Previews of upcoming arts events

Greek Mythology Takes on New Life with ‘Flight’

“Flight, a musical written by Chicago playwright and compose Michael Potsic, will premiere at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St. the first two weekends in May.  

Based on the Greek myth the Flight of Icarus, “Flight” re-imagines the classic cautionary tale through the eyes of the carpenter Daedalus, his wife Aeden, and their son Icarus. Potsic has written a soaring score for his play, which examines the truth that to live and love comes with great risk. 

The run is part of the BAC’s Black Box Theatre Series, and will be staged Sat., May 4, 7:30 p.m., Sun., May 5, 2:30 p.m., Fri., May 10 and Sat., May 11, 7:30 p.m., and Sun., May 12, 2:30 p.m.  

The show is directed by Erica Elam and choreographed by Gloria Mwez. 

Michael Potsican alumni of the Beverly Arts Center theatre programsaid that experience “sparked my love of acting and theatre, but also was the major catalyst for writing.” Past performing credits include Rent (Paramount Theatre), Parade (Writers Theatre), A Christmas Carol: The Musical” and Assassins (Kokandy Productions). He has contributed music and lyrics to AlphaBet Soup Productions and The Second City His debut children’s pop album, Michael‘s Music Machine, is available on iTunes, Spotify and CDBaby. 

Erica Elam is the Chicago Artistic Director of the critically-acclaimed musical improv company Baby Wants Candy,” with whom she co-wrote and directed the premier production of the sold-out hit musical “Thrones!” at the Edinburgh Fringe FestivalElam has led improvisation workshops at Dartmouth, Stanford, Notre Dame and University of Chicago, and for companies including Google and Facebook.  She improvises regularly with Baby Wants Candy and The Improvised Shakespeare Company, and has performed at theatres that includeThe Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, Court, Peninsula Players, The Kennedy Center, and The Second City, where she is faculty. 

Choreographer Gloria Mwez has worked with the Beverly Arts Center, Fear Experiment, Matter Dance Company, The Modern Marvels Dance Company, Movement Revolution Dance Crew, Perceptual Motion Inc., and Simantikos Dance Chicago. She created That Untitled Project which facilitates workshops, events and performances for movement artists in Chicago and St. Louis.  In 2016, Mwez was voted runner up in the Chicago Reader Poll for best choreographer. 

The Black Box Series showcases new works by Chicago playwrights in the BAC’s black box theater, an intimate space that offers flexibility in staging innovative shows for audiences of 75 or less. The final show in the series will be staged in August  

Tickets are $22 or $20 for BAC members, and available at the BAC box office, via phone at 773-445-3838 or at

Grappling With A Luminous Doom 

Five artists meditate on the mystery, magic and beauty of our planet, and the impact of our growing detachment from nature’s wisdom in “Grappling With A Luminous Doom, an exhibit hosted by the Beverly Area Arts Alliance at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., opening Sun., Mar. 3, 2 to 4 p.m.  

The exhibit continues to Apr. 7, and reflects the disconnect between “modern” societies and nature that has led to the decline of important ecological habitats and biodiversity that sustain the earth.  

Artists whose work will be on exhibit are Brian Ritchard and Elaine Miller, both residents of Beverly/Morgan Park, and Sharon Bladholm, Victoria Fuller and Jennifer Cronin.  

“My work has always revolved around the intersection of art and nature,” wrote Brian Rirchard. I am passionately interested in how humankind sees and interacts with the natural world, and how the age-old genre of landscape painting can be updated and reinvigorated. 

Ritchard, a landscape painter with over 20 years of studio and exhibition experience, does deep research on focused subjects to inform his work. For ten years, his paintings documented the explosive growth of wind power across the Great Plains states. His recent explorations along the Colorado River have taken him to Lake Mead, the giant artificial reservoir created by Hoover Dam.  

“Here in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the melted snow that comprises the Colorado River is collected and politically allocated in the form of hydroelectric power and water for the entire American Southwest,” Ritchard wrote. “Lake Mead has been evaporating and losing replacement volume since the 1980s, leaving the distinctive “bathtub ring” that indicates previous highwater marks on the ancient landscape.” 

