WBEZ | Art http://www.wbez.org/sections/art Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The tale of Chicago's tattoo holdout http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-chicagos-tattoo-holdout-110185 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dAa8i2XoKQc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/149565713&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: The podcast episode available above includes two stories. The first story explains <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175">Chicago&rsquo;s fascinating role in pinball industry and imagery.</a> The story about Chicago&rsquo;s history of tattooing begins at 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Enjoy!</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to avoid Chicago&rsquo;s tattoo culture. Getting ink &mdash; from simple line-drawings to Asian dragons &mdash; has practically become a rite of passage, and tattoo parlors have become staples of the area&rsquo;s street corners, not unlike barber shops and nail salons.</p><p>Which is why it&rsquo;s so hard to believe that for a single, nearly ten-year stretch, there was only one legal tattoo shop in Chicago. That&rsquo;s right. Just <em>one</em>.</p><p>Dan Zajac, from Highland, Ind., couldn&rsquo;t believe it either, and he asked to hear more about the lone shop that had stood its ground:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Strange as this may now seem, from the mid-1960&#39;s through the early 1970&#39;s Chicago had one &mdash; just one &mdash; legal tattoo parlor. How did this happen to be the case?</em></p><p>To get answers we tracked down people intimately familiar with Chicago&rsquo;s tattoo history. From them, we learned how a lone tattoo shop withstood age-restriction laws, angry sailors, and a mass exodus of tattoo talent ... only to emerge as a single (albeit important) shop in a large field of competitors.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Our sources</span></p><p>Our principal sources &mdash; Chicago-based tattoo artists Dale Grande and Nick Colella &mdash; are familiar with the operation alluded to in Dan Zajac&rsquo;s question: <a href="http://chicagotattoo.com/home.html" target="_blank">Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co.</a>, which these days is located at 1017 W. Belmont Ave. Its former status as the only game in town is broadcast loudly and clearly by neon signs out front.</p><p>Dale Grande lived the history involved in our question, as he&rsquo;s owned or co-owned Chicago Tattoo since 1973.</p><p>Nick Colella worked at Grande&rsquo;s shop for about 20 years before opening his own, <a href="http://greatlakestattoo.com/" target="_blank">Great Lakes Tattoo</a>, in 2013. The walls at Colella&rsquo;s shop are festooned with Chicago tattoo memorabilia in hall-of-fame fashion, arranged in glass cases like vintage shrines. It&rsquo;s safe to say he&rsquo;s Chicago&rsquo;s unofficial tattoo historian, and much of it involves Chicago Tattoo.</p><p>Both Grande and Colella helped with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAa8i2XoKQc" target="_blank">our video</a>, but the interview segments below provide even more insight.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Tats and two histories</span></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> There are two histories to Chicago tattooing. The first part is from the late 1800s until tattooing went underground in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s.</p></blockquote><p><strong>How the Chicago tattoo scene looked in the 1930s.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> South State Street had been this honky tonk area. It was all burlesque strip joints and diners and arcades. And in the arcades were the tattoo shops.</p><p>All this was supposedly run by the mob, so every square inch was used for stuff. &nbsp;If there was a hallway underneath the stairwell, you could put a tattooer there.</p></blockquote><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/Tats%20shop%20in%20Chicago%20%28R.%20Johnastone%29.jpg" title="State Street's tattoo shops mainly catered to sailors in the Great Lakes area. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella). " /></div><p><strong>The <a href="http://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrmw/installations/ns_great_lakes.html">Naval Station Great Lakes</a> lies 40 miles north of Chicago. Young sailors would make their way downtown.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong> &nbsp;So, they would come to the city to party, get tattooed and go back to the base. And they are all 18 to 20-something years old. And it was a sailor&rsquo;s tradition to get tattooed.</p><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> The sailors would get tattooed on their arms. On State Street you&#39;d actually pick [a tattoo] off the wall then go tell the arcade manager what you wanted to pay for it &mdash; a couple bucks &mdash; then get a ticket and get [your tattoo] done. There were so many sailors and people down there, so there were hundreds of tattooers in and out over the years.</p></blockquote><p><strong>In 1963 the state of Illinois raised the legal age to get a tattoo from 18 to 21.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;New York City had a spout of hepatitis that they claim came from some tattoo shops. Chicago [sic] saw this and decided to raise the legal age law [to get a tattoo] from 18 years old to 21 years old.</p><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>I always heard it was about cleaning up State Street. The state realized, you know, this is downtown. There&rsquo;s money here to be made in real estate. They didn&rsquo;t want strip clubs or tattoo shops there.</blockquote><p><strong>The legal changes forced customers to seek tattoos elsewhere.</strong></p><blockquote><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CLIFF SHOP FOR WEB 2.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Cliff Raven's tattoo shop before it incorporated in 1973. It was the only shop in Chicago. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>That 18 to 21 change didn&#39;t allow those tattooers to tattoo any sailors anymore, so that business was gone. They all left Chicago and went west, east or south. Chicago became a ghost town for tattooing because you couldn&#39;t make any money off these sailors anymore.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>Eventually, Cliff &mdash; Cliff Raven &mdash; who had Cliff Raven Studio, was the only one in the city.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>Cliff Raven was a guy who got into tattooing in the late 50s and early 60s by a guy named Phil Sparrow, who had a major standalone shop on State Street. When tattooing went underground in Chicago, Phil briefly had a shop on Larrabee Street then went to Milwaukee [Wisconsin].</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>When everybody left, Cliff stayed because he was a Chicago man. He was a great person, talked to everyone, knew a little bit about everything. He had a B.A. from Indiana University. He was one of the great artists &mdash; I mean real artists &mdash; who got into the art of tattooing at that time.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>I think Cliff stayed because he learned here and knew people involved in not just the tattoo scene. He was involved in leather and stuff. It was his home and he knew what he wanted.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>He was the first openly gay tattooer, too. He was pretty big in the gay community at that time. He was part owner for a couple of bath houses &hellip;</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>That&rsquo;s why he set up shop where he did [W. Belmont Ave]. Boystown, you know?