Previews of upcoming arts events

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 ridgehistory@hotmail.com.  School groups are welcome after the first of the year. Visit ridgehistoricalsociety.org 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 FlowAuthors.com. 

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 www.beverlyartcenter.org 

 

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.

95th Street Fall Fest Offers Family Fun

Pumpkin Spice and everything nice! Celebrate the new season at the 95th Street Fall Fest, Sat. Oct. 6, 12 to 3 p.m., Barraco’s Beverly parking lot, 2105 W. 95th St. From face painting for the kids to TVs tuned to college football games for the dads, it’s a guaranteed good time for the whole family. 

The event provides a platform for 95th Street businesses to promote themselves to area shoppers. Many of the stores are participating in or sponsoring the fest. 

Erin Ross, Executive Director of the 95th Street Business Association, said the fest is the perfect opportunity for residents to discover all that the 95th Street businesses have to offer. “Our businesses are excited to showcase their goods and services,” Ross said. “Residents can travel down 95th Street and explore our many shops.” The business community looks forward to welcoming area residents for an afternoon of celebration, she added. 

Don’t miss enjoying the Fall Fest pictures colored by local third grade students that will be displayed in many of the store windows. Students from Kellogg, Christ the King, St. Barnabas, Sutherland and Vanderpoel elementary schools were invited to participate in a coloring contest sponsored by the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA). Check out the art while browsing at your favorite shops.  

The Fall Fest offers a wide itinerary of activities: Live music by Bridget Cavanaugh and Garrett Degnan, arts & crafts and cookie decorating for kids, and a live animal show. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Football fanatic? Televisions inside the bar area will be tuned to live college games. 

This event is sponsored by 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea, Sen. Bill Cunningham, Rep. Fran Hurley, Barraco’s, Beverly Area Planning Association, 95th Street Business Association, Christ the King Parish, 22nd District Police, Beverly Improvement Association, Beverly Ridge Homeowners Association and Smith Village. 

See What’s Inside Our Iconic Buildings: Open House Chicago Architecture Tour Comes to Beverly/Morgan Park Oct. 13 & 14

On the second weekend of October, more than 250 of Chicago’s most intriguing buildings will open their doors for the Chicago Architecture Center’s (CAC) annual Open House Chicago (OHC) tour. For the first time, Beverly/Morgan Park sites are included in this free, behind-the-scenes event.  

One of the world’s largest architecture festivals, Open House Chicago is a free, two-day public event taking place Sat., Oct. 13 and Sun., Oct. 14, with most sites open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.   

“Open House Chicago gives Chicagoans the rare opportunity to discover hidden gems in architecturally significant buildings all across the city,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of the CAC. “But attendees are discovering not only what is near their homes, they are exploring new neighborhoods across town and in the process changing preconceived notions about their neighborhoods.” 

The Beverly Area Planning Association and 19th Ward office worked with OHC planners to identify Beverly/Morgan Park locations for this year’s event.  

“We are thrilled that people from all over Chicagoland will have a chance to get an inside look at the diverse architecture and historic buildings that make Beverly/Morgan Park so amazing,” said BAPA Executive Director Susan Flood. “Being on Open House Chicago’s map has the potential to bring more than a thousand new visitors to our neighborhood. BAPA is proud to be a partner in this citywide event.”  

Persons interested in OHC can pick up a program that details all the citywide locations at any of the participating sites.  

Neighborhood sites and OHS touring hours: 

Givins Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr., Chicago’s most famous castle, built 1887 by real estate Robert C. Givins as an extravagant private residence. Open Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun., 1 to 5 p.m.  

Vanderpoel Art Association Gallery, Ridge Park, 9625 S. Longwood Dr., features an impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art including many pieces that depict Chicago scenes. An exhibit of works by the Chicago Society of Artists will be on display during OHC. Open Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Optimo, 1700 W. 95th St., the headquarters and production facility for Chicago’s only custom maker of men’s hats, located in a century-old firehouse renovated by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, is a working museum of hatmaking. Open Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Driscoll-Graver House, 10621 S. Seeley, designed by John T. Hetherington in the Tudor Revival style and built in 1922, the house is home to Ridge Historical Society. Open Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery, 9030 S. Hermitage, a crafty adaptive reuse of an industrial building is home to Chicago’s first meadery and winery. Open Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 1 to 5 p.m. 

