Today In The Culture, May 2, 2023: One Poem, One Chicago | Hank Willis Thomas and Coby Kennedy “Reach” at O’Hare | The Failure of The Nonprofit Industrial Complex


Photo of large sculpture showing hands reaching out to hold one another above anescalator.

“REACH,” by Coby Kennedy and Hank Willis Thomas at O’Hare

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Frankenthaler Prints To Block

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has named ten recipients of its Frankenthaler Prints Initiative, an ongoing program for university-affiliated art museums that reflects the Foundation’s commitment to supporting undergraduate and graduate education in the visual arts and art history. Each of the museums will receive a group of prints and five to ten related trial proofs drawn from the Foundation’s extensive collection of work by Frankenthaler. The museums also receive a one-time grant of $25,000 to develop a project or program for the study, presentation and interpretation of the editions and proofs within a three-year timeframe. The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern and the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, are among this year’s recipients. A history of the foundation’s grants here.

REACH Sculpture At O’Hare

The Chicago Department of Aviation and Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have unveiled the installation of “REACH,” a large-scale sculpture by New York-based artists Hank Willis Thomas and Coby Kennedy, in the Multi-Modal Facility at O’Hare International Airport. “O’Hare is the first thing millions of visitors see upon arriving in our city every year, and I’m proud to be able to use that first impression to highlight the work of so many talented artists,” CDA commissioner Jamie L. Rhee says in a release. “I look forward to the CDA’s continued partnership with DCASE as more art installations go up in the expanded and modernized Terminal 5 later this year.” Says DCASE commissioner Erin Harkey: “Through these new works—and the nineteen public art commissions featuring more than twenty artists coming to Terminal 5, we hope that people feel welcomed, represented, and inspired to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

“REACH” consists of two arms, approximately twenty-seven and thirty-one feet long, suspended between nine and thirty-four feet off the ground in the North Escalator Hall of the facility. Viewers approaching the three-story hall through the tunnel from the public lobby will see a massive beckoning hand overhead. The experience of the installation will dynamically change for viewers coming from the upper levels of the parking structure, with the sculpture appearing at eye level from the top floors and towering overhead as they descend the escalators to pass through and underneath the iridescent arms. Artists Coby Kennedy and Hank Willis Thomas: “As longtime collaborators we have had an incredible opportunity to create an artwork together and reframe a piece of public space, where most are in transit and passing through, for interconnectivity and togetherness. ‘REACH’ is a connection point and large-scale gesture that inspires us to come together.”



MHub To The West Side

“Manufacturing innovation center mHub announced the $50 million redevelopment of a century-old Near West Side factory building, with plans to relocate by fall,” reports the Trib. The publicly funded $50 million project “will convert the vacant building at 240 North Ashland into an 80,000-square-foot innovation space designed to accelerate the development of new products for hundreds of companies. The move will give six-year-old mHub more room to work than its current home in River West.”

How States Could Break The Internet

Reports the New York Times: “Louisiana is at the forefront of a sweeping national push to insulate young people from potentially harmful content by requiring certain online services to bar or limit minors on their platforms. As a result, people in many other states may soon find that they, too, need to use credentials like digitized drivers’ licenses to access a host of services, including popular social media apps. The proposed restrictions, introduced by at least two dozen states over the last year, could alter not only the online experiences of children and adolescents. They could also remake the internet for millions of adults, ushering in a tectonic cultural shift to a stricter, age-gated online world.”

Illinois’ First Privately Built Toll Bridge Opens For Truckers

A mile-and-a-half long toll bridge, the Houbolt Road, “aimed at saving truckers time and reducing congestion around major warehouse and shipping facilities near interstates 80 and 55 in Joliet has opened,” reports Crain’s.

Mississippi River Waters Rising To Near-Records

“People along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois are warily watching rising water levels from the spring snow melt,” reports NBC 5. “The National Weather Service said many of the crests across the region this spring will rank in the top ten all time but will remain several feet below the records set in past floods… The river peaked in the Dubuque area Saturday at 23.03 feet—well below the 25.7 feet record—but officials there were grateful to have the floodwall the city built fifty years ago in place.”

City Taking Out Toxic Lead Pipes When Replacing Water Mains

“Chicago spent the past decade tearing up streets to replace aging, sometimes leaky water mains, borrowing more than $400 million and doubling the cost of water to pay for the work,” reports the Tribune. “On every one of the 792 miles dug up, crews hired by the Department of Water Management connected new cast-iron water mains to old lead pipes known as service lines that bring water into single-family homes and two-flats… The department continued this routine even after a 2013 federal study… found it can expose people to alarming concentrations of lead… With fewer than ninety miles of water mains still to be replaced, state law is forcing city workers and contractors for the first time to pull out toxic pipes at the same time.”

CTA Targets The Crime Of Grime

The CTA announced a “Goodbye, Grime” campaign, “complete with digital ads, to highlight $6.5 million in repairs and improvements planned for rail stations,” reports the Sun-Times. “Cleaner transit stations and fleets are part of a bigger effort to boost sagging ridership and public confidence in the agency that has taken a hit this year.”

