Notes & Calendar 4/26/17

A week’s worth of developing stories, events, and signs of the times, culled from the desks, inboxes, and wandering eyes of the editors


The Michelle Obama Mural Debacle

On November 8, that unforgettable election day, Chris Devins, a local “Artist/Urban Planner known for large, outdoor murals” and self-described “placemaker,” created a GoFundMe page for his next project: a large-scale outdoor mural of then-First Lady Michelle Obama. Five months later, on April 21, Devins finished his project, and people were astounded… by Devins’s blatant plagiarism. The black-and-white photo of Obama included in the GoFundMe page did not appear on the mural; instead, she was shown as an Egyptian queen, an image originally created by Ethiopian-born artist Gelila Lila Mesfin.

Mesfin politely called the reaction “disheartening” and encouraged her angry fans to “keep this positive” in their treatment of Devins. Devins told DNAinfo offered licensing fees and “apologized,” but only went so far as to admit what he did was “sloppy,” since, according to him, Mesfin had no legal grounds for accusing him of copyright infringement, since Mesfin’s work itself was created by digitally painting over a photo taken by someone else. “You can’t appropriate a bike then sue someone for riding it,” Devins said, a simile we’re still figuring out. Legal nuances aside, at least Mesfin remembered to credit Collier Schorr for the original photo. Devins did not bother to find out who the source of his “inspiration” was, including, at first, even her name (“Thank you east african girl,” he tweeted, a reference to Mesfin’s Instagram handle). The true irony, however, lies in the mural’s purpose—to “give today’s children someone they can literally look up to and to celebrate Mrs. Obama’s life and accomplishments,” according to the GoFundMe page. Celebrate how, Chris? With “sloppy” plagiarism?

Pollution in the Park

A major cleanup of “decades’ worth of hazardous materials” at the Pullman National Monument will need to be done before the monument can officially open, according to a report by the Tribune. It’s not shocking that there’s soil contamination at a former manufacturing center, but considering that the monument is part of the National Park Service, this isn’t great. Plans have just been announced to revitalize the former factory site’s nearly thirteen acres, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, with help from the National Park Service and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, will need to ensure that the site is not a health hazard before the completed park is slated to open in 2019. The issue, now that contaminants—such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and chromium—have been identified, is figuring out the best way to deal with affected soil. Nevertheless, Pullman advocates won’t let this bump in the road spoil the success of securing a national designation for the historic site. “It really tells a story of the urban grittiness of it all,” Kathy Schneider, superintendent to the monument, told the Tribune last week. “And I love it.”

Pilsen, Property, and Public Relations

This past Monday, Property Market Group (PMG), a New York–based developer, released new plans for its proposed, controversial mixed-use project in Pilsen. Dubbed ParkWorks, the development—located on a little less than a mile south of UIC—will contain affordable housing, retail projects, and an art walk, according to a promotional video. It’s not clear, however, exactly what proportion of the units will be affordable; an earlier plan from PMG was shot down by the Pilsen Land Use Committee for failing to provide the minimum percentage of affordable housing units required in the neighborhood. Noah Gottlieb, PMG’s principal, declined to tell Curbed whether the new plan met the twenty-one percent requirement… which might reasonably suggest that it does not. In that case, the plan and video might be seen as a PR push designed to win over Alderman Danny Solis, who opposed past incarnations of PMG’s plan, and local residents, many of whom are worried that the project will contribute to the neighborhood’s gentrification—in January, a group of community organizations referred to Gottlieb, in an open letter, as “Trump Junior” (In response, Gottlieb said he finds Trump “absolutely disgusting.”)

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South Shore Community Conference

Powell Elementary School, 7511 S. Shore Dr. Saturday, April 29, 8am–1pm. RSVP online.

Get information and give input on future planned developments in the South Shore/Washington Park/Woodlawn areas. Topics include the Obama Presidential Center, the Jackson Park-South Shore golf course project, South Shore Cultural Center restoration, and more. (Roderick Sawyer)

Raise the Barn Crop Mob!

South Merrill Community Garden, 7032 S. Merrill Ave. Saturday, April 29, 9am–5pm, with preferred work shifts 9am–noon and 1pm–5pm. No experience required. Wear gardening clothes and closed-toe shoes. RSVP at

A firebrick oven and cooking pavilion are coming to an intergenerational community garden in South Shore, but only with your help! Get your hands dirty this Saturday at the first event in a yearlong collaboration between Advocates for Urban Agriculture and Slow Food Chicago to give back to the community in local gardens and parks. (Emily Lipstein)

Make Love

Boombox Plaza, 833 W. 63rd St. Saturday, April 29, 11am–3pm.

Stop by Boombox Plaza this Saturday to transform the space into a memorial garden dedicated to Chicago gun violence victims. Real and paper flowers welcome at this therapeutic and loving event. Tunes, food and beverages will be provided. (Bridget Newsham)

New Era Chicago Open Meeting

C.B.U.C., 300 E 27th St. April 27, doors 6:30pm, meeting 7pm. (872) 212-6026.