</blockquote><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/CLIFF WEB.jpg" style="height: 357px; width: 350px;" title="(Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /></div><p><strong>Cliff Raven&rsquo;s art changed Dale Grande&rsquo;s life.</strong></p><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>The first time you stepped into the shop you could see the art on the walls was so much better [than other tattoo art at the time]. I think I was about 20 years old at the time and I said, &ldquo;I gotta get a tattoo here.&rdquo; So I did.<p>While I was getting the two pieces from Cliff I asked him: &ldquo;How do you get into this business? Mind if I hang around &hellip; be a gopher or something?&rdquo;</p><p>He goes, &ldquo;Sure, why not.&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t think he thought I was serious, but I started coming in after work nearly every day.</p></blockquote><p><strong>That was Spring of 1973. By fall of the same year, Cliff and his business partner at the time, Buddy McFall, had offered Dale Grande partial ownership. The shop&rsquo;s name changed from Cliff Raven Studio to Chicago Tattoo Co., Inc.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;I vividly remember the day were talking about it. I said, &ldquo;What about Chicago Tattoo? That says it all.&rdquo; And that&rsquo;s the name.</p><p>At that time the tattoo industry was very closed-mouth, but we would come to work and there&rsquo;d be a line already waiting for us to open the door. Something you&rsquo;d expect being the only shop in the city. &nbsp;</p><p>It was crazy. We&rsquo;d get all these artists stopping in from all over the country just to see Cliff and talk to him. I would just sit there in awe and watch and listen and meet all these artists. It was really uncanny. It was great.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP790331060.jpg" style="width: 325px; height: 350px;" title="Dale Grande, left, working at Chicago Tattoo. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /></p><p><strong>By the late 1970s, Chicago Tattoo had attracted many new artists. Some opened their own tattoo shops in Chicago.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;When these shops started opening, first thing I would do was hop in the car and drive down there to see what was going on. And hopefully I didn&rsquo;t see anything; it was just a rumor. It was always a bad feeling when someone opened up then.</p><p>There was lots of good, stiff competition. You just gotta stay better. And we did; we stayed better &hellip; I wish those days were back again because now you&rsquo;ve got something like 200 shops in and around the city.</p></blockquote><p><strong>Cliff Raven, who operated during the industry&rsquo;s lowpoint in Chicago, left an indelible mark on the local industry.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong>&nbsp;The tattooing landscape would not be anything without Cliff and Dale and Chicago Tattoo. People who are tattooing now don&rsquo;t know where it all started from. They don&rsquo;t know that there was a core group of people who are monumental in this city&rsquo;s tattooing history.</p><p>A lot of tattooers now take it for granted that these guys were the only tattooers in town. They think &ldquo;Oh! They got all the business, that&rsquo;s great!&rdquo; &hellip; but they also got all the flak in town; all the b.s. They were those few guys going to work every day tattooing when it wasn&rsquo;t cool, when it wasn&rsquo;t on TV. They just did it because they had a drive to tattoo.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s why I keep this history alive - because no one else does. You go to Chicago History Museum and look up early photos of State Street and they only have three images, but I have the originals of them.</p><p>Chicago wants to put that area of history under the rug so bad. The city&rsquo;s always changing, but you have this history here that&rsquo;s important &hellip; to some people.</p></blockquote><p><strong>Cliff Raven left Chicago to open a new tattoo shop in California in 1977. Raven invited Dale Grande to join him.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>It didn&#39;t feel right. I&rsquo;ve been here for all of my adult life. And I&rsquo;m still here. And we&rsquo;re still operating. We&rsquo;re still Chicago Tattoo. I just try to let others know that we&rsquo;re still around.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Capture.JPG" style="height: 285px; width: 500px;" title="Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co. is located at 1017 W. Belmont Ave. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Our question comes from: Dan Zajac</span></p><p>Dan Zajac is a lawyer who lives in Highland, Ind. He had known about Cliff Raven and Chicago Tattoo for a while, he says, but couldn&rsquo;t put his finger on why the shop was ever the only one in Chicago. He had even done his own research on the topic.</p><p>&ldquo;At least half the books in any public library on the subject of tattoos have Cliff Raven in the index,&rdquo; Dan wrote in an email. &ldquo;Many of the tattoo artists in various parts of the country (except the younger ones) seem to claim that they had studied under Cliff.&rdquo;</p><p>While we invited Dan to come along with us to investigate his question, he was only reachable by email. But he did let us know there&rsquo;s a reason why he&rsquo;s on the hunt for answers. A personal reason: Chicago&rsquo;s legendary tattoo artist was his uncle, Cliff Raven.</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 14 May 2014 19:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-chicagos-tattoo-holdout-110185 Bronzeville's vibrant past comes to life in new art exhibit http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bronzevilles-vibrant-past-comes-life-new-art-exhibit-110184 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bronzeville art 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Bronzeville on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side was once home to cultural giants like Nat King Cole and Gwendolyn Brooks. But a current art exhibit reveals another side of the neighborhood.</p><p><a href="http://www.hydeparkart.org/exhibitions/samantha-hill-topographical-depictions-of-the-bronzeville-renaissance">&ldquo;Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance&rdquo; </a>by Samantha Hill is currently on display at the Hyde Park Art Center.</p><p>Family pictures of ordinary people drape the walls. Period music and oral recorded interviews play in the background. Old photographs are clipped to clotheslines.</p><p>&ldquo;I like the idea of the clotheslines because it kind of simulates a timeline but I can play with it a bit more. I like the idea of hanging the pictures like I&rsquo;m hanging laundry. These are peoples&rsquo; personal memories and artifacts,&rdquo; Hill said.</p><p>The date of the pictures range from 1919 to 1985 and were supplied by the <a href="http://bronzevillehistoricalsociety.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">Bronzeville Historical Society</a>. Hill said she chose pictures that conveyed the feeling of Bronzeville &ndash; children preparing for communion, men returning from war, couples at nightclubs or a grandfather reading a book.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s quite a few photographs of this gentleman named Earl Washington,&rdquo; Hill noted. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ll see throughout the decades he&rsquo;s always doing handstands so there&rsquo;s like a million photographs of that!