Tuesday, July 25, 2006

California Dreamin' on North Avenue Beach

The pro volleyball tour, known as AVP, came to our corner of the sand this past weekend. It was great fun, and I got out of there without purchasing the requisite footgear: Crocs.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Collaborative Art: What criteria Should We Use to Evaluate it?

What criteria should we use to evaluate socially engaged art?

Earlier this year, in an article for Artforum magazine, London-based critic Claire Bishop raised provocative questions and poked at the critical status quo about the discourse surrounding what she terms, "relational" practices — socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities, dialogic art, littoral art, participatory, interventionist, research-based and collaborative art.

I interviewed Bishop about her ideas on the critical dialogue surrounding socially engaged art for Community Arts Network. You can find it posted here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gay Games: The Ripple Effect

Chicago is hosting the Gay Games this week, and I've been meaning to post a big hey-ho! to all the participants. Welcome!

At our house, my six-year-old listens to the radio with an uncanny awareness -- as if he realizes it is a sure way to divine the secrets of adulthood. When a Gay Games commercial came on XRT, it prompted his first inquiry on the topic of homosexuality: "What are the Gay Games?"

So, I explained, and let me tell you, when you explain homosexuality in its most basic, uncharged terms -- sometimes men and women love one another, sometimes women and women love one another, sometimes men and men love one another -- children reveal how little of a big deal it is. He had more questions about the events than the idea that love transcends just about everything.

So this morning, we were traveling west behind a North Avenue bus that featured the Gay Games logo. "Mom?" Zack asked from the back seat. "Why are there Gay Games?"

So, I explained about the atheletics and gay people probably wanting to be together in a happy and welcoming environment. I said that there is a lot of hatred toward gay people around the country, but not in our city so much, so they probably are enjoying feeling welcomed and at peace while they compete.

So he thought about that for a few minutes, and then he asked, "Does Uncle Joe who lives on that farm like the Gay Games?"

To which I answered honestly, "I don't know if he does or not."

More thinking time. "I think he probably does because he really likes sports."

Meanwhile, Natalie, my 18-month old, is in her car seat proudly sporting her newly-acquired vocabulary word: "Gay! Gay! Gay!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Sign of Hope for a Sustainable America or Daley Taking the Green Thing Way Too Far?

I did a "hunh?" at the library today.

What's up with that? Out of all the crap in my home that could be dropped in a box for recycling, I'll be damned if one of them is an American flag. I'm kicking myself because I forgot to look in the box and see if anyone disposed of one. And, look how HUGE the box is. Woah! Does it really mirror the size of their perceived demand??

Monday, July 17, 2006

What Looper Did on His Summer Vacation

Launched an even more beauty-uss site. Visit his so-real-you-can-touch-em photos of Chicago here. I noticed he also added a link to the new site in response to requests to purchase copies of his photos. Very cool.

Katharine Graham: Ideas about Buildings

I've been reading Katharine Graham's memoir, Personal History. She was the owner and publisher of the Washington Post during the Watergate crisis.

In one excerpt she talks about their decision to move the Post out of its 56-year-old dilapidated building into a brand new one. It's a telling paragraph about the relationship between people and buildings:

Groundbreaking took place in late 1949, and the first full paper was printed at the new L Street site in November 1950. There was a very alcoholic, emotional party as everyone finally left the old E Street building behind. The party -- more of a wake, actually -- was, as someone put it, to "mourn the death of a building" which, with all its inconvenient horrors, was still much loved.
In fact, many longtime employees were less than enthusiastic about moving from the dingy but bustling E Street plant into the spic-and-span newness of the quiet L Street building. The new building doubled our press capacity, while providing modern conveniences like air-conditioning, soundproofing, and a clean environment, but it looked cold and impersonal in contrast to the old. One Post old-timer was quoted saying, "It'll be all right once we get to spitting on the floor again."

The photo is of the building they moved out of at 1335 E Street. It was built in 1893.

1335 E Street building photo borrowed from The Washington Post company history here.

How I Learned to Love the Hot Today

Once I got past the notion that I was probably inhaling nothing but bus fumes and suppressed the fear that every twinge was a bacterium coming to blind me, there is one word for what it felt like to dive into Lake Michigan this evening and swim along the lap lanes at Oak Street Beach: exhilirating. I recommend you try it.

