WBEZ | Columbia College Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/columbia-college-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago film pioneer Ronn Pitts dies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-09/chicago-film-pioneer-ronn-pitts-dies-108745 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6674_121115-Ron-Pitts2_0.jpg" style="height: 260px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="File: Filmmaker Ronn Pitts at his Columbia College Chicago office in 2012. (WBEZ/Alison Cuddy)" /><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YCTALHzoeg">Ronn Pitts</a> was such a popular and beloved teacher at Columbia College Chicago, some of his students created a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/66576121688/">Facebook page</a> praising his &ldquo;cool&rdquo;.</div><p>Pitts, a native of Bronzeville, died yesterday at the age of 76. He lived a remarkable and adventurous life, including breaking the color barrier in Chicago filmmaking and academic circles.</p><p>But his biggest impact may well be as a teacher and mentor, a man committed to community and social activism.</p><p>Pitts was both cool and warm. When I met him in late 2012, I felt as if I&rsquo;d immediately made a lifelong friend. I&rsquo;ve yet to meet a faculty member or student at Columbia who doesn&rsquo;t remember him fondly.</p><p>Jerry Blumenthal of Kartemquin Films met Pitts when, with Margaret Caples, they set up the <a href="http://www.cfwchicago.org/">Community Film Workshop</a> at the &ldquo;old&rdquo; Columbia College (then located at 540 Lake Shore Drive).</p><p>&ldquo;He made you feel very good and very happy about being a member of the film community,&rdquo; said Blumenthal. &ldquo;He was a great comrade, extremely friendly and funny and warm.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many others, Blumenthal says Pitts was also humble and never got the recognition he deserved.</p><p>Pitts led a life with Zelig-like qualities: He found himself in the midst of history-making events time and time again.</p><p>He was the first African-American hired to teach film at Columbia College and was still teaching there at the time of his death. He also broke color barriers as a filmmaker. Pitts and Joe Stratton, the man he called &nbsp;&ldquo;my best friend of all friends,&rdquo; were hired by George Halas in the 1960s to shoot film for the Chicago Bears.</p><p>&ldquo;We were the first blacks to shoot for any professional football team ever,&rdquo; Pitts said in a 2012 interview.</p><p>He also recounted adventures like filming during the 1965 march to Selma, Ala., and being &ldquo;kidnapped&rdquo; by Muhammad Ali to document the boxer as he prepared for his big fight against George Foreman in 1974.</p><p>Pitts got into film by working as a shipping clerk at a camera rental company, a job his mother got him (before that he was a bookie placing bets on horses). But shooting film was a major struggle.</p><p>&ldquo;There were no blacks shooting (news) cameras until 1973,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There were no women, no blacks, nothing but white males.&rdquo;</p><p>In our 2012 interview, Pitts told me his own students got the same treatment when he sent them out to cover news, including fires or speeches by the mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;That was a great experience, because then I recognized what prejudice truly was,&rdquo; Pitts said. &ldquo;Those old men, they would cut their cords,&rdquo; and challenged him for training minorities.</p><p>Pitts eventually left Chicago, settling in San Francisco for 17 years. While there, he captured the death of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk on film. He was in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem the night Malcolm X was assassinated (Pitts said his footage was seized by police). And, he was behind the camera the day <strike>Chicago Bears</strike>&nbsp;Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes died of a heart attack on the Tiger Stadium field, during a game against the Chicago Bears. Pitts said those moments were the &ldquo;shocking things&rdquo; about filmmaking. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t take it back,&quot; he said. &quot;And you sleep with that at night, knowing that you captured death in your lens.&quot;</p><p>Pitts received his share of accolades &ndash; there&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Student_Financial_Services/create-a-plan/scholarships/ronn-pitts.php">scholarship in his name</a> at Columbia and he&rsquo;s been recognized by other film organizations. &nbsp;October 10 was declared Ronn Pitts day in Chicago, and Charles Celander, the Operations Manager in Columbia&rsquo;s Cinema Art and Science program, says they always celebrate with cake and good cheer.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a fitting tribute for Pitts, who despite some truly heavy experiences, remained a light and joyful spirit. &nbsp;When we spoke, Pitts said he considered himself a real live servant, a mission he encouraged others to accept.</p><p>&ldquo;We are here on this planet to take care of each other,&rdquo; said Pitts. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s it.