&rdquo;</p><p>Visitors can respond by writing post-it notes around the photos. As the exhibit draws to a close, Hill said more than 200 post-its have now taken over the gallery. And there&rsquo;s still time for the public to share their brief ruminations.</p><p>&ldquo;I hope they come in, listen to the stories, view the photographs throughout history and then be transported to another period of time, and hopefully leave their mark as well.&rdquo;</p><p><em>The exhibit closes May 18. The Hyde Park Art Center is at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Hill&#39;s installation is a satellite exhibition of a city-wide project produced at Columbia College called &ldquo;RISK: Empathy, Art and Social Practice&quot; colum.edu/risk. </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></em></p><p><em>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> Wed, 14 May 2014 17:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bronzevilles-vibrant-past-comes-life-new-art-exhibit-110184 Jackpot! Chicago's hold on pinball industry and artistry http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 <p><p>Ever since Kevin Schramer started playing pinball in the 1970&#39;s, he noticed that many machines listed their manufacturing addresses in the Chicago region. The addresses have kept him wondering for decades, so when he learned about Curious City, he just had to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was the Chicago area home to all the major pinball manufacturers during the heyday of pinball?</em></p><p>After digging into relevant history books, interviewing industry experts, and emptying plenty of change into the area&rsquo;s <a href="#map">remaining pinball machines</a>, we can firmly say that Kevin&rsquo;s on to something: From the modern pinball industry&rsquo;s Depression-era beginnings, to its modest market presence today, Chicago has been pinball&rsquo;s center of gravity. (The <a href="http://www.ipdb.org/search.pl">Internet Pinball Database</a> lists 554 top-rated pinball machines and at least 98 percent of them were made in the region.) But the answer as to <em>why </em>involves an interplay of history, geography and art.</p><p><strong>Insert coin: Gottlieb and Williams</strong></p><p>To say Chicago was the hub of the pinball industry isn&rsquo;t to say that the game was invented in the Windy City. Historians trace early pinball machines to a centuries-old French billiard game called <em>bagatelle</em>, while the modern coin-operated pinball industry got its start in the early 1930s. During the Great Depression, many people were &ldquo;out of work, looking for inexpensive entertainment for a penny,&rdquo; explains pinball historian Roger Sharpe. Enterprising tinkerers and businessmen began to fill that need with simple countertop games.</p><p>In these early days, many of the industry&rsquo;s key players were travelling businessmen such as David Gottlieb, whose machine <em>Baffle Ball</em> was one of pinball&rsquo;s first big hits. <em>Baffle Ball</em> was a simple game. There were no flippers, lights, or bells; you just pulled the plunger back and hoped that the ball bounced into the right hole. Gottlieb moved throughout the Midwest to sell his machines, but his operation was based in Chicago.</p><p>Many of pinball&#39;s now-familiar qualities, such as replays and tilt mechanisms, were considered whiz-bang when they were first developed by engineer Harry Williams in the 1930&rsquo;s. Williams got his start in California, pranking his business partners by adding electricity to his machines and connecting the games to telephones; in some cases, the right shot would make the phone ring. Once the ringing machines proved to draw more money than their silent counterparts, machines with sound-making elements became the norm. While Williams tried working from California for a while, he eventually decided that he would need Chicago&#39;s competitive edge if he wanted to make a name for himself in the pinball industry.</p><p>&quot;It took too long for his games to get to the East Coast and by the time it got to the East Coast other people had already knocked it off,&quot; says Sharpe.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/baffle ball resized and tweaked.jpeg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Baffle Ball and Ballywho were two of pinball’s earliest successes. The machines were flipper-less, but brought in a stream of pennies anyway. (Flickr/Rob Dicaterino)" />Chicago had a lot to offer the budding industry. Raw materials were widely available, including lumber and wiring, as well as steel from nearby Gary, Ind. The city&#39;s large immigrant population became the basis of the factories&#39; work force. Once the machines were finished, the city&#39;s railroads made them easy to distribute across the country, and Lake Michigan&#39;s ports allowed the machines to be sent around the world as pinball found a market overseas. David Gottlieb and Harry Williams founded some of the industry&rsquo;s most successful companies in Chicago, and named the firms after themselves.</p><p><strong>Multiball! Artistry in the industry&rsquo;s heyday</strong></p><p>Through the decades, the pinball industry had its highs and lows. From the 1940s through most of the 1970s pinball was officially banned as illegal gambling in many of the nation&rsquo;s big cities, including New York City and Chicago. (Roger Sharpe, our historical guide, played <a href="http://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979">an instrumental role in overturning the bans</a> with a skill shot that became the stuff of pinball legend.) Although the bans were lightly enforced, they kept the industry from achieving its full potential. Then, in the mid-1970s, the bans were lifted, and The Who&rsquo;s pinball rock opera <em>Tommy </em>was made into a major motion picture. At this point, pinball found a place in the mainstream culture, and the industry entered into a full-blown heyday.</p><p>As the industry thrived, the graphic artists who designed the backglasses and the playfields developed a detail-rich pinball aesthetic. While Chicago has many important cultural contributions, it has a unique monopoly on pinball art. The art blended the bawdy imagery of <em>Playboy </em>magazine (based in Chicago at the time) with the garish colors of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">Riverview amusement park</a>; before it was closed in 1967, Riverview had shared the same neighborhood as many pinball manufacturers.</p><p>Even Chicago&rsquo;s weather made it on to some machines. Greg Freres, celebrated pinball artist, worked on the <em>Harlem Globetrotters</em> machine during the notorious winter of 1979 &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637#misery">one of the city&rsquo;s worst</a>. Freres included a splotch of white paint next to Lake Michigan in honor of Chicago&rsquo;s snow on the Globetrotters&rsquo; globe.<a name="presentation"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="367" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15JGIGwSQW2F_J4759VDr3g6QyXrNWBNbVrTyoW21rxI/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>While the industry lost some ground to video game machines through the 80s, it continued to be successful. The most popular pinball machine of all time, for example, was <em>The Addam&rsquo;s Family</em>; it wasn&rsquo;t released until 1992.</p><p>By the close of the decade, however, pinball was in a verifiable slump. WMS, the corporate successor to the company founded by desinger Harry Williams, lost $4 million on its pinball division in 1998 alone. The company gave its pinball team one last shot to reinvigorate pinball. The team developed <em>Pinball 2000</em>, a hybrid of video games and pinball featuring holographic aliens. Despite the machine&rsquo;s relative success and a promo video complete with kooky narration from Chicago radio legend Ken Nordine, the corporate bosses at WMS shut down their pinball division to focus on growing profits in the slot machine industry. By the dawn of the 21st century, only one manufacturer of pinball machines remained in Chicago, and the world.