WBEZ | Art http://www.wbez.org/sections/art Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Spike Lee defends 'Chiraq' title for movie about Chicago http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/spike-lee-defends-chiraq-title-movie-about-chicago-112029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/spike.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Filmmaker Spike Lee says people judging his new Chicago movie from afar &ldquo;don&rsquo;t know what the hell they&rsquo;re talking about.&rdquo;</p><p>Controversy has swirled around Lee&rsquo;s film &ldquo;Chiraq,&rdquo; a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA4YUC4GOhQ">slang term</a> for Chicago violence. Flanked by dozens of residents who&rsquo;ve lost loved ones to gun violence, Lee addressed those concerns on Thursday at St. Sabina Catholic Church in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film. A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film, again, know nothing about the film,&rdquo; Lee said. &ldquo;People act like they&rsquo;ve never seen none of my films, like I got pulled off the street. I&rsquo;ve been doing this since 1986. In fact, everything I&rsquo;ve done has led up to this film.&rdquo;</p><p>Lee didn&rsquo;t take questions or give details about the film, which reportedly is a <a href="http://www.screendaily.com/im-global-cannes-bound-with-chiraq/5087677.article#.VVCuC8l-vXM.twitter">musical </a>that riffs off of a Greek tragicomedy. While the city is often perceived as the national posterchild for violence, Lee said the story is bigger than Chicago because it&rsquo;s about violence in America.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/04/29/402971445/residents-of-troubled-chicago-neighborhood-wary-of-spike-lee-s-chiraq">Much of the criticism</a> is directed at the name &ldquo;Chiraq,&rdquo; which combines parts of the names Chicago and violence-torn Iraq. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has told the director that it was unfair to the people in the Englewood neighborhood where the film takes place.</p><p>But Lee said that it&#39;s an artist&#39;s job to hold a mirror up to what is happening in the world without fear in order to tell the truth.</p><p>&quot;This is not a joke. This is not a game,&quot; Lee said. &quot;This is real life and death and that&#39;s the way we&#39;re going to approach this.&quot;</p><p>He noted that 14 people were shot overnight in Chicago, and three of them were killed.</p><p>One of the parents standing alongside Lee was Sarah Turner, whose 42-year-old son, Michael, was shot four times in the back in 2013. No one was ever arrested in the killing.</p><p>She said the movie title &quot;Chiraq&quot; was appropriate.</p><p>&quot;Because it is what it is; it&#39;s a war zone,&quot; she said. &quot;You can&#39;t feel comfortable all over and even in your own homes. Every time you turn on the news somebody&#39;s being shot. Babies are being shot right in their own homes.&quot;</p><p>Father Michael Pfleger, the priest of St. Sabina, has been a staunch supporter of Lee and last weekend allowed auditions for movie extras at his parish.</p><p>Actor John Cusack, a Chicago native appearing in the upcoming movie, said art must be courageous.</p><p>&ldquo;There really is no controversy around this film except for a bit of manufactured political controversy. A few people say it&rsquo;s controversial and then the press repeats it. But controversial to whom?&rdquo; Cusack said. &ldquo;I am 100 percent sure that the great city of Chicago can survive a film of conscience just as it did <em>Transformers</em>. I love my city Chicago and would never do anything to hurt it.&rdquo;</p><p>Lee recalled receiving similar criticism in 1989 when he released <em>Do the Right Thing </em>about race in urban America.</p><p>&ldquo;There were people who said this film would cause riots all across America. And black people are going run amok. People wrote that this film would stop David Dinkins from being the first African-American mayor of New York. But those people ended up on the wrong side of history,&rdquo; Lee said.</p><p>He thinks the same thing will happen with his latest film set in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;They are going to look stupid and be on the wrong side of history. We&rsquo;re here for peace,&rdquo; Lee said.</p><p>Filming is expected to begin this month.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Thu, 14 May 2015 13:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/spike-lee-defends-chiraq-title-movie-about-chicago-112029 Orson Welles Centennial Festival http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-08/orson-welles-centennial-festival-112006 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" centenary="" class="image-original_image" orson="" span="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Orson%20Wells%20Color%20Old%20620.jpg" title="Portrait of actor and movie director Orson Welles during a press conference in Paris, Feb. 22, 1982. M. Welles is in France to receive the “Legion of Honor”, highest French distinction. (AP Photo/Jacques Langevin)" welles="" /><p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:24px;"><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204555716&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe>Orson Welles Centennial Celebration</strong></span></span></p><p><span>A Chicago-area celebration of the centenary of Orson Welles takes place throughout the month of May in Woodstock, Illinois, where Welles spent his formative years. The Orson Welles Centennial Festival begins tonight, Friday May 8</span>th, with a screening of a new documentary by Chuck Workman, Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. Film contributor, Milos Stehlik, spoke with film critic and Welles scholar, Jonathan Rosenbaum, about Orson Welles and his legacy.</p><p><strong>Guest Host: </strong></p><p>Milos Stehlik is WBEZ film contributor and director of <a href="http://www.facets.org/">Facets MultiMedia</a></p><p><strong>Guest:</strong></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-c34349ba-3459-b500-26f7-c379bee73768"><span id="docs-internal-guid-c34349ba-3459-22a0-72de-434fc78282e5">Jonathan Rosenbaum</span> is a film critic, <a href="http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/">blogger</a> and scholar on Orson Welles. He&#39;s the author of the book <em>Discovering Orson Welles</em> and&nbsp; co-author of the edited volume <em>This is Orson Welles</em>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>EVENT:</strong></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-c34349ba-3468-22f9-b51d-fe6955b815f0">Jonathan Rosenbaum will appear the <a href="http://www.welleswoodstock.com">Orson Welles Centennial Festival</a></p><p dir="ltr">May 8 - May 23</p><p>Woodstock, IL at various locations</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 24px;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204556960&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe>65th Anniversary of the Schuman Declaration</span></span></strong></p><p>The greatest peacemaking institution of the last century is arguably the European Union. May 9th marks the 65<sup>th</sup> anniversary of the <a href="http://europa.eu/about-eu/basic-information/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration/index_en.htm">Schuman Declaration</a>. At the time, Robert Schuman was France&rsquo;s foreign minister. His declaration&rsquo;s aim was to make war between European states impossible as stated in the declaration&rsquo;s opening line, &ldquo;World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.&rdquo; We&rsquo;ll celebrate the peacemaking power of the EU and discuss threats to its future.