Willis Tower At Fifty

“The 110-story skyscraper at 233 South Wacker was topped out May 3, 1973. It ended the Empire State Building’s four-decade reign as the world’s tallest building and transformed the West Loop into a glittering office corridor,” reports the Tribune. “Kathleen McCarthy, global co-head of Blackstone Real Estate, said she’s confident Willis Tower will continue thriving. Her company plunked down $1.3 billion for the building in 2015 and then spent more than $500 million modernizing it.” Todd Heiser, co-managing director of the renovation’s lead architectural firm Gensler, tells the Trib, “At fifty, we all need a freshening up.”



Margie’s Candies’ Owner Was Eighty-Six

Dr. Peter Poulos, owner of Margie’s Candies in Bucktown, died last week at the age of eighty-six, reports WGN-TV. “Founded on the corner of Western and Armitage by his father in 1921, Margie’s Candies has been serving ice cream and candy for over a century.”

Shenarri Freeman And Erick Williams On Redefining Soul Food At Their Restaurants In Chicago And New York

“Soul food, the food historian Adrian Miller said, is ‘an immigrant cuisine and ultimately a national cuisine,’” writes Korsha Wilson at the New York Times. “Now more than a hundred years removed from the beginnings of the Great Migration, the chefs Shenarri Freeman, thirty, and Erick Williams, forty-eight, are celebrating and redefining soul food. Ms. Freeman, raised in Richmond, Virginia, is the executive chef at Cadence, a plant-based, Southern-inspired restaurant in Manhattan, and will soon be opening Ubuntu, a vegan African restaurant, in Los Angeles… Mr. Williams is a James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Virtue, Mustard Seed Kitchen, Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern and the fast-casual Top This Mac N’ Cheese, all in Chicago, where he was born and grew up. At each of his restaurants, he hands down the story of his great-grandmother’s Southern-heavy home kitchen in Chicago. She ‘allowed me an opportunity to be seen, heard and validated through her hospitality growing up.’”

Thirty Pitmasters For Windy City Smokeout’s Tenth Anniversary

Windy City Smokeout, the nation’s premier outdoor country music and BBQ festival, returns to United Center from July 13-16. The two-time winner of the Academy of Country Music Awards “Festival of the Year” will celebrate a decade with country music’s biggest names and up-and-coming talents, but more to point: BBQ. The local tastes include Bub City, Green Street Smoked Meats, Lillie’s Q, Pearl’s Southern Comfort, Smoque BBQ and Soul & Smoke. Coming into town include Hogapalooza, Wynne, Arkansas; Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield, Connecticut; LeRoy and Lewis BBQ, Austin; Meat Mitch, Leawood, Kansas; Pappy’s Smokehouse, St Louis; Peg Leg Porker, Nashville; Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood, Texas; Sugarfire Smoke House, St. Louis; Truth BBQ, Houston; and Ubons BBQ, Yazoo City. A limited number of single-day passes are available here.

Time Limits At Restos Likely To Stay

“As restaurants fight to remain profitable, it’s become common to put caps on how long diners can eat. It might be frustrating to customers, but it’s more than just a pandemic-era practice,” reports Bon Appétit.

Consumers Resist Price Hikes By Packaged Food Multinationals

“Some of the biggest packaged food companies raised their prices last quarter and their profits rose, but some customers were starting to cut back or trade down,” reports the New York Times. The corporations don’t intend to let go of their increased markups on foodstuffs: “Some of the same multinational companies that raised prices on food said the volume they sold went down.”



One Poem, One Chicago Invites City to Celebrate Poetic Lineage

The Poetry Foundation, in partnership with Chicago Public Library (CPL), Third World Press Foundation, Brooks Permissions, and Northwestern University Press announce One Poem, One Chicago. An opportunity to engage Chicagoans in poetry and foster a sense of community through reading, One Poem, One Chicago will launch with a reissue of Gwendolyn Brooks’ landmark collection “Blacks,” which will be available via CPL and public programming. One Poem, One Chicago is an extension of Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago, which launched in 2001.

Chicago’s connection to poetry has always been deep, from the founding of Poetry magazine in 1912, to serving as the home to poets who have changed the face of the literary arts through their unique voices and innovation. For the inaugural One Poem, One Chicago, copies of a newly published edition of Brooks’ “Blacks”—including its iconic cover—will be available at all eighty-one branches of the Chicago Public Library and at the Poetry Foundation in River North. A limited run of the collection will be available for purchase from Third World Press Foundation. More here.

First Wave Of Indiana Book Banning Will Cost State At Least $300,000

“Book banning comes to Indiana public library. A new review of all books to cost $300,000, and has left teen shelves empty of books, including Manga, Avengers graphic novels, Captain America comics, books about puberty and ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume,” posts PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman. “At the Hamilton East Public Library in Noblesville, almost-vacant shelves greet borrowers in the Teen Zone,” reports the Indianapolis Star, “due to an extensive review process ordered by the library’s Board of Trustees. Last year the board saw four seats turn over, including one now occupied by Micah Beckwith, a conservative pastor and former Republican candidate for a U.S. Congressional seat.”