Ritchard spent many weeks in 2018 out west making site studies and painting watercolors. The intensive work inspired the artist to expand his palette and learn how to paint new landforms, textures and spaces. The resulting oil paintings are being completed in his Beverly/Morgan Park studioand will be debuted in the BAC exhibit.   

“Nature, its tragedies and its glories, has always exhilarated and reassured me,” wrote Elaine Miller. “In my practice, I try to celebrate the magnificence of the natural landscape and to record our impact on it.”  

Miller sees her work as a way to connect people to an earlier time when people were closer to the natural worldand to document the destructive results of indifference. “This exhibit is about is trying to connect people to nature and to an understanding of the huge losses we are experiencing through climate change and habitat degradation,” Miller wrote.   

Miller is fine artist who paints murals (you can see her work in the parking lot at 95th and Longwood Drive). She worked for many years doing backdrops for commercial photographers and painting sets for films and commercials. Since moving to Beverly/Morgan Park, Miller maintains a in studio in historic Blue Island. 

Sharon Bladholm works in a variety of media including cast glass, bronze and ceramic sculpture, as well as printmaking and works on paper. She has run Opal Glass Studios since 1983, and has completed many commissioned pieces for galleries and museums, as well as public art installations at the Garfield Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux, France.  

Jennifer Cronin’s starkly real paintings and drawings explore what it means to be human.  She recently traveled to a remote Native Alaskan village where she documented the effects of climate change.  Her new work is inspired by her trip and our changing planet. 
Cronin has exhibited widely in the Chicago area, as well as nationally and internationally.  She has been featured in many publications and earned numerous awards.  Most recently, Cronin has been awarded a grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation to support the development of her new series of work.   

Victoria Fuller is a sculptor, painter and natural science illustrator. She has studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, Parson’s Paris Program (France) and earned a graduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has appeared in galleries, museums and public spaces Internationally. She is best known for Shoe of Shoes, a large-scale shoe-shaped sculpture composed of thousands of aluminum high-heels in front of Brown Shoe Company, and for her large scale sculpture, Canoe Fan, made from canoes forming a fan shape. 

“Grappling With A Luminous Doom” is curated by Carla Winterbottom and Sal Campbell. The exhibit is open during Beverly Arts Center open hours in the Simmerling Gallery. Admission is free. The name of the exhibit is taken from the poem “Sleeping in the Forest” by Mary Oliver.  

Party Celebrates Wirtshafter Exhibit at RHS

Ridge Historical Society (RHS) is so thrilled with its exhibit of works by the late Ethel Wirtshafter featuring her fabulous batiks, they’re putting on a party to draw neighbors in to see it!  On Fri., Feb. 8, 1 to 3 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., the doors will be thrown open and all welcomed. 
If you appreciate history, color and design, this exhibit is a must-see,” said RHS Historian Linda Lamberty.  Ethel spent more than half her near century of life here, where she was for over 45 years a prized and beloved teacher to countless children at the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association at Ridge Park Field House. 
The exhibit – a rare opportunity to see so many of Wirtshafter’s exquisite works gathered together – runs through Feb. 24 at RHS, 10621 S. Seeley. Art lovers who can’t make the Feb. 8 party can call 773-881-1675 or write to schedule a tour.  

Castle Series Presents Concerts, Storytelling

The Castle Concert Series—aimed at raising money for maintenance and restoration of the historic Givins Castle located at 103rd and Longwood Drive—continues with three February engagements in two different venues. 

Eddie Holstein blends folk, blues and guitar with history and his special brand of humor Sat., Feb. 2, Heritage Gallery, 1907 W. 103rd St. A favorite of Chicago audiences for more than 40 years, Holstein grew up on the South Side and got his start at the legendary folk music bar, the Earl of Old Town. 