</p><p><strong>Guests:</strong></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-83b38682-345b-b0a1-894f-52219bd70430"><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/aaronfreemansite/Home?previewAsViewer=1">Aaron Freeman</a> is a WBEZ contributor, artist-in-residence at the Chicago Council on Science &amp; Technology&nbsp;and self-declared Schuman declaration enthusiast</p><p dir="ltr">John McCormick is the Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Politics at Indiana University and author of the book <em><a href="http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=581141">Why Europe Matters: The Case for the European Union</a></em></p><p><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size: 24px;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-fb16e14c-3457-1a94-0e03-9a178a014368"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204558557&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe>Weekend Passport:</span> Russian Music and Ballet, Middle East Poetry and Travel the globe frugally</span></span></strong></p><p><span>Each week global citizen Nari Safavi helps listeners plan their international weekend. This week he&rsquo;ll recommend a concert that blends Russian folk music with classical and electronic music, a poetry festival featuring Iraqi and other Middle Eastern poets and we&rsquo;ll find out how to travel the globe, on $50 a day.</span></p><p><strong>Guests:</strong></p><p>Narimon Safavi, WBEZ contributor and co-founder of <a href="http://www.pasfarda.org/">Pasfarda Arts and Cultural Exchange</a></p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-fb16e14c-3460-45e5-9d3a-b74da4fb4be2">Matt Kepnes is author of </span>the book <em>How to Travel the World on $50 a Day </em>and editor of the &#39;<a href="http://www.nomadicmatt.com/">Nomadic Matt</a>&#39;, travel blog</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 08 May 2015 11:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-08/orson-welles-centennial-festival-112006 Worldview: War in Ukraine Could Escalate http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-01/worldview-war-ukraine-could-escalate-111976 <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/ukraine%20cms_0.JPG" title="Ukrainian tank at frontline near Mariupol in Feb 2015 (Photo by Askold Krushelnycky)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/203476188&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:24px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Ukraine/Russia Hostilities Could Soon Escalate</span></span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Journalist Askold Krushelnycky has covered Russia and Ukraine for decades - from accompanying mujahedin groups as they fought in the Soviet-Afghan war to watching Russian troops land in Crimea. Krushelnycky was recently embedded with Ukraine&rsquo;s 37th Mechanized Infantry Battalion fighting in the port city of Mariupol. He&rsquo;s in Chicago to talk about what he&rsquo;s witnessed in the current standoff between Ukraine and Russia. And Krushelnycky will tell us what he believes are the chances of more major military action in Ukraine in the coming months.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Guest:</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Askold Krushelnycky is an independent journalist, formerly correspondent for the Sunday Times and editor of the Kyiv Post</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong><em>EVENT: </em></strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em><a href="http://uima-chicago.org/on-the-battlefields-of-ukraine-life-with-a-volunteer-battalion/">On the battlefields of Ukraine: life with a volunteer battalion Journalist - Askold Krushelnycky</a></em></div><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-a28baadf-10fc-3ac8-10ce-d062c95abb90">Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Saturday, May 2nd at 6pm, </span></em><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-a28baadf-10fc-3ac8-10ce-d062c95abb90">2320 W Chicago Ave.</span></em><em style="line-height: 1.2;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a28baadf-10fc-3ac8-10ce-d062c95abb90"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/203476977&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></span></span></em></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Milos Stehlik Talks with Ivo Felt about the Estonian film &#39;Tangerines&#39;</span></span></p><p><em>Tangerines(Mandariinid)</em> is set in 1992, just as the Soviet Union was breaking apart and tensions flared between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists. The film tells of two soldiers, from opposing sides. Film contributor Milos Stehlik and the film&#39;s producer, Ivo Felt, discuss the film.</p><p><strong>Guests:</strong></p><p><em>Milos Stehlik, WBEZ film contributor and director of Facets Multimedia</em></p><p><em>Ivo Felt, producer of the film Tangerines (Mandariinid) </em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/203478829&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Weekend Passport: Poesia en Abril and Chicago Asian-American Author Readings</span></span></p><p>Each week global citizen Nari Safavi helps listeners plan their international weekend. On this literary edition of weekend passport we&rsquo;ll tell you about a Spanish language poetry festival and a celebration of Asian American writers.</p><p><strong><span>Guests:</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-1b9f2abe-1126-987e-77c5-3e0a97853fbf">Noah Cruikshank (Crook-shank) is the Marketing Manager at Open Books and the Board President of the Chicago Writers Conference</span></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-1b9f2abe-1126-987e-77c5-3e0a97853fbf">Vu Tran (Voo Tran) is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts at the University of Chicago and author of the upcoming novel </span>Dragonfish.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-1b9f2abe-1126-987e-77c5-3e0a97853fbf">Irizelma Robles Alvarez is a Puerto Rican poet, essayist and anthropologist. </span></em></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em><span>EVENTS:</span></em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-1b9f2abe-1128-4c24-8c24-edb2b0f5092b">1) Vu Tran will participate in r</span>eadings with Chicago-based Asian American authors Nami Mun, and Alec Nevala-Lee.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-1b9f2abe-1129-3412-0143-d9c60db76c05">Friday, May 1st, 6 pm, Open Books River North, 213 W. Institute Place, </span>Event co-organized by Open Books and the Chicago Writers Conference</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>2) Irizelma Robles Alvarez will perform as part of the Poetry Foundation&rsquo;s Poesia en Abril event.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Friday, May 1st at Comfort Station in Logan Square (there are also readings and events on Saturday)</em></p></p> Fri, 01 May 2015 14:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-01/worldview-war-ukraine-could-escalate-111976 For Chicago blues, sweet home is hard to find http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-1-Muddy-Waters-creative-commons-photo-by-Kevin-Dooley.jpg" style="height: 219px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Muddy Waters, circa 1971. The late music legend will be honored at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival (Kevin Dooley/flickr)" /><em>Updated 11:13 a.m.</em></p><p><em><em>(Editor&#39;s Note: After our story was published the Chicago Blues Experience&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobluesexperience.com/" target="_blank">launched this official website</a>.)</em></em></p><p>Back in the 1950s Buddy Guy was a young guitarist living in Louisiana. Like others he eventually traveled north to Chicago, where the blues scene was thriving.</p><p>&ldquo;Muddy Waters, Howlin&rsquo; Wolf, all those great guys,&rdquo; said Guy. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I came here. To get a day job and go watch them play at night.