Today In The Culture, September 12, 2022: Victory Gardens Ends Production | Architectural Morality | Smashed Plastic Live (2023)

Charger, a three-year-old male sea lion, acclimates to the Grainger Sea Lion Cove at Shedd Aquarium.


Ba Boom Boom Pa Pop Pop Extended At Art on theMART

In partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Art on theMART, the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, has extended Nick Cave’s “Ba Boom Boom Pa Pop Pop” projection until October 1. The piece will be shown twice nightly.


What Will Be Left Of Thompson Center Public Amenities?

“For Jonathan Solomon, another member of the group, Sbarro Urbanism isn’t just a catchy name: It describes an ethos and the mission of the Thompson Center itself,”writes Leigh Giangreco at Bloomberg CityLab. “‘A Sbarro is a place where you can get an affordable, convenient, delicious meal,’ said Solomon, pointing out that the Thompson Center’s atrium once offered safe public space with free Wi-Fi, restrooms and a transfer point to the CTA lines. ‘That’s what binds these Sbarro Urbanists: We identify with Sbarro Urbanism and we would like to see more of it in Chicago, and we’re worried about losing it here… When something is publicly owned, people have a sense that they own it and that they belong.'” Of the plans seen so far to tone down the colors and close down spaces: “‘It’s a more dignified space or something, but it kind of ruins it,’ said Aoife Fahey, a data engineer and another Sbarro Urbanist. ‘I’m concerned about elitism in the reimagined Thompson Center. This is a space for Googlers, bringing about a suburban-elite mindset to a space that was previously very egalitarian.'”

Carol Ross Barney Honored As Design Leader By Architectural Record

Carol Ross Barney, Ross Barney Architects design principal and founder, has been honored as the Design Leader honoree by Architectural Record in their ninth annual Women in Architecture Design Leadership Awards. Details here.

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Is All Work By Architects Moral?

“Who is the city for? This is the most urgent question in modern urban life. It’s also one that we ask with increasing frequency in the face of rising rents, inflation, gentrification, racist police brutality, increased surveillance… Deceptively simple… ‘The city is for people, regardless of gender, age, race, class, and ability. It is for all of us.’ But if you look at Chicago, you will see that this is not the case,” writes Kate Wagner at the Architect’s Newspaper. “In 2020, the City of Chicago spent nearly $1.8 billion—thirty-seven-percent of its annual operating budget—on police. That’s $5 million per day spent on policing. More is spent on police than on community services, infrastructure, elections, and pensions… A change was announced… to the construction of the Joint Public Safety Training Campus… underway in Austin… The facility is meant to be used by the City’s police, firefighters, and Office of Emergency Management and Communications. What was… supposed to be ‘only’ a $95 million project grew in cost to $128 million after [the academy added] a ‘tactical scenario village’ composed of fake houses, streets, and commercial buildings…The approval for this addition took place in September 2021 ‘without community input or opposition’… Architects often characterize their work as impartial, but the reality is that the form of the built environment is regularly weaponized by those in power. Architects are moral actors who have the agency—individually, but especially collectively—to see a project like this and decline to participate.”More here.

Landmarks Commission Won’t Commit To Early Twentieth-Century State Street Skyscrapers

“The fate of a pair of endangered twentieth century State Street skyscrapers remains up in the air after the Commission on Chicago Landmarks punted during its monthly meeting when it came time to decide whether to afford the Century and Consumers buildings landmark status,” reports WTTW. “Preservation activists spoke in favor of not only landmarking [The 1913 Consumers Building at 202 South State, and its neighbor, the 1915 Century Building], but in restoring and finding a suitable re-use for them. Demolishing the buildings, they said, would leave a permanent hole in State Street’s distinctive ‘street wall,’ hinder attempts to have the State Street district declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and destroy some of the finest remaining examples of the famed Chicago School style of architecture.”


AvondaleItalian Spot Pisolino Closing After Six Years

“The owners of Pisolino are exhausted and say Avondale and its elected officials should have done more,” reports Eater Chicago. “The acclaimed Italian restaurant will close on Sunday, September 25… ‘We were just really, really struggling in terms of sales,’ says co-owner Rachel De Marte. ‘Six years into this and we came to the realization that we have tried everything that we can.’ … ‘The aldermen really don’t care about the neighborhood,’ James De Marte says. ‘I can’t figure it out—I don’t know why, and it’s just not me, it’s everyone I talk to.'”