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/UUSzSHNEv2g?rel=0" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>Extra game? Pinball Perseveres</strong></p><p>But pinball didn&rsquo;t end there. That last company, Stern Pinball, continues to develop and manufacture pinball machines in west suburban Melrose Park. (A New Jersey-based company just released a <em>Wizard of Oz</em> pinball machine, but Stern is the only company that regularly releases new machines and distributes them widely.) Company CEO Gary Stern has been in the pinball industry since he was a small child accompanying his father, a business partner of Harry Williams, on factory visits. While the access to materials, labor, and distribution that made Chicago an ideal location for pinball&rsquo;s beginnings remain, Stern says another element is keeping the surviving industry here.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re here, because we&rsquo;re here,&rdquo; Stern puts it plainly. That is, a community of pinball designers, engineers, and specialists live in the Chicago area, and many of them remain dedicated to the pinball craft.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gary Stern resized.jpeg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Stern Pinball CEO Gary Stern poses with question-asker Kevin Schramer and some of his company’s machines. Stern has worked in the pinball industry for more than 50 years. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" />Jim Shird is one of those specialists working at Stern. He has designed the wiring in pinball machines since the 1990s and has been playing pinball since he was a kid, when he would win free pizzas every week from a local pizza place&rsquo;s pinball competition.</p><p>Pinball&rsquo;s popularity has diminished to the point where it&rsquo;s most visible in the shadowy corners of dive bars. But still, Shird remains optimistic. These days, when he finishes work at Stern, he heads straight to <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Logan+Hardware+Arcade+Bar/@41.92504,-87.688184,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x70e42de27f7ec47f">Logan Arcade</a>, one of Chicago&rsquo;s many new arcade bars, to maintain (and play) the bar&rsquo;s pinball collection.</p><p>He is, after all, a pinball person and he gets to spend his life with pinball machines.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyday is different, everyday is interesting, everyday is an adventure, and everyday is fun,&rdquo; Shird says with a smile. &ldquo;I get to play pinball everyday.&rdquo;<a name="map"></a></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/1/embed?mid=zo79HXq-4bn0.kCzXX8JiSVjA" width="640"></iframe></p><p><em>(Want to play pinball? This map includes all Chicago area venues with 3 or more pinball machines. More information is available at <a href="http://pinballmap.com/chicago">PinballMap.com</a>.)</em></p><p><strong>Our question comes from: Kevin Schramer</strong><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kevin resize.jpeg" style="width: 225px; height: 300px; float: right;" title="Kevin Schramer plays his pinball machines with his family. Kevin’s question began this investigation. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /></p><p>This story about Chicago pinball begins with our &ldquo;Player 1,&rdquo; Kevin Schramer. Kevin says he&rsquo;s loved the colors and sounds of pinball since he was a kid in the 1970s. He first saw pinball at Funway, a family entertainment center &nbsp;in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had a pocket full of quarters you were all set,&rdquo; Kevin remembers.</p><p>Today, Kevin no longer needs quarters; he has a row of four vintage pinball machines in the dining room of his home in Winfield, Ill. His family plays the machines too, and he is currently in the midst of an extended battle with his sons over his machines&#39; high scores.</p><p><em>Mickey Capper is a freelance audio producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/FMcapper">@FMcapper</a></em></p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 Louder Than a Bomb 2014 Highlights http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/louder-bomb-2014-highlights-110162 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ltab.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Check out poems from the finalists of Louder Than A Bomb 2014 (LTAB), the largest youth poetry festival in the world. LTAB is a program of Young Chicago Authors. All poems recorded at WBEZ Studios.</p></p> Mon, 12 May 2014 10:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/louder-bomb-2014-highlights-110162 Global Activism: Photojournalist documents Afro-Colombian communities http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-photojournalist-documents-afro-colombian-communities-110252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Bracey.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Colombia&rsquo;s African Diaspora population is the third largest in the Americas, after Brazil and the United States, but they endure enormous violence and persecution at the hands of the country&rsquo;s numerous armed factions. The lives of Afro-Colombians are further complicated by decades of civil war and economic interests such as the mining industry, narcotraffickers and large landowners, that fuel more violence.</p><p>Ruth Goring is a board member for <a href="http://colombiavivechicago.org/">Colombia Vive Chicago</a>, an NGO dedicated to human rights in Colombia. She&rsquo;s author of a book of poetry called <em>Yellow Doors</em>. <a href="http://www.mjbphotography.com/">Michael Bracey</a> is a photojournalist and editor of the Africans Within the Americas project. In February 2014, they visited Afro-Colombian neighborhoods in and near Cartagena, Quibdó, Buenaventura, and Medellín. Goring and Bracey join us to fulfill their mission to &ldquo;share the beauty and strength of our Afro-Colombian sisters and brothers through exhibits and presentations in Chicago and beyond.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147429349&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Ruth Goring reflects on the constant danger Afro-Colombians face: </strong></p><p>&ldquo;Our Afro-Colombian-focused trip was fantastic...We met so many internally displaced Afro-Colombians, and the violence that forces people to flee their homes is not really letting up...One compelling woman had been mayor of Jurado in Choco, where she resisted FARC takeover of land and was rewarded with a FARC pipe bomb thrown onto her house; she was displaced to Buenaventura, where she got involved in community leadership and the paramilitary gangs threatened her life. Now she&#39;s taking shelter in Bogota. We met her there, in the SUV with shaded windows...[T]he government provide[d] [these] services because her name has been on Aguilas Negras hit lists.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 01 May 2014 10:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-photojournalist-documents-afro-colombian-communities-110252 Hip-hop artist Common announces Chicago youth job program http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hip-hop-artist-common-announces-chicago-youth-job-program-110003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/common_140409_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Hip-hop artist Common and the Chicago Urban League are teaming up for a youth jobs initiative as a way to prevent violence and whittle down a high teen unemployment rate in the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I see what&rsquo;s going on in the city. We all see it. Anytime I hear about anybody getting shot, young people with guns, it hurts me,&rdquo; Common said Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not proud to be like, yeah, we&rsquo;re &lsquo;<a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/01/chiraq_war_in_chicago_prevents_solutions.html">Chiraq</a>.