&rdquo;</p><p>Those musicians not only inspired him to play, but to open the famed Checkerboard Lounge in the 1970s followed by Legends in the late 80&rsquo;s to keep the music alive. Guy says he&rsquo;ll never forget those early days watching <em>his</em> legends.</p><p>&ldquo;The beer was 25 cents a bottle when I came here. And when Muddy played there wasn&rsquo;t no cover charge. The beer was 35 cents,&rdquo; remembered Guy. &ldquo;So the 10 cents was going for the band members. Muddy Waters was in the band. And those were the greatest days of my life.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Guy just received a Lifetime Achievement award at this year&#39;s Grammys. But he and other artists in town say their music should be just as celebrated locally. And they wonder: If Chicago is the home of the blues, then why doesn&rsquo;t it have a permanent home honoring it?</p><div>The blues made important stops in Memphis and St. Louis, but Chicago is where the blues really came alive in the middle of the last century. That&rsquo;s when musicians like Muddy Waters came here from Mississippi, electrified their down home Delta Blues and recorded it for labels like Chess Records.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>You can still see remnants of this history around town. Like at the old Chess Records on S. Michigan Avenue and Muddy Water&rsquo;s former house at 4339 S. Lake Park Avenue.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&ldquo;This is the house of the blues before there was a house of the blues,&rdquo; said Barry Dollins, former director of the Chicago Blues Festival, standing in front of the boarded up building. &ldquo;This was the rehearsal house.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-4-Barry-Dollins.jpg" style="float: left; height: 373px; width: 280px;" title="Former Chicago Blues Festival Director Barry Dollins stands in front of Muddy Waters’ former home (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Muddy Waters bought the home in the 1950s at the peak of his career and lived there for 20 years. It wasn&rsquo;t just a home for Waters and his family. It was a gathering place for other musicians, where countless jam sessions were held.</p><p>Today the red brick two flat is in bad shape.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just depressing just to see that X up there,&rdquo; Dollins sighed, pointing to a big red X affixed to the front.</p><p>That X means the house is abandoned and unsafe. It&rsquo;s been on and off the market for years. Dollins says the home could&rsquo;ve served as a historic space, much like the Louis Armstrong home in New York. A place where people can see where and how the musician lived and what inspired them.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s sad that there was no forethought in what the significance of this building is,&rdquo; said Dollins. &ldquo;And how it could&rsquo;ve been preserved and utilized.&rdquo;</p><p>In some ways, the neglected house is symbolic of the overall failure to erect a permanent space to preserve Chicago&rsquo;s music heritage.</p><p>&ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t we have a blues museum? It comes down to money,&rdquo; Dollins said. &ldquo;It takes millions of dollars to create a museum.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Steve Cushing is the host of the national radio show &ldquo;Blues Before Sunrise.&rdquo; He said Chicago deserves to have a blues museum, but he&rsquo;s not sure how viable it would be.</p><p>&ldquo;How would you pay for it and where would you put it?&rdquo; asked Cushing. &ldquo;It would seem that you would want it in a place that was related to the actual location of the blues. But if you put it on the south side, would tourists, would white folks go down there?&rdquo;</p><p>If something does ever get off the ground, it won&rsquo;t be called the Chicago Blues Museum. That&rsquo;s because local guitarist Gregg Parker copyrighted that title.</p><p>&ldquo;They call me the black Indiana Jones. If I can&rsquo;t find it, it doesn&rsquo;t exist,&rdquo; said Parker.</p><p>Parker once played with Mick Jagger and Buddy Miles among others, but now mostly collects artifacts for traveling exhibitions.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need a building to do what I&rsquo;m doing. I own it,&rdquo; said Parker. &ldquo;The blues museum is a state of mind. It&rsquo;s not a building.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, the address for Parker&rsquo;s museum&rsquo;s is a P.O. box number. He once had a storefront space but won&rsquo;t say why it closed. He gets a little defensive&nbsp;when asked when the public could see his whole collection.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to tell you my itinerary,&rdquo; scoffed Parker. &ldquo;You might be a thief!&rdquo;</p><p>Parker shows how fragmented and disorganized efforts are to showcase the blues in Chicago. Many say the only way to get everyone on the same page &mdash; and all the artifacts under one roof &mdash; is for the city of Chicago to get involved. They point out that City Hall moved mountains for the proposed George Lucas Museum and the Obama Presidential Library.</p><p>So why hasn&rsquo;t it done more for the blues?</p><p>The Department of Cultural Affairs sent this statement: &quot;The City of Chicago celebrates its rich blues music heritage each year with the world renowned Chicago Blues Festival on the shores of Lake Michigan. More than 500,000 blues fans attend the festival each year, proving that Chicago is the &ldquo;Blues Capital of the World.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>But some tourists at last year&rsquo;s free festival&nbsp;said they wished there was more to see while they were in town.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to Buddy Guy&rsquo;s place, but that&rsquo;s about it,&rdquo; said&nbsp;Karl Roque, who came all the way from the Philippines. When asked if he&rsquo;d like to see a museum dedicated to his favorite art form, Roque didn&rsquo;t hesitate. &ldquo;Yes. Why not? Maybe it&rsquo;s about time.&rdquo;</p><p>Buddy Guy agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been begging for it for almost 30 years.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-3-Buddy-Guy.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Buddy Guy’s 78th birthday party celebration at his South Loop club Legends (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />According to Guy he may not have to wait too much longer. Guy has been working with a group that&#39;s been trying to build a blues museum for a few years now. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They already got the building on Navy Pier,&quot; said Guy. &ldquo;A blues experience museum on Navy Pier.&rdquo;</p><p>No one at Navy Pier would comment. A statement from Tim Wright, co-founder of the so-called Chicago Blues Experience, said they&rsquo;re close to finalizing the details, but can&rsquo;t confirm when.&nbsp;</p><p>In the meantime, another blues museum is moving full steam ahead. Built with a mix of public and private funds, the $13 million, 23,000 square foot space will feature interactive exhibits and a theater for live music.</p><p>But you won&rsquo;t find it in Chicago.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.nationalbluesmuseum.org/" target="_blank">National Blues Museum</a> is set to open this summer in St. Louis.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a> <em>&amp;&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 Gretchen Seichrist stuns with new 'Iamlonesomekid' album http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/gretchen-seichrist-stuns-new-iamlonesomekid-album-111518 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lonesomecover.jpeg" style="height: 374px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;How come nobody falls to their knees in worship?