Kathleen Keane, a world-renowned multi-instrumentalist, Irish singer, songwriter and composer, performs Sat., Feb. 16, Givins Beverly Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr. Keane’s virtuosic tin-whistling and fiddle-playing earned her musical appearances in hit movies, including “The Road to Perdition,” “Backdraft” and “Titanic.” A performer with Gaelic Storm, she is considered by many one of the world’s finest Celtic fiddlers. 

Beverly/Morgan Park resident David Boyle shares impromptu personal stories to correspond with drawings created by Elgin-based artist Chris Palm Sat., Feb. 23 at the Givins Castle. The show is called “To Be Determined” because Boyle won’t know which stories he’ll tell until the audience decides which drawings they prefer. This show won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2017 Elgin Fringe Festival. 

Thanks to a generous gift from Beverly/Morgan Park resident Dean Miller on behalf of his late wife, Martha Swift, the historic Givins Castle and Heritage Gallery serve as venues for the concert series through May. Swift grew up in the community and once headed the language department at Morgan Park Academy.  

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performances begin at 7 p.m. A $20 donation is suggested with proceeds going toward maintenance of the Givins Castle. For more information, call John Devens, 773-719-7059. 

Know Your Neighbors: Photographer’s Work on Exhibit at Cultural Center

By Abby Johnson

Cecil McDonald, Jr. fell in love with photography in college. He was in his final year of undergraduate school studying Fashion Merchandising when he signed up for an introductory class as an elective to pass the time. He’s been hooked ever since.

McDonald, a resident of Beverly/Morgan Park for more than two decades, now works as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, the same school from which he received an MFA in Photography. His work has been showcased both nationally and internationally in galleries in Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, New York and Haarlem, Netherlands.

Last year, McDonald released “In the Company of Black,” a book of photographs featuring African-American subjects whom he describes as “extraordinarily ordinary”— educators, artists, administrators, business owners, teachers and students.

“Cecil McDonald Jr.: In the Company of Black,” photographs from the book, will be on exhibit Jan. 19 to Apr. 14, Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington St. Admission is free.

“These people are an important part of society’s framework,” McDonald said. “They need to be seen!”

The 144-page book began as a small project in 2007 when McDonald started to photograph his friends and family in attempt to showcase the difference between his fellow African-Americans and the African-American lifestyles portrayed to society.

“We are fed images of two types of black people: the megastar athlete and the poor man who can’t support his family,” McDonald said. “In reality, most people don’t fit into either of these categories.”

Soon, McDonald began taking photographs of strangers, too. But it wasn’t until several years later, while completing the Artist-In-Residency program at Light Work in Syracuse, NY, that McDonald was hit with the idea to create a book.

“I saw other residents trying to turn their work into books,” he said. “So I thought ‘hey I should try that, too’”.

McDonald presented the idea to his former teaching assistant Matt Austin of Candor Arts, an independent art book publisher based in Chicago.

“He said ‘let’s do it, let’s try it,’” McDonald said. “So we did, and the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.”

The book features an introduction written by Tempestt Hazel, a former student of McDonald, and was nominated for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award. Last month, a selected portion of the photographs featured in McDonald’s book were on display at Illinois State University Galleries. The same exhibition will be showcased at the Chicago Cultural Center in January.

For McDonald, the photographs are the most important part of his recent journey. They tell a story that challenges the roles designated to African-Americans by our cultural landscape, he said. While McDonald is humbled by the success of his book release, he believes it’s the photographs themselves that have the potential to make the biggest impact.

In fact, McDonald hopes the photographs never return to Chicago. Why? Because the whole world needs to observe them, to understand their symbolism.

“These images need to be seen,” he said. “Everywhere.”


The Arts: Batik Exhibit is Explosion of Color and Themes

By Linda Lamberty

An explosion of color and themes welcomes visitors to the exhibit of works by the late Ethel Wirtshafter (1909-2009) at Ridge Historical Society (RHS), 10621 S. Seeley Ave. The art works all clearly show the exquisite touch of the much-loved local artist.
RHS has the distinct honor to have these works, most on loan from the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, the Beverly Arts Center and a number of personal collections, on display through Feb. 24.

