Norway, has taken over Ghez’s position as executive director; she is already deeply engaged with the continuous process of bringing new and relevant contemporary art to Chicago from around the world. We sat down with Øvstebø to discuss the transition and her plans for continuing the legacy of one of the world’s oldest contemporary art spaces. ¬
OCTOBER 23, 2013
VISUAL ARTS What was the decision process involved in getting you to the Renaissance Society? They came to me. I had just said yes to a new term at Bergen Kunsthall; I’d been directing there for ten years. And I was about to give birth, so when they called me it was not something that I thought I could do. I was very honored, of course. I’d heard a lot about the Renaissance Society, working in the field for many years. The Renaissance Society has such a strong voice in the international art scene. So I was very happy about that, but I was very hesitant that it might not be possible for me to do. And then, about six weeks later, they called me again and they asked me if I wanted to do an interview, and I told them I couldn’t come yet, because the baby was only five weeks old. So then we decided to do a video interview. And that’s when I realized that this institution is not only strong artistically, with a very good history and reputation. But it also has a very competent board that is willing to work in a very uncompromising way with contemporary art. I don’t know so much about the art scene in the States; from what I’ve seen from outside of it, it’s a bigger corporate museum world than what I’m used to in Norway. But [the Renaissance Society] seemed to be very independent, very free, and very uncompromising, and I really liked the thoughts they had and the questions they asked, so I started to consider it. And then we came over here and had the interview, my family and I, all three of us, and that was it! When you got here, what did you think about how to continue with, or react to, what Susanne Ghez had been doing for so long? I think that, first of all, this institution has an amazing foundation, based on the work that she has done, to go in-depth, to present work and shows that might change the way you look at a specific artist because the exhibitions here are so significant. In a way, when you come into an institution like this you walk into golden slippers—and they’re very big, those slippers. [Laughs] And I guess that is why many people have asked me, “How do you dare to take over after Susanne Ghez? How do you have the courage to do that?” And if you compare me to Susanne Ghez, well, then it is a bit scary indeed. But I guess my courage to do
this comes from the fact that I trust the artists very much. At the end of the day it’s the artists and the exhibitions that are in the center. And here, I have confidence. For me it isn’t important to change something for change’s sake, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t trying to optimize what’s already here. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m seeking knowledge, both about the institution and the scene around it; and the tweak—I wouldn’t say change— is that I would like to further strengthen the dialogue with the artists by mainly focusing on the production of new works.
ing new artists for this smaller and more intimate space? This is what I do all the time. I’m used to working very closely with artists, and I’ve had no problems inviting them here. Everybody’s really thrilled and happy to come. Remember that the Renaissance Society has a very strong reputation. I feel that artists really want to work with us. And now we have the program for 2014 ready! The combination of the Renaissance Society and the network that I already had as a curator from Europe was a good match. Nobody has turned us down.
In a way, when you come into an institution like this you walk into golden slippers—and they’re very big, those slippers.
Today, you find that new commissions most frequently happen in the context of commercial galleries or in relation to bigger museum shows. With its history, its archive and its intellectual framework here at the University of Chicago, I would like the Ren to be a platform where artists can work and experiment with new ideas, together with us. We can do this because we have a small space, we are flexible, and we can challenge both the artist and ourselves by focusing on where the artist finds him-/ herself artistically at this moment, without relying only on existing work we already know. I think it is important to take some risks as an institution and to not always know what you will get when you enter the dialogue with the artist. This also activates the institution; we’re not just a passive space that shows art. We can aim to be a place where new thoughts and new artistic production come about. In that respect, has it been challenging, these past three or four months, contact-
On the topic of new exhibits and new work, is there anything that you can tell us about the upcoming Nora Schultz exhibit? Yes! Nora, of course, will make new works. She’s done a lot of performance-related, process-oriented exhibitions where you can sort of see traces that linger after a performance, and you can see the process very clearly in her exhibitions. This time she will combine this with independent works that she has produced in her studio. The performative and the process will still be visible but more as a context. She will work very specifically with the space and use found materials to build this context. There will also be an element of sound. Thematically she will work with the notion of independence and look into the perspective of language—actually, I was supposed to talk with her today for an update, so I don’t know how much I should say yet about this! You can come back in January and talk to her. [Laughs]
Could you say a bit about the event schedule for the season, in conjunction with “Suicide Narcissus”? We have a lot of events coming up this autumn. One of them is a conversation between [Renaissance Society Associate Curator] Hamza [Walker] and me; that’s the first one coming up, next week. I will talk a little bit about where I come from and what I’d been doing earlier as a curator, and my thoughts about institutional models. Together we will also discuss the Renaissance Society and its role in the States. And then on November 23, in conjunction with “Suicide Narcissus,” we have an artist talk with Paul Petritsch, Lucy Skaer, and Daniel Steegman Mangrané. Also, it is important to mention the concerts that come along with that, which are a very important part of the Renaissance Society’s program and will continue to be. Events and concerts have always been an important part of my curatorial practice and in Bergen we had a broad event program in addition to the main exhibitions. Also upcoming is the “Black Is, Black Ain’t” book launch and symposium. This event takes as a point of departure the group exhibition “Black Is, Black Ain’t” that was curated by Hamza Walker and shown at the Ren in 2008. For the event I decided that I wanted to revisit the topics that were raised in this show by making a symposium together with the launch and so I asked Hamza to organize a panel. [The panel will examine “Black Is, Black Ain’t” and earlier exhibitions about African American culture in contemporary art. Writes Hamza Walker in the conceptual essay that accompanied “Black Is, Black Ain’t”: “By inseparably linking race and culture, the term ‘blackness’ counters a notion of culture divorced from race as that split might downplay the extent to which race was institutionally formalized and the very real role race continues to play in shaping our society.”] I’m really looking forward to this. I look forward to learning more about these issues. This symposium exemplifies what I would like this institution to be—an active part of the dialogue, around art but also around the issues that art raises. ¬
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Company Town As support for a National Park builds, how will Pullman present its past? BY OSITA NWANEVU
n 1893, one Mrs. Duane Doty, a Pullman resident, penned a slim volume titled “The Story of Pullman.” “The history of civilization exhibits a steady growth and progress in the masses of the human race to higher levels,” she wrote. “In showing to the world that the interests of capital can be amply provided for while operatives…are made sharers in the results of good work, an example has been set here.” “Pullman,” she went on to say, “is emphatically a new departure in city building and, as the writer firmly believes, marks an era in human advancement.” Roughly ten years earlier, George Mortimer Pullman, founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company, had bought up a parcel of land a dozen miles south of the
Loop for a new passenger-car factory. Had George Pullman been an ordinary businessman, and had the late nineteenth century in America been an ordinary time, the story of the Pullman Palace Car Company and all it wrought might have ended there. But this was the Gilded Age, a time that saw then-unimaginable wealth put to use by men of still-unimaginable ambition. So, George Pullman built his factory. And then he built a town. Pullman wasn’t the first company town in America. But Duane Doty can be forgiven for thinking something unprecedented was going on. Indoor plumbing. Daily trash collection. Open space. Roman archways. A marketplace. A theater. Athletic grounds. All were unthinkable for the majority of industrial workers in the late
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nineteenth century. All were in Pullman. The town was made most distinctive, though, by the material used to build it. Clay was dredged from nearby Lake Calumet to make bricks. Millions upon millions of bricks. Just a few decades earlier, the Great Fire had razed much of the city to the ground. Bricks were nonflammable. They were architecturally compelling. And they provided a sense of permanence. As far as residents like Doty were concerned, it seemed like Pullman and the homes in it really could be around forever. In a sense, they weren’t wrong. It’s remarkable that time has not been more unkind to Pullman. The factory closed in the fifties, and the thousand or so homes that remain have weathered the forces of economic change and punctured hubris.