&rdquo; Gretchen Seichrist wonders at the end of &ldquo;Hot Feet,&rdquo; one of 10 stunning tracks on the debut album with her new group Thelonesomekid. And she&rsquo;s justified in asking.</p><p>Speaking as someone who resided there for a year or two at two different times, Minneapolis is a place where living can be almost too easy&mdash;an odd thing to say about somewhere that sub-zero temperatures make you feel as if you&rsquo;re on the surface of the moon for several months a year, but true nonetheless, in the sense that the small but supportive artistic community and the chill pace of life in general can be so seductive that a lot of creative people do great work without ever summoning the energy to leave home, barely making noise as far away as Madison or Milwaukee, much less Chicago.</p><p>In the case of a voice as powerful as Seichrist&rsquo;s, that&rsquo;s a damn shame. True, I slept on writing about her prolific outpouring as Patches and Gretchen (six D.I.Y. albums!), despite enthusiastic notices from hometown cheerleaders I respect and her collaboration with my old pal and former bandmate <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-01-19/vortis-diaries-ghosts-bands-past-95654">Devin Hill</a>. The fact is, I liked but never really loved those discs. <em>Iamlonesomekid</em>, the debut by her new band/multi-media project, is a different story.</p><p>Recorded in Water Valley, Mississippi with producers Bronson Tew and Matt Patton (Drive-By-Truckers) and bandmates Christopher Thompson, Jules Daud, Dave Pederson, and Danny Viper, the album finds the singer, songwriter, painter, and performance artist reenergized and recommitting to her unique and alternately seductive and angry merger of art-punk, blues, folk, scatting jazz, and spoken-word poetry. Think of Patti Smith at her most Dylanesque crossed with a less pretentious Karen O or Amanda Palmer and possessed of the pop smarts of Aimee Mann, who happens to be her half-sister. And you&rsquo;re still only partly there.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PatchesGretchen-625x350.jpeg" title="Gretchen Seichrist." /></div><p>Seichrist is a smart student/pilferer of rock history: You&rsquo;ve gotta love the way the Sonic Youth maelstroms of guitar noise yield to the Stooges-like one-note piano in &ldquo;Funnels&rdquo; and &ldquo;The Heartfelt News.&rdquo; She can also imagine Elvis Presley as a blonde while convincingly delivering a torch song (albeit one more twisted than Bertolt Brecht) in &ldquo;My Bed,&rdquo; or veerx close to pure pop perfection in a ditty such as &ldquo;Baby Me,&rdquo; which only reveals it layers of strange confessions on repeated listens.</p><p>&ldquo;She knows where she&rsquo;s going,&rdquo; the aforementioned Hill said of Seichrist in a <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/03/10/gretchen">profile by Chris Roberts for MPR back in 2010</a>. &ldquo;You just have to hold on.&rdquo; Well, with <em>Iamlonesomekid,</em> she&rsquo;s gotten there, and it&rsquo;s a place I can&rsquo;t stop visiting, on album and on the enchanting series of films/videos she&rsquo;s made for each song. Now if only she&rsquo;d hop in the van and head out of the Twin Cities on tour.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/S9AadG1Qn2k" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Thelonesomekid, <em>Iamlonesomekid</em> (</strong><a href="http://www.thelonesomekid.com"><strong>www.thelonesomekid.com</strong></a><strong>)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><strike>@</strike></strong><strong>JimDeRogatis</strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong>Facebook</strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/gretchen-seichrist-stuns-new-iamlonesomekid-album-111518 DePaul museum show 'Rooted in Soil' looks at role earth plays in life, death http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-29/depaul-museum-show-rooted-soil-looks-role-earth-plays-life-death <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bell_.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Metropolis 2012 by Vaughn Bell. Acrylic, aluminum, rigging cables, hardware, soil, native plants. (Photo by Spike Mafford)" /></div></div><p>A new exhibition opening Thursday at the DePaul Art Museum takes a unique look at something we take for granted.</p><p>&ldquo;Rooted in Soil&rdquo; examines earth from multiple viewpoints, from the role that intensive agriculture and deforestation play in removing topsoil, to the decaying flowers, trees and even human bodies that all eventually return to the soil.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea came out of a very tumultuous period in my life, where I was having an existential crisis, if you will, and exploring many of these questions about the meaning of life,&rdquo; said Farrah Fatemi, an assistant environmental studies professor at St. Michael&rsquo;s College in Vermont. She curated the show with her mother, Laura Fatemi, who&rsquo;s the museum&rsquo;s interim director.</p><p>Farrah Fatemi said she started meditating and reading a lot about Buddhism.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that really resonated with me is this concept of a very fundamental interconnectedness that all beings have to one another and to their environment,&rdquo; she said, adding she and her mother wanted to bring this interconnectedness to the public through art.</p><p>That connection is evident as soon as you walk into the DePaul Art Museum.</p><p>The smell of fresh soil hangs in the air. The first thing you see is a large angular terrarium hanging suspended from the ceiling. If you&rsquo;ve admired terrariums and imagined living in a tiny world of plants under glass, &ldquo;Metropolis&rdquo; by Seattle artist Vaughn Bell gives you a taste of what that would be like. Visitors can stand underneath it, poke their heads through holes cut in the bottom and be surrounded by green plants and the rich smell of soil in the spring, despite the cold weather outside.</p><p>An installation by Chicago artist Claire Pentecost lets visitors step into a room that looks like an old apothecary, but the vials and cylinders are full of dirt. People can lift glass domes containing soil samples and take a whiff.</p><p>&ldquo;I think one of the neat things about this exhibit is that it confronts people in the city who are surrounded by this paved landscape with soil,&rdquo; Farrah Fatemi said. The idea is to connect urban spaces and urban dwellers back to nature.</p><p>Upstairs, the focus turns to the cycle of life, featuring powerful images that are beautiful and uncomfortable.</p><p>A 17th-century &ldquo;vanitas,&rdquo; a form of still life that focuses on death-related themes, by Flemish painter Adriaen van Utrecht shows a skull and a glorious bouquet just past full flower that&rsquo;s starting to rot. Coins and jewelry are scattered nearby, symbolizing, as Laura Fatemi said, &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t take it with you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;In a way, these were religious paintings,&rdquo; Laura Fatemi said, adding that they made reference to concepts like mortality and repentance.</p><p>Next to the painting, Sam Taylor-Johnson explores a similar theme in still life -- but in video form -- showing a luscious bowl of fruit quickly moving through the stages of decay from ripeness to mold to bugs.</p><p>The photographs of Sally Mann, who documents corpses in various stages of decomposition at the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee, are grotesque and strangely beautiful. Justin Rang explores similar themes in his film &ldquo;Light/Dark Worms.&rdquo; It takes up an entire wall and shows worms writhing around a human hand in the dirt, inviting us to reflect on our own impermanence.