Today In The Culture, June 23, 2023: The Bear is


Lost ghost sign, Double Door, 2010/Photo: Ray Pride

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Chicago Galleries In Thirty-Fifth Edition Of The Art Show

The Art Dealers Association of America has announced the thirty-fifth edition of The Art Show, one of the longest-running art fairs in the country, for November 2-5 at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory. Founded to bring ADAA members together while benefiting Henry Street Settlement, the fair will continue to donate all admissions proceeds to the social services organization, which marks its 130th anniversary this year. Chicago galleries include moniquemeloche and Worthington Gallery.



Mayor Johnson Supports Ghost Signs And Vintage Signage

Mayor Johnson has “introduced an ordinance aimed at protecting Chicago’s most iconic vintage signs, including the Grace’s Furniture sign in Logan Square,” reports the Sun-Times. “The ordinance establishes a framework that would allow commercial signs that are ‘at least thirty years old’ and have ‘proven to represent a degree of character and nostalgia that is desirable to retain’ to remain ‘indefinitely, subject to city review and a five-year permit’ that would be renewable.” Under present law, “anyone who purchases a property with a historic sign is required to take it down if the prior owner has allowed the sign permit to expire.” After the council meeting, Mayor Johnson told Fran Spielman, “The intention to make sure our signs are safe and strong and sound cannot come at the expense removing the unique character that makes us the remarkable, world-class city that we are… I believe in throwback. I’m from the eighties and nineties… I’m officially old-school.”

Ghost signs (defined here) also fall under the effort. Ald. Ramirez-Rosa called for preservation of “ghost signs,” “historic signs painted on the sides of buildings, oftentimes more than a century ago. They get covered up with paint or a brick wall. When the paint fades or the brick wall ‘gets taken away, the old, faded sign is revealed’ … ‘Under the existing city code, that would be considered an advertisement you cannot have up. This change will allow building owners and business owners to get a permit for that sign indicating its historic nature. It simply provides more options to small business owners to determine what type of historic or vintage or artistic signage they would like for their business.”

The Warehouse Landmarked

It’s official, reports Block Club: “The West Loop club was home to dance parties hosted by DJ Frankie Knuckles, who helped create house music and popularize it around the world. Alderpeople approved the landmark designation Wednesday.”

Founding Member Of Wright Home & Studio Foundation Donald Kalec Was Eighty-Seven

Historic preservationist Donald Kalec, a founding member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Foundation (now the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust), “devoted his life to architecture and historic preservation,” reports Wednesday Journal. “From 1965-69, he apprenticed with the Taliesin Fellowship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green. He began teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1969 and in the early 1970s was one of a group of preservationists dedicated to saving and restoring Wright’s Home & Studio in Oak Park… Working alongside architects John Thorpe, Bill Dring and Carl Hunter, Kalec developed a master plan that was used as a guide to restore the Home & Studio. The book was adopted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a model for other restoration programs across the country.”

Wirtz Wants “Campus” By United Center

“The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks is seeking city approval to eventually develop as many as 1,200 residential units and 663 hotel rooms two blocks south of the United Center,” reports Crain’s. “Included in a zoning application for the NHL team’s planned $65 million, two-rink expansion of its Fifth Third Arena practice facility is a request to allow the mix of residential, hotel and retail uses in ‘future phases’ of the development. The application, filed by a venture controlled by the Blackhawks-owning Wirtz family, does not include detailed drawings of the mixed-use plan and notes that such future projects would require site plan approval from the city.”

Another Thousand Apartments For West Loop

“Two proposed developments that collectively will include more than 1,000 apartments were approved by the City Council,” reports Block Club. “At 1300 West Lake, plans for a $250 million, forty-six-story mixed use building that would replace Peoria Packing Butcher Shop include 593 apartments. According to documents submitted to the city, 119 of those units would be affordable and built on site.” The City Council “also greenlit a proposal by developer Sterling Bay to build two mixed-use buildings at 1300 West Carroll… The first building will be forty-two stories high, and include a maximum of 361 residential units and office space on lower floors. The second phase of the project could include up to 380 units.”



