As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.✶ Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. ✶

I think I'll take the plunge and write the last post on Gapers Block before it goes on hiatus in an hour or so. I've been A/C page editor for a year and theater/arts writer for almost three years. Shorter tenure than many of the veteran GB writers, but I have written 284 posts during that time. I'm going to miss Gapers Block very much. It has been invigorating intellectually and emotionally to have a place to write regularly about the arts I love--theater, art, design, architecture, sometimes books or music.

My first post was in May 2013 for the Book Club page. It was a feature on Richard Hell, the punk rock performer of the '70s, best known for his "Please Kill Me" shirt. He talked, answered questions and signed copies of his new book (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp) at the Book Cellar on Lincoln Avenue and I felt fortunate to see the bass player and singer with the Voidoids, Television and the Heartbreakers. The fact that the Book Club editor let me write a feature about him made it even more rewarding.

It may be your father's pop art, but the work shown in the new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art is still fresh and fun. The art that shocked the elite art world 50 years ago still has a story to tell today.

The new Pop Art Design exhibit at the MCA pairs 150 art works and design objects in an exhibit that sparkles with wit and irreverence. And it reminds you of how Andy Warhol's "Campbell soup can art" was first received with ridicule...by non-connoisseurs. That was just about the time that the elite collectors woke up and began buying Warhols.

Exposing truth, sharing untold stories, and releasing traumatic adversity can serve as a mental and emotional cleansing. In The Cairn Project, by Corinne Peterson, participants from the Chicago area are invited to join in workshops where they handle clay and porcelain, and share their trauma in order to see their light. Individuals are instructed to create a "rock" from clay to represent their inner darkness or trauma, and then create a small token of light, which is made from porcelain. Once the workshop is finished, Peterson displays a mound from the clay "rocks" and installs the porcelain tokens as a cloud of hope above the cairn.

Currently at the Lillstreet Art Center, Peterson's exhibition, "Cairn & Cloud: A Collective Expression of Trauma and Hope", was created with participants from 60+ workshops and includes various clay sculptures which entice meditation and reflection.

I sat down with the artist on two of her meditation seats in the exhibition space and discussed the ideas behind The Cairn Project and the universality of trauma and hope.

Students of Chicago's history, photographers and preservationists have been steeped in Richard Nickel's odes to the city and his memory. But the typical discussion about Nickel is only as a legend: the man who gave his life for architecture.

Fortunately, Chicago-based City Files Press published its second book about the photographer and activist, Richard Nickel: Dangerous Years: What He Saw and What He Wrote. This book is a special opportunity to simultaneously experience Nickel's work and understand him as a person through more than 100 photographs and another 100 documents, many of them handwritten by Nickel.

A spread featuring a letter declaring Nickel's studies at the Institute of Design and an early self-portrait.

A rare exhibit by eight young Iranian photographers representing diverse geographic areas of their country opened recently at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. The exhibit is open through today.

A Journey Inside presents the work of a much larger project involving eight Iranian photographers and a compassionate portrayal of their country. The project consists of two parts. First, the artists participated in a training segment to learn from others in the industry through workshops and other resources. The exhibit is the second part of the project.

Perhaps you've noticed the street banners parading in downtown, or are a returning shopper, but next month, the One of a Kind Show and Sale will return for its 15th annual holiday sale. The handmade shopping event will include more than 600 artists, craft makers and designers from all over the United States.

Opening at the Elephant Room Gallery Nov. 13 is a new exhibition by Jennifer Cronin, an Illinois native whose new project, Shuttered, features a series of realistic drawings from dilapidated houses in the far south side neighborhoods. Below is an interview that was conducted via email and further expands on Cronin's beginnings in drawing, interest in Chicago architecture, and gravitation to detail.

Spooky and scary events allow us all a little fun in this so-far warm fall weather. With the witches in place in the hallway and the squirrels already eating the pumpkins on the porch, I hope I'm not the only one looking forward to some bloodcurdling scares this Halloween season. So here's a list of 14 thrilling theater productions and other artistic events (in no particular order) so that you can celebrate Hallow's Eve this year.