Teens In All Fifty States Have Checked Out Over 100,000 Books From Brooklyn Library “Unbanned Books” Digital Initiative

“Celebrating National Library Week, Brooklyn Public Library announced a milestone in the fight against censorship and book banning: more than 6,000 young people, ages thirteen to twenty-one, have applied for a free BPL library card over the last year, providing them access to the Library’s entire digital collection of a half-million items [and] have checked out 100,000 books via BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative,” reports City Life Org.

Michigan Republicans Unite In Vote Against Librarians

In Michigan, Republicans rebuffed a House resolution to declare a Librarian and Library Worker day in the state, reports Michigan Advance. “Every House Republican voted in opposition to it, and none gave an explanation for their no votes. Right-wing groups have been targeting public and school libraries over books on racial and LGBTQ+ issues. In the 2022 election, Republicans like failed GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon made book bans one of their key campaign issues.”

Florida Library Bans Eight Nora Roberts Novels

The Martin County, Florida school district “recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts that are not ‘pornography’ at all—largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist,” reports the Washington Post. “Book banners are increasingly going after a wide variety of titles, including romance novels, under the guise of targeting ‘pornography.’ That term is a very flexible one—deliberately so, it appears—and it is sweeping ever more broadly to include books that can’t be described as such in any reasonable sense. Martin County is where twenty Jodi Picoult novels were recently pulled from school library shelves. This, too, was largely because of objections from that same Moms for Liberty activist… head of the group’s local chapter.” Roberts said, “I’m surprised that they wouldn’t want teenagers to read about healthy relationships that are monogamous, consensual, healthy and end up in marriage.”



Lyric Opera Rising Stars in Concert This Weekend

The Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera will present its annual Rising Stars in Concert on Saturday, featuring the artists of the 2022-23 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble, performing with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. The concert will be conducted by Roberto Kalb with stage direction by Crystal Manich, both in their Lyric debuts. The program will showcase repertoire by Bartók, Gounod, Puccini, Rossini and Wagner. Saturday, May 6, 7:30pm, at the Lyric Opera House. To receive two tickets, make a gift of at least $50 here.



Profiling “Gender Play”‘s Will Wilhelm

“Chicago-based actor, writer, and educator Will Wilhelm is the performer and debut playwright of ‘Gender Play, or What You Will,’ which they also co-created with Erin Murray. ‘Gender Play,’ which enjoys its world premiere production with About Face Theatre May 4-June 3, explores Shakespeare through a gender-imaginative eye, expanding trans joy and possibility into the classics,” podcasts American Theatre.



Wisconsin Likely To Close Many Schools

“Wisconsin’s public schools have fewer students in the classrooms. And since school funding is tied to enrollment, districts across the state are considering closing and combining schools,” reports Wisconsin Public Radio. “Racine, Wausau, Superior and La Crosse are among the school districts with plans to close or consolidate schools due to declining enrollments.”

New Jersey’s Oldest Mall Closed To Teens On Weekend Nights

“New Jersey’s oldest mall is going to [turn away] its younger shoppers—unless they’re accompanied by adults,” reports Gothamist. “Any visitor to the 233-store Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus under the age of seventeen must be accompanied by a parent or another adult over the age of twenty-one… Those without ID might be asked to leave the property.” Management says, “Like many shopping centers across the country, we have experienced an increase in disruptive behavior that violates the center’s code of conduct by a small minority of younger visitors.”

The Failure Of “The Nonprofit Industrial Complex”; Nonprofit Workers Organize

“The nonprofit industrial complex in the U.S. has failed artists,” Rocío Aranda-Alvarado and Lane Harwell of the Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression team assert at Hyperallergic, adding nine suggestions. “When we glorify the idea of a struggling artist, we are perpetuating the notion that artists are meant to be poor; that they do not deserve a living wage. When we look to artists for hope, healing, and help within our communities in the form of social services beyond arts programming, but take their labor for granted, we are stipulating that being an artist is not a real job… We must push back on [these narratives]… Creatives, artists, and storytellers are workers who deserve the dignity of a living wage for their major contributions to our social fabric and economy… In too many ways, philanthropy and the broader nonprofit industrial complex in the U.S. are failing.”

Meanwhile, nonprofit workers are organizing and negotiating, reports the New York Times. “As workers at private companies like Starbucks and Amazon start to organize across the country, so too are nonprofit employees, from adjunct professors to environmental activists. Yet inside mission-based organizations, union negotiations can be particularly awkward… ‘Workers, organizers, rank-and-file staff in nonprofits are trying to interrupt this “martyrdom” syndrome, that by doing this work, your job is grueling, you work long hours and you are paid very little,’ said Kevin Simowitz, the co-director of All Due Respect, which works to set new labor standards for community organizers.”

Zuckerberg Loses Trust Of Meta Workers

“Roiled by waves of layoffs and a costly investment in the metaverse, many insiders say the Facebook founder has lost his vision—and the trust of his workforce,” reports the Washington Post. “He is steering the company into an unprecedented morale crisis.” An employee told the Post, “It’s like they went from ‘move fast and break things’ to ‘slow down, break things,’ then ‘maybe fix it later on a case-by-case.’”


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