At this month’s open meeting, New Era Chicago asks: What is Black power and how do we get it? Learn about the Chicago chapter of New Era Nation while joining in on this roundtable discussion. Donations for their next Hood2Hood community clean-up welcome. (Adia Robinson)

Project Gentlemen 2017

Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Upper Wacker Drive. Saturday, May 27, 8am–4pm. Free. (773) 531-7719. Register at

This full-day interactive event aims to prepare young men graduating from high school for successful careers, healthy lifestyles, marketable skills, and balanced relationships. How? Through workshops, guest speakers, networking and on-site personal grooming, to name a few of the scheduled activities. Each gentleman attending will have the opportunity to leave with a complete business outfit from suit to shoes, as inventory permits. (Nicole Bond)


Geometric Expressions

Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St. Friday, April 28–Friday, June 9. (773) 523-0200.

The Zhou B Art Center will host an exhibit entitled “Geometric Complexions,” featuring thirteen artists working within a visual tradition originating as early as 1908 with Cubism. The exhibit will showcase a range of techniques and approaches to the medium. (Bridget Newsham)

BLOOM: A Community Project

Port Ministries Family Center, 5013 S. Hermitage Ave. Saturday, April 29, noon– 6pm; Sunday, April 30, 1pm–5pm.

Let the artist in you blossom this weekend. Join community members and local artists in painting flowers on the exterior of The Port Ministries’ Family Center. While painting, attendees can enjoy artist talks, a “seed bomb”-making workshop, short film screenings, and several vendors. Sunday will include live music and a discussion of how women can plant resistance. (Adia Robinson)

Running Street Art Tour / Re-corriendo el barrio

National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. Saturday, April 29, 10am–1pm. (312) 738-1503.

Multitaskers, get your daily steps in and get your culture on in the Running Street Art Tour of Pilsen. Miguel “Kane One” Aguilar will lead a run for all levels, taking joggers on a tour of the nonpareil public art splashed across the neighborhood. Improve your cardiovascular health and your aesthetic appreciation. (Joseph S. Pete)

Public Art from Pavement to Policy

Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Tuesday, May 2, 5pm–8pm. Free. (773) 324-5520.

Desi Mundo, founder of the Community Rejuvenation Project, will spend this evening leading a “self-education forum” on the role of public art. He will screen the Alice Street Film Short and share stories alongside statistics to explain the function of art in policy through his experience as a professional muralist and educator. (Ashvini Kartik-Narayan)

Lesley Jackson: Walking with Rilke

4th Ward Project Space, 5338 S. Kimbark Ave. Through Saturday, May 6. Saturdays, 1pm–5pm, or by appointment. Free. (773) 203-2991.

Multimedia artist Lesley Jackson uses objects like gathered leaves, a rubber band, and tree bark to evoke the “romantic struggle with mortality” of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke at this month-long exhibition in Hyde Park. (Jake Bittle)


Elephant Room Gallery, 704 S. Wabash Ave. Through April 29. Saturdays, 11am–5pm, or by appointment. (312) 361-0281.

This solo exhibition by artist BURN353, a graffiti and mixed media artist from downstate Illinois, looks back on a childhood spent spray-painting freight trains and watching hip-hop films, and showcases pieces from his extensive painting and design work. (Jake Bittle)

Closing Reception: Aspects of the Whole

Studio Oh!, 1837 S. Halsted St. Through April 27. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 1pm–6pm, or by appointment. Free. (773) 474-1070.

“Aspects of the Whole,” curated by Studio Oh!’s Lisa Stefaniak, uses grid patterns to cut through and segment the work of four photographers and artists (Adam Lofbomm, Otto Rascon, Robert Tolchin, and Stefaniak herself), breaking down images and putting them back together in strange and captivating ways. (Hafsa Razi)

Intercessions: Art as Intervention and Prayer

Rootwork Gallery, 645 W. 18th St. Through May 21; see website for performance schedule. (917) 821-3050.

“Intercessions” brings together visual and performance art to contemplate “the body and the spirit; the sacred and the profane.” The opening reception features the work of painter, sculptor, and performance artist Maya Amina, as well as percussion and mixed media artist Xristian Espinoza. (Hafsa Razi)



The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. Friday, April 28, 9pm doors, 10pm show. $22 general admission, $35 per seat for tables. 21+. (312) 801-2100.

See Ohio native Stalley and Philadelphia legend Beanie Sigel perform at the Promontory to celebrate Stalley’s full-length debut—titled, yes, Ohio. Find out what Stalley means by “Intelligent Trunk Music” this Friday. (Roderick Sawyer)


Reggies Music Joint, 2105 S. State St. Saturday, April 29, 8pm. $12. 21+. (312) 949-0120.

Jucifer, one of the earliest two-piece heavy metal groups, will be making a tour stop in Chicago. They’ve been on tour nonstop since 2001, bringing their “odd compositions” and “on-stage improvisations” to more than twenty countries each year. Come see a band that’s been compared to everything from Slayer to Neurosis. (Adia Robinson)

The Jayhawks

Thalia Hall, 1708 S. Allport St. Saturday, April 29, doors 7pm, show 8pm. $26–$360. (312) 526-3851.