Predominantly composed of the artist’s very distinctive batiks, as well as informative text by another local artist, Mary Lenzini, the exhibit describes Wirtshafter’s life, art and technique. Visitors who knew Wirtshafter, a long time neighborhood resident, have remarked how wonderful it is to see so many of her creations gathered in one space.
Born and raised in Chicago, Wirtshafter came from an artistically gifted family and was blessed with an innate love of nature. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1931, where scenery painting for the theater department ultimately led her to a lifetime making and teaching art.
From scoring and printing linoleum blocks by candlelight in the Pacific Northwest, to photographing celebrities at the Edgewater Beach Hotel back in Chicago, to marriage, motherhood, world travel and over 45 years teaching children’s art classes at the Vanderpoel gallery, Ethel Wirtshafter lived life with gusto.  She passed away half a year short of her century mark, leaving behind a most prolific body of work, and countless fans.
Years ago when selling at the Beverly Art Fair on the grounds of Morgan Park Academy, Wirtshafter said how much she loved the way her batiks looked hanging on a line with sunlight behind them. Consequently, an effort has been made in the RHS exhibit to backlight all works that are unframed or have open backs.
One outstanding batik included the exhibit is of a mythological griffin and was discovered on eBay. The seller, having found it at an estate sale in Naples, Fla., had no idea of the identity of the artist, the age of the piece or the medium, suggesting in the description that it might be painted hide or part of an ancient text. It popped up using only Wirtshafter’s signature, “ELW,” as a search term. The beautiful piece is now in the appreciative buyer’s collection.
To schedule a visit to see the exhibit, call 773-881-1675 or email  School groups are welcome after the first of the year. Visit to learn about RHS and upcoming events.

FLOW Builds Successful Writers

By Kristin Boza

For Love of Writing, or FLOW, is a south side group dedicated to supporting writers on their journey from conceptualizing to publishing — and a lot in-between. The core group of six African American women writers are Tina Jenkins Bell, Lydia Barnes, Chirskira Caillouet, Dr. Janice Tuck Lively, Sandra Jackson Opoku and Bettina Walker. The women started meeting in the mid1990s as a way to workshop their writing projects and support one another in their writing endeavors.  

The support FLOW was so valuable that the core group decided to relaunch in 2012 as FLOW II, allowing associate members to join and participate in the group’s philosophy. “We wanted to recreate that safe, constructive, supportive space for nurturing and completing writing projects and supporting members by participating or hosting launches,” said Jenkins Bell, FLOW president emeritus. “FLOW II added to the original mission, writer’s retreats, professional development workshops and seminars for south side communities, single author salons, networking, and sharing publishing resources and information.” 

Associate members, from new writers to experienced, have an incredible opportunity to learn from accomplished female writers on the south side. The achievements of the core FLOW group are too many to list, but here’s a few highlights: Jenkins Bell is publishing a mini-memoir in 2019 titled “Devil’s Alley” which will appear in the “Love in a Silent Storm” anthology. Walker and Barnes have poems in “Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks.” Jackson Opoku wrote “The River Where Blood is Born,” which earned her the American Library Association Black Caucus award. Caillouet is a poet, both on the page and stage and participated in the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards. Tuck Lively earned a 2016 Pushcart Award nomination for her short story “Dust Tracks.”  

The FLOW network has provided publishing and funding opportunities for its members. “Because of our individual author salons, at least three of our members have completed novel manuscripts. We’ve met and networked with various publishing professionals,” Jenkins Bell said. “Members of the group are always willing to listen, read, or critique work on an as-needed basis.”  

Aside from personal and professional development, FLOW is determined to make an impact on the community as well. Their writers have partnered with Chicago Public Libraries, Soulful Chicago Book Fair, Bookie’s and the University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts to offer craft and professional development workshops.  

“People don’t understand that there are many layers to being a writer,” said Barnes, current FLOW president. “The business part of writing, like selling your story, is daunting. We want to help people through that jungle of getting the story out to the world and discovering the various paths to do so.” 

While honing their craft and navigating the business angle of publishing, FLOW writers also have developed strong relationships with one another to create a trust and a sense of security within which they provide feedback.  