</p><p>&ldquo;We depend on this nutrient cycle, and we&rsquo;re part of it,&rdquo; Laura Fatemi said. Much of the work plays with our anxiety over dying and our fear of the unknown. &ldquo;The reality is the earth will take us back.&rdquo;</p><p>For many of us, that&rsquo;s never an easy concept to grasp or even to consider. But perhaps seeing it explored in art will make it a bit less scary.<br />&ldquo;Rooted in Soil&rdquo; runs through April 26 at the DePaul Art Museum.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes covers religion, arts and culture for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-29/depaul-museum-show-rooted-soil-looks-role-earth-plays-life-death The first great album of 2015 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/first-great-album-2015-111391 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The-Decemberists-What-A-Terrible-World-What-A-Beautiful-World.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Let&rsquo;s get this out of the way right up front: Even if you haven&rsquo;t heard about their hometown naming next Friday &ldquo;<a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/music/index.ssf/2015/01/january_20_decemberists_day_portland.html">The Decemberists Day</a>,&rdquo; with an official proclamation to be presented by Portland Mayor Kyle MacLachlan.... er, Charlie Hales... at that craft-beer-and-Chemex-brewing, bearded-hipsters Mecca, or you didn&rsquo;t catch bandleader Colin Meloy announcing this new release by <a href="http://pitchfork.com/news/57193-the-decemberists-announce-new-album-with-colin-meloy-busking-on-brooklyn-street/">busking on the streets of Brooklyn</a>, he and his co-conspirators give the skeptical plenty of reasons to scoff.</p><p>Start with the cumbersome title of their long-awaited seventh album <em>What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, </em>and move on to capital-&ldquo;r&rdquo; Romantic lyrics that once again are rife with characters such as the gown-wearing Philomena (who prompts the unusually bawdy confession from our former English and Theater-major bandleader: &ldquo;All I ever wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl/But I found I&rsquo;ve quickly bored, I wanted more, I wanted more!&rdquo;) and the Cavalry Captain, a possible veteran of Tennyson&rsquo;s infamous Light Brigade, who &ldquo;is the remedy to your heart.&rdquo;</p><p>Then, too, you must wrestle with the usual bounty of musical filigree, from horn sections to doo-wop choirs, all decorating a Celtic/hill-country lilt to many of the songs that Meloy always credits to the cooler end of &rsquo;70s British folk-rock crossed with the Smiths, but which resonates just as much of prime Jethro Tull (think <em>Songs from the Wood</em>) and ELP in its &ldquo;Lucky Man&rdquo; mode.</p><p>None of that matters. As a geeky history buff with special passions for the Napoleonic and Victorian eras, as an English professor, and as an unabashed progressive-rock fan, I&rsquo;ve always lapped it all up. But even if I put on my cynical punk-rock glasses, I just can&rsquo;t condemn Meloy and his mates for their excesses, not when these are accompanied by such a healthy sense of humor, whether one thinks of the band <a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News2007/DecemberistsatMillennium.htm">performing with the Grant Park Symphony at the Bean back in 2007</a> and trotting out a <em>papier</em><em>-</em><em>mâché Moby Dick as a stage prop, or revels in the silly video for &ldquo;Make You Better&rdquo; or the lyrics to the new tune &ldquo;The Singer Addresses His Audience&rdquo; (which contains the lines, &ldquo;</em>So when your bridal processional is a televised confessional/To the benefits of Axe shampoo&hellip; We did it all for you&rdquo;).</p><p>&ldquo;We had to change,&rdquo; Meloy also declares in the latter tune, but the changes on the follow-up to <em>The King Is Dead </em>(2011) are minimal indeed: There&rsquo;s the most oblique of political references in &ldquo;12-17-12,&rdquo; the date of the Newton massacre; the unusually straightforward nature of the ballad &ldquo;Make You Better&rdquo; (which features Chicago darling Kelly Hogan on backing vocals), and an attempt to write a timeless folk/blues classic a la &ldquo;You Don&rsquo;t Miss Your Water&rdquo; in &ldquo;Till The Water Is Long Gone.&rdquo; But the overall impression is of familiar Decemberists terrain indeed. And that&rsquo;s fine, too, at least when every one of these 14 tracks boasts a melody as strong as any the band ever has given us.</p><p>That, ultimately, is why we love this group, and why we keep coming back. And your disdain of pretension and allergy to the thesaurus be damned.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Yb8oUbMrydk" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>The Decemberists, </strong><strong><em>What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World</em></strong><strong> (Columbia)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 06:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/first-great-album-2015-111391 Photographer Richard Stromberg taught his craft to thousands http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/photographer-richard-stromberg-taught-his-craft-thousands-111081 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/stromberg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>He could be grouchy but Richard Stromberg&rsquo;s photography knowledge was unmatched and, during a teaching career that stretched more than 45 years, his tough love with students helped build a large following.</p><p>Stromberg, a lifelong Chicagoan, died Friday morning at age 66 in Presence St. Francis Hospital in Evanston after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife Heidi Levin confirmed.</p><p>His achievements include the 1969 founding of a Jane Addams Center/Hull House photography program that spanned more than three decades. In 2002, he helped launch the Chicago Photography Center and, seven years later, he founded his own photography school.</p><p>Stromberg estimated having taught and mentored 25,000 students over the years. His courses covered everything from aperture settings to ethics, from color printing to the photographer&rsquo;s psychological relationship with the subject. During introductory sessions, he liked to say: &ldquo;I won&#39;t teach you to take fuzzy pictures here. For that, you need to spend thousands of dollars at the School of the Art Institute.&rdquo;</p><p>When not teaching, Stromberg squeezed in time for his own photography, which ranged from fashion assignments to investigative journalism in publications such as the Chicago Reporter. He took special pride in turning his camera against &ldquo;institutional racism,&rdquo; as he put it, including photos that helped expose ill-equipped Chicago Fire Department ambulances on the city&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>Stromberg was also a big fan of WBEZ. A few years ago, he started training journalists from the station, at no charge, to help improve the photography on its website. &ldquo;He never let me leave his studio without catching up with me on how the station was doing and things he loved and hated about us,&rdquo; North Side Bureau Reporter Odette Yousef said. &ldquo;He knew every reporter&rsquo;s name.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He created a committed community of lifelong photography learners and teachers,&rdquo; Yousef said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the best testament to his passion for photography and to his belief that anyone could learn it.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 19:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/photographer-richard-stromberg-taught-his-craft-thousands-111081 A 'palace for Jabba the Hutt' in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 <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/LMNA_view-from-south_final.