Today in the Culture, May 5, 2021: Thompson Center Officially For Sale | DePaul Art Museum, CSO & City Announce Reopening Dates

The Thompson Center interior/courtesy of JAHN, Photo: Rainer Viertlboeck


DePaul Art Museum Opens To Visitors

The DePaul Art Museum reopens to in-person viewing May 14. The exhibitions “LatinXAmerican” and “Claudia Peña Salinas: Quetzalli” will be on display through August 15 at the museum on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus.

Terra Foundation Grants Support Permanent Collections In the U. S.

The Terra Foundation for American Art announced nearly $2.5 million in grants to thirty-five arts and cultural organizations across the United States. The grants support projects through the foundation’s new two-year exhibition grant initiative, “Re-envisioning Permanent Collections: An Initiative for US Museums.” The foundation established the grant program to encourage museums “to delve more deeply into their collections to reveal a fuller multiplicity of artworks and voices that have shaped, in the past and up through the present, the artistic and cultural heritage of the U.S.,” the foundation says in a release. “The grants support permanent collection reinstallation planning and implementation as well as the development of temporary exhibitions drawn from museum collections. The foundation’s commitment to prioritizing equity and inclusion and to evolving the field of American art at large extends beyond artistic content and encompasses support for new, more inclusive models of research, interpretation, and collaborative engagement in exhibition planning and development.”

Anders Ruhwald To Art Institute Permanent Collection

Volume Gallery announced the acquisition of five works by Anders Ruhwald to the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. With the support of the New Carlsberg Foundation, the acquisition includes works from the past six years. “The variety of pieces now in the Art Institute are an incredible cross-section which represent Ruhwald’s dedication to color, form, surface and scale,” the gallery notes. “Anders Ruhwald works at the intersection of sculpture, design and craft but always with ceramic as his chosen medium,” writes the foundation. “The Art Institute adds five pieces to its collection. The five pieces from three different projects created in recent years. Together, they illustrate aspects of Ruhwald’s multi-faceted ceramic practice. The pieces span from site-specific narrative explorations inspired by urban conditions in the United States to studies of Danish glaze traditions.”

Luminarts Names Three 2021 Visual Arts Fellows

From 170 applicants and twenty finalists, Luminarts has chosen three Visual Arts Fellows for 2021, who will receive $7,500 each and continued support from the Foundation through professional development, performance opportunities and additional project grant funding opportunities. The recipients are Caitlyn Doran, Jennifer Chen-su Huang and Daisy Schultz.



What Light Through Jahnder Window Breaks?

The state of Illinois has finally gone and done it: the seventeen-story James R. Thompson Center and its three-acre footprint, long-massed in the Loop, is for sale.

Newcity’s May cover story by F. Philip Barash, “State v. Jahn: The Thompson Center is Dead, Long Live the Thompson Center,” measures the origins and fate of the Helmut Jahn-designed modernist bulwark, with comments from Jahn himself. “What more can be said about the Thompson Center that has not already been said by the legions of its champions and its detractors? That it is a masterpiece, a tour de force of postmodernism? That it is an eyesore out of character with its urban context? That it is monumental in a city resplendent with monuments? That it is a monstrosity? That tearing it down robs Chicago of an internationally renowned landmark? That tearing it down rids Chicago—and the patient taxpayers of Illinois—of a leaking liability? That it is a pioneering experiment in multi-use development? That it squanders a prime development opportunity? That it is sublimely beautiful? That it is sublimely ugly? That it currently faces the likely prospect of demolition shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Chicago’s creation myth. The city’s long tradition of preserving its architectural legacy is second only to that of giddily dismantling it.”

The state’s public solicitation for potential buyers is here. (The solicitation points out that Chicago is a “World Class City” with a notable “Waterfront.”) Amid technical language within the offering:  “The Illinois Department of Central Management Services  is issuing this request for proposals to prospective Developers interested in submitting proposals. CMS will utilize its staff to negotiate and execute the disposition of the JRTC and does not intend to utilize any brokerage services. Proposers must comply with the terms of this RFP during the procurement and in their proposals. CMS, in its discretion, may reject and not review or consider unsolicited or nonconforming proposals.”

“The sale of the Thompson Center has been discussed for nearly 20 years and we are taking another important step to making it a reality,” Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement recorded by the Sun-Times. “Selling the property provides a unique opportunity to maximize taxpayer savings, create thousands of union jobs, generate millions of dollars in real estate taxes to benefit the City of Chicago and spur economic development. My team looks forward to working with the
city as we move forward.”