Ingersoll Blackwelder House, 10910 S. Prospect, an elegant Victorian home built in two stages beginning in 1874, and home to several historic community leaders. Currently owned by physicists, the house will showcase three quark-inspired outdoor sculptures by Guy J. Ballaver during OHC. Open Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Morgan Park Academy Alumni Hall, 2153 W. 111th St., a stately neo-Gothic building built in 1927 and showcasing dramatic spaces that include the historic library with a vaulted ceiling, grand fireplace and wrap-around mezzanine. Open Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Morgan Park United Methodist Church, 11030 S. Longwood Dr., designed by village architect H.H. Waterman and built in 1913, the Prairie Style church features Art Nouveau windows, curving pews and a stained glass dome. Open Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun., 1 to 5 p.m. 

Wintrust is the presenting sponsor of Open House Chicago.   

Cherished Angels Brings Solace to Grieving Parents

By Abby Johnson 

They are Angel Moms and Angel Dads. Once a month, they gather at Little Company of Mary Hospital’s (LCMH) Family Birth Center, 2800 W. 95th St., for the Cherished Angel monthly perinatal loss support group. This is a safe zone, a place where the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillborn or infant death can be felt- and grieved.  

Dr. Kathryn Gardner, a volunteer on the LCMH Perinatal Loss Committee, leads these sessions. She is a psychologist who helps women cope with fertility, pregnancy and perinatal loss. The grief and anger that follows a perinatal loss can be overwhelming, she said, adding that Cherished Angels provides a needed outlet. 

“People don’t know what to do when this kind of thing happens to them,” Gardner said. “They’re experiencing such turmoil that just taking the step to look for help can be too much.” 

Gardner believes every woman should receive specialized care. When LCMH contacted Gardner with their idea for the Cherished Angels program, she was thrilled and immediately hopped on board. It was the perfect opportunity to show parents that there is hope, and that peace can be found. 

This month is especially important for the Cherished Angels. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a good time for spreading the message that resources are available.  

“It’s common to feel lonely after experiencing something like this,” she said. “This group helps show the Angel Moms and Angel Dads that they’re not alone. Other people are going through the same thing. There are others who understand.” 

Even those who aren’t comfortable talking openly about their pain are welcome at the coping sessions, said Gardner.  

“If you’re someone who just wants to listen, that’s fine, too,” she said. “Everyone is welcome to speak as much or as little as they like.” 

This month’s Cherished Angels support group will take place on Thurs., Oct. 20, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the hospital’s West Pavilion. Guest speaker Rachael Sedor will discuss skills for coping with anxiety and anger, as well as her own experience with perinatal loss. 

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of Cherished Angels. Gardner’s main goal remains the same: To provide emotional support for parents during this difficult time. 

“I just want everyone to know that tranquility is within reach.”  

For more information, email cherishedangelsupport@lcmh.org. 

Beverly Theatre Guild Presents ‘She Loves Me’

Beverly Theatre Guild (BTG), Chicago’s longest running community theater, will present the romantic musical comedy “She Loves Me,” Fri., Oct. 12 and Sat., Oct. 13, 8 p.m., and Sun., Oct. 14, 2 p.m., Morgan Park Academy Arts Center, 2153 W. 111th St.  

Set in a 1930s European perfumery the show revolves around shop clerks, Amalia and Georg, who, more often than not, don’t see eye to eye. Both of the clerks respond to a “lonely hearts” advertisement in the newspaper, then live for the love letters they exchange with their anonymous admirers. A series of endearing and witty twists and turns unfolds as Amalia and Georg move closer to discovering the identity of their true loves. 

Music for “She Loves Me” is by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, who also wrote the music for “Fiddler On the Roof,” and the book is by “Caberet” author Joe Masteroff.  

Glenn Hering of Beverly/Morgan Park directs the show which is considered by many to be the most charming musical ever written.  The cast features actors and vocalists from the community and throughout Chicago.  

Tickets are $24 and available online at www.beverlytheatreguild.org or by phone at 773-BTG-TIXS.