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px;" title="Renderings for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art. (MAD Architects)" /></div><p>The sketches of &quot;Star Wars&quot; creator George Lucas&#39; Chicago museum show a flowing white building topped with a hovering ring. The newly unveiled architectural designs for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art were drawing a range of reaction on Wednesday, from snide comments to forthright admiration.</p><p>&quot;It looks like a palace for Jabba the Hutt. I was wondering what planet we are on,&quot; Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who&#39;s challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the mayor&#39;s race next year, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Online design site Co.Design was more generous, comparing the architectural concept to &quot;an Egyptian pyramid reimagined for the year 2020.&quot;</p><p>The Beijing-based principal designer, Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, released the first sketches Tuesday. The seven-story museum will be located between Soldier Field and McCormick Place on Lake Michigan. It&#39;s expected to cost about $400 million. Ma has said it&#39;s the most important project of his career to date.</p><p>&quot;Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, the design integrates the natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago,&quot; MAD Architects said in a statement on the firm&#39;s website.</p><p>When Lucas announced the design team in July, he called them &quot;some of the top architects in the world.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I am thrilled with the architectural team&#39;s vision for the building and the surrounding green space. I look forward to presenting our design to the Chicago community,&quot; Lucas said in the July 28 statement.</p><p>Chicago-based Studio Gang is doing the landscape design, including a bridge to connect the museum with Northerly Island. Chicago-based VOA Associates is leading the implementation of the design.</p><p>Ma&#39;s previous work includes Absolute Towers in Ontario, Canada; the Ordos Museum in Ordos, China; and Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing, China.</p></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 <p><div>These days Wacker Drive rivals LaSalle as the epicenter of Chicago&rsquo;s financial district. The drive&rsquo;s high-rise office buildings tower over the Chicago River like walls of a canyon. But a break in the skyline at the intersection of Wabash and Wacker makes way for a building that is only five stories above street level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The structure looks nothing like any of its rectilinear neighbors, which favor steel and glass. Instead, it resembles a concrete space ship with a round, white, windowless facade from the second story up. And, the building has nothing to do with financial power. As spelled out in enormous letters spanning its curved wall, it&rsquo;s the home of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cs church wide.jpg" title="Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist sits on a corner of prime real estate at the intersection of Wabash Ave. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Monica Schrager asked Curious City how the church has held on to the property for so long. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>This distinctive structure caught the eye of Monica Schrager, who works right across the street on the 10th floor of the old Jeweler Building. &ldquo;It has an interesting look,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s this small &lsquo;60s-style building that you never really see anyone coming in and out of in the middle of all these skyscrapers.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s the question she asked us to look into:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><em>I&rsquo;m curious about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist that sits on the corner of Wabash and Wacker: how it came to have that prime real estate and how it&rsquo;s managed to hold on to that prime real estate for so long.</em></div></div><p>It turns out Monica has a nose for a great story. As we look into the church&rsquo;s history, we learn how the tenets of a distinctive faith were translated into concrete and steel by an idealistic, but non-believing architect. And, we follow a devoted congregation as it risked building in a once-abandoned portion of the city ... only to have that neighborhood bloom decades later.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Which faith are we talking about?</span></p><p>Not to be confused with Scientology, Christian Science is a branch of protestant Christianity. It was founded in Massachusetts in the late 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that the material world is a temporary illusion, while the only reality is spiritual. This belief informs all aspects of Christian Science practice, including its most famous: devout Christian Scientists don&rsquo;t seek medical treatment. Eddy taught a form of spiritual healing that is inspired by Jesus&rsquo; own healings in the New Testament.</p><p>Mrs. Eddy also taught that God does not communicate by way of a few chosen figures, like preachers or popes. God, she said, communicates directly and equally with all of his followers, so Christian Science is a non-hierarchical, democratic faith. Each church elects readers who serve a short term before passing responsibility to another church member. As the congregation&rsquo;s current First Reader, Lois Carlson, states: &nbsp;&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have many big cheeses.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Quakers, Christian Scientists also emphasize the importance of individual testimonies; during Wednesday services, church-goers are encouraged to stand and share their personal experiences with Christian Science healing. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;To uplift a neighborhood&rsquo;</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s notable that the intersection of Wabash and Wacker has any church at all, since there are few standalone churches around downtown. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed many of them, and many more relocated to quieter residential areas. In 1907, an unknown author penned an op-ed piece for the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune </em>which reads: &ldquo;One of the changes most noticeable between old Chicago and new Chicago is the disappearance of the churches which used to surround the courthouse square or line Wabash or Michigan avenue.&rdquo; Later, the author notes &ldquo;Chicago has nothing downtown to express the spiritual life of its people.&rdquo;</p><p>So, when the Seventeenth Church was established downtown in 1924, it was a bit of an anomaly.</p><p>For decades the congregation rented several downtown venues including, at one point, Orchestra Hall. By the late 1940s, though, the congregation wanted a church of its own. Members remained committed to being downtown. In this, they bucked a trend of building Christian Science churches in outer neighborhoods such as Beverly, Uptown and Hyde Park. Current members of the Seventeenth Church don&rsquo;t have records that indicate why the congregation prefered downtown, though member Dave Hohle has a hypothesis. &ldquo;I think a church will uplift a neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, it seems like the corner of Wabash and Wacker might be the perfect candidate. Not so, according to Hohle. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t really interest them because it wasn&rsquo;t very central,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just sort of over here on the river.