The Trib’s Ryan Ori reports that offers are due August 16, per state officials: “An ordinance introduced in March by downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly would pave the way to the site being zoned to allow one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city… If the measure is approved by the full City Council, the 1.2 million-square-foot building could be replaced by a tower of more than two million square feet — enough space to reach a hundred stories.” The state must also close out the retail master lease “for shops in the lower concourse and first and second floors. The lease, controlled by Boston’s Winthrop Realty Trust and Chicago’s Marc Realty until 2034, has been viewed as a key impediment… The buyer also will be expected to keep the CTA train station… running continuously during any demolition and construction work.”

The Sun-Times editorial board weighed in at the end of last month: “If we’re looking at this deal with an eye toward history — and in doing so, we’re reminded of the long years of unrealized grand plans for Block 37 on State Street — we have to at least raise the possibility that the state will have to convey the building to a developer on the cheap, if not for free, in order to spark new development there… If a new building on the site is a must, City Hall must insist on a design process that is patient, public and bull-headed enough… We also believe the state should take advantage of this lull in the local economy to broaden the number of suitors and possibilities for the site by making an imaginative reuse of the Thompson Center — not just tearing it down — a serious option… The last thing Chicago’s Loop needs is for the Thompson Center to become an empty glass tomb waiting years for a suitor.”

Chicago Architecture Biennial Rewards Young Ideas

The deadline for the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s spring 2021 Student Ideas Competition is this Friday, May 7, asking young entrants to present design solutions to the prompt: “How can existing urban spaces be reimagined to better reflect the needs and interests of local residents?” The competition is open to Chicagoland students in grades 7-12 and is free to enter. “The Student Ideas Competition has, since 2015, encouraged middle and high school students to explore how design can play a role in creating shared spaces and improving communities. The Spring 2021 prompt—inspired by The Available City led by Artistic Director David Brown—asks young people to look to the needs of local communities as they imagine new uses for existing city sites or infrastructure,” CAB writes in a release.” Winners receive cash prizes up to $500. Information here.

Jesse White Calls For New Martin Luther King, Jr. Statue In Prominent Springfield Location

Secretary of State Jesse White calls for an enhanced presence for Martin Luther King, Jr. at the state Capitol. “White is calling for the creation of a new statue and is urging that it be placed in a prominent location on the Capitol grounds in Springfield,” his office says in a release about memorializing White’s early mentor. “White will contribute the first $5,000 to the fund established for designing and building the new statue of Dr. King.” As the Illinois House of Representatives has established the Statue and Monument  Review Task Force to review statues and monuments located on the Capitol Complex, the time is right, White believes, “to work in earnest to replace the current statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. located at the corner of Second Street and Capitol Avenue, which is across the street from the State Capitol Building.” White says, “I stand ready to help in any way that will bring about a new statue of Dr. King that is prominent, dignified and representative not only of the man as I knew him but of the man as he was known to the nation and the world. Dr. King is an icon, a man who stood for equality, who rejected bigotry and segregation, and who did so in a nonviolent manner. It is fitting and proper to commission a new statue of Dr. King and to find a more prominent location on the Capitol Complex.”



Restaurant Poaching By Delivery Companies May Be Made Illegal

Illinois is considering a law to stop delivery companies like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats from poaching business by listing restaurants without getting permission from restaurant owners, Eater Chicago reports. But at least one company counters that poaching is part of their business model. “Grubhub tells Crain’s, which first reported about the bill, that restaurants can email requests to remove menus and other content. They’re also ‘developing tools’ to make that easier after hearing complaints. Grubhub had maintained that one of its primary missions to stay competitive is to connect customers with as many restaurants as possible, even without authorization.” State Senator Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, “introduced a bill that would make these actions illegal. Senate Bill 672, the Fair Food Delivery Act would stop third parties delivery service ‘from using the likeness, registered trademark, or intellectual property belonging to a merchant without obtaining written consent from the merchant.’ The bill made it through the senate and awaits a vote from the house.”

Walmart Goes For Cheezborgers

“The world’s biggest retailer now has the world’s best burgers! Billy Goat Tavern Burgers are now at @Walmart!” tweets the venerable eatery from its “@cheezborger” account.

Supper Club Opens in Washington Park

The owners of M Lounge have opened The Park Supper Club, a restaurant and event space at 65 East Garfield in Washington Park that aims for elegance. “Your Supper Club Experience includes specialty cocktails and live entertainment while dining on sophisticated comfort food with international influences.” Open Thursday through Saturday.



Once-Legendary “Caligari’s Cure” Restored and Shown Via Hideout And CFA

Chicago Film Archives and The Hideout team for a virtual screening of “Caligari’s Cure,” the 1982 feature by Chicago filmmaker Tom Palazzolo (2020 Film 50) on Wednesday, May 12, followed by a Q&A with Palazzolo. His first feature-length fiction feature, seldom seen until CFA digitized the film in HD in 2020, is “an irreverent retelling of his Catholic upbringing that is both absurd and tender. Chicago (very loosely) plays a bizarro St. Louis populated with brightly colored hand-painted sets and Palazzolo’s full-grown SAIC students roped in to play the filmmaker’s childhood friends.” Details here.