Cafe Bionda Returns

Café Bionda, the South Loop Italian restaurant that closed during the pandemic, is reopening under 8 Hospitality Company on Thursday, September 15. Featuring an updated space and an industry-leading Italian chef who hails from Napoli, Café Bionda will welcome guests with new and classic menu items. Under the culinary leadership of Chef Cosimo Riccardi, a chef who worked and trained in some of Italy’s most prestigious Michelin-starred restaurants, including L’Ulivo at the Hotel Palladio, and the Caribbean’s five-star resorts, Half Moon, in Montego Bay, Café Bionda’s menu will shine with classic favorites from the past, while featuring new items, which Chef deems as his favorites.“The message is simple, Café Bionda is back and better than ever,” Carmen Rossi, CEO of 8 Hospitality says in a release. “One of the elements that makes this reopening so special, is welcoming Chef Riccardi to the kitchen, as he came highly recommended to us by friend and Iron Chef America Judge, Mario Rizzotti. We are thrilled to have Chef Riccardi lead Café Bionda’s culinary program and are eager for guests to dive fork-first into his incredible food.” More here.

The Steps Lansing Chipotle Workers TookTo SuccessfulUnion Vote

Jacobin contributor Eric Blanc meets a very young trio of Lansing, Michigan Chipotle workers to talk about their successful first unionization of a Chipotle location: “If we can do it, anyone can.” Organizer Sam Smith: “I had basically zero background in organizing. I had seen TikTok videos of people getting unfairly laid off at work, I had seen Black Lives Matter, and then recently with the push to overturn Roe v. Wade, I got really angry. I also had seen what my parents went through during the pandemic—and I knew that me and everybody I grew up with were probably going to get stuck in dead-end jobs for the rest of our lives. So even before getting involved, I knew I wanted to make some kind of difference in the world.”


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True/False Fest Names Film Programmer

Columbia, Missouri’s nonfiction mecca, the True/False fest, has named Kristal Sotomayor film programmer, joining artistic director Chloé Trayner and film programmer Amir George from Chicago. Sotomayor will program the fest slate as well as coordinate adjacent programs like the live game show “Gimme Truth!” and cultivate relationships with the film industry and collaborate with the fest’s extensive music and art initiatives. “We’re thrilled that Kristal is joining our Curation team this year with their passion for nonfiction cinema and supporting new voices in the filmmaking community,” says Trayner. “We’re looking forward to collaborating on exciting ways to reimagine the communal experience of T/F for our twentieth edition.” More here.


Publisher “Cancels” Author: Entire Run Of Election Denial Book Destroyed

Regnery Publishing, the conservative publisher founded in Chicago, bestows a fresh honor on one of its authors, pulping its entire run of “2,000 Mules,” a book to accompany Dinesh D’Souza’s fake “documentary” that denies the results of the 2020 election. “After copies had already arrived in stores, D’Souza’s publisher… abruptly pulled the book from shelves and delayed the e-book release, citing an unspecified ‘publishing error,'”reports NPR. A subject of the book says the book is “libelous.” “One of the groups D’Souza names is the New Georgia Project, an Atlanta-based group that focuses on registering and mobilizing young voters and voters of color.”Aklima Khondoker, the group’s chief legal officer said the allegations “can be viewed as libelous,” and are “malarkey and hogwash. Because they’re not based in fact. They’re based on conspiracy theories.”


Pritzker Attacks Mailing Of Unsolicited Fake Newspapers From Rightwing Sources

“Political mailings that resemble newspapers and excoriate Governor Pritzker over crime issues has prompted the governor to claim they’re the work of ‘racist political consultant’ and right-wing radio show host Dan Proft, who also is financially supporting Republican governor candidate Darren Bailey,” reports Rick Pearson at the Trib. “The mailings, tailored to specific areas and sent to voters… under such labels as ‘Chicago City Wire,’ ‘DuPage Policy Journal,’ and ‘Will County Gazette,’ are filled with purported news articles containing misinformation about the effects of criminal justice reforms enacted under Pritzker.” Prizker says, “This is a messaging that’s coming from a racist political consultant, who used to associate himself with Illinois, now lives in Florida. And he’s sending messages that are, if you look at what he’s printed, it’s clearly all about the idea that, again, what he’s printing, that Black people are threatening your way of life…It’s a scare tactic. It’s meant to have people [show] concern for their safety. And the truth of the matter is that what he’s purveying here is complete hogwash. I’m probably being polite when I say that. It’s disgusting… And frankly, he’s doing it on behalf of Darren Bailey. And that says as much as you need to know about Darren Bailey.”