“Alt-country,” born in the nineties, eventually grew large enough to spawn the still-running magazine No Depression. Acts like The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, and Chicago’s own Wilco offered an edgier, lo-fi alternative to Nashville’s mainstream balladeers. Coming out of Minneapolis, the aforementioned Jayhawks swing through Pilsen this Saturday in support of their new album Paging Mr. Proust. (Joseph S. Pete)

Mining the Tradition: Modern Voices Reanimate Historic Jazz

Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Sunday, April 30, 4pm–6pm. Free. (773) 702-2787.

The UofC hosts a concert and conversation on the exploration and recontextualization of the work of historic jazz figures. Performers include drummer Dana Hall, bassist Clark Sommers, woodwind player Geof Bradfield, and pianist Ben Waltzer. Musicians will discuss the work of historic jazz figures like Melba Liston, Andrew Hill, Herbie Hancock, and more. (Roderick Sawyer)


Moving Images, Making Cities Film Series: This is the Life

Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave. Wednesday, April 26, 6:30pm–9:30pm. RSVP online. Free. (312) 857-5561.

Place Lab and Black Cinema House’s year-long film series continues with Ava DuVernay’s 2008 documentary on the Good Life hip-hop scene in South Central LA, a group of collectives that included DuVernay herself. “It was perfect,” recalls one artist in the film—to dig deeper, a discussion will follow with Tayyib Smith, founder of the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, and music journalist Briahna Gatlin. (Julia Aizuss.)

Karaoke for Kidneys

Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan Ave. Saturday, April 29, 4pm–10pm. $50 suggested donation.

Darvece Monson—who founded the 501(c)(3) More Than Your Kidneys—is partnering with Mercy Hospital to host Karaoke for Kidneys, the first of what will hopefully be an annual event, commemorating the legacy of Takiya Holmes. After Holmes was killed by a stray bullet in February at the age of eleven, her organs were donated to six people, including one kidney to her cousin, Monson. Proceeds will go to supporting patients and family members affected by CKD/ESRD/dialysis/kidney transplantation. (Michael Wasney)

NAJWA Dance Corps: Masks

DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl. Saturday, April 29, 7pm–9:30pm. $15$25. (773) 727-1773.

African dance and ceremonial masks combine in Najwa’s annual spring concert showcasing the dynamics of masks and maskmaking through the ages, whether as cultural ritual or as a retreat from personal truths. (Nicole Bond)

The Artists Lounge Open Mic

South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave. Every first and third Friday until June 30, 7pm–10:30pm. $7, $5 performers. (773) 373-1026.

This multi-genre open mic is the 2015 collaboration of wordsmiths Dometi Pongo and Johnetta “Awthentic Poetry”Anderson.  Poets, singers, emcees, musicians, and visual artists alike can showcase their talent every first and third Friday of the month, at the open mic’s newest home, the historic South Side Community Art Center.  (Nicole Bond)

(In)Justice For All Film Festival

Venues across the city. Through April 29. All screenings are free and open to the public. (847) 922-3361. 

Presented in conjunction with Trinity United Church of Christ and The Next Movement, over fifty films from socially conscious filmmakers are featured to raise awareness and inspire action to combat social ills leading to mass incarceration, many with conversations or panel discussion following. Highlights include Generation Revolution, chronicling the Black Lives Matter organization, at the Chicago Cultural Center; Dispatches from Cleveland and State of Fear: Murder and Memory on Black Wall Street—both  adding to the conversation around police misconduct—at the South Shore Cultural Center; and Saving Barbara Sizemore, focusing on CPS closures, at Chicago State University. Visit the website for the complete schedule of films. (Nicole Bond)


Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King Dr. Saturday, May 6, 5:30pm–7pm. $15, $10 students and seniors, $8 groups of ten or more pre-sale only. (773) 624-8411.

Red Clay Dance Youth Ensemble and Academy present their fifth annual Dance4Peace concert to celebrate youth committed to creating works about “peace and positivity.” This year’s event explores global citizenship and will include their Community Hug Award ceremony recognizing a local hero, culminating with the announcement of winners for their 2017 college and summer scholarships. (Nicole Bond)


Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. May 11–June 11. $15-$68. (773) 753-4472.

Long before there was Donnie Darko or Wilfred, there was Mary Chase’s 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Harvey. The titular character is an invisible rabbit that stands six feet and three inches tall and may end up imprisoning the “carefree and kind” protagonist Elwood P. Dowd in a sanitarium. (Joseph S. Pete)

Never the Milk & Honey

The Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Through Sunday, May 28. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays, 3pm. $21-$37. (773) 609-4714.

It is written that there is a land of milk and honey, promised as respite for the faithful when the world ends. Explore what happens as covenants and faith are broken, when the world doesn’t end as expected, in Joseph Jefferson Award winner Shepsu Aakhu’s newest play, directed by South Shore native Carla Stillwell. (Nicole Bond)

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