Tahera Qutbuddin Awarded 2021 Sheikh Zayed Boo
k Award

University of Chicago Professor Tahera Qutbuddin is the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winner for Arabic Culture in Other Languages, for her work, “Arabic Oration: Art & Function,” which explores the cultural implications and impact of oration in the Arabic language. The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, with a $200,000 award, is one of the Arab world’s most prestigious prizes, dedicated since 2007 to Arabic literature and culture. Since 2007 the Award has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding work by authors. The award recognizes major literary and cultural achievements, but aims also to boost the publishing industry.

Bookends & Beginnings’ Best Day Ever

Evanston’s Bookends & Beginnings bookstore reports two milestones from the end of April: a fully vaccinated staff and on Independent Bookstore Day, April 24, the best sales day in the history of the store while maintaining capacity limitations. Bookends & Beginnings honors the site of the suburb’s venerated Bookman’s Alley, which closed in 2013 after thirty-three years at the location; Evanston has recently entertained the notion of glossing up the once-dusty nook of downtown: “The idea is to activate the space for people to hang out and enjoy the uniqueness of Evanston,” Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, told Evanston Now.



Talking The Talk About The Fate of the Trib

The Save Local News coalition of NewsGuild of Chicago Tribune Publishing Unions hosts an online event via Zoom on Wednesday night at 6pm to talk about… the uncertain future of the Chicago Tribune. “Hey, Chicago billionaires! And folks who like to know what’s going on in our city!” the group touts the event: “a panel of experts on the importance of local news… Alden Global Capital and philanthropic models for news… Join the workers of Tribune newspapers across the U.S., and stand up with us to fight for the news coverage our communities need—and deserve… Tribune Publishing management talks the talk, but under hedge fund ownership, simply does not walk the walk. Newspapers are under increasing pressures as an industry–and vultures like Alden Global Capital are stripping resources from our papers and communities to line their pockets. A better future is possible.” The Reader’s Philip Montoro posts that the conversation will cover the “pushback against Alden’s potentially catastrophic bid to buy out the Tribune—and to share stories of Alden’s predations at all the papers it owns nationwide.” Register here.



Chicago Symphony Sets Three Programs for May and June

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has announced the first concert performances for audiences at Symphony Center since March 2020. Three distinct programs, created with artistic guidance from Music Director Riccardo Muti, will be presented May 27 through June 13 and feature music for brass and percussion, string ensembles and orchestra, led by conductors Michael Mulcahy, Erina Yashima and Edo de Waart. They will be presented on consecutive weekends with performances on Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. For the May 27 opening concert, the CSO will host healthcare workers from Rush University System for Health. “Planned in accordance with current state and city COVID-19 guidelines for public events, the May and June concerts at Symphony Center, will be presented for reduced-capacity audiences in Orchestra Hall with safety measures in place,” the CSO says in a release (pdf).

Harris Theater Sets Virtual Season Finale 

The Harris Theater for Music and Dance announces its season closer, an all-new Beyond the Aria program featuring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, the 2018 Olivier Award winner for outstanding achievement in opera. DiDonato will perform with two Ensemble members of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, South African tenor Lunga Eric Hallam and Mexican soprano Denis Vélez. Accompanied by series artistic director and pianist Craig Terry, with cellist Kenneth Olsen, the artists will perform repertoire of their choosing. The program will be recorded live at the Harris on May 13, and then be available to stream, for free, on the Theater’s HT Virtual Stage, May 20–27.



Open Up, Chicago

Mayor Lightfoot expects the city to be “fully open” with no capacity limits by July 1; Governor Pritzker is aiming for July 4, “but those plans could change if there’s another uptick in coronavirus metrics,” reports Kelly Bauer at Block Club Chicago. “New cases and hospitalizations rose for several weeks in March, but they’ve fallen or plateaued recently. Officials have said the city and state can continue to reopen so long as those metrics don’t rise again — and they’ve urged people to keep getting vaccinated to prevent another rise.”

“I am working night and day toward this goal,” Fran Spielman reports the mayor saying, “But, we and I need you to continue to be on this journey with us. And that means getting vaccinated now. Every day that our COVID-19 metrics continue to tick downward brings us a day closer to being able to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror. Don’t skip to the end of the chapter, There’s more coming.”

Chicago Auto Show Revs

The Chicago Auto Show will be the first major convention during the pandemic, Block Club Chicago reports, at McCormick Place from July 15-19. The event was announced in a tweet by the Mayor, complete with a thirty-second video of the camera caressing curvy cars. “While this marks the first large convention to take place since the pandemic began, we expect to welcome other conventions and tourist events this summer with safety precautions.”

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