Chicago's only "Retrotainment" venue gives you reason to enjoy burlesque, comedy, circus, magic and the speakeasy lifestyle every night for the rest of October. No One Here But Witches features witch-themed cabaret Monday nights at 7:00pm. Each other 8pm nightly production brings another magical experience at the Uptown Underground featuring "gore-lesque", freak-show striptease, circus arts and more. 21+ Advance reservation recommended. Click here for more information.

This year will mark the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 17th Benefit Art Auction after a five-year break. Works by more than 100 artists, ranging from painting to sculpture, will be included in the auction that begins this Friday with over 500 guests in attendance.

The MCA has a successful past with previous art auctions for the museum. In 2010, the museum raised $2.8 million from bidders and was able to spread out the proceeds for several fiscal years. "All of the money goes right back into supporting the MCA's core mission," says Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, whose role includes fundraising for programs and education within the museum.

Fragments of our mind are stitched together to form cohesive memories; the joy of noticing everyday tasks and celebrating them through visual connection, conversation and aesthetics, is the basis of Lynn Peters' sculptural and clay-based work.

Spontaneity Made Concrete, at the Lillstreet Art Center, focused on the narrative surrounding snapshots in life. Her works were mounted on the wall and featured animals, humans and forms that contributed to a collection of several planes that one exists on simultaneously. Additionally, Peters utilizes photography and text to activate the viewer and combine several media as a backdrop to the core of the sculptures. Stolen Moments is a large piece that displays four sculptures, each individually titled, Statue of Liberty, The Thinker, Mona Lisa, and Untitled, a ceramic self-titled sign, and a black-and-white photograph. The piece, in terms of subject matter and presentation, was the most experimental work in the exhibition and encapsulated the idea of imagination, fragmentation and a vision as a source of understanding.The image of the cart, which sits outside of the Ark Thrift Shop in Wicker Park, was the backdrop for the four sculptures on the wall. While the shop is filled with a plethora of clothing, furniture and an assortment of tchotchkes, Peters noted that the cart, outdated and torn, was a symbol for what the Ark is to the neighborhood. What existed inside the cart, similar to inside the Ark, was a mystery of the unknown, a mass of tattered cloth and last year's fashion trends.

Mexico City's VICO is a video project that conducts workshops and seminars that encourage the exploration of experimental cinema and film. For the first time in Chicago, VICO recently presented Counter-montages, Tinkering subjectivity, which included a collection of short films made from students in a workshop led by Javier Toscano. The program, co-presented by Little House and Comfort Film, featured 11 shorts from creators who were not traditional artists, or who did not consider themselves artists whatsoever.

The films shown were a collection of appropriated images, youtube videos, and political context that spanned Mexican culture and a digital realm. My Sweet 15 by Dulce Rosas presented a series of young women attending and performing at their quinceañera. By tradition, the women are adorned with extravagant dresses, jewelry and makeup for their 15th birthday celebration. In Rosas' short, the artist appropriated shots of girls dancing, celebrating and prepping themselves for the soon-to-be party. The beginning of the film focused on a baby girl who was crying and cradled; she represented the future character, or characters, at the quinceañera. The short film prodded at the honor, as several clips featured girls awkwardly dancing with dolls, or posing next to expensive cars. At first glance, it looks like an all-American teenage prom.

The 2015 Expo Chicago presented 140 galleries from all over the world last weekend at the Navy Pier festival hall. In a celebratory manner, THE SEEN, an independent editorial affiliate of Expo, released their first print issue over the weekend, and /Dialogues introduced panel discussions and conversations throughout the three bustling days. IN/SITU provided large-scale installations and site-specific works throughout the expansive hall inside and outside on Navy Pier.

The most memorable work in the IN/SITU program, possibly because of its location, was Daniel Buren's From three windows, which illuminated the space and released color while suspended from the ceiling. The residual program pieces were lost among the volume of visitors and rousing bodies that centered around the smaller works in the booths--glancing at what was above, and being lured in towards the interest of sales.