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is WBEZ&rsquo;s Arts and Culture reporter and co-hosts the WBEZ podcasts <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels</a> and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/strangebrews">Strange Brews</a>. Follow her on<a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter</a>,<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison?ref=tn_tnmn"> Facebook</a> and<a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram</a></em></p></p> Mon, 23 Sep 2013 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-09/chicago-film-pioneer-ronn-pitts-dies-108745 Story Week celebrates Chicago authors, indie publishers http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-03/story-week-celebrates-chicago-authors-indie-publishers-106161 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Megan Stielstra.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Megan Stielstra is the Literary Director of Chicago's 2nd Story storytelling series and recently co-edited their first print anthology, 'Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low-Flying Duck: Stories From 2nd Story.' She has told stories for the Goodman, Steppenwolf, the Paper Machete and Chicago Public Radio. (StoryWeek) " />March has been a spectacular month for aspiring writers and writing programs. In Boston, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/overview" target="_blank">AWP Annual Conference &amp; Bookfair</a>&nbsp;featured over 500 readings, lectures and panel discussions to celebrate independent publishing and advance the careers of writers across the country.&nbsp;</p><p>And in Chicago, the Columbia College Fiction Writing Department rolled out its&nbsp;<a href="http://www.colum.edu/storyweek/" target="_blank">17th Annual Story Week Festival of Writers</a>, free and open to the public March 17-22.&nbsp;</p><p>This year&#39;s theme is Vision and Voice, and upcoming events include a <a href="http://www.colum.edu/storyweek/schedule.php" target="_blank">Dramatic Revisioning: Conversation with Playwrights</a> at Film Row Cinema on Wednesday, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story-week-festival-writers-literary-rock-roll-girl-trouble-105907" target="_blank">Literary Rock &amp; Roll: Girl Trouble</a> at the Metro on Thursday and WBEZ&#39;s own <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/rick-kogan-essays" target="_blank">Rick Kogan</a> hosting <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/books/16149661/story-week-chicago-classics-with-rick-kogan" target="_blank">Chicago Classics</a> (a night of local literary folks reading from their favorite Chicago authors) at the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Story Week is a wonderful introduction to the Chicago publishing community, but the book-nerd excitement doesn&#39;t have to end there. Our city is brimming with literary talent, and attending a reading/storytelling series like <a href="http://2ndstory.com" target="_blank">2nd Story</a>, <a href="http://www.tuesdayfunk.org" target="_blank">Tuesday Funk</a>, <a href="http://writeclubrules.com" target="_blank">Write Club</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://twocookieminimum.blogspot.com" target="_blank">Two Cookie Minimum</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="http://readingundertheinfluence.com" target="_blank">RUI: Reading Under the Influence</a>&nbsp;is a great way to meet new people and glean inspiration for your own yet-to-be-published work.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Unsure of how to begin turning your long-labored memoir, science fiction novel or collection of short stories into the next literary masterpiece? <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagoLiterati" target="_blank">Chicago Literati</a>&nbsp;is a helpful hub for news on local publishing companies (<a href="http://www.curbsidesplendor.com" target="_blank">Curbside Splendor</a>, <a href="http://www.featherproof.com/Mambo/" target="_blank">Featherproof Books</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.catandratpublishing.com">Cat and Rat Publishing</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com" target="_blank">Chicago Review Press</a>, etc.) and the organizations that promote them.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The Chicago Reader_RUI.jpg" style="height: 211px; width: 270px; float: right; " title="At RUI: Reading Under the Influence, a monthly reading series established in 2005 and held in various bars throughout Chicago, local writers take a shot before reading a piece on the night's chosen theme. (The Chicago Reader/Kristie Kahns)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Supporters of the Chicago publishing community include nonprofits (<a href="http://www.chicagowrites.org/default.aspx" target="_blank">Chicago Writer&#39;s Association</a>, <a href="http://www.cwip.org" target="_blank">Chicago Women in Publishing</a>, <a href="http://youngchicagoauthors.org/blog/" target="_blank">Young Chicago Authors</a>), writer meetups (<a href="http://www.sundaysalon.com/chicago-salon" target="_blank">Sunday Salon</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/PubNite" target="_blank">Publishing