Esquire Dubs Chicago Sandwich A “Wet Mound Of Beef”

“Until the FX series thrust the Chicago specialty into the spotlight, the Italian Beef was largely unknown outside the Windy City. It is an unsexy sandwich, a wet mound of beef. But it is also beloved,” writes Kevin Pang at Esquire. “If Chicago food is the Apollo 11 mission, the Italian beef sandwich is Michael Collins, far less famous than deep-dish pizza and the Chicago hot dog. It’s not typically what out-of-towners order if they have only twenty-four hours in the city; it’s more of a third-day-in-Chicago kind of thing. It ruins shirts and leaves you with pungent breath. It employs the most flavorless cut of beef. The Italian beef is a messy, texturally one-note, woefully unphotogenic wet mound of a sandwich.” Pang goes a little farther: “And what a beautiful wet mound it is.”

Pearl’s Southern Comfort Closes After Eight Years

“Pearl’s Southern Comfort will serve its last po’boy on Saturday, June 24 after eight years in Edgewater,” reports Eater Chicago. “Danny Beck and business partner Rich Hagerty co-own Southport sports bar Toons Bar & Grill and Beck’s in Lincoln Park… ‘Three restaurants is a lot for anyone, let alone in these times and with everything else we have going on,’ Beck says. ‘We decided it was time for us to have a little more time for ourselves and our families… at the end of the day, we’re getting up there in years and we need to slow down.’”

Wisconsin Updates Liquor Laws

“The laws governing Wisconsin’s multibillion-dollar liquor industry would be streamlined and updated under a sweeping measure passed by the state Assembly,” reports the Tribune.“Alcohol has a rich history in the state of Wisconsin but it does need to be regulated,” the measure’s Republican cosponsor told the paper. “It’s regulated because we’re not selling chocolate milk. We’re not selling Jolly Good Soda.” Among the changes: “The bill would also allow for expanded hours at wineries and would regulate them the same as craft breweries and distilleries. It would permit brew pubs to operate stand-alone retail stores and allow craft breweries to sell products from other out-of-state breweries. The bill would also create new guidance for contract brewing, winemaking and distilling…The measure also creates a new statewide bartender license. Currently, bartenders are licensed by local municipality, a system that proponents of the change argued is cumbersome. It also allows for bars in fourteen southeastern Wisconsin counties to stay open two to four hours longer than the current 2am limit during the Republican National Convention next summer in Milwaukee.”

Chicago Craft Beer Fest Returns

Chicago Craft Beer Fest returns Friday, July 14-Sunday, July 16 at Jonquil Park in Lincoln Park. Guests will be able to sample from more than thirty-five craft beers each day from over twenty breweries, something for every palate. The event also includes bites and local DJs throughout the weekend. A portion of tickets benefit the Wrightwood Neighbors Association. Tickets start at $30 here.



Can “The Bear” Ever Have Enough Chicago?

The second season of “The Bear” dropped last night on FX and Hulu. “Ultimately, what Season 2 needs is more Chicago—full stop,” advocates Naomi Waxman at Eater Chicago. “‘The city that works’ has the juice to be more than a decoration, it needs to be treated as a character unto itself, a living entity that comforts Carmy and Sydney through their kitchen crises, one that extends beyond a purely transactional relationship. It might be a lot to ask from a TV show, but if ‘Sex and the City’ could do it with New York, so can ‘The Bear’ with Chicago.”

Major Figures Protest Warner Bros. Discovery Action Against TCM

Spielberg, Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson are among the industry figures who have called up Warner Bros. Discovery poobah David Zaslav over the massive firings at the TCM channel. “This is about what happens when someone takes over a company and does not understand that historical stewardship is not just a moral responsibility but a bottom-line issue,” writes cultural historian Mark Harris. “You cannot run a media company and make your Year One signature moves the deplatforming of completed work, the dilution of two long-respected brands (first HBO, now TCM), and the dismissal of execs with decades of expertise, talent, and grasp of what they’re custodians of. Or rather, you CAN—you can tell yourself that you’re a businessman who doesn’t give into sentiment about ‘art’—but it’s going to cost you the respect, the allegiance, and ultimately the services of the top-tier directors and producers you want to attract and hold onto.”