&rsquo; At certain points I feel like I have to do more.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative will focus on securing year-found jobs for people ages 16-24. The target is 15,000 youth over the next five years. The program is set to launch this fall with 1,000 young people.</p><p dir="ltr">Private money will be raised to subsidize salaries for some of the jobs. A key piece of the collaborative is engaging the private sector to identify jobs, from corporate to manufacturing to nonprofit. Organizers don&rsquo;t want jobs to end when the summer ends. Employing 1,000 youth would cost approximately $2.4 million, according to the Chicago Urban League.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just jobs, it&rsquo;s mentoring and support so they [young people] know that there&rsquo;s a group around them supporting their success so they know there&rsquo;s a future for them in this city,&rdquo; said Andrea Zopp, CEO of the Chicago Urban League.</p><p dir="ltr">Teen unemployment in Illinois is among the highest in the United States, and for low-income minorities the rates are even higher.</p><p dir="ltr">Researchers at Northeastern University released a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/stagnant-employment-picture-illinois-teens-105108">report </a>last year noting that teens&#39; lack work of experience adversely affects their future employability and wages. The conclusions mirror previous studies that suggest job experience can help deter teens from involvement in the criminal justice system.</p><p dir="ltr">The report&rsquo;s authors found only 8.7 percent of black teens in Chicago were employed in 2010-2011. The rate for Asians, though, was 15.5 percent. Twenty percent of the city&rsquo;s Hispanic teens were employed, and the rate for whites stood at 21 percent.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, across Illinois, the teen employment rate fell from just under 50 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2012 &mdash; the lowest rate in the 42 years for which such data exist. If Illinois teens had been able to maintain their 1999-2000 employment rates during the past year, there would have been another 151,000 teens at work in Illinois in 2011-2012, the report said.</p><p dir="ltr">Native son Common, whose mother Mahalia Hines is an educator and Chicago Public Schools board member, recalled meeting with young people in Englewood, a neighborhood with high crime and unemployment.</p><p dir="ltr">They told the rapper they needed money and jobs, underscoring the link between poverty and violence.</p><p>&ldquo;What do they want? They want opportunity and a chance,&rdquo; Common said.</p><p>This summer The AAHH! FEST, a two-day concert in September, will kick off. Common&rsquo;s foundation will partner with Kanye West&rsquo;s <a href="http://dondashouseinc.org/">Donda&rsquo;s House</a> in which emcee Rhymefest is the creative director. Part of the money will fund the year-round jobs initiatives.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em>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>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hip-hop-artist-common-announces-chicago-youth-job-program-110003 New exhibit takes unique look at death, food and remembrance http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/death exhibit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When someone passes away today, it&rsquo;s pretty common for friends and family to reminisce about them over food and drink. Just think about all those casseroles and cookies that pile up or about hoisting a glass at an Irish wake.</p><p>It turns out, in some ancient cultures, that use of food went, well, further.</p><p>A new show at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Oriental Institute opens Tuesday, and it takes an unusual look at death. The show&rsquo;s called <a href="http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/special/remembrance/" target="_blank">&ldquo;In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>It examines how we&rsquo;ve remembered our loved ones across cultures and time, and the ways people have tried to control how they&rsquo;ll be thought of too. It highlights some ancient Middle Eastern cultures that believed souls lived on in monuments and needed to be fed so later generations could just come and hang out with them.</p><p>&ldquo;Cultures all over world, in all different periods in all areas of the world have done this, have had some way of maintaining contact their deceased ancestors,&rdquo; said Emily Teeter, a research associate and special exhibits coordinator at the Oriental Institute.</p><p>&ldquo;In Egyptian theology, they thought they would live forever, as long as they were remembered by the living,&rdquo; she said, adding that this ancient culture believed part of the soul lived on in monuments, and keeping those souls alive required lots and lots of food.</p><p>She pointed to a stone slab with an engraving of a couple who were unmistakably Egyptian, with angular black wigs, jeweled collars.</p><p>All over the monument, there are tiny carvings of birds, oxen, bread, even beer. Teeter said those are instructions on what to bring the couple to keep them alive: They wanted a thousand each of oxen, birds, bread and beer.</p><p>&ldquo;The Egyptian dead were apparently constantly hungry,&rdquo; Teeter said. &ldquo;...To stay alive you need to eat, and their whole goal with mummification, with creating these monuments, is to live eternally.&rdquo;</p><p>Teeter said the couple - who died more than 4,000 years ago -- even planned ahead on what to do once all their descendants had passed away, and there was no one to bring them food anymore. The engraving says that if visitors don&rsquo;t happen to have 1,000 oxen on them, it&rsquo;s enough to just pray for the food.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just the ancient Middle East where rites like this happened. At an excavation site in Vatican City, University of Chicago Divinity School Dean Margaret Mitchell saw tubes sticking out of burial sites. She said that was so people could pour in beverages to share with their dead loved ones.</p><p>Mitchell said some Roman catacombs had tables for people to eat between rows of burial urns.</p><p>&ldquo;Whether the dead can still eat a Twinkie or can still drink a good glass of merlot, it&rsquo;s a way of tenderly caring for the dead,&rdquo; Mitchell said.</p><p>The monuments go beyond providing the living with that connection to the dead, or assuring the dead will keep getting fed. In some cases, these statues and stones let people control how they&rsquo;ll be remembered.</p><p>The exhibit&rsquo;s showpiece is a replica of an ornately carved memorial stone of a man named Katumuwa. He&rsquo;s in fancy dress, sitting at a banquet table full of food, looking relaxed and happy in the afterlife. Before he died, commissioned it himself.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just &lsquo;Pete was here,&rsquo; but it&rsquo;s even bigger,&rdquo; Mitchell said. She likened this memorial stone to the huge monument Illinois politician Roland Burris has had built, even though he&rsquo;s still very much alive.