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Carlson points out that Wacker Drive was not always a major thoroughfare. &ldquo;It used to be that Michigan Avenue was its own entity and the Loop was its own entity, and there was no sense of connecting the two,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lot%202%20FOR%20WEB.png" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duo3.png" title="Site of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist before construction in the mid-1950s. (Photos courtesy Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia) " /></div></div><p>Obviously the congregation <em>did </em>decide to buy that property, after almost a decade of searching. At the time, the corner contained nothing but a parking lot and a short, rundown building, which they later demolished to make way for their new church. When they finally made the purchase in 1955, Wacker Drive was just starting to develop.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Kindred spirits: A radical faith and a non-believing architect</span></p><p>Say Hohle is right and the Seventeenth Church congregation wished to uplift their future neighborhood. Surely, then, the church would need uplifting architecture. Over two years, the congregation considered 34 architects, including celebrity designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an architect with Christian Science roots. In 1963 they settled on a Harry Weese.</p><p>You may not know Weese by name, but there&rsquo;s a chance you&rsquo;ve seen his work in Chicago: the Time Life building, the towering Metropolitan Correctional Center on Van Buren street, and several others. His resume stretches as far as Washington, D.C., where he designed a cavernous metro, famous for its waffled concrete ceilings. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tai%20flickr%20dc%20metro%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px;" title="Harry Weese, the architect who designed Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist building, also designed the Washington, D.C. metro stations. (Flickr/tai)" /></div><p>Weese had an impressive resume, but then again, so did his competitors and, interestingly, he was not a religious man. (In interviews the church asked each candidate about their religious affiliation. Weese responded, &ldquo;My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I&rsquo;m an architect.&rdquo;)</p><p>According to Robert Bruegmann, the co-author of <em>The Architecture of Harry Weese</em>, the congregation was impressed by the architect&rsquo;s ambitious, post-war vision for American cities.</p><p>&ldquo;The suburbs had sapped a lot of the vitality of the city,&rdquo; Bruegmann says. &ldquo;A lot of the city architecture and infrastructure was old. The city was in a pretty bad state and Chicago was no exception.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Weese wanted to build a new, more humane city, so he sought contracts for large-scale urban works such as the DC Metro. But Weese also believed architects could revitalize cities by designing new, monumental public buildings. &ldquo;So for Harry, a chance to build a church in the center of the city where the churches had been fleeing for a hundred years was a real opportunity, and he really seized it with both hands,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s simply conjecture (again, the congregation has no records of this), but we do know the Seventeenth Church congregation was impressed with the architect&rsquo;s plans, if not the architect himself. According to Dave Hohle, the church approved Weese&rsquo;s design on the first round, a rare occurrence in architecture circles. &ldquo;There were, like, no adjustments,&rdquo; Hohle says. &ldquo;It was presented and it was unanimously approved.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Faith translated into design</span></p><p>The congregation&rsquo;s first reader, Lois Carlson, says that Weese&rsquo;s radical building, completed in 1968, matches Christian Science&rsquo;s radical theology. &ldquo;I think what&#39;s so beautiful about this building is that it&rsquo;s so clearly an idea that matches the metaphysical substance of the Christian Science faith,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Specifically, Bruegmann says Weese knew that acoustics were critical to a democratic congregation that valued every voice. That led him to fashion the main auditorium of the church as a greek-style amphitheater, which is ideal for projecting sound. There are 800 seats, and each is within 54 feet of the room&rsquo;s center.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/inside%20church%20flickr%20dpyle%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist can hold up to 800 people, but a typical Sunday service is attended by about 40 people. (Flickr/dpyle)" /></div><p>Quite unusual for the time, Weese also worked with an audio engineer who created a system of hidden microphones and speakers so that members&rsquo; testimonies could be amplified. This audio system was so advanced it received a write-up in the Journal for the <a href="http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=1500">Society of Audio Engineers</a> in 1970.</p><p>A year after the church opened, it received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA recognized the structure not just for its democratic design, but also for Weese&rsquo;s expert problem solving. To keep out the noises of a bustling city, the congregation did not want windows in the auditorium but, like most churches, they wanted space and light. So Weese built a tall, domed ceiling with an oculus-like skylight at the very top, which he called a lantern. To make sure the sunday school was equally well lit, Weese created a moat-like sunken garden around the church so that there could be windows into the basement levels. &nbsp;</p><p>Then of course, there is the building&rsquo;s eye-catching exterior. Bruegmann points out that the facade is modern but still achieves the kind of monumentality that Harry Weese admired in classical buildings. &ldquo;That dome that rounds that corner is one of the grandest urban gestures of virtually any city I know of,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">If you build it they (might) come</span></p><p>When the Seventeenth Church triumphantly opened its doors in 1968, the congregation established something few other churches had attempted: a place of worship in Chicago&rsquo;s bustling downtown. The trouble is, membership didn&rsquo;t grow, at least not on the national level. &nbsp;According to sociologist Rodney Stark, the Christian Science movement&rsquo;s membership started to drop in the 1940s and, by the 1960s, was in serious decline.</p><p>So what happened? Stark suggests that early in the 20th century, Christian Science was the fastest-growing faith in the country, but there&rsquo;s a caveat. He believes Christian Science always <em>seemed </em>more successful than it actually was, mostly because members tended to be well off financially. &nbsp;Like the Seventeenth Church, other congregations had resources to establish and build new churches around the country, even after membership began to decline.</p><p>Another theory from Stark: Medical treatment was very crude at the time that Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. &ldquo;We had no antibiotics,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Part of the time they really didn&rsquo;t have any anesthetics. Doctors were pretty untrained and a lot of them were butchers.&rdquo; &nbsp;By comparison, spiritual healing seemed like a strong alternative. Stark argues that interest in Christian Science decreased in the mid-1900s after Western medicine improved.