“It’s important to note that Turner Classic Movies, by cost, is a TINY part of the WBD empire; by impact, however, it is huge. Its existence amounts to a statement that Warner Bros honors not only its own hundred-year history, but that of many studios, since… over the years, the Warner Bros. library has grown to include hundreds of movies from other studios, and the expert leadership of people like Pola Changnon and Charlie Tabesh has made the brand synonymous with cultural responsibility. There is no equivalent at other studios… A failure to understand that is not simply a disappointment to those who think that one can simultaneously value commerce and art. It’s a dereliction of duty and a profound misunderstanding of the worth of the assets you manage.”



Utah School District Clears Bible As Appropriate For Children

“Bibles will return to the shelves in a northern Utah school district that provoked an outcry after it banned them from middle and elementary schools last month,” reports AP. “Officials from the Davis School District, which educates 72,000 students north of Salt Lake City, said at a board meeting Tuesday that the district had determined the sacred text was age-appropriate for all district libraries. In allowing the Bible to be accessible to students regardless of their grade level, the board sided with seventy people who filed appeals after it was banned last month.”



Lyric Adds To Board

At Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual meeting, Samir Mayekar and Nancy Santi were unanimously voted onto the company’s board of directors. Mayekar, former deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development for the city of Chicago, “brings a diverse background in finance, management consulting, and entrepreneurship. For nearly a decade he was co-founder and CEO of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials that continues to grow in Chicago,” the Lyric relays. “Santi, a respected philanthropist and civic leader, has a background in education and extensive experience in charitable organizations, including service on the women’s boards of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Boards of Directors of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and PAWS Chicago.”



American Theatre Highlights Six Chicago Talents

“From board liaisons and theatre administrators to performers and activists, these six folks have brought their talent to Chicago’s stages,” writes Gabriela Furtado Coutinho. The picks include Goodman Theatre administrator and stage manager Alex Meyer; actor-writer-director Arti Ishak; actor, writer, composer, sound designer Gabriel Ruiz; American Blues Theater administrator Gwendolyn Whiteside; director, intimacy director, performer, stage manager Kayla Menz; and “arts angel” PennyMaria Jackson.

League Of Chicago Theatres Sets Career Fair

League of Chicago Theatres will host an Industry Career Fair to offer more information about career opportunities that exist within the performing arts industry. The event opens with a panel discussion at 1pm, followed by the main tabling event 2pm-5pm. “Attendees will be able to take advantage of a myriad of opportunities, including free resume reviews, professional headshots, speed interviews and info sessions with Chicago industry professionals from across all departments and disciplines.” The event is free and food and beverage will be served throughout the day. Monday, July 17, at Loyola University. Pre-register here.

Theater In Meltdown

Author of “The Method,” Isaac Butler, rounds up the danger signs at theater companies in New York and elsewhere, such as Westport Country Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Company, Signature, the Public and Long Wharf Theatre: “Earned and—especially—unearned income is way down almost everywhere at the exact moment that putting on a show has gotten way more expensive… In 2017, BAM Next Wave presented thirty-one shows. In 2023, it will present seven… Supply chain stuff makes physical production costs higher, COVID protections make rehearsals more expensive, audiences and especially donors haven’t fully come back.” Adds cultural historian Mark Harris, “Theater is suffering terribly on every front from subscriptions to donations (a HUGE issue) to the cost of plywood, and audiences are about to see the results: Smaller and fewer productions, shorter runs and some theaters just shutting down.”



A Profile Of Mayor Johnson As “Most Powerful Progressive In America”

“Brandon Johnson has gone from the congregation to the classroom to the picket line to the boardroom—and now to City Hall’s fifth floor,” writes Wesley Lowery in a searching, lengthy profile at In These Times. “Johnson is unlike any other Chicago mayor in memory. He’s the first in almost a century from this part of the city. The son of a minister, he is unabashed about his faith in a way often absent in leftist politics. He has taught in some of the city’s most challenging environments and found his political identity within the city’s grassroots labor and progressive movements, not its downtown establishment. After the administrations of Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot—mayors known, respectively, for cronyism, profanity and frostiness—Johnson is handsome, charismatic, even funny, and arrives with the reputation of a coalition builder.”