Though little of the original utopian spirit and the institutions it generated have endured, it’s not hard to find residents of the historic district—about 3,600 strong— proud of what was, what could have been, and, if all goes to a certain set of plans, what could still be. Pullman will never again be considered the marker of a new “era in human advancement.” But it could, very soon, be a National Park—a realization of the potential that community leaders have seen from the beginning of the town’s new life, a second chapter that was almost never written.
ell—back in the sixties, I believe—someone had the bright idea to try and bulldoze Pullman.”
The remains of the Rear Erecting Shops at the preserved factory site. Earl Johnson says this peering over his glasses and out of his driver’s side window, looking through the rain at traffic on 111th Street, near the midsection of the Pullman Historic District. The old factory site sits behind us, a large empty expanse filled in by tall grass, the remains of the factory’s rear erecting shops, and the tall, sublime structure of its well-preserved administration building and clock tower. The building’s tower may be the old town’s most striking remnant, about as grand a marker of the District’s western boundary as anyone could hope for. When developers drew up plans to turn the district into an industrial park in 1960, the Pullman Civic Organization (PCO)—which started as a civil defense
organization during World War II—successfully fought back and initiated the restoration that would be taken up by a myriad of offshoot and similar groups over the next half-century. In 1998, arson destroyed much of what was left of the factory and severely damaged the tower. “Big fire. Huge, huge fire,” Johnson says with a rueful chuckle. “There was a building that filled this whole area over here and tied into those buildings over there. That’s gone. I mean it was toast. And everything that isn’t brick you see here, was gone.” Afterward, the town’s preservation groups put together funds to do what they’d already been doing for decades— detailed, diligent rehabilitation. Johnson is one of the community vol-
unteers who helps maintain the factory site, which has been controlled by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), a government agency, since 1991. “I don’t work for anybody,” he laughs. “But they’ll say, ‘Mow the grass.’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, okay.’ Or ‘Haul the garbage.’ ‘Well, okay.’ ”
ohnson has lived in the Historic District for twenty years, long enough to see the expansion of preservation work on the part of individuals, and of groups like the IHPA, firsthand. As we drive up Cottage Grove into the northern half of the District, he cheerily points to homes recently repaired and touched-up to look as freshly built as they would have in the 1880s and 1890s.
“This is getting into North Pullman. You see some of the brick work that’s been redone here? See that archway? That thing was really in bad shape. And then this— they’ve fixed this up here pretty nice.” Down certain streets on the neighborhood’s north side, homes hewing closely to the conventions of the old Pullman’s style are few and far between. The exteriors of many old Pullman houses have been transformed by generations of ad-libbed variations from the architectural script laid out by the town’s planners. Rustic stone façades, space-age colors, outsized porches—all features left behind by Pullman homeowners less interested in the design strictures of a bygone past than in the architectural trends defining their respective periods of the twentieth century.
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In many parts of the neighborhood, the extent of preservation varies starkly from house to house. “Now, some places like this one here that’s got yellowish brick on it—” Johnson says, pointing to one such house. “That’s a veneer. That’s not original. Back in the fifties or maybe sixties, somebody must’ve thought it was cute or the fad thing to do.” Other houses on the north side are simply vacant, boarded up, and crumbling—as much an indicator of recent economic hardships, namely foreclosures, as the limited geographic and financial reach of the District’s preservationists. In 2011, the group Preservation Chicago listed North Pullman as one of the city’s most threatened neighborhoods. Much of the recent preservation work here has been done by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a nonprofit that works in similarly distressed areas throughout the South Side. Because the landmark district defined by the City of
Chicago in 1972 excludes much of North Pullman, the area lacks the money and regulations used by the rest of the District to keep its homes in good shape and in keeping with the architectural vision of Pullman’s designers. “South Pullman is less rough around the edges, as you’ll soon see,” Johnson says. He’s right. When the town was originally built, the lowest classes of workers would live the furthest away from the factory, while the bosses would live up close. As we move away from the factory toward the southern end of the District, this is reflected in the higher density of the homes—they’re smaller, more tightly packed together. And yet—ironically—most seem to be visibly well-preserved, and thus, more expensive in the present. South Pullman is
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more bucolic, more obviously middle-class than North Pullman. Halloween decorations abound. Dogs are being walked. Couples are strolling. It all happens against the backdrop of home exteriors brought near their original state. In contrast to much of North Pullman, individuals in South Pullman, well within Chicago’s landmark district, are required make their homes hew to a series of regulations written to preserve the community’s architectural continuity. Grants for this are made available by the PCO. Formal efforts to secure landmark status for Pullman began in 1968 with the creation of the Beman Committee—named after Pullman architect Solon Spencer Beman—by members of the PCO. The committee’s main task was to conduct research and archival work in order to make a com-
pelling case for Pullman’s preservation to local, state, and national authorities. This effort led to Pullman’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District in 1970 and South Pullman’s designation as a Chicago Landmark District in 1972, two milestones in the expansion of the wider world’s understanding of Pullman’s significance—an understanding that, for a while, surpassed that of many of Pullman’s own residents. “It was just, you know, a place where they lived,” says Michael Shymanski, one of the original members of the Beman Committee and the current president of the Historic Pullman Foundation. “You have to be informed about how important things are and how important the architecture is—the importance of preserving it in contrast to modernizing it.”
