Before An Evening at the Chez Nous had even begun, Bronzeville native Marlow La Fantastique—whose career the event was celebrating—was already in her element. She worked her way about the room, doling out hellos and bisous with the grace of someone very familiar with the spotlight. That, of course, is an understatement. For decades, her relationship to spotlights was like a fish’s to the sea: she basically lived in them, performing not only in the States, but all over the world. Hers was truly a star-studded career, one with too many high points to easily identify any single apogee. But if forced to, one might point to La Fantastique’s time performing at the Cabaret Chez Nous, the famous West Berlin nightclub known for featuring drag queens and trans women performers as well as its celebrity patronage.
By 9pm, the tent set up in the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago’s central courtyard was jostling with people. Outside it drizzled miserably, as it had all day, although this did nothing to deter the crowd. Emily Hooper Lansana, the Logan Center’s associate director of community arts engagement, must have been right when she introduced the next act as “magnetic.” A slice of Chicago was packed into that tent, ready to give some of their own a proper homecoming. After all, it’s a rare feat that the South Side-born and raised members of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble—all of them children of the jazz legend Phil Cohran, and on the road to becoming legends in their own right—return to play a free set for their native city.
Parks are for people,” Frances Vandervoort told me. A board member and Committee Chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society, she holds a similar position on the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC), a watchdog organization for the South Side park of the same name. That’s what I’ve come to talk with Vandervoort about: the changes that will soon come to Jackson Park. The first signs of these changes are visible even today—a nonprofit called Project 120 Chicago, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has partially underwritten a series of revitalization projects taking place in the park since 2013. These are forerunners of more significant changes to come: the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) is slotted to open in Jackson Park in 2021, and the Tiger Woods–designed revitalization of the Jackson Park and South Shore Golf Courses—which will combine them into one PGA-grade course, and will be financed through a public-private partnership—is expected to be completed by 2020. Both projects have been sources of controversy.
Two long, drip-irrigated plant beds run parallel to the southernmost wall of KAM Isaiah Israel, a Reform synagogue that straddles the border between Hyde Park and Kenwood. Some sections of the two beds bear different varieties of kale and collard greens. Others are filled with what appear to be weeds but are actually a cover crop, storing up carbon and nitrogen in the soil for produce that will be planted in weeks to come.
The kitchen of St. Ailbe’s Catholic Church, located in Calumet Heights, was filled on the evening of April 5, with people and smells. It smelled good, like something frying.
A crowd gathered in Daley plaza on August 15, 1967 to witness the unveiling of the “Chicago Picasso.” The installment was an unprecedented one—up until then, Chicago public sculptures had mostly taken the form of commemorative statues. The “Picasso” would signify a new direction for Chicago city art away from the commemorative style. Later installments like “Cloud Gate,” which are now entrenched parts of the downtown landscape, exemplified this artistic shift.
In the absence of light, darkness prevails.”
The back room of Envision Unlimited’s Rose Center, in Back of the Yards, is piled to the proverbial ceiling with arts and crafts materials: boxes of old lace, a package of sequined hats, a children’s doll whose head had, at some point in its transport, become decapitated from its body. Sorting through it all is Monika Neuland, a social practice artist, educator, and consultant who works with agencies that provide services for those with physical and developmental disabilities. Envision Unlimited, the organization which owns the Rose Center, is one of these. The arts supplies are a donation that will help sustain the various arts programs that Neuland leads around the Chicago area, including the mask-making workshop taking place here in the Rose Center.