Artists like Jon Rafman or Paolo Cirio, who work primarily with Google Street View as a medium, have created images that are evocative and disturbing, often blurring the line of legal privacy issues. While capturing the individuals who fill the streets, alleys and lawns of the world is captivating, these artists have drawn on the public and an additional tool to conceptualize the public sphere. Since 2007, the launch of the panoramic technology featured on Google Maps and Google Earth has become an eccentric and often easy way to view places one may never go or places one desires to see.

Enter Marc Fischer, his project Public Collectors, and his recent exhibition at The Franklin, Hardcore Architecture. I interviewed Marc before his opening reception via email correspondence.

More than 30 visiting artists will show their work this weekend at the Around the Coyote arts festival at the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park.

Around the Coyote is a three-day festival celebrating the art and artists of Wicker Park. This Friday through Sunday, visitors can stop in at the Flat Iron Arts Building, tour artist studios, listen to live music and see theater performances. The festival kicks off with an opening night reception from 6 to 10pm Friday.

Synesthesia, by definition, is a "sensation experienced in part of the body other than the part simulated," most commonly associated with music being seen as color. Notable cases for the condition include, David Hockney, Duke Ellington and Vladimir Nabokov.

In the current exhibition at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Stevie Hanley, explores everyday experiences and expands the limitations of singular actions to a broader exploration of more than one view, emotion and association. Hanley has translated the medical condition to the form of an art exhibition. His ability to associate color and imagery with personal fear and curious observation is imagined in the exhibition, "Synaesthetica".

The International Museum of Surgical Science is filled with medical tools, equipment, inventions, and history, which contribute to the bizarre and somewhat mystical condition that is observed in the exhibition. Hanley invites viewers into two gallery spaces; both include video projections and installations, only one includes the hum of Dolly Parton.

Peter Skvara's exhibition Approaches, which consists of enamel paintings on mesh, and a collection of debris entitled "Flotsam, Jetsam, Lagan, and Derelict" is now on display at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery in River West. The paintings are based on flag semaphores used for communication between ships, and their meanings are repeated in the titles. Some of the paintings depict significations that might be seen together such as "I Am Drifting / Will You Give Me My Position" (2015, enamel on mesh). Other pieces, however, take on different, stranger meaning as assemblages of statements. One painting reads, "You are Running the Risk of Going Aground / I am Going Ahead"--a callous expression to one in need.

The gallery's press release for the Approaches exhibit mentions beauty and the sublime tied up in the idea of a ship on the infinite expanse of the overwhelming sea. Another way for the sublime to appear, however, is through the striving to generate perfection in the precise lines of the semaphores, which nonetheless reveal the human touch made more palpable in the method of painting as opposed to screen printing.

The Chicago-based architecture firm, VOA Associates, Inc., has been selected as the winner of a six-month architectural design competition, made possible by a grant from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

VOA Associates, Inc., will be designing the Pullman Artspace in the historic Pullman neighborhood, which will include 45 affordable live/work apartments, as well classrooms, an exhibition space, and workshops. Artspace Project Inc., has its headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington DC.

By designing a creative space, VOA Associates hopes to achieve a sense of honor for the historical "character of Pullman's landmark community" and welcome those who are interested in a creative weaving within the public sphere.

Overall, 20 architecture firms submitted and 10 semi-finalists were chosen. The three finalists for the competition were each awarded $10,000 to finalize their concept and VOA Associates was selected as the winner. The Pullman Artspace strives to preserve Pullman as a leading arts neighborhood with an immersive creative hub for its residents.

Nineteen sculptures by Chicago-born sculptor Charles Ray fill three large galleries on the second floor of the Art Institute's Modern Wing through October 4. Most of the pieces are figurative and tell their own stories, like "Sleeping Woman," a life-size stainless steel carving of a homeless woman sleeping on a bench. But a few are shockingly not figurative and two of the figurative ones have already shocked museum curators.

"Unpainted Sculpture" (1997, fiberglass and paint) is a faithful reconstruction of a crushed 1991 Pontiac Grand Am. Ray searched for the right wrecked car -- not too wrecked -- and then had it taken apart so that each piece could be constructed of fiberglass and then assembled as a car. Several people spent five days reassembling the sculpture in the Modern Wing gallery.