FEATURE The attention garnered by the designations and the continued campaigning of the Beman Committee eventually encouraged Pullman residents to start restoring their homes on an individual basis. But some committee members recognized that the preservation and restoration of larger, non-residential buildings would be problematic. “When it came to major buildings, we needed more resources,” says Shymanski. “The Civic Organization was just an association. It didn’t have the capacity or the structure needed to raise funds, be a 501(c) (3), et cetera. We needed to get people involved beyond the limited resources of the neighborhood.” Thus, the Historic Pullman Foundation was incorporated in 1973. The foundation spent much of the 1970s purchasing and preserving structures like the remains of the thrice-burned market hall, which served as a shopping and community center for the old town, and the Hotel Florence, a luxe fifty-room hotel formerly used to house material suppliers and railroad executives visiting Pullman on business. Since then, the Foundation has steadily expanded its role, and has become a leading voice in the push for National Park status. “National Park status will put us on the map—literally,” Shymanski says. “It’ll facilitate people taking greater interest and pride in the Far South Side of Chicago. It will stimulate economic development.” His experiences doing preservation work at the Hotel Florence, which operated as a museum and restaurant for decades, help him further illustrate the benefits. “When we had the restaurant in the hotel, we employed people,” he says. “We had cooks, waiters, managers, busboys, dishwashers. Revenue coming in and going to pay people. And that was just a smallscale thing. “If this became a National Park all that would significantly increase,” he continues. “People will come, and, like going to any attraction, they’ll spend three hours or so looking at stuff, being entertained, going on a tour, or whatever. But what do they want to do after that? First thing they want to do is eat. Second thing they want to do is some shopping. And the next big step is, if you have enough activities, for them to stay overnight.” It’s a simple enough recipe for growth, and it’s all within the realm of possibility, according to the National Park Service. At the request of Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, along with then-Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., the Park Service released a “reconnaissance
survey”—a general overview of a possible Park site’s potential—for Pullman last summer. The survey reports that Pullman, already declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1970, definitively meets two of the NPS’s criteria: significance, meaning the sight is of clear historical importance, and suitability, meaning educational and recreational offerings at the site are unique and not offered at other Parks. The third criterion, feasibility, is trickier. Detailed analysis of the financials, staffing requirements, and other specifics was outside the purview of the study. Outside funding will have to be found, and the roles community organizations and the NPS will take on or share will have to be
and would allow the District to gain Park status by a future act of Congress. When I meet Shymanski, he’s busy thinking about the present and is in the midst of preparations for Open House Chicago, a free event run by the Chicago Architectural Foundation that brings visitors to 150 architecturally significant locations across the city. The Historic Pullman Visitor Center, a former Masonic lodge purchased by the Foundation in 1973, is set to be the staging ground for Open House exploration of the neighborhood. Shymanski, along with another Foundation volunteer, Patty, have spent the better part of the day shuffling around the Center’s immense second floor,
National Park status will put us on the map— literally. It will facilitate people taking greater interest and pride in the Far South Side of Chicago.
determined. If a Park is found to be feasible, there are two routes for approval. The first begins with the introduction and passage of a bill in Congress asking the NPS to do a more comprehensive study, which could last years. If the site is assessed positively, another bill would have to be introduced and passed to make the space a Park, a process that could also take a number of years. The second route, recently advocated by the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, is much shorter. “The President has the executive power to designate things as National Monuments,” says Shymanski. “And National Monuments are administered by the National Park Service. To do that, the federal government has to own something, so there are discussions about various governmental units transferring a piece of their property to the National Park Service. And then the President could designate it a National Monument under the Antiquities Act. And he could do that in his last year, which happens to be the centennial of the National Park Service.” Monument status isn’t quite National Park status, but it would still make Pullman a nationally significant destination,
unearthing and dusting off acquired artifacts from the Hotel Florence and George Pullman’s colossal Prairie Avenue mansion to showcase for sightseers. Although brick was the defining architectural characteristic of everything Pullman touched, vast amounts of wood still lined the walls and comprised the furniture of his buildings—the Hotel Florence and his own home included. The timber in the Center’s collected artifacts might have come from at least a National Park’s worth of trees. Chairs. Tables. A dozen or so large armoires. Doorframes one could almost drive cars through. The size and number of these objects reflect the grandeur of George Pullman’s life and ambitions almost as well as the buildings he had constructed. On our way back downstairs we stop in front of what appears to be a mahogany headboard for a four-poster bed custom built to Goliath’s specifications. “We found a 1950s article about the hotel, and the article went on to say that this was George Pullman’s bed,” Shymanski says proudly. “We still have to verify that. But period-wise, it’s correct.” The collection of artifacts at the Visitor’s Center underscores the kind of focus preservationists have placed on the materi-
al aspects of life in Pullman. The historical value and preciousness of the things visitors to Pullman can see and, potentially, live in, are obvious. One would expect the same to be even truer about the lives of the people who used to own them. And yet, for unclear reasons—perhaps gaps in the historical record, or an awareness of what visitors are most interested in—the town’s preservationists seem to have little to say about them. This is brought into relief by the annual Historic Pullman House Tour, the event perhaps most indicative of the kinds of things visitors to a Pullman National Park could participate in. During the tour, visitors take a self-guided stroll through the neighborhood and visit private residences not typically open to the public. One of this year’s most visited stops is the home of William Tyre, executive director and curator of the Glessner House Museum. The museum is the former Prairie Avenue residence of the late-nineteenth-century farm-technology magnate John J. Glessner. Incidentally, Tyre first came across the 112th Street Property in 2010, on another Historic Pullman House Tour. Midway through the day, the line outside Tyre’s home is consistently about thirty people long as groups of thirteen are cycled in and out of the house by docents. One of the docents, Donna Primus, stands on the front steps of the house and charismatically preps newcomers to the line for what they’re about to see. “Bill’s full-time job is to be in a historic home museum. That’s the mentality that he brought to this home when he purchased it a few years ago,” she enthuses. “He is very interested in Chicago history, and so when you go inside, you’re going to see over one hundred framed pieces of art on the wall that are things like color plates from the 1893 World’s Fair and photos of homes that no longer exist on Prairie Avenue. He has some family pictures, he has Pullman train-car china, he has incredible tiles and architectural pediments on display throughout the home as well as in the garden.” Everyone in the crowd has dressed appropriately for the appreciation of china and tiles. Neat scarves and trim coats abound. There’s a newsboy cap here, a Francis Ford Coppola winery cap there, and houndstooth all around. After fifteen minutes or so, the group exits the house and the next thirteen are let in. “You’ll find this to be a top-notch, professional visit to a fabulous home,” says Primus. Inside, Tyre’s house resembles less
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a home spruced up to be a museum for a weekend than a museum someone happens to live in. There is an object on every surface, be it a figurine, bust, photo, print, or otherwise. In his parlor, Tyre carefully and, as promised, professionally, gives his guests an overview of the first floor’s features. “Above the picture railing is the original plaster cornice, which is all intact and original. And then in the middle of the ceiling, the only surviving original plaster ceiling medallion,” he says. “You’ll notice that there’s panels underneath that extend out to the floor. When I moved into the house, those panels had been covered over with drywall—I did not know they were there. When I visited my neighbor’s house, I saw his panels, came back, knocked a hole in my wall, and found them. They had been painted, so I had them stripped and refinished, and they were as good as the day they were put in.” Throughout the home are many examples and displays with this same kind of meticulous attention to original detail. But Tyre and the docents are light on specifics about who might have lived in the house. All guests are told is that the original resident was the principal of the town school—no name provided—and that the upper-story rooms were often rented to boarders. The same is true for the other houses on the tour and, it seems, educational efforts in Pullman in general. All told, the average visitor to Pullman is likely to learn less about Pullman’s artisans and executives than about the variances in the shades of “Pullman green” paint on their windowsills. The extent of George Pullman’s control over life in the old town was seen as overbearing, or even tyrannical, by many of his workers, a mood captured by a quote cited in a town history provided by the Pullman State Historic Site: “We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shops, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman Church, and when we die we shall go to the Pullman Hell.”