Update: Duh, I was at the Chicago Street Beach, a bit farther south than Oak Street. That's where the "lap lanes" are.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Call for Proposals: What Would be a Better Use of a Parking Space?

My friend, the artist Jenny Roberts, who launched a lovely parking space party this past April, has a new project underway to expand on the idea. (See my previous post on her parking lot party here.)

She recently issued a call for proposals. The details are listed below. Why don't you submit an idea? I'm mulling over a few myself.

Citywide parking space art event

This is a call for proposals for an action/performance to take place in early September (specific date and time to be determined) in a parking space somewhere in the city. The pieces should last approximately two hours.

The only requirements are that you:
1. Use a parking space with a meter
2. Don’t engage in any activity that would be illegal in and of itself

You will “rent” the space(s) by paying the requisite amount for the time. This payment should authorize and entitle you to use the space in any way you choose. Why should cars be privileged? Why should so much space be devoted exclusively to automobiles?

The purpose of these citywide action/performances is to interfere with the monolithic and unimaginative uses of urban space.

This citywide action is intended to extend and expand upon the parking space cocktail party piece held in April.

This is an art piece, but you don’t have to be an artist to participate.

Send your proposal to jenrobe@earthlink.net. The proposal should contain a brief description of your project, which can be solo or collaborative. Please include your intended location (by street number,intersection, etc.). The location is of your choosing and can be anywhere in Chicago. Please also let me know which dates don’t work for you in the first two weeks after Labor Day in September.

I will choose the date and time, consolidate the proposals into one announcement, map the locations, and publicize the time and date of the event.

All action/performances will take place at the same time and on the same date. Viewers may choose to attend one, a few, or all of the pieces.

Please send me your proposal by August 12. I will let you know the date and time by August 20.

--Jenny Roberts

Meet Ecology of Absence: Michael Allen & Claire Nowak-Boyd

Out of all the good things that have arisen from pounding away at this blog, nothing tops getting an opportunity to meet Claire Nowak-Boyd and Michael Allen of Ecology of Absence. They were kind enough to meet for pancakes and potato latkes at the Golden Apple a few weekends ago, while they were passing through town.

I'm tempted to write that buildings in the Midwest do not have better friends than these two, but that would be selling them short. They care and wonder about the people and stories behind the places, too. They're smart and passionate and committed to protecting what makes our built environment so special.

And, would you believe they met while trying save the City Hospital in St. Louis? Then, in 2005, they won Cutest Preservation Couple of the Year.

Okay, I made that last one up. But it's entirely plausible, isn't it?

Read more of their good work at their blog, here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Documentary film by Chicagoan Ben Byer Pre-Release Party to be Held on Saturday, July 15

A friend of the filmmakers introduced me to the documentary, Indestructible. I was so moved by Chicagoan Ben Byer's trailer about his fight with ALS, that I'm now a supporter of the film.

Please join me at their roof-top, pre-release party on Saturday night, July 15 at 117 N. Jefferson. More details, including the trailer, are available online at at Indestructible's website here.

Mess Hall: Exhibit of Chicago's Hand-painted Signs

You know how when you hear about something from three, un-connected friends or respected sources that you realize it's time you look into it and discover it for yourself?

Well, that's what happened with me and Mess Hall.

What is Mess Hall? They're a Chicago-based ".org" who have an entire web page waxing philosophically about who they are here, but, in a nutshell, they're people who care about community, buildings, and glue like you and me. Although they explore it in much cooler, more community-oriented way than I'm able to here.

Like this Friday, July 7 from 7 - 10 p.m., their exhibition of hand-painted signs opens. Here's my entry from Jake's on the corner of Montrose and Sheridan. You can view it and many others at the exhibition which runs through August 6 at 6932 North Glenwood.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fourth of July Weekend: A Time for Fireworks and, um, Balloonists

There must be a correlation between the rise of fireworks and the decline of hot air ballooning over the Fourth of July holiday, you think?

Here's a photo above of "lady aeronaut" Lizzie Ihling, above. She's standing on a field of launching balloons in Chicago on July 4, 1908. On July 5, 1875 she became the first woman to make a solo flight in a balloon.

Here's another view below of the balloons taking off in 1908 Chicago.

Yup, one good rocket that explodes into a smiley face would shuttle them earthbound in no time.

Photos from the Daily News Archive. Found here. A little more info on Ihling's historic flight here.