I've only been in the Hancock Tower once and I never thought it would be to visit an art gallery, but hey, there's a first for everything. Amused, I found myself inside the swarm of tourists and photographers who posed and smiled near a colossal sculpture that hung low from the ceiling in the lobby. In order to enter the space, I had to stop at the security desk where my driver's license was scanned and I was handed a slip with a barcode that granted me access through a futuristic gate. Once the door swung open I entered the elevator, free at last to look at art. I felt underdressed and out of place as I tiptoed quite dramatically to the glass doors of the Richard Gray Gallery.

Founded in the 1960s, the gallery has been a prominent and important creative hub for artists at both locations in Chicago and New York. The gallery is "collector orientated" and focuses on the importance of fine art, authenticity, and quality. Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jan Tichy, and Jaume Plensa, are some examples of artists who are represented by the Richard Gray Gallery.

The newest exhibition, Body Building, which opened July 6, is located down the hall from the main gallery room, which features works by Susan Rothenberg and David Hockney. Body Building, curated by Gan Uyeda and Raven Munsell, presents works from the 1900s until present day and focus on the relationship between the physical human form and the way that it is viewed through an architectural lens. The works in the exhibition date from 1917 to 2012, and display a variety of mediums and materials, such as wax, ink, wool, crayon, and collage.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is continuing its bold approach of exploring the confluence of the visual arts with other creative forms. The newly opened exhibit, The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chicago's experimental jazz collective, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which continues to expand the boundaries of jazz.

The exhibit, which opened July 11 and fills the museum's fourth floor galleries, is made up of several major installations and walls of vivid paintings that reflect the color and life of music. Many archival materials, such as photos, posters, record jackets, banners and brochures, establish a rich historical context.

The Wabash Lights has gone live with their Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a public art installation below the "L" on Wabash Avenue. By transforming the elevated tracks from Lake to Van Buren into an interactive and public display of light and color, The Wabash Lights will invite visitors and locals alike. With less than two weeks to go, the Kickstarter campaign has reached over half of its goal, but still needs the full amount in order to fund a beta test installation. The test will essentially troubleshoot any technical and design challenges for 12 months. Once the beta test is complete, the capital campaign will fund the final installation.

The project, which will include over 5,000 LED light tubes, will be situated on the underside of the tracks on Wabash Avenue. Phase One plans include over 20,000 feet of lights along a two-block stretch from Madison to Adams.Typically a dimly lit area in the city, Wabash Avenue would be transformed by the re-energization by the two designers, Jack Newell and Seth Unger. Not only will visitors be able to appreciate the array of colors, but they will also be able to interact and design how colors and hues appear. By utilizing a smartphone or computer, individuals can program and design the LED lights to their personal preference.

In order to donate money and receive awards such as Facebook shout outs, a party pack, Ttshirts, an artist's dinner, plus much more, back the project up on Kickstarter.

The newest exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art entitled Deportable Aliens will feature work from the Chicago-based artist, Rodrigo Lara. Opening July 24, the show will include site-specific installations that survey politics, immigration and social justice. The work largely depicts the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930s and the relocation of individuals in the U.S. who were of Mexican descent.

Deportable Aliens will open Friday, July 24, with a reception from 6-8pm and will be on view through February 28, 2016, in the Kraft Gallery.

Chicago Artists Month (CAM) features the creative work of Chicago-based artists and organizations through various events around the city. This year marks the 20th annual CAM event which will take place from October 1 through November 15.

This year, the theme is "The City as Studio," which will invite artists, performers, designers, writers, and community organizations, to look at the city of Chicago as a studio. Our environment serves as a means for productions, investigation, experimentation, and innovation. Through exhibitions, performances, installations, screenings, festivals, and more, Chicago is filled with events that sustain the creative community. For the 2015 theme, CAM will celebrate how the artists of Chicago are inspired by urban architecture, design, materials, people, history, and surroundings. Previous artists who have participated include: Yuri Lane, Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Victoria Martinez, and Ian Ferguson. CAM is looking for "experimental" and "innovative projects with a strong and original artistic vision".