“Once inaugurated, Johnson will arguably become the most progressive politician in modern history to lead a major U.S. city. He’ll be working with a progressive state house majority and a growing progressive caucus on the Chicago City Council. ‘It was right here in the city of Chicago that Martin Luther King Jr. organized for justice, dreaming that one day the civil rights movement and the labor rights movement will come together,’ Johnson declared in his April 4 victory speech, fifty-five years to the day of King’s assassination. ‘Well, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement and the labor rights movement have finally collided.’”

But “opposition remains fierce, the stakes high, and the task at hand daunting. Just a week before our classroom visit, hundreds of teens had caused mayhem downtown, with some climbing on parked cars or attacking drivers. Johnson issued a statement condemning the violence but also criticizing those who had demonized the youth.”

MacArthur Foundation President On Shift In Priorities

“At the MacArthur Foundation, we pursue our mission to foster a more just, verdant, and peaceful world,” writes president John Palfrey in his annual letter. “We address the biggest challenges of our time with our whole hearts and minds—from climate change to criminal justice—striving for transformative change with the communities we serve. We also recognize that new challenges, strategies, and knowledge are bound to emerge. We stand committed to ensuring our priorities are responsive to evolving conditions, remaining consistently flexible, and bringing confident humility to our approaches.” (A summary of approaches old and new follows in his essay.)

Schaumburg Abandoning Performing Arts Center

“Schaumburg is officially moving on from its long-standing plans for a 2,400-seat performing arts center west of the Renaissance Hotel by reallocating the $27.5 million gradually saved for it over the years to the village’s building replacement fund,” reports the Daily Herald. Trustees also “recommended changing the policy for saving future annual reserves by making police officer and firefighter pension funding as a higher priority.”

What If It Rains On NASCAR?

“Race officials last month [said] during a community meeting that the races,” reports NBC 5, “will be able to go on in wet weather, but will likely be unable to go forward if there is standing water or lightning. If weather forces a postponement for Saturday’s Loop 121 race, that race would likely move to Sunday, which means both races—the Loop 121 and the Grant Park 220—could be conducted on Sunday.”

Fine Arts Consultant Jeanne Randall Malkin Was Eighty-Seven

Jeanne Randall Malkin “was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, who moved to Davenport, Iowa, and later Chicago,” begins the obituary at “Unable to afford college at the time, she became a legal secretary. After raising three children with then-husband Michael Schaffner, Jeanne received a BA from the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago. Known as a petite dynamo, Jeanne Malkin turned her considerable talents to fundraising. She was Chairperson of The Chicago International Film Festival, President of the Israel Defense Forces-Chicago Chapter and a board member of Mt. Sinai Service Club. She gave generously to Have Dreams, a non-profit serving the autism community, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She was also recognized as a generous donor to The Lyric Opera, The Jewish United Fund, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In later years, Jeanne was known for her fine arts consulting business in River North and her wicked swing on the golf course.”

Grace Barry, Former Leader Of Economic Club Of Chicago, Was Eighty-Two

“For twenty-five years, Grace Barry led the Economic Club of Chicago’s day-to-day leadership as the president and executive director of the influential, invite-only private business and public policy club,” reports the Tribune. “Barry oversaw the staff of the club, which long has brought a variety of speakers—including eight U.S. presidents—to Chicago… Barry worked on Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign until his assassination in 1968, and shortly afterward moved with her then-husband to Buffalo, where she remained active in politics and worked on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign.”

Is Chicago Shedding The Neoliberal School?

“The Windy City has long been a laboratory for free market fundamentalism” after the teachings of Milton Friedman. “But the election of Mayor Brandon Johnson and a landmark number of left-wing city council members indicates the emergence of a new Chicago school,” reports In These Times. “These results signal a sharp turn away from the economic orthodoxy that has dominated Chicago politics for decades. And despite the coming impediments and obstructions they’ll likely face, the new political leadership is set to embark on a novel pathway for urban governance hatched through a reinvigorated labor movement and years of community organizing for social justice.”

A Year Past Dobbs, The State Of Abortion Law In Every State

“A state-by-state breakdown of where things stand” from Associated Press.


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