“We operate as a family, so we’re very honest and constructive with our critiques,” Jenkins Bell said. “But we won’t lie to you. We want people to gain confidence in what they’re writing.” 

Associate members of any gender or race are welcome to FLOW II. Programming for associate members is varied and will appeal to writers of any level of experience. For more information 

Concert Series Ignites Southside Music Scene

By Kristin Boza 

Thanks to a generous gift from Beverly/Morgan Park resident Dean Miller on behalf of his late wife, Martha Swift, the historic Givins Castle and Heritage Gallery serve as venues for a series of folk music concerts each month through May 2019. The next installation of the series takes place on Sat., Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Historic Givins Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr. featuring Sons of the Never Wrong, a dynamic vocal trio described by the Chicago Tribune as “literate, witty folk music.” A $20 donation is requested, and proceeds will benefit maintenance of the Givins Castle. 

The series promises to bring unique and popular bands to the Southside. John Devens, longtime Beverly/Morgan Park resident and musician is curating the series. Devens is entrenched in the Chicago music scene and many neighbors will fondly recall the concert series he produced at World Folk Music Co. 

“I do this thing where I look at places and think ‘wow, that could be utilized for something cool,’” Devens said. “I always thought that about the Castle. The Castle, to me, is the symbol of our neighborhood. Beverly Unitarian Church has done a great job of being stewards of that building, but time is catching up and it needs some serious work. Doing so is going to take the community, which is why I’m doing this concert series and having the proceeds go to the Castle building fund.” 

Devens has cultivated relationships across the city to get great performers down to the South Side. “Sons of the Never Wrong are like Peter, Paul, and Mary on acid. They’re funny, quirky, write their own materials, and people just love them. Their act is spellbinding,” he said. Other upcoming acts include violinist Anne Harris, gospel jazz group Come Sunday, Irish musician Kathleen Keane, and folk singer Eddie Holstein, to name a few. 

“It’s a real big mix of musicians and I look for originality. I also look for the size of the group that will fit into the venues that I book. I intend for this to be a very intimate performance,” Devens said.  

Another goal is to expand the music scene on the south side. Devens strongly believes in the power of organic, original music as a driving force behind a vibrant community. “Art makes you whole. It’s a great thing for people to get out and understand that there’s music that’s not just thrown together by executives at Sony,” he said. “I also think that a healthy nightlife attracts more businesses as more people stroll around at night. It’s important for people to be out at night in our safe neighborhood; the more of us out there enjoying concerts or meals, the better it is for everybody.” 

Tickets are available at the door, at the Givins Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr., at Heritage Gallery, 1907 W. 103rd St., or by calling John Devens at 773-719-7059. Stay up-to-date by liking Beverly Unitarian Church on Facebook. 

BAC Black Box Theatre Series Debuts with ‘Dying City’

The Black Box Theatre Series at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC) debuts with a five-performance run of “Dying City,” Christopher Shinn’s play that eloquently explores a world in which loss, grief and violence profoundly affect people’s lives. Performances are Fri., Oct. 5, Sun., Oct. 7, Fri., Oct. 12 and Sat., Oct. 13, 7:30p.m., and Sun., Oct. 14, 2 p.m. at the BAC, 2407 W. 111th St.  

“Dying City” is set in an urban apartment and revolves around a young woman, Kelly, who has lost her husband, Craig, in the Iraq War. A year after Craig’s death, his twin brother Peter shows up unannounced looking to Kelly for closure. Instead, the reunion reopens old wounds and brings back painful memories.  

“Dying City is an impactful and relevant piece that tackles some serious issues,” said show director Tim Stompanato. “The show is gritty and unapologetic, and it highlights very real elements of humanity that are best expressed in an intimate setting like our Black Box for maximum effect.” 

The BAC’s Black Box theatre is a small and intimate space, offering flexibility in staging innovative shows for audiences of 75 or less. The Black Box series season will feature three more productions, scheduled for February, May and August 2019. 