Can we talk kind of seriously about comedy for a moment? Please understand that this question is posed in full recognition of how stupid an idea this is: since time immemorial it has been understood that comedy is a topic preternaturally averse to being examined in such a manner, ideologically like a thigmonastic plant, shrinking away in response to interrogative stimuli. Often though the harder a topic is to delve into, the more rewarding it is to explore.

The aforementioned topic hangs thick in the air because this weekend will see our fair city play host to some of the best stand-up comedy talent in the country at the second annual Comedy Exposition—recently named Best New Comedy Festival on the 2015 Reader Best Of Chicago list—which kicks off this Friday, July 10. The festivities run through Sunday night when the festival ends with a closing ceremony performance at the UP Comedy Club by the fantastic Todd Glass. In between the fest will feature some 75 comedians, with roughly half of that talent pool drawn exclusively from the local stand-up scene.

Chicago's 46th annual Pride Fest came fast around the corner this year with a two-day festival celebrating love, capped by Sunday's parade. In addition to the glitz and glamour of the day, a party entitled Froot Salad will occur Sunday at the Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

The space will include three rooms, two blackout rave areas, a full bar, food, and open windows to witness the parade in full action. Froot Salad will be filled with performances, visual arts, live DJs, and support from the local creative community. Curation is provided by Do312, The Lesbifriends Cartel, Cramer PR & Events, Stardust, VAM, Deep Eddy Vodka, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Riot Fest.

The Zhou B Art Center and the Ed Paschke Art Center are coming together to create a traveling exhibition, for both you and the artists. "Journey to Art" will be a community-coordinated event where Chicagoans are invited to attend the collaboration between both venues from June 19-21.The friendship of the Zhou Brothers and Ed Paschke is being celebrated and honored during the ongoing exhibitions at both locations.

By creating a sort of trade, or swap if you will, the Zhou Brothers will present their work at Jefferson Park's Ed Paschke Art Center, and the late Paschke's work will be in Bridgeport at the Zhou B Art Center. In addition to gallery spaces, the Zhou Brothers will be featuring their sculptural work at Jefferson Park for a family day event.

Urban sketchers? They're not graffiti artists or pavement chalkers. Urban Sketchers Chicago will hold their second annual Sketching Seminar dedicated to the art of on-location sketching July 11 and 12. Professional instructors will lead sketching sessions at various downtown locations with Chicago's famous architecture as background.

Ten workshops and four activities over the two days will address specific skills and techniques of sketching. The organization expects 100 to 120 sketchers to participate. The 2014 event attracted sketchers from the Midwest, Canada and Europe.

The work of DOES, a renowned Dutch graffiti artist, will be on exhibit from June 13 through July 31 at the Maxwell-Colette Gallery in Noble Square. The exhibit, titled Transition, will feature recent mixed media paintings on canvas, including large-scale work up to 18 feet in length. This is the artist's first solo show in Chicago.

Letterforms are DOES' passion, according to gallery director Oliver Hild. Transition will show text-based paintings where "words are visually imploded and reconstituted as aggregations of disarticulated, smoldering letterforms," but will also show work where DOES explores new ground visually and conceptually.

The project space, ACRE, is moving to a new, refined, larger-than-life, location at 1345 West 19th St., in Pilsen. The non-profit supports emerging artists and creates a space for ideas, collaboration, and experimentation. While the history of the new-- and simultaneously old--building dates back to a 1930s funeral home, ACRE will utilize the unique interior to create a foundation for future exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, and also will house books from the ACRE archive.

ACRE has received a generous donation but still needs $20,000 to create a suitable space in Chicago. Through Kickstarter, ACRE hopes to raise the remaining money to support their new exhibition and programming space for future residents.

Chicagoland, Manual Cinema's first original short, is a simple story, beautifully told. A coyote moves through the city at night, passing through parts familiar and unknown in a quest to feed her pups. Through her, we see the city as a place still wild, bursting with life and danger.

To bring the characters -- both human and animal -- to life, designers Lizi Breit and Drew Dir created intricate paper shadow puppets. Each limb was designed on computer, printed and assembled by hand, creating characters that are both true-to-life and surprisingly expressive.