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It’s likely workers of the mindset exemplified by the quote would be none too thrilled about the buildings they lived in overshadowing years of toil. In fact, it was precisely that kind of discontent that led to the event in Pullman history probably most underrepresented by the District’s offerings: the 1894 Pullman Strike, sparked by Pullman’s refusal to reduce rents in the
that story to tell.” At present, though, there isn’t an official place a National Park could use to tell that story. But another story in the same vein fares better. A repurposed rowhouse on South Maryland Avenue is home to the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, an independent institution dedicated to the history of the black porters that
The average visitor to Pullman is likely to learn less about Pullman’s artisans and executives than about the variances in the shades of “Pullman green” paint on their windowsills.
town to correspond with cuts to wages made necessary by falling demand. Pullman passenger cars were so ubiquitous on American railroads by that point that when leftist activist Eugene Debs successfully called for a boycott of all trains carrying Pullman cars, half the country’s rail system was brought to a screeching halt. The strike eventually drew to a violent close with the intervention of the United States military on the behalf of Pullman, an action that took the lives of thirty strikers. Just days after the strike, Congress and President Grover Cleveland attempted to make amends with the labor community by declaring a national day for the commemoration of organized labor’s place in American society—Labor Day. To be sure, Pullman’s place in the history of the American labor movement is a draw for many visitors, and community leaders like Shymanski know it. “Just recently, we had a group from Europe that organized a labor history tour—a tour about the strike,” he says. “Europe! Just because they knew we had
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served passengers in Pullman cars for a century. Though the Pullman porter jobs reinforced notions of black servility, they were highly sought after and relatively stable. In 1925, civil rights activist and labor organizer Asa Philip Randolph led the formation of a union of black porters—the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters—the first black labor union in American history. For Shymanski, the museum and the legacy of the porters significantly strengthen the old town’s claim for National Park status. “The cool thing about this National Park [would be] that it tells great, multi-racial stories. It brings together the great diversity of this country to be shared and celebrated,” he says. “The stories about Philip Randolph, the Great Migration, and all the things that were happening with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters— those are great stories.” The presence of those stories accentuates Historic Pullman’s remarkable overall diversity in multiple demographic catego-
ries, race being just one of them. “Over time, this neighborhood became as diverse racially, socially, and economically as the city of Chicago—which I think is very cool,” Shymanski says. “I mean, I think it’s cool to live in a neighborhood where you have retired people, poor people, old people getting by on Social Security, some people on Section Eight— other people, like my wife and I and other couples here—they have the capacity to exercise choice. You have two professionals in a family.” But the relationship between Historic Pullman and the more homogenous, predominantly black communities that surround it has been affected by the kind of racial exclusion and alienation manifested in many other Chicago neighborhoods over the past several decades. It would be hard to understand the benefits a National Park could bring to the area just outside the District’s boundary lines, and the rest of the South Side, without an accompanying understanding of how the District and surrounding neighborhoods like Roseland have evolved. Shymanski, an urban planner by trade, has a lot to say on the subject. “The federal government made funds available to open neighborhoods up because of the overcrowding that had occurred in the African-American ghettos,” he says. “And when that opened up, Roseland changed very rapidly to become more African-American. Like, in a very short period of time.” “When change occurs that rapidly, there’s sort of an institutional breakdown,” he continues. “And by that, I mean—the retail owners. They don’t assimilate the African-Americans, who are the minority, into the operation of the business. The old-timers don’t assimilate into social groups and service groups. And those kinds of groups and institutions provide the network to maintain stability.” And Pullman, on the other hand? “We were able to…keep the old people from running away. Just being frank and truthful about it. We were able to bring in
Duane Doty’s former home is now the site of a corner grocery store. my generation of people, younger people, who saw the future of this nation being one of integration.” Given the divergent paths taken by historic Pullman and surrounding communities like Roseland, it’s worth wondering if those living outside the boundaries of the District are as optimistic about prospects for a National Park as those within. Joe, a local businessman from Roseland, isn’t. “I mean, they’re bringing tourists down here every weekend, anyways,” he says, scratching his head. “But what do you see down there?” He points to the empty expanse of land near the old factory site. “Nothing.” Joe, who declined to have his real name printed, owns a shop near the District where he’s worked for nearly twenty
years. Our interview is the first he’s heard of National Park talk. “I mean, I’ve been here for twenty years. No one’s asked me what I think about what’s been going on around here.” He chuckles. “I mean—I’m just a person, you know.” “Black people out here are just…out here. They don’t get involved. I don’t worry about what’s going on around here because they’re going to do things the way they want to.”
t’d be hard to argue that National Park designation wouldn’t have the effects matching Shymanski’s broad predictions. More visitors would likely yield more revenue. More revenue would likely yield more businesses. More businesses could well yield jobs and investment for the wid-
er Far South Side community, benefitting both Park promoters as well as detractors like Joe. But missing, perhaps crucially, from the picture of what a National Park would look like and mean are deeper explorations of the lives of the people who lived inside the District and, if Joe’s comments serve as any indication, the insights of the people who live just outside of it today. It’s clear that the town’s preservationists have a love for Pullman’s history that runs as richly and deeply as the red in the bricks of the buildings they’ve spent decades protecting and inhabiting. Their passions will be given space and attention in a Pullman National Park. Whether they’ll be joined by the passions of those made outsiders by the passage of time or by socioeconomic circumstance remains to be seen.
To newcomers at a potential Pullman National Park, Duane Doty’s two-story townhouse on St. Lawrence Avenue, just down the street from the Visitor Center, might be well worth a stop. It still stands—proudly, of course, and in fairly good condition. But sometime during the past century, a modest corner grocery store sprouted from her home’s façade. On this particular day, the storeowner is passing sodas through a metal gate to children who’ve just been released from the school across the street. The scene might not be worth including in the annals of Western civilization. But it’s not a bad end to an average autumn afternoon. ¬
OCTOBER 23, 2013
SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 11
Revolutionary Revival For one night, “Troubled Island” returned to life BY NOAH KAHRS
angston Hughes was brought up hearing stories about the Haitian Revolution from his grandmother, and he had long been drafting a play about the revolution when the opportunity for an opera arose. This is “Troubled Island,” composed by William Grant Still and written by Hughes and Verna Arvey. Until Maestro Leslie Dunner led a performance at the South Shore Cultural Center on Saturday, the show had not been seen in its full form since 1949. That was enough to attract Lesly Condé, consul general of Haiti. “The story of Haiti is rich in stories that could inspire many a poet, playwright, or composer,” he told the audience in an introduction to the performance. The show was a one-night-only revival by the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago, meant to give “Troubled Island” another shot after a rocky past. When it premiered in New York in 1949, it garnered numerous standing ovations, but it was almost uniformly panned by the press. A critic in Time wrote that “Poet Hughes’s libretto turned out to have far more peroration than punch,” while “composer Still’s music often had more prettiness than power.” Perhaps more damningly, the reviewer concluded that, “in all, ‘Troubled Island’ had more of the soufflé of operetta than the soup bone of opera.” Since then, there have been no full productions, despite the massive legacies of both Still and Hughes. The South Shore performance marked its Chicago premiere and also, the first performance of “Troubled Island” with an all-black cast (rather than a white cast with masks), as Still and Hughes almost certainly intended. This history was clearly a motivating factor; Kirk Walker, who led the performance in the role of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a prominent figure of revolutionary Haiti, said that to be a part of such a historic production was “frickin’ awesome.” Cornelius Johnson, artistic director of the South Shore Opera Company, called it a tribute to the “dean of Afro-American Composers,” as Still is known, and a chance to perform what Johnson says is “his crown glory.” Though Still is best known for his “Afro-American Sympho-