CSO Appoints Two New Members

Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have announced the appointments of Daniel Carson and Beatrice Chen as the newest members of the bass and viola sections, respectively, effective September 19. More here.

In The Basement With The Wizard

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“WZRD’s studios are, literally, underground: in the basement of NEIU’s Student Union, an institutional educational building of 1960s or seventies vintage. Painted on the cinderblock wall is a fantasy castle, sticking out its tongue,” Chicago magazine reports. “The door is plastered over with decades of musical mementos, from KMFDM to Naked Raygun. And sitting on a scuffed piano are three stuffed wizards, a nod to the station’s nickname.WZRD is a 100-watt station, whose terrestrial signal can be heard from O’Hare to the lake and Evanston to the Loop, but it played an important role in Chicago’s musical history as the first local station to broadcast punk rock… The Wizard was hip to Chicago’s alternative music scene, too. The Smashing Pumpkins showed up at NEIU on March 16, 1989—before they signed a record deal, before Billy Corgan shaved his head.” More here.

Smashed Plastic Live

Chicago’s only record-pressing plant, Smashed Plastic, will present favorite music live at “Smashed Plastic Live Vol. 1” on October 1 at Workshop 4200, located at 4200 West Diversey. “Since their founding, Smashed Plastic has made it their mission to work with local independent record labels and bands. They pride themselves on being an integral part of the independent music community.” This one-day fest showcases independent artists and labels that they are proud to work with and is Smashed Plastic’s “way of bringing the records that we love to a live audience.” The event will take place in a converted loading dock stage and surrounding lot, featuring local beer, food, live painting and a cannabis sponsor village. From noon-10pm, a record fair will feature twenty-seven independent labels, including American Dreams, Chicago Research, Drag City, Trouble in Mind, Sooper, Corbett vs Dempsey, What’s For Breakfast, Council Records, Born Yesterday, International Anthem, Mississippi, Orindal, Pravda, Polyvinyl, Jump Up, Alona’s Dream, Storm Chasers, Delmark, Hausu Mountain, Forge Again, dBpm, Feeltrip, Fire Talk, Bric-a-Brac and Round Trip Records. Performances will be from 2pm-10pm on two stages, from fourteen local artists and DJs including Pixel Grip, Fire-Toolz, Rookie, Tar, Serengeti, Ono and Bev Rage & The Drinks. Proceeds from the fest benefit local nonprofit Quiet Pterodactyl to further their mission to program and support local art and music.Entry is $35; tickets here.

Music Of The Baroque Opens Season

Music of the Baroque opens its 2022-2023 season with Handel’s “Jephtha” September 18-19. The season marks the twentieth anniversary of the appointments of music director Dame Jane Glover and principal guest conductor Nicholas Kraemer. Single concert tickets are on sale for all 2022-2023 performances. Season details and tickets here.


Victory Gardens Productions Are No More After Nearly Half-A-Century

“The board of directors at Victory Gardens Theater has voted to [move] the long-lived Chicago theater away from producing its own shows and will instead be a presenting organization, a move that included the dismissal of its staff,”reports Chris Jones at the Tribune. “It promises to use its space and other resources to support other Chicago theaters with a compatible mission…The board spokesperson said that the board had no intention of closing the historic Biograph or retiring the Victory Gardens name and that details of what ‘support’ for other groups meant would be forthcoming, but that it could include renting out the space at cost or offering other forms of support… The theater, which is not insolvent, hoped to return to producing its own work.”

Griffin Theatre’s Thirty-Third Season Starts In October

Griffin Theatre Company will launch its thirty-third season with the Midwest premiere of the drama “Marys Seacole” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jackie Sibblies Drury, directed by Jerrell L. Henderson and Hannah Todd. The run is from October 1–November 6 at Raven Theatre. Tickets are on sale here.