Last week, GB's short documentary series, The Grid, released three 360° videos shot with a special six-camera rig. The videos, which let you point the "camera" in any direction, were about the April 28th demonstration at the CPD headquarters, droning in the Chicago Park District and the Art Institute's recent MFA show. This week, we're talking with The Grid's Ben Kolak and Kiyomi Mino about working with this new format.

An amazingly intricate recreation of Chicago from the game Cities: Skylines is just the latest reminder that with enough time, technology, and Red Bull, there are no limits to gamers' creativity.

Here are some other great gamer-made versions of Chicago. (Did we miss one? Post a link in the comments.)

This time of year, as we happily stow away our winter gear, many of us are reconsidering our wardrobes and cheerfully putting together ensembles from skin-bearing pieces we forgot we had over the long winter. Gone are the days of black pea coats and endless itchy wool accessories. Now we can wear what we want.

In the spirit of putting a little thought into our outfits, and in celebration of the end of a school year, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago recently staged their annual runway exhibition of fashion student work, The Walk.

Kruger Gallery Chicago in Lakeview will be presenting the works of Venezuelan artist, Jeffly Gabriela Molina, through June 27 in the solo exhibition, [My Business Is Circumference]. Molina's intimate paintings use domestic spaces to convey a conversation between the familiar and the surreal. Like Eva Hesse, who created grid-based abstractions on paper--a reaction to the male-dominated structures in minimalism in the 1960s--Molina's pieces convey a conversation of seriality and the woman's narrative.

Influenced by female writers--specifically Emily Dickinson's letters to T.W. Higginson--Molina utilizes trompe-l'oeil to visually liken her paintings to literary works, such as stories, poems, essays and letters.

The paintings of Jaime Foster, a Chicago-based artist, are reminiscent of the waves in Lake Michigan: When the fog has drifted and the overcast sky hangs low above the horizon, the water greets the shore with a kiss-and-go. Many of her pieces are vast--both in scale and in palette. Her work acknowledges the larger landscape--the water, the mountain, and the trees--but the core of her work is in the details--the foam of the water, the snow-covered crevasse, and the vascular tissue of a leaf.

"Philias," stemming from the title of Foster's upcoming solo exhibition, Biophilia, are the attractions and positivity that human beings feel towards the natural world: organisms, species, habitats, etc. Celebrating the "love of life," Foster utilizes her brush and paint to spiritually connect with the wider world around her and expose its awe-inspiring beauty.

Elephant Room Gallery will be featuring Jaime Foster's exhibition, Biophilia, from May 29 until July 3.

ACRE, an artist residency and exhibition space, and Ordinary Projects, are presenting the artist Noelle Garcia, in her installment, LÁLDISH, as a 2014 ACRE summer resident. The exhibit opened last weekend at Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop, 5th floor).

The exhibition includes an exploration of parental connection, her father's history, documents, and Native American lineage. "My father died at age 64. Convicted of murder at the age of 25 (while intoxicated) my father spent the majority of his life in prison", explains Garcia in her statement concerning the specific project. A string of emails exploring her fathers life and official records allow Garcia to create a connection between her and her estranged father.

Milwaukee-based artist, Sonja Thomsen, will be featuring her photographs, sculptures, and installations that focus on the quality of light at the DePaul Art Museum opening today. By utilizing the weightlessness in contrast with dimensionality, Thomsen visually examines the tension between color and light.

Thomsen stated in an interview with Columbia College Chicago Photography Department's Jennifer Keats, that she was a "...student of science. That language is something I'm drawn to in a poetic way, where knowledge is always in a state of becoming. I'm interested in the synergy that happens in the studio as catalyst for new understandings, never quite satisfied with conclusions that may eventually be disproved." She continues by explaining her influences, "How do we locate ourselves in the world? A multiplicity of ways, an always a shifting matrix, never a fixed point. I see each of my photographs and installations as a way to measure that locale, a way to assess the space between the mountain, the self and the light. My goal as an artist is to construct an authentic experience in which to recalibrate our perceptions..."

Thomsen's pieces were made during her residency at Latitude Chicago, where she had support from Hahnemühle FineArt.