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ny,” which features the same distinct integration of jazz and blues as “Troubled Island,” he really wanted to be an opera composer, and “Troubled Island” is said to have been his favorite of his operas. Seats were appropriately scarce at the Cultural Center’s Paul Robeson Theater. The opera’s opening chords established a rich, jazz-based sound that gave the entire first act a very comfortable, perhaps sensual, feeling that was quite unusual for opera. Frequent use of extended chords could be heard through much of the first act. Contralto Gwendolyn Brown, who sang the role of Azelia, Dessalines’ wife from his slave days, was an integral part of this textural richness. courtesy of d. hampton photography Her duet with Walker emphaContralto Gwendolyn Brown as Azelia and baritone Kirk Walker as Jean-Jacques Dessalines. sized the opera’s jazz influences, as the pair concluded their duet on the seventh of a chord, for a sugary and inauthentic duet, as they brutal aspects of Dessalines’ rule, such as which would never have happened in a schemed about overthrowing Dessalines his push at the end of the third act to make more classical opera. and eloping to Paris. all men return to the soil—even those who The first act, which described the lives At first, this saccharine façade con- were not previously slaves—and into a of Haitian slaves before the revolution, tinued into the third act, with a French state of near-slavery. Or, as Walker put it, culminated in a voodoo ritual that show- minuet composed to sound deliberately out Dessalines was in many ways “a cross becased the production’s hand-drummers of place. But an interruption by the tradi- tween Hannibal Lecter and Martin Luther and dancers, who joined forces remark- tional voodoo ensemble from the first act King.” ably with the chorus and pianos. The finale provided a somewhat disruptive return to The counterrevolutionaries emerged to of this act, in which the ensemble exited the more directly rhythmic African style, challenge him in the final act; Stenio (sung through the audience, surrounded listeners and emphasized the deliberately imitative by the baritone Antonio Watts), Vuval’s with sounds and brought the drama to the nature of the preceding European music. cousin, engages Dessalines in a duel. There audience (though during the quieter arias With the raw character of the first act re- is a tragic nature to the conclusion, but it is and duets, the pianos were somewhat too born, Dessalines learned of the developing also uplifting; the Haitian people do win. loud). rebellion against him, showing that while At the end of the performance, the crowd With the second act, the opera moved he may have changed his demeanor as the was left in rapturous applause. to the period after the French rule of Haiti emperor, he remained unchanged inside. “I’m not the star,” said Walker before had been overthrown, and after Dessalines There’s an ironic twist to this return, since the performance, though he later received had made himself emperor. It shattered the it is Vuval and others who had formerly the final burst of applause during the opfirst act’s distinct texture in favor of some- been more privileged than Dessalines who era’s curtain call. “The opera is the star. thing more traditionally “operatic” and Eu- lead the counterrevolution against him. William Grant Still, Langston Hughes, ropean; after the opening’s warm flow, this Maestro Dunner describes the Des- Verna Arvey, they’re the stars.” traditional turn actually made for a rather salines of “Troubled Island” as three hisThe South Shore Opera Company of jarring effect. Dessalines’ empress, Claire torical figures wrapped into one, contain- Chicago has shown that “Troubled Island,” (the soprano Dana Campbell), and a half- ing both the beginnings of the revolution despite its troubled history, is an opera black, literate counterrevolutionary named and the compassionate press for universal worthy of its creators’ reputations. ¬ Vuval (performed by Johnson), combined educational reform, in addition to the more
OCTOBER 23, 2013
Drawing a Line E
A comic response to urban violence
BY BEA MALSKY
arlier this year—on May 7, a Tuesday, at 11:04pm—nineteen-yearold Kevin Ambrose was gunned down in a drive-by shooting on his way to meet a friend at the 47th Street Green Line station. That friend, Michael Dye, who had told Kevin he didn’t need an escort from the station through the neighborhood, heard the shots as he stepped off the train. Dye was no quiet witness. “The next day, Michael’s got three hundred people down at Harold Washington Library. He called every press outlet and organized this thing,” says Mike Hawkins. “I was getting calls from the library commissioner, like ‘Yo, did you call the press here?’ ” Hawkins is the coordinator of YOUmedia, a collaboration between Chicago Public Library and Digital Youth Network. DYN, in turn, is an after-school digital literacy program attended by both Dye and Ambrose. That Wednesday in May was the night of Lyricist Loft, a weekly open-mic hosted at the library by YOUmedia. At his impromptu candlelight vigil outside, Dye spoke to the crowd about his friend’s death. “Michael was the right spokesperson to say, ‘We’re not like that. I’m not like that, and Kevin’s not like that. That’s not the state of our kids,’ ” says Hawkins. “He said, ‘We’re not the killers. Everybody here is doing the right thing.’ ” Hawkins sits in the auditorium of the Lozano Branch of CPL at a forum hosted by Carlos Matallana. Ten artists and afterschool arts educators have gathered to discuss their work for “Manual of Violence,” an upcoming comic book Matallana intends to give teachers as a resource for structuring discussions of violence. Matallana is young and blue eyed, and studied as an artist in Colombia before coming to Chicago. “After teaching for many years,” he explains, “I’ve noticed that the main topic that kids try to develop is the violence they see, either in the media or in their own environment.” The forum, Matallana’s second, centers on student-made projects about domestic abuse, depression, sexual assault, gang violence, and police harassment. Carolina González Valencia, also with DYN, presents a short film made by a middle school student about her struggle to understand gentrification in Pilsen.
“When I was nine, I noticed that more rich people were coming in and more condos were being built. I did not like that at all,” says the impossibly young voiceover. Another student’s film follows the story of her mother’s divorce and remarriage, and has a striking scene, abstracted into shadows projected on a concrete wall, of the new stepfather grabbing and hitting the mother. Both are played by teenagers. Some issues discussed in the forum are political—all agree that the half-hour it took to get Ambrose to Stroger Hospital on the Near West Side, a delay that a South Side trauma center would reduce drastically, might have been enough time to save Ambrose’s life—but most are personal, questions of how to let kids become creators of media instead of consumers, or to consider their own narratives critically. The conversation is at times only loosely moored to the specific topic of violence, instead focusing on techniques to get students talking and thinking about their own experiences. Half of the battle is to give kids the tools to articulate the bad. “I’m from a generation where we plan our death before our graduation,” says Darrell, age eighteen, in one of a
collection of recordings by artist Sophia Nahlil Allison. “I’m from a generation where we plan our breakup before our first date.” Matallana hopes to release “Manual of Violence” in print form by late January, funded in part by a DCASE Individual Artist grant from the city of Chicago. He watches the presentations, sometimes quite grim, with a calm understanding. “What we’re trying to do,” he says simply, “is show these kids the tools of control.” ¬
courtesy of carlos matallana
OCTOBER 23, 2013
SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 13
Hip-Hop’s Bizarre Ride to the South Side A chronicle of rapped complaints about the Red Line BY ZACH GOLDHAMMER
n May 19, the southern branch of the Red Line, commonly known as the Dan Ryan, was closed for repairs—the CTA had decided that the forty-four-year old train track was just too damn sluggish. According to a Red Line South Reconstruction Project online announcement, the South Side track had “exceeded its expected lifespan” and was perilously “plagued by slow zones.” Now, after five months and $425 million, the Dan Ryan Red Line has finally reopened, promising to cut twenty minutes off a round-trip commute from 95th Street to the Loop. The faster speeds should help improve the lives of South Side commuters: workers, businessmen, students, and shoppers. Yet with these dramatic changes upon us, it’s worth looking back at the story of how this once notoriously slow train helped to indirectly galvanize another South Side movement: Chicago hip-hop.