First Folio Theatre Sets Final Season With “Jeeves Intervenes”

First Folio Theatre opens their final season by returning to the very first adventure of Bertie and Jeeves, “Jeeves Intervenes,” by Margaret Raether, directed by Michael Goldberg and originally mounted in 2008. “Returning for their sixth foray into the famous duo are Jim McCance as the perfect butler Jeeves and Christian Gray as the befuddled but ever optimistic Bertie Wooster.” The show’s run is November 2-December 4. All performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook. Tickets and more here.

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First Floor Theater Launches Tenth Season

First Floor Theater will begin its tenth season with the Chicago premiere of Jordan Tannahill’s “Botticelli in the Fire,” “a hot-blooded queering of Renaissance Italy that questions the value of art at the collapse of society.” Directed by Bo Frazier, “Botticelli in the Fire” plays September 22–November 5 at The Den. Tickets here.


Baseball From 1919 Black Sox Series Discovered In Trib Time Capsule

“Forensics experts and a letter helped confirm that the ball was indeed used in the infamous 1919 World Series between the White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds,”reports the Chicago Tribune. Three time capsules were discovered as the tenants of the Tribune Tower were scattered across the city four years ago when the building was sold for development. “I love this building and this has been the most interesting and complicated project I have ever worked on,” Lee Golub, the executive vice-president at Golub & Co tells the paper. “But there has been great joy in that, because I think this is the greatest building in the world.” “He is happy that two-thirds of the building’s 162 condominiums have been sold, for prices ranging from $700,000 to more than $8 million.” The contents of the boxes were largely “predictable time capsule knickknacks.” But “the ball was used in the 1919 World Series between the White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. ‘And it was a record-setting baseball… It is a baseball that struck out more batters in a row in a World Series than any baseball in history.'”

Punky Turf: Jim McMahon Repping Marijuana

“The legendary former Chicago Bears quarterback [Jim McMahon] is a co-founder of Revenant… which launched in California last summer and expanded into Arizona last week,”reports Crain’s. The sixty-three-year-old McMahon is “a longtime medicinal-marijuana advocate… looking to break into the Illinois weed market.”

Cultural Critic Cory Doctorow Considers Societal Role Of Chicago Dark Money Magnate Barre Seid

At his essential Pluralistic blog (also on Medium), cultural prognosticator Cory Doctorow thinks about the Chicago dark money master: “The tension between aristocratic aspirations and democratic limits has been part of America since the earliest days. Thomas Jefferson (unsuccessfully) lobbied for an antimonopoly clause in the Constitution in order to check the power of the wealthy – only to be defeated by the wealthy landowners who saw American independence as a means to transition from one set of hereditary rulers to another. The fight to prevent the rise of a new aristocracy has never ended in America… The greatest trick billionaires pulled on us [is] making us feel like we are alone in our understanding of how they are destroying our world and our civilization. That is why, as I once wrote, ‘Every billionaire is a factory for producing policy failures.'” “Here’s a policy-failure gigafactory: Barre Seid, founder of Tripp Lite, who became a billionaire selling power-management tools for data centers and then mobilized that fortune into a dark-money juggernaut, funding climate denial, abortion bans, Islamaphobic propaganda and other far-right causes, including a campaign to bring back DDT… Seid called this project ‘attack philanthropy’ and it reached its zenith last month, when he handed $1,600,000,000 to a far-right dark-money group – the largest political donation in American history.” More here.

Sea Lions Arrive At Shedd

Shedd Aquarium is excited to welcome two new California sea lions. Both new additions are behind the scenes, acclimating to their new home and caretakers. “The first new arrival is a three-year-old sea lion named Charger. He is around 230 pounds and shows early signs of confidence even as he explores his new environment and caretakers. The second addition is a three-month-old male pup sired by Charger during his time at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The pup is nearly thirty pounds and has already learned to swim, engage with enrichment like toys and vocalize.” More here.

Night Ministry Adjusts Nomenclature

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“The problem with designating new words to describe negative conditions is that, no matter how carefully chosen, they quickly become negative words themselves, sometimes insults. Changing conditions is hard, often impossible, so we change the words describing them instead,”writes Neil Steinberg at the Sun-Times. “‘The Night Ministry’s previous mission statement referred to those we serve as “experiencing homelessness”… The word “homeless” has been deliberately replaced with “unhoused,” as the former often has derogatory connotations.’ Progress?”

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