Dr. Jorge Lucero, from the University of Illinois, is calling for artifacts, readymade or handmade, to be presented in the exhibition, The Barack Obama Presidential Library. The works submitted will be curated and organized by Lucero and then presented with a descriptive placard that will be written by the contributor of the artifact. The artifacts are made to serve as a dialogue about the 44th presidency. The question arises: "How complex can a history be and who gets to 'write' it?"

The show will be the first exhibition in the new location space of the Southside Hub of Production (SHoP), which is now located at 1448 E. 57th St.

The exhibition will be on view for the months of June, July and August. Please submit artifacts before June 1, 2015.

FlySpace, a collaborative group of movement-based dance and arts organizations, has welcomed a new partner into the fold.

Jan Bartoszek of Hedwig Dances, Margi Cole of The Dance COLEctive and Michelle Kranicke of Zephyr Dance formed FlySpace to join together on issues of audience engagement, visibility, marketing, and finance and to start a dialogue on art innovation.

They introduced Joseph Ravens of Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery, a performance art space, as FlySpace's newest member.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum and High Concept Labs are joining together to present a full day of events on Saturday, May 9, for panel discussions and rehearsals, which focus on contemporary dance and dramaturgical processes.

The free event invites creators, artists, dramaturges, performers, students and the greater Chicago community to engage in the conversations and dialogue concerning the practice and theory of movement and the body.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago will present the 81st edition of its annual runway show for 2015. The show, presented three times in one day on Friday, May 8, at Millennium Park's Chase Promenade, will support the production of student work and scholarships in THE WALK.

The students in the SAIC Department of Fashion Design have created works that include performance, sculpture, design and installation, SAIC students have created an electrifying evening that incorporates cross-disciplines and a combination of techniques.

amfm, a Chicago-based arts, music and fashion web portal, will present their first art exhibition, Can I See Your ID?, at Cultura gallery, 1900 S. Carpenter St., during the Pilsen Second Friday art walk May 8.

When someone asks to "see your ID," you're being asked to expose the basics -- a photograph that fashions last year's hair color, a height that doesn't matter, and a hazel eye color that changes with the seasons. Is this how you want to be perceived? Is your ID a reflection of who you are as an individual? By approaching someone entering a bar and saying, "Can I see your ID?" the bouncer is asking, "Who are you?" -- a question that is summed up by glancing at our choice of ID. amfm has asked several artists to feature a facet of themselves in the exhibition that they would like to explore, erase or simply present.

Local artists will be presenting and featuring their true and authentic identities in the amfm exhibition. Societal labels, struggles, talents, and all things encompassing the "self" will be featured by the selected four creatives, Sam Kirk, Barrett Keithley, Madhuri Shukla and Chantala Kommanivanh.

amfm was initially created as a college thesis in 2009 by founder Ciera McKissick but has since moved to an online publication. The collective serves as a hub for artists, makers, thinkers and doers who want to expand and share their stories.

The exhibition will be open May 8 from 6 to 10pm during the Chicago Arts District 2nd Friday Gallery Night in Pilsen.

Archibald Motley Jr. was not your average African-American male in 1914. The man who became a world-renowned artist and contributor to the Harlem Renaissance was the son of a Pullman porter and the daughter of a former slave. But in 1914, he became a painting student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied there for four years. The rest, as they say, is history. . Motley, known for the paintings that chronicled African-American urban life in the 1920s and '30s, was born in New Orleans and raised in the Englewood community, which was then a predominantly Irish-German-Swedish neighborhood. He socialized in Bronzeville and its vibrant cultural life inspired many of his paintings. He also spent time in Paris in 1929-30 on a Guggenheim Fellowship and in Mexico in the 1950s with his nephew, Willard Motley. (Author of novels including Knock on Any Door and Let No Man Write My Epitaph, Willard Motley was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014.)

Last year, the Chicago Loop Alliance invited the public to interact and experience the alleyways of downtown Chicago. Bringing interactive artists such as Luftwerk, and hosting a party-like atmosphere, the Loop was transformed into a pop-up urban experience. Beginning May 15, the CLA will be hosting six nights of ACTIVATE one night each month until October.

Nearly $400,000 was produced for local Loop businesses in the first seven ACTIVATE events from 2013-2014 and more than 14,000 attended the event during the series. The series will be continued this year from May until October with new artists, music, and culture, which were carefully curated for the public.