</p><p>It&rsquo;s like saying, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to leave it to the winds or your children to decide how you&rsquo;re going to be remembered, but I want to steer that process myself,&rdquo; Mitchell said. &ldquo;In some ways, the monuments are like a fist to the sky that says, I refuse to be forgotten.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 Art takes on street harassment of women http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/art-takes-street-harassment-women-109953 <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/street-harassment_140402_nm_crop_0.jpg" title="An illustration from the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” art campaign. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></div><p>&ldquo;Hey, girl. Why you look mad? Smile!&rdquo;</p><p>I hear this from men on a regular basis. Walking in any neighborhood. Waiting in line anywhere. Standing on an &lsquo;el&rsquo; platform. But mostly minding my own business. So I roll my eyes, ignore them, and am okay with being pegged as an Evil Black Woman. These men think telling me to smile is a flirty pick-up line uttered with innocent intentions.</p><p>Comments telling me to smile may on the surface seem benign, but the words are intrusive and a form of street harassment. I&rsquo;m not here to pleasure strangers by smiling.</p><p>A provocative arts series addresses these remarks and lets women know these are not isolated experiences.</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fstoptellingwomentosmile.com%2FAbout&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE8CqkQXSJj6a9Vs3HebBnw6A-onw">&ldquo;Stop Telling Women to Smile&rdquo;</a> has adorned buildings in cities across the country. Pieces feature drawings of women with phrases underneath: &ldquo;My name is not baby,&rdquo; &ldquo;Women are not outside for your entertainment,&rdquo; &ldquo;Women do not owe you their time or conversation,&rdquo; and &ldquo;My outfit is not an invitation.&rdquo;</p><p>Brooklyn-based artist Tatyan Falalizadeh&rsquo;s wheat paste illustrations have made it to Chicago -- just in time for <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stopstreetharassment.org%2Four-work%2Fmeetusonthestreet%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE2bU_8hA7DKeiAIL6Z93L_gaGUPQ">International Anti-Street Harassment Week</a>, which runs through Saturday. I caught a glimpse of one poster on Garfield Blvd. and Indiana Ave.</p><p>Local advocates from <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fchicago.ihollaback.org%2Fabout%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHX1Pyde2qRxwd15XsJly-IsnzMiQ">Hollaback Chicago!</a> , which uses mobile technology and social media to raise awareness, will paste these illustrations in other neighborhoods later this week.</p><p>&ldquo;We hope that the posters would bring awareness and see that it&rsquo;s not okay,&rdquo; said Katie Davis, Hollaback Chicago! site leader. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need to smile at you on the street.&rdquo;</p><p>Davis said the images are relatable and are thoughts that many women have had when it comes to offensive language.</p><p>One counter-argument is that men who tell women to smile are being complimentary, not using it as precursor to physical violence.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m willing to kind of go there with that reasoning, but the problem with that is that it ignores the context within which those type of comments happen,&rdquo; said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of the Chicago-based <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rapevictimadvocates.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHykZz4wsAn2Ecj3ZWkTaLH2UmRXA">Rape Victim Advocates</a>.</p><p>The larger context essentially says womens&rsquo; bodies are for entertainment and unsolicited commentary. Women are bombarded by street harassment on a daily basis and therefore are not allowed to be out in public in peace.</p><p>And that can go a step further when someone is assaulted. The appearances of victims are critiqued, and victim-blaming is the fallback.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part and parcel of this larger way in which it&rsquo;s up to a woman to always be the one that&rsquo;s on the defensive,&rdquo; Majmudar said. &ldquo;You see that at the street harassment level and then you also see that considering the wide range of sexual violence -- you see that at workplace sexual harassment, you see that in sexual assault as well.&rdquo;</p><p>The posters offer a way for women to share harassment stories and also broaden the conversation so people know this seemingly mild form of harassment is bothersome.</p><p>Maybe next time I&rsquo;m harassed on the bus, I&rsquo;ll have to confidence to retort: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need to smile at you.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ 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>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/art-takes-street-harassment-women-109953 South Chicago Art Center expands space, programming for youth http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/south-chicago-art-center-expands-space-programming-youth-109860 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/South Chicago Art Center.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.happyartcenter.org/" target="_blank">The South Chicago Art Center</a>, all 800 square feet of it, is tucked away in a small storefront on East 91st Street. But not for long. This spring the center will break ground on a new 6,000-sq. ft. space a few blocks away.</p><p>&ldquo;Having this space will engage kids on a more intensive level and it will also be a respite for kids who want to be off the street in a safe space,&rdquo; said executive director Sarah Ward.</p><p>Established in 2001, the center today serves 3,200 youth not only in the storefront but in area schools. Visual arts programming ranges from painting to photography.</p><p>The new building will cost $650,000 and about $100,000 is from the Small Business Incremental Fund&nbsp; program using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues. The new building -- a former dry cleaners -- will be at 91st and Commercial near businesses, a library and YMCA. Along with higher visibility, the new center will be in neutral gang territory.</p><p>The South Chicago neighborhood is racially mixed with mostly blacks and Latinos. Almost a third of residents live in poverty and the area is divided by splintered gangs and block-by-block street crews.</p><p>&ldquo;We run a scrappy group here but we run a really effective intensive program through our school program,&rdquo; Ward said. &ldquo;Just revitalizing a space in a neighborhood is so important. It gives life and respect and makes the people in the neighborhood feel like someone cares about them.&rdquo;</p><p>Arinique Allen, 19, started making art at the center when she was five years old. Now she&rsquo;s an intern and freshman at Columbia College.</p><p>&ldquo;It was fun growing up here. I made a lot of friends here,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;It made me more creative. It made me think more out the box.</p><p>Likewise, Anthony Steele remembers coming to the center and &ldquo;getting up under the table and painting on our back like Michelangelo.&rdquo;</p><p>Now 24, Steele says the center cultivated his love of art, and led him to become a painter and sculptor. He eventually came back to run the art studio -- a space that&rsquo;s about to get a lot bigger.