In “Dying City,” Stompanato will be directing Becca Brazel in the role of Kelly and Chris Galvan in the roles of twin brothers, Peter and Craig.   

Born and raised in Chicago’s Canaryville neighborhood, Becca Brazel traveled to St. Ambrose University (Iowa) for college and began her acting career in the Quad City area. Recently returned to Chicago, Brazel performed in the BAC’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” last year and looks forward to her dramatic role in “Dying City.”  

Chris Galvan, a native of Beverly/Morgan Park, earned his early theater credits in BAC productions that include “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Producers.” While studying theatre at St. Ambrose University (Iowa), Galvan acted professionally on stage and in film.  

Actor, musician and teaching artist, “Dying City” director Tim Stompanato currently serves as Company Manager for Chicago Kids Company.  For three years, he served as theater coordinator for the BAC School of the Arts and was involved in many theater productions at the BAC, both as performer and director.  

“In directing this show, I am putting a lot of focus not only in the words, but in the actions and the silence as well,” Stompanato said.  “The characters are flawed and real, and the show does a great job of analyzing the different ways we process grief, how violence affects our lives and how understanding actions doesn’t necessarily excuse them.” 

Time has been set aside following each performance to discuss the content, themes and ideas brought up throughout the show.  

Tickets for “Dying City” are $22 or $20 BAC or members and available at the BAC, 773-445-3838 or 


MPHS Teams Up with The Alliance for ‘Arts in the Dark’ Parade

By Kristin Boza 

Morgan Park High School (MPHS) juniors and seniors are taking part in an after-school arts program designed by a collaboration between the Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance), MPHS art teacher Wendie Bloxsom, and retired CPS art teacher and Golden Apple winner Mathias “Spider” Schergen. Funded through The Alliance and driven by creative and motivated artists, the program is providing students with the opportunity to create life-size moveable sculptures that they will parade in the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Arts in the Dark Parade on Sat., Oct. 20, 6 to 8 p.m. on Columbus Drive. 

Schergen has been involved with The Alliance for several years. As a visual artist specializing in creating sculptures from found objects and a former art teacher at Jenner Academy of the Arts, he was an obvious partner for Arts in the Dark project based on his talent and experience.  

“The program started from scratch with neighborhood people in a very organic way,” Schergen said. “I enjoy interacting with kids and young people and facilitating activities in a communal setting. As The Alliance sought ways to participate in city-wide events, we all came together to brainstorm and work with a local school to represent the 19th Ward in the ‘Arts in the Dark’ parade.”  

Schergen and Bloxsom are leading the students through the process of creating giant puppet-like figures. 

“The kids are learning how to move beyond 2D art in creating these figures,” Schergen said. “Each week, they’re getting more comfortable and imaginative and we hope to see them make the conceptual leap to something less literal to something more fantastical and beyond the human form.” 

“Spider is a rock star in the arts education community, and I have great regard for his work,” said Corinne Rose, Alliance member and coordinator of the project. “I really think that strong public schools depend on the involvement of the community. With this project, we’re hoping to do something more in-depth and have more of an impact. We think that culminating activities are really important, not only to make the art, but have a reason to display it. The kids have a sense of being a part of something larger, and for us, it’s important to have a visual show of support for the school and the kids.” 

For inspiration in his personal art, Schergen seeks ways to turn discarded items into imaginative pieces.  

“I’ve always enjoyed making stuff with stuff; I was fascinated with things in the world since I was little,” he said. “When I was teaching full time, it was extremely foundational for me to go home and work out the day for a few hours. Working on art helps to free up my mind so I can approach my job in a fresh light.” 

Schergen stresses the importance of students gaining knowledge of working in a studio to truly embrace their creative sides.  

“The arts are so often crammed into an academic format of assessments that it becomes more important than what the kid actually made,” he said. “Studio time allows students to control their own development. When combined with exhibit experience and interaction with the larger community, the students will have a chance to explore their gifts.” 

The Alliance is fully supporting the collaboration financially through their own fundraising efforts, so there is no cost to MPHS.  

“We view this as a beginning of a supportive relationship with the high school in our community,” Rose said.