Arts Issue 2017 | Visual Arts

Curating a New Canon

Artists from each of Chicago’s wards celebrate the city through its small, scattered glories

Process view of installation by Yvette Mayorga. Mark Hackman / City of Chicago

The exhibit is called “50×50 Invitational / The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities.” The words in the title tug on a range of thematic threads, leaving a viewer of the exhibit without a concrete summary of what they’re about to see. Visitors walk into the Chicago Cultural Center with only a vague conception of the works’ source—Chicago—and the unobtrusive guidance of a few posters hanging on the wall near the entrance. They include a colored map of the city divided into its fifty wards, along with the corresponding names of fifty artists or collaborative teams. Beyond that, the viewer is set free; there is little linear progression to the exhibit or organization in terms of theme within the space. Photographs of children on a street hang alongside collage-like paintings. There’s a video of schoolchildren singing “America the Beautiful,” a horn on a chair and a device that plays accompanying sound, and a red and gold rug that cohabitates peacefully with a neighboring series of lake photographs. This is not an exhibition that’s already been pieced together a certain way; its presentation asks us to be open-minded in our viewing and interpretation.

Arts Issue 2017 | Stage & Screen

Class Is in Session

Carla Stillwell on twenty-one years in Chicago theater

Ellen Hao

Director, playwright, and teaching artist Carla Stillwell knows more than a few things about Chicago theater after twenty-one seasons with Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MPAACT). Stillwell, a South Shore native who began acting professionally at the age of ten, is bringing her craft back to the South Side this year; she will organize MPAACT group classes starting in April and will also launch her own private theater classes out of her Woodlawn home. Stillwell is directing MPAACT’s final show of the season, local playwright Shepsu Aakhu’s Never the Milk and Honey, opening April 14. The Weekly spoke with her about her new classes, her three decades of work, and the importance of theater by and for people of color.

Arts Issue 2017 | Visual Arts

Life Practices

At Rootwork Gallery, two artists showcase the day-to-day of Englewood

Tonika Lewis Johnson

The alarms rings once at 7:30am, disrupting the morning quiet. Fifteen minutes and three alarms later, I turn it off. Then to shower, then to brush my teeth, to deodorize, to dress and pack up my knapsack for the day, and then to breakfast with the same two—sometimes four—people. Such is my morning routine.