</p><p>Lastly, Stark argues that the first generation of Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t produce a second generation. From the beginning, Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t have a lot of children so they had to rely on new converts to expand. Converting new members is often difficult compared to raising children within a faith.</p><p>We can see how this affected the Chicago area by reading <em>The Christian Science Journal</em>, which lists every Christian Science church around the world. The religion was popular in Chicago; over the span of 61 years Christian Scientists opened 23 churches across the city. After the 1950s, Chicago churches began to close. By the new millenium, 13 of the original 23 churches were gone. Today there are only six.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10th%20Church%201%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The former site of Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist. (Flickr/Jamie Bernstein)" /></div><p>The remains of these closed churches are dotted all around Chicago. Some have been sold to congregations of other faiths. Thirteenth Church in Beverly has been converted into 16 loft condominiums. The abandoned 10th Church in Hyde Park was sold to a developer, but it&rsquo;s now in foreclosure and falling to pieces.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Holding onto your religion ... and property</span></p><p>So how did the Seventeenth Church hang on? This is the second part of Monica Schrager&rsquo;s question, and it&rsquo;s a good one, when you consider two things: The church now sits among prime real estate, and the congregation is modest in size.</p><p>In the 1980s Wacker Drive saw a major boom in office construction. Eventually Wacker replaced LaSalle as the center of Chicago&rsquo;s financial industry, with massive, glassy skyscrapers to show it. In 2013, <a href="http://s1156.photobucket.com/user/ksershon/media/2013USsMostExpensiveStreetsforOfficeSpace.jpg.html">Jones Lang and LaSalle listed Wacker Drive as the 20th-most expensive street for office space </a>in the country. Next door to the church, a hotel developer &nbsp;bought a narrow empty lot for 5 million dollars. (That&rsquo;s over one thousand dollars per square foot. The developer is now in the process of building a Hilton Garden Inn on that site.) Right next door to that, the historic motor club building was auctioned off in 2011 for 9.7 million. Word is, that building will soon be a hotel as well. &nbsp;</p><p>There may be a competitive real estate market raging outside the walls of Seventeenth Church but, believe it or not, the church says it&rsquo;s never gotten a serious offer from any kind of buyer. Still, Seventeenth Church is a big building, while the congregation is likely small.</p><p>Christian Science branch churches never publish their membership numbers because they don&rsquo;t want to be distracted by material measurements, so we can&rsquo;t know the exact size of the Seventeenth Church congregation. However, when I attend a recent church service, I count approximately 30 people in the 800-seat auditorium. Dave Hohle says that number is likely low, adding that perhaps forty or so attendees arrive for typical Sunday services.</p><p>If you think there&rsquo;s a mismatch between the building&rsquo;s stature and the size of the congregation, Lois Carlson notes the church was paid off in 1978, and members cover maintenance costs.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, even though we&rsquo;re a small congregation, we&rsquo;re an incredibly financially committed group,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s likely additional income. On occasion, the church receives a visit from a big movie studio. The Seventeenth Church amphitheater was the set for the &ldquo;choosing ceremony&rdquo; in the blockbuster film <em>Divergent</em>. The church&rsquo;s exterior played a cameo in <em>Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.</em> (In the film, the church was spared, while robots laid waste to the rest of downtown Chicago.) The church did receive income from those films but does not disclose the amount.</p><p>The congregation, regardless of costs, seems to be just as committed to downtown as it was when it first sought property in the 1940s. First and foremost, Lois Carlson says, the church can be a resource for what she calls &ldquo;hungry hearts that are looking for a deeper understanding for God.&rdquo; The church operates a reading room in the lobby six days a week. Carlson says tourists and curious passersby come into the reading room regularly. A small handful of people have become members this way. &ldquo;We just feel like we belong here because the need is so great,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In keeping with that, the congregation regularly shares Harry Weese&rsquo;s architectural gem. They lend their auditorium to interfaith groups, and the local alderman conducts community meetings there. A couple times each month the church welcomes tour groups from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In October, more than 4,000 visitors arrived as part of the Open House Chicago event.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Down the road?</span></p><p>For now, it seems like Seventeenth Church congregation wants to stay put, but what about over the next decade or two? Will it be able to sustain itself? Professor Bruegmann is concerned that the building might not survive if the congregation were to move or dissolve. In fact, many of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings have already met the wrecking ball. Bruegmann argues that buildings from the &lsquo;60s and &lsquo;70s are no longer new, but they are not yet considered historic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s exactly at that moment when they&rsquo;re middle-aged buildings that they&rsquo;re most vulnerable,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Like Monica, he&rsquo;s very aware of the competitive real estate market on Wacker Drive. &ldquo;The economics of having such a small building on such a prominent, very expensive site are going to weigh so heavily in the balance,&rdquo; he worries. &ldquo;If the current congregation moved out, it would be extremely difficult to figure out what to do with a building like that and how you might save it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mschrager.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Monica Schrager submitted our question about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Photo courtesy of Monica Schrager)" />Monica Schrager was thrilled that our investigation made a connection between her current home &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood &mdash; and Washington, D.C., area, where she grew up. The relevant detail? Architect Harry Weese designed the Seventeenth Church as well as the DC Metro!</p><p>Monica is a web developer by trade but her interest in architecture is responsible for her question about Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</p><p>&ldquo;I love the variety of architecture we have in the city, from Mies Van Der Rohe to Frank Lloyd Wright,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Monica works right across the street from Seventeenth Church in the old Jeweler Building. She sees the church every day outside her office window and she&rsquo;s definitely rooting for the church to survive, especially now that she has seen the inside. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the whole combination of the lighting and the acoustics is kind of really neat,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You almost don&rsquo;t feel like you&rsquo;re in the middle of the city. It&rsquo;s an oasis of sorts.&rdquo;</p><p>Her bottom line? She thinks Wacker Drive needs an oasis more than it needs another skyscraper.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980