he Train Goes Slowly on the South Side” is a lost classic of Windy City rap in its infancy, recorded by the underrated South Side rap crew Stony Island. This CTA diss track was produced at a time when hip-hop was still mainly a coastal affair, dominated by its hubs in New York and LA; Chicagoans were still transfixed by their own house music scene at the time. In a 1993 Chicago Tribune article titled “Why Chicago Artists Have Been Outcasts Of The Hip-hop World,” the Stony Island crew recounts their struggle to find an audience on the South Side: “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.” Yet the crew’s attempts to migrate elsewhere in the city were held back, in part, by the pre-reconstruction Red Line track. In the opening of the group’s CTA-themed twelve-inch, “Supertransfer Good All Day Today,” the rappers bemoan the slow state of the South Side line. The track’s shouted refrain—“The train goes slowly on the South Side / Slowly on the South Side / But only on the South Side”—is delivered playfully, however, and the song opens— over clanking, metallic hammer sounds
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and vinyl scratches—with the line “The train maintains my synapses with electrical sparks / and sails like a ship / slowly on the South Side / [as] the conductor conducts electricity into my sails so the rails can deliver me past 55th.” As the verse makes clear, the target of the group’s verbal attack is the southern section of the Red Line, which the group gleefully personifies as a “conductor named Garfield Ryan / Father named Dan, if you front you’ll be fryin.’ ” In the following years, Stony Island’s South Side classic would be overshadowed by the success of other Chicago rappers, like Common, who managed to find audiences outside the Windy City. Yet for those who remained rooted within Chicago’s rap scene, finding an audience, as well as reliable method of transportation, would remain a problem. In 2000, Chi-town’s Typical Cats released “Thin Red Line,” their own clever tirade against the Dan Ryan. The Cats’s attack operated on two fronts. In the track’s intro, the crew gives a shout to “WHPK 88.5...the only station that would fuck with rap.” Implicit in the praise is the fact that the city, even at the turn of the millennium, remained largely uninterested in broadcasting hip-hop over the airwaves. The college radio station WHPK (a backronym representing Woodlawn, Hyde Park, and Kenwood) attained a certain prominence among South Side connoisseurs for its dedication to the budding hip-hop scene. The station’s rap programming was, and still is, curated by the legendary JP Chill, who gave many emerging Chicago rappers and DJs their chance to shine. The Cats themselves were among JP’s protégés, and the diverse group coalesced around a weekly Wednesday night radio show that they hosted on WHPK. The only problem with this set-up was, once again, transportation and the reliably tardy Dan Ryan Red Line. The Typical Cats’s “thin red line” skewering of the CTA takes an even more explicitly political turn than Stony Island’s, employing a reference to Terrence Malick’s 1998 World War II film, its own name inspired by the James Jones novel of the same, which was itself derived from a Rudyard Kipling poem about the “the thin red line of heroes.” Rapper Denizen Kane opens
OCTOBER 23, 2013
up the track with the striking image of the CTA as a “thin spine...roll[ing] down the back of a city overgrown and overtaxed.” Kane’s whole verse is a masterpiece of poetic nightmare haunted by the image of an exploitative metropolis, in which “the wack stands of the rich pick a thin / pockets bare and scatter, the skeletons of culture with no rent control.” Still, the crew expertly cuts back to more lightweight material after the narrator suddenly awakens and realizes it’s time to “get on the Dan Ryan Red Line and head downtown.” The track then becomes a deftly interwoven narrative of scrambled CTA transit, as fellow Cats crewmember Qwazar rushes to the Loop to buy weed and sell CDs before hopping back off at 55th and Garfield in time for the Hyde Park radio show. As “Thin Red Line” winds down to its concluding minute, the long-form verses cut down to quick back and forth ones, shared between Qwazaar and the crew’s third rapper, Qwel, in the WHPK studio looking back at the predicament of “my man Dan in a fine fickle fix of fellowship.” The alliterative phrase may in a way serve as a summary of the co-dependent relationship between the South Side rappers and the old, lethargic Dan Ryan train.
to my lost love.” 2. Ed “Nassau Daddy’ Cook, “The Dan Ryan Expressway” Mayor Richard J. Daley’s construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway in the sixties was rife with all sorts of controversies, not least among them the sense that the new road would create a dividing line between white and black neighborhoods on the South Side. Ed Cook, one of the great DJs on the African-American-oriented radio station WVON, recorded a hilarious spoken word send-up of the expressway that managed to avoid the topic of race, instead focusing on the inherent danger of trying to drive down this treacherous stretch of road. Cook pleads desperately, “Lady, lady please you’re only going thirty miles an hour and there’s a truck behind me doing eighty! Holy mackerel...trucks on the right, trucks on the left, and I feel like molasses between a piece of cornbread...please get me to work on time on the Dan Ryan.”
3. Walter Index, “The Chicago Elevated Train Song” Here’s a creepy industrial gem recorded by the little known electronic artist Walter Index. Over a stumbling drum machine track and hauntingly cheesy tones from a Concertmate 650 keyboard, Index intones, “It’s a beautiful view from here, I can see the projects…and the rusty bars.” The song’s music uses footage from an abandoned Dutch Boy Paint Factory at 120th and Halsted, filmed on a Bolex Camera by experimental filmmaker Carl Wiedemann.
1. Fiery Furnaces, “Garfield El” This is one of the more bizarre odes to the CTA. The Brooklyn-based indie rock band Fiery Furnaces created a strange tone-poem ode to the long defunct West Side Garfield line, which hasn’t been active since 1958, in which the narrator begs for “faster hammers / to churn and turn my late train
4. Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, “Lake Shore Drive” In regard to perhaps the most controversial as well as the kitschiest song ever written about Chicago transit, songwriter Skip Haynes has always maintained that “Lake Shore Drive” is not a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”-style ode to lysergic bliss. With lines like “slippin’ on by on LSD,” the denial of any sort of semi-veiled drug reference inherent in the song seems rather absurd. Whatever the not-so-hidden meaning of the song may or not be, it remains one of the better anthems for “running south” on Chicago’s most famous roadway. ¬
More Songs About Expressways and Trains n an 1893 article for Harper’s Magazine, journalist Julian Ralph foretold that the new atonal, rhythmic, music of the Chicago train system would serve as a new inspiration for American artists, referring to the trains’ music as the “voice of Western genius.” In the past century, Chicago’s troubled transportation stories have helped to inspire countless works of extremely strange music. Here are few of the weirdest works of Western genius dedicated to Windy City transits.