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ 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> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/south-chicago-art-center-expands-space-programming-youth-109860 A fresh look at Freedom Wall http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fresh-look-freedom-wall-109771 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136868066&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>(Editor&#39;s note: The current episode of Curious City&#39;s podcast includes the interview portion of this story about Freedom Wall. That interview begins at 4 minutes, 55 seconds. Also, we&#39;re <a href="#form">taking your suggestions</a> about who should be included in a contemporary, digital Freedom Wall.)</em></p><p>If you ride the Brown Line or the Purple Line through Chicago&rsquo;s River North neighborhood, you&rsquo;ve probably seen this <a href="#list">list of names</a>. It&rsquo;s on the side of a brick building on Huron Street, where the Nacional 27 restaurant is located. The black banner stretches 72 feet high. Martin Luther King is at the top. Farther down, you&rsquo;ll see Harriet Tubman, the Dalai Lama, Frank Zappa, Ayn Rand and more.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker%20and%20artist%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 180px; width: 250px; float: right;" title="Dominique Lewis asked about the large banner of names on the city's Near North Side. Artist Adam Brooks, right, explained what's behind the piece called Freedom Wall. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />Dominique Lewis caught glimpses of those 69 names in white letters &mdash; as well as one mysterious blank line &mdash; as she rode the Purple Line to work every day. &ldquo;I thought, &lsquo;That&rsquo;s weird. Why is Rush Limbaugh on a list with Martin Luther King Jr.?&rsquo;&rdquo; she says. So <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1189" target="_blank">she asked Curious City to investigate</a> the list&#39;s history and whether there&#39;s a common theme that connects those names.</p><p>Well, it&rsquo;s called <em>Freedom Wall</em>, and all of the names represent freedom ... or someone&rsquo;s idea of freedom, anyway. The artist who created it &nbsp;&mdash; Adam Brooks, a <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Art_and_Design/Faculty_Staff/FT_Faculty/Adam_Brook.php">Columbia College professor</a> who grew up in London &mdash; says he didn&rsquo;t have a partisan political agenda when he put up the list 20 years ago this August. In fact, he went out of his way to include conservative as well as liberal opinions about who represents freedom. And he avoided spelling out the word &ldquo;freedom&rdquo; on the banner because he wanted to make people think. He certainly got Lewis thinking.</p><p>Brooks acknowledges that <em>Freedom Wall</em> prompts some people to ask, &ldquo;Wait, that&rsquo;s supposed to be art?&rdquo; But he appears to have very little ego about his artwork, not even bothering to sign it. Brooks is trying to engage the public with his public art, not to dazzle people with his artistic prowess.</p><p>We invited Brooks to the WBEZ studios to discuss <em>Freedom Wall</em>. Lewis joined us for the conversation and added some questions of her own. Here&rsquo;s an edited transcript of our discussion.</p><p><strong>Why did you create <em>Freedom Wall</em>?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong> In 1992 and the lead-up to the presidential election that year, I heard the candidates really ramping up the idea of freedom. Of course, who&rsquo;s going to be against freedom? America is the land of the free. I was interested in exploring that word a little bit further.</p><p><strong>Why did you seek other people&rsquo;s opinions?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>It would&rsquo;ve been very easy for me to sit down and draw up a list of names of people that I felt embodied the idea of freedom, but that would&rsquo;ve been rather boring. And so what I did was essentially ask the question, &ldquo;Give me the names of up to three people that you feel embody the concept of freedom, whatever that means to you.&rdquo;</p><p>The Internet was really in its infancy then as a communicative medium. I posted this question on America Online, and in relatively short order, people started responding &mdash; particularly teachers, who were early adopters of the technology in their classrooms. The rank of the names on the list is essentially reflective of the frequency of nomination of those names. So Martin Luther King received the most votes.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>Did you have favorite names on the list, people who stood out for you for exemplifying freedom?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/freedom%20wall%20vertical%20for%20WEB%20cred%20robert%20loerzel.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 330px; width: 220px;" title="The names listed on Freedom Wall were hand-lettered by a single craftsman from northern Indiana. (WBEZ/Robert Loerzel)" /><strong>Brooks:</strong> As far as I&rsquo;m concerned, that question is not pertinent to the project. Undoubtedly, personally I do, but because of the way that I work I don&rsquo;t take an ideological or other particular stance. I&rsquo;m interested in asking questions, and not posing answers. That, to me, is what art making is about &mdash; is to ask questions. And so, while certainly there are some people that I feel affinity with on the list more than others, I don&rsquo;t feel that it&rsquo;s really important for me to give you a specific answer.</p><p>I consciously did a search for conservatives and sent out hundreds of email requests to those people that themselves identified as conservatives. Because one of the things that I didn&rsquo;t want to end up happening was for someone like Rush Limbaugh to look at a project like this, and say, &ldquo;Oh, it&rsquo;s just another piece of liberal claptrap.&rdquo;</p><p>It was very important to me that there was no alteration, omission or any other kind of tampering with the results on my part. The only thing that I had to make decisions about was when specific names got the same number of nominations &mdash; how to rank them next to each other. So putting Anita Hill and Rush Limbaugh together, because they did get the same number of nominations, was quite delicious to me. Other than that, it&rsquo;s completely straight.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>Did any of the names you received shape or change your ideas of freedom?</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>There was one set of answers from a German artist who was living in Chicago at that point in time, who was always a bit of a jokester. His three names were Stalin, Louis XIV and Hitler. And his rationale was that those three individuals created worlds in which they had absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. And while that&rsquo;s an extreme response, I think that it&rsquo;s just as valid as any of the other responses that I received.<a name="list"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/VaCQr/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="200"></iframe><br /><a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdF9xNXo4RlNZbFZuV3JTbDNWWUNkX1E&amp;usp=drive_web#gid=0" target="_blank">(view / download list)</a></p><p><strong>Why is there a blank line under Frank Zappa?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>I think six people responded saying that they really didn&rsquo;t feel that one name could sufficiently embody the idea of freedom. And in fact, one respondent actually said she didn&rsquo;t know what freedom was and seriously doubted that it existed. And so it was important to me to recognize the fact that actually some people refuse to participate. In hindsight, it also functioned as a space into which passersby could potentially, mentally, insert their own choice.