Cocktails</a>), independent bookstores (<a href="http://citylitbooks.com" target="_blank">City Lit Books</a>, <a href="http://www.powellschicago.com" target="_blank">Powell&#39;s Books</a>, <a href="http://www.unabridgedbookstore.com" target="_blank">Unabridged Bookstore</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagocomics.com" target="_blank">Chicago Comics</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bookcellarinc.com" target="_blank">Book Cellar</a>, <a href="http://www.quimbys.com" target="_blank">Quimby&#39;s Bookstore</a>, <a href="http://thirdcoastcomics.com" target="_blank">Third Coast Comics</a>, <a href="http://www.unchartedbooks.com" target="_blank">Uncharted Books</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thebookstall.com" target="_blank">Book Stall</a>), literary news outlets (<a href="http://gapersblock.com/bookclub/" target="_blank">Gapers Block Book Club</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/literature/Section?oid=926726" target="_blank">ChicagoReader</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://lit.newcity.com" target="_blank">NewCity Lit</a>) and writing centers like <a href="http://www.storystudiochicago.com/aboutus/" target="_blank">StoryStudio Chicago</a>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In honor of our hard-working local writers (many of them my friends) who consistently amaze, inspire and fight for their stories to be heard, I present some of my favorite published works from&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_from_Chicago#Authors_and_writers" target="_blank">Chicago authors</a> past and present:&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Everyone-Remain-Calm-ebook/dp/B005XBUP56" target="_blank">Everyone Remain Calm</a></strong>&nbsp;by Megan Stielstra</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Criminalist-Eugene-Izzi/dp/0380793490" target="_blank"><strong>The Criminalist&nbsp;</strong></a>by Eugene Izzi</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Girl-Novel-Gillian-Flynn/dp/030758836X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1363748760&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=gone+girl" target="_blank"><strong>Gone Girl</strong></a> by Gillian Flynn</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Building-Stories-Chris-Ware/dp/0375424334" target="_blank"><strong>Building Stories</strong>&nbsp;</a>by Chris Ware&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fall-Vintage-Crime-Black-Lizard/dp/0307473643" target="_blank"><strong>We All Fall Down</strong></a> by Michael Harvey</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Office-Girl-Joe-Meno/dp/161775076X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1363745294&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=office+girl" target="_blank"><b>Office Girl</b></a>&nbsp;by Joe Meno&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/I-Sailed-Magellan-Stuart-Dybek/dp/0312424116/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1363745328&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=i+sailed+with+magellan" target="_blank"><strong>I Sailed with Magellan</strong></a>&nbsp;by Stuart Dybek</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.amazon.com/May-Shed-These-Human-Bodies/dp/0983422877" target="_blank"><strong>May We Shed These Human Bodies</strong></a>&nbsp;by Amber Sparks&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Who are your favorite Chicago writers and publishers? Leave a comment below, send a shout-out via Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a> or join the conversation on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-03/story-week-celebrates-chicago-authors-indie-publishers-106161 Lacey Holmes new Stage Left managing director http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-15/lacey-holmes-new-stage-left-managing-director-89223 <p><p><strong>Stage Left Theatre</strong>, which begins its 30th anniversary season in August, has named <strong>Lacey Holmes</strong> as managing director, effective Monday (July 18). She succeeds Laura Blegen who is leaving after three years at Stage Left to pursue an MBA at The University of Wisconsin at Madison.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Holmes’ experience and education make her eminently suitable to head the business side of an established Off-Loop troupe such as Stage Left. Her resume includes positions at Broadway In Chicago, Theater on the Lake, Writers' Theatre and Steppenwolf Theater where she worked in the Audience Services department. She also worked for two years as a contract associate at Actors Equity Association. Holmes has a bachelor's degree in theater arts from Alfred University (New York) and an master's degree in arts management from Columbia College Chicago.</p><p>The socially progressive Stage Left was founded in 1982 by Debra Rodkin, Michael Troccoli, Randy Burgess and Ann Fournier. Vance Smith is the current artistic director. The troupe produces its shows at Theater Wit and will open its 30th season Aug. 8-Oct. 9 with the Chicago premiere of Beau Willimon's very contemporary political drama, <em>Farragut North</em>.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-15/lacey-holmes-new-stage-left-managing-director-89223