VISUAL ARTS Solveig Øvstebø in conversation with Hamza Walker Solveig Øvstebø has joined the Renaissance Society as the new executive director and chief curator, leaving behind her decade-long position as director of Norway’s Bergen Kunsthall Gallery. She will discuss this transition with Hamza Walker, the Ren’s associate curator and director of education, and together they will use this contrast to engage in a discussion about the various forms that contemporary institutions might take, locally and internationally. Specifically, they will work out how the Renaissance Society fits in to the global picture of contemporary art and how location might influence and inform the roles of contemporary art spaces in their communities. See interview, page four. University of Chicago Film Studies Center, 5811 S. Ellis Ave., 3rd floor. Saturday, October 26, 3pm. Free. (773)702-8670. renaissancesociety.org (Katryce Lassle)
Collateral Damage Collateral damage—it is an abstraction of physical and emotional hurt, conjuring images of something irrevocably lost. In this solo exhibit introducing drawings and mixed media works, Kathy Weaver addresses the detriment imposed on citizens by the tumult and destruction of war. In one work, humans with metallic square bodies and heads can be seen grabbing, kicking, and spewing blood at each other while a little girl calls for help. The exhibition forces viewers to consider the inescapable torment that war brings, often most severely affecting the innocent, and the fight of citizens to reclaim what war has taken away. Catch a glimpse of what this unique form of art has to offer as a social criticism on war. Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. Through November 4. Monday-Saturday, 8am-6pm. Free. (773)247-3000. bridgeportart.com (Angela Moon)
Street of Dreams If a band of rogue street artists were set loose in London’s National Portrait Gallery, the result would likely resemble the works of Eddwin Meyers in his exhibition “Street of Dreams.” Meyers scrawls provocative, colorful messages across paintings that depict historical subject matter in a decidedly traditional style. This unlikely coupling explores the interplay of past and present and examines the role of modern individuals in the perpetually unfolding American sociopolitical narrative. Meyers’s work also attempts to uproot commonly held perceptions of society, begging for a reevaluation of American culture and the deeply ingrained social and political “truths” that many take for granted. He accomplishes this in a way that is at once humorous and dynamic. For a taste of art that invites raucous political and social discourse infused with a pointed sense of humor, don’t miss “Street of Dreams.” 33 Contemporary Gallery, 1029 W. 35th St. Through November 14. Monday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Free. (708)837-4534. 33collective.com (Emma Collins)
The Endangered Species “Beautiful, but without hope,” is Raub Welch’s assessment of “the vanishing black man in America.” Through looming three-dimensional collages, Welch takes on the task of redirecting society’s perception of the black man, one he sees as all too often linked with aggression, simplicity, and thoughtlessness. Above all, he seeks to identify a notion of beauty with the black male subject. Within this framework, Welch tackles themes of masculinity, sexuality, slavery, mental poverty, and, finally, futility. To span these nuances of beauty, Welch turns to collage and pairs portraits of male models with images of nature, Christianity, human anatomy, text, and “relics” of black culture. But the show’s ominous title begs the question: is this simply an elaborate farewell to the beautiful black man, or is there hope after all? DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl. Through March 30. Tuesday-Saturday, 10am–5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Free-$10. (773)947-0600. dusablemuseum.org (Sasha Tycko)
State of Mind Imagine this: it’s the late 1960s in California and conceptual art has emerged. This is not the stuff of the “midcentury modern” aesthetic; this is counter-culture, avant-garde, and freedom of expression. Away from the art-world galleries of New York, experimentation (of all kinds) was happening in California. This October, the University of California’s Pacific Standard Time initiative and a whole host of institutional partners are bringing their exhibition “State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970” to Chicago. An in-depth survey, this exhibition challenges the very definition of art and artist, as well as the places of academic and institutional structures within the art world. With more than sixty artists
and collectives, “State of Mind” will explore the formation and lasting impact of this important strain of modern art. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through January 12. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Free. (773)702-0200. smartmuseum.uchicago.edu (Meaghan Murphy)
STAGE & SCREEN Anis Mojgani “Come closer,” urges Anis Mojgani, “come into this.” So starts a piece that begins many of the poet’s sets. YouTube is littered with clips of Mojgani at international festivals and intimate performances, university campuses and cafés. From behind various states of shavenness and the occasional pair of glasses, Mojgani’s eyes glint and his mouth keeps a perpetual half-smile. Twice winner of the National Poetry Slam, Mojgani travels from Austin to perform an hour-long set at the Logan Center this Wednesday. The UofC’s slam poetry group, Catcher in the Rhyme, hosts the poet and will follow his feature with their weekly open mic. Mojgani gracefully attains the elusive magic of slam, when word and gesture are so in tune that you would be surprised to find one without the other. Come into this. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Wednesday, October 23, 7:30pm. Free. (Hannah Nyhart)
Phantom of the Opera Though October 31 heralds child-sized ghouls and fullgrown revelers, one phantom retains his mask 365 days a year. On October 25, days before Halloween, the Phantom of the Opera comes to Rockefeller Chapel. The silent Rupert Julian film travels from a time when people still read their movie dialogue, but organist Dennis James breathes new life into the soundtrack: the subtitle-averse can sit back and feast their ears on live accompaniment. With torches and pitchforks, scorpions and secret moats, it’s got all the hallmarks of any respectable haunted house. The movie is public domain these days, but it might be best watched in a crowd: the phantom’s unmasking caused original audiences to faint. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Friday, October 25, 7:30pm. $10. (773)702-2100. rockefeller.uchicago. edu (Hannah Nyhart)
Englewood International Film Festival Now in its third year, the Englewood International Film Festival garnered entries from over one hundred filmmakers worldwide. The event, created by local filmmaker Mark Harris, aims to transform the neighborhood through entertainment. Films screened span a variety of titles, from Harris’s own “Black Coffee, No Sugar, No Cream,” to “Frat Brothers,” starring Lil Romeo. Panelists include producers Sharon King and Craig Harris. Despite its namesake, the festival’s center will fall just south of Englewood, which lacks a theater. All film screenings will take place at the Chatham 14 Theater in Chatham, while panel discussions will take place in locations across Englewood, including the Hiram Kelly Branch Library and Team Englewood High School. Chatham 14 Theater, 210 E 87th Street. October 24-27. Free-$8. See site for schedule and locations. eiff.org (Eric Green)
War of the Worlds After a summer when we did battle with zombies in “World War Z” and the Pacific Ocean yawned to reveal ugly monstrosities hell-bent on our destruction in “Pacific Rim” without a peep of fear from the general public, maybe mass media no longer has the power to enthrall. Our imaginations are so dulled, our minds so desensitized, that even the largest budgets and the most lifelike baddies (or even the most profane pop starlets) can no longer throw us off our collective stride. That wasn’t always the case, of course, and October 29 sees Doc Films revisit Orson Welles’s 1938 radio drama “The War of the Worlds.” Styled with all the urgency of the end of the world, the original broadcast sent listeners running from their homes. Prologued by Neil Verma’s expertise on the history of the radio serial, this particular Tuesday night promises a trip back to a time when we could sit, listen, and do justice to the word “awesome.” Max Palevsky Cinema, Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St. Tuesday, October 29, 11pm. $5. (773)702-8574. docfilms.uchicago.edu (Patrick Leow)