</p><p><strong>How did <em>Freedom Wall</em> end up at this location on Huron Street?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wide%20shot%20FOR%20WEB%20cred%20mickey%20capper.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Adam Brooks' Freedom Wall is set against a building that's the home of the Nacional 27 restaurant. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /><strong>Brooks:</strong> The building at that time was owned by Buzz Ruttenberg, who has been a longtime supporter of the arts in Chicago. And the gallery that I was affiliated with at that time, the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, was actually in that building. Rhona and Buzz and I sat down and talked about the project, and without any hesitation, Buzz said, &ldquo;Yeah, it&rsquo;s fine, just make sure that it doesn&rsquo;t deteriorate.&rdquo; And I assured him that the technology had reached a point where it would not be peeling off &mdash; and indeed, it still looks pristine 20 years later, which is kind of amazing to me.</p><p>This was the second mooted location for the project. The original location, not too far away, was all set to go. The landlord of the building took a look at the long list, and saw Hitler on it, and said, &ldquo;There&rsquo;s gonna be crowds of people throwing bricks through my window if Hitler makes it onto the list. So unfortunately, I can&rsquo;t work with you on this project.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Lewis: Did the train [The CTA Brown Line] pass by the original site?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>No. So in the end, it worked out very well for everyone concerned. Because being able to see it from the train is a huge advantage in its visibility, and I&rsquo;ve always liked the idea that it&rsquo;s a fleeting experience.</p><p><strong>How did you choose the font?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>The font is Helvetica, which is one of the most common sans-serif fonts. Helvetica is probably the most ordinary font there is. I want people to look at the information and not think about the font at all.</p><p><strong>Why did you put this list of names up without any explanation on the wall? You don&rsquo;t have the word &ldquo;freedom&rdquo; anywhere to explain what this is all about.</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>I believe that art should not be a spoon-feeding process &mdash; that people should do some work, at least, to gain access to the kind of work that I make. Neither do I want it to be purposefully opaque or obscure, but asking passersby and viewers to do a bit of work to make connections between all of the names on that list is one of the essential components of the project for me.</p><p><strong>Lewis:</strong> I think it stood out more because it didn&rsquo;t have a title on it. I couldn&rsquo;t just Google what it was. I&rsquo;m on the train every morning, kind of staring out the window, so I have the time to think about it. There are some names I wasn&rsquo;t familiar with, so I went and looked some people up. There were some names that I thought, you know, &ldquo;These are kind of incongruent. I don&rsquo;t know what they have to do with each other.&rdquo; I&rsquo;ve talked to people about it, too. I&rsquo;ve talked to my friends, like: &ldquo;Hey, you&rsquo;ve seen that sign, right? What&rsquo;s the deal with that? What&rsquo;s going on?&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>And that&rsquo;s all I can really ask for. And if in some small way, I can lodge a question in people&rsquo;s heads and make them think a little bit, that&rsquo;s quite sufficient for me.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>I don&rsquo;t see your name anywhere on there. Was that on purpose &mdash; is it somewhere hidden?</p><p><strong>Brooks: </strong>It&rsquo;s not hidden. It&rsquo;s not there. The idea of signing one&rsquo;s work is a modernist conceit, and I&rsquo;ve never signed my work &mdash; except maybe when I was in college 30-plus years ago, because that&rsquo;s what I was told I needed to do. But in pretty short order, I realized that that wasn&rsquo;t important, that the work itself was the signature. And if people are interested enough, they will find out who made the work.</p><p><strong>Lewis: </strong>That&rsquo;s what I did.</p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong> For me, one of the most fascinating things about this whole project was going to northern Indiana, into a huge sign-painting warehouse and spending a day watching the one late-middle-aged man hand-letter each one of these names with a 3-inch-wide brush. Because he had been making these letters on billboards for 30 years, it was amazing watching him do it &mdash; absolutely precise and really fast. He did six names an hour. This painter&rsquo;s name was Bob Morales.</p><p><strong>How does <em>Freedom Wall</em> relate to the art you&rsquo;ve done recently with <a href="http://www.industryoftheordinary.com">Industry of the Ordinary</a>, your collaboration with Mathew Wilson?</strong></p><p><strong>Brooks:</strong><em> Freedom Wall</em> was the first open acknowledgement that I&rsquo;m interested in reaching as wide an audience as possible &mdash; and presenting work that often does not even appear to be art. Asking questions about what art is &mdash; and whether it can function outside of the confines of the white-walled gallery.</p><p><em>Who represents freedom to you? Which names would you put on a new version of Freedom Wall? Suggest names here.<a name="form"></a>&nbsp;</em></p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><div id="wufoo-rhfbmej1nd9yf0">Fill out my <a href="https://thecuriouscity.wufoo.com/forms/rhfbmej1nd9yf0">online form</a>.</div><script type="text/javascript">var rhfbmej1nd9yf0;(function(d, t) { var s = d.createElement(t), options = { 'userName':'thecuriouscity', 'formHash':'rhfbmej1nd9yf0', 'autoResize':true, 'height':'617', 'async':true, 'host':'wufoo.com', 'header':'show', 'ssl':true}; s.src = ('https:' == d.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 'wufoo.com/scripts/embed/form.js'; s.onload = s.onreadystatechange = function() { var rs = this.readyState; if (rs) if (rs != 'complete') if (rs != 'loaded') return; try { rhfbmej1nd9yf0 = new WufooForm();rhfbmej1nd9yf0.initialize(options);rhfbmej1nd9yf0.display(); } catch (e) {}}; var scr = d.getElementsByTagName(t)[0], par = scr.parentNode; par.insertBefore(s, scr); })(document, 'script');</script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><br /><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/209578749/Freedom-Wall-A-project-by-Chicago-artist-Adam-Brooks" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Freedom Wall: A project by Chicago artist Adam Brooks on Scribd">Freedom Wall: A project by Chicago artist Adam Brooks</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><a name="pdf"></a><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_53845" scrolling="no" src="//www.scribd.com/embeds/209578749/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/robertloerzel">@robertloerzel</a></em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Adam Brooks&#39; collaborator. The correct spelling is Mathew Wilson.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Additional editor&#39;s note: After reporting this story, Curious City was informed that the current owner of the building that Freedom Wall is installed upon is the Conant family. That family is the backer of the&nbsp;Doris and Howard Conant Fund for Journalism, which supports Curious City through contributions to WBEZ.</em>&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 19:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fresh-look-freedom-wall-109771