Share My Kingdom
In exploring the lives of three developmentally disabled artists, “Share My Kingdom” fits the documentary style into a more whimsical mold. The artists’ work traverses themes from dead composers to classic cars to an in-depth imagining of heaven’s laundromat. The filmmakers collage that art with real footage of the artists and those who know them, offering a glimpse into minds often inaccessible. The three
men’s common ground is Little City Foundation’s Center for the Arts. The center equips people with disabilities with the technical skills to create art, and the film’s subjects all have work available for sale. Overflow Coffee presents the movie with the Barkada Circle, a Chicago organization that endeavors to help nonprofits promote their narrative through creative media. As October’s showing in the coffee bar’s monthly documentary series, the screening will be followed by a discussion with Barkada and the filmmakers. Overflow Coffee Bar, 1550 S. State St. Tuesday, October 29, 7pm. $7 suggested. (312)772-2356. overflowcoffeebar.org (Hannah Nyhart)
record, however, is the opening title track, which features an eight-minute monologue in which Joe Jones tries (and fails) to put on a credible imitation of Bela Lugosi’s classic Dracula. This Halloween, WCDB and the Jazz Showcase will be raising this strange performance piece from the dead with their presentation of The Dracula All-Stars, a spooky supergroup featuring Bill Overton (AKA “Count Orloff ”), Art Davis (AKA “the Count of Bebop”), Kelly Sill (AKA “the Warlock”) and Tom Muellner (AKA “Dracula’s son’s son in law, 2nd cousin removed [sic]”). The Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court. Wednesday, October 30, 8pm-10pm; 10pm-midnight. (312)350-0234. jazzshowcase.com
Nineties Halloween Jam feat. Slick Rick
Curtis Black Quartet This quartet has been playing a regular Sunday night set at Jimmy’s for over twenty-three years. The core members of the group, trumpeter Curtis Black and drummer Doug Mitchell, are two men who have long been an integral part of the Hyde Park community. The titular Black has been the Newstips editor for the Community Media Workshop since 1998, while Doug Mitchell, the bearded bard of Hyde Park lore, has worked as an editor for the University of Chicago Press since 1977. Mitchell also helped published one of the seminal books on Chicago jazz, “A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and African-American Experimental Music.” They even played with a few of the AACM musicians back in their undergrad days, when the University’s Reynold’s Club was still a major hub for jazz performance. Together, Black and Mitchell have used their band’s regular Sunday sets as a proving ground for many of the South Side’s up-and-coming players. Currently, they are performing with Tim Stine on guitar and John Laurel on bass. Jimmy’s (Woodlawn Tap), 1172 E. 55th St. Sundays, 9pm. 21+. Free. (773)643-5516. sites.google.com/a/curtisblack.net/www (Zach Goldhammer)
Ang Li Imagine sitting at the top of the Logan Arts Center, with the light polluted sky just outside the massive glass windows, listening to one of the greatest pianists in the world performing pieces from Bach, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and Janacek. Li is without a doubt one of those rare piano virtuosos who was born with an affinity for the instrument. She began playing as a precocious one year old, and performed publically at just six. She has performed in Carnegie Hall and the JFK Center for Performing Arts. One imagines that she’s only gotten better since elementary school. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Penthouse Salon. Sunday, October 27, 7pm. $10-$40. (773)702-2787. arts.uchicago.edu (Lucia Ahrensdorf)
WDCB Presents: A Special Appearance of The Dracula All-Stars Philly Joe Jones’s debut 1958 record, “Blues For Dracula,” ranks among the weirdest jazz albums ever made. For the most part, the record is made up of straight-ahead hard bop jams showcasing the rhythmic prowess of the former Miles Davis Quintet drummer and his new all-star band, featuring Nat Adderley and Johnny Griffith. The strange part of the
The Shrine has long established itself as the place to be if you’re into golden era hip-hop, and already this month the South Side venue has opened its doors to old-school legends like EPMD, KRS-One and Rakim. On November 1, however, The Shrine will be going all out with a capstone event in the growing trend of rap nostalgia: they will be hosting an all-night Halloween celebration of all things nineties. The event will be headlined by none other than the king of hiphop storytellers, Slick Rick. Rick the Ruler, who has always known for having one of the most theatrical styles in hiphop—sporting an eye patch and heavy golden chains while delivering rhymes in a lyrical Jamaican-British patois—is a fitting host for the event. The Shrine will also be staging a $500 prize costume contest, which any swagged-out patron of the event is eligible to win. The Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash Ave. Friday, November 1, 9pm. 21+. (312)753-5700. theshrinechicago.com (Zach Goldhammer)
It’s Too Funky In Here “OOH! Ooo uh OW! TOO FUNK Y IN HE’E!!! ow! GIMME SOME AIR! too-wooooooo funky in he’e! gimme some AAAAAAAAIR!! open up the WINDOW, MAN! TOO FUN-KAY! SAY IT! Gimme some aaaaaaaaaai’! toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oo fun-kay ...in he’e! —Lyrics to James Brown’s “It’s Too Funky In Here” (released May 1979) This was the first half of the press release for an event at the Italian “neighborhood joint” Three Aces, advertising a two-night funk DJ set at the restaurant. The other half of the press kit will inform you that DJ Joe Mama is actually Joe Bryl, whom the Trib once named “Chicago’s Most Interesting DJ.” At the age of fifty-nine, Bryl is now also one of the oldest DJs still working in Chicago and has served as the musical mastermind behind some of the city’s most prominent clubs and bars, including the Funky Buddha Lounge, Sonotheque, the Shrine, and Maria’s Packaged Goods. The question remains though: is an Italian bistro really the place to find funk in Chicago? If anyone can make it work, Joe “Mama” Bryl probably can. Three Aces, 1321 W. Taylor St. Friday, November 8, 9pm-2am. (312)423-1321. (Zach Goldhammer)
WHPK Rock Charts WHPK 88.5 FM is a nonprofit community radio station of the University of Chicago, broadcasting to the South Side of Chicago for over sixty years. Once a week, the station’s music directors collect the book of playlist logs, where DJs record each song they play during their shows. They tally up the plays of albums added within the last few months, and rank them according to the number of plays that week. Compiled by Rachel Schastok and Charlie Rock Artist / Album / Label 1. Jessica Pratt / s/t / Birth 2. Chelsea Wolfe / Pain is Beauty / Sargent House 3. Inquisition / Repelled By Dark Energy / Obscure Verses 4. Wrekmeister Harmonies / You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me / Thrill Jockey 5. Parquet Courts / Tally All the Things That You Broke / What’s Your Rupture? 6. Hackamore Brick / One Kiss Leads to Another [reissue] / Kama Sutra 7. John Cale / Guts / Island 8. Fury / Flying / HoZac 9. Mind Spiders / Inhumanistic / Dirtnap 10. Oozing Wound / Retrash / Thrill Jockey 11. Summoning / Old Mornings Dawn / Napalm 12. Lace Bows / Bows of Summer / Exo Tapes 13. Bill Orcutt / A History of Every One / Editions Mego 14. Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet / Photographs / Erstwhile 15. Joanna Gruesome / Weird Sister / Slumberland
OCTOBER 23, 2013
SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 15