If you're itching for a packed day of art, events, exhibitions and ceremonies, then the Hyde Park Art Center will tend to your creative needs this Sunday, April 19. Being the first space to exhibit the work of the Hairy Who artists in the early 1960s and currently housing a flourishing residency, several galleries and ongoing events, the HPAC is a hotbed for Hyde Park artists and locals.

The spring exhibition receptions include several openings and closings that feature resident artist, Susan Giles, solo artist Nancy Lu Rosenheim, HPAC students Charles Heppner and Diane Jaderberg, filmmaker Melika Bass, and ArtShop. The receptions will take place from 3 to 5pm Sunday and will include three new exhibitions in addition to ongoing exhibitions that are coming to a close.

Thirteen paintings by Edward Hopper are brought to life (sort of) in a film that's being screened Friday and Saturday at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Shirley: Visions of Reality is an Austrian film written and directed by Gustav Deutsch, who will be at the Saturday screening in person to talk about his film. The film is being shown as part of the Siskel Center's European Union Fillm Festival.

The 13 films are tied together by a loose narrative involving a single protagonist, played by Stephanie Cumming. The film is not an action flick, but it's weirdly mesmerizing. The sets transmogrify into the Hopper paintings as the actors gradually move into the final poses that Hopper portrayed on canvas. Paintings such as "Morning Sun," "Office at Night" and "Hotel Room: 1931" are among those dramatized.

The best-known Hopper painting, "Nighthawks," is not one of the 13 shown in the film. But you can see it any day at the Art Institute of Chicago. And a painting, like many other arts, is always better live.

Shirley: Visions of Reality will be screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets are $11 or $6 for members. You can buy them online or at the theater.

When I read that the post-rock, Icelandic band Sigur Rós commissioned Melika Bass to direct and produce a music video for their composition, "Varðeldur," I wasn't terribly surprised. Bass' archetypical characters and magical components cohere with the subliminal sound that is the framework of Sigur Rós. The ethereal and red-headed character for "Varðeldur" appears as another one of Bass' character studies. In her current solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in the Kanter McCormick Gallery, Bass presents a reoccurring character, as well as two male characters, who share similar professions but all live different lives.

The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast introduces familiar faces (if you're a Bass fan) and continues and expands on the past and present. The characters connect visually, thematically, professionally, and fictionally, throughout the installation-based exhibition at the HPAC. Archaic and modern, the characters crawl through bushes, bath in public restrooms, listen to sermons on an iPhone and work in their tool shed.

Kruger Gallery Chicago is presenting ESCOMBROS (spanish for "rubble"), which features work from the Chicago-based and Mexican-born artist, Luis Sahagun. The exhibit opens with a reception from 6 to 9pm tonight.

Sahagun's background is rooted in the working class — his grandfather worked in the Chicago Heights steel industry, his father in field work, and Sahagun himself has a strong background in construction. The solo exhibition features large-scale paintings on cardboard, as well as installation and video pieces, which emulate his background as a Mexican-American growing up Chicago Heights.

The series includes 20 textured pieces that thrive as self-portraits and self-reflection in terms of youth, labor and experience. Chains, metal, fabric, concrete, cardboard and wax make up the "anthropological site that represents a community" and expands on the concept of identity vs. material. Luis' intimate relationship to his work, not only through his physical touch, but through his autobiographical self, creates a penetrating visual narrative of a community.

Great Lakes Tattoo will be hosting the first ever Midwest solo exhibition of New York City tattooer and visual artist, Thom DeVita. The exhibition, American Folk Art$, will open Thursday, March 19, and will be on view until March 22. Additionally, the artist will exhibit at the Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention March 20-21.

Thom Devita is an 82-year-old prolific artist whose career spans 50 years. Bridging the gap between his personal style and "old school" biker tattoos, DeVita was, and remains, an important figure in the tattooing community. Working illegally in New York City during the mid '60s and '70s, DeVita began paving his own way into the art community and created a unique aesthetic.

DeVita has focused on his pen-and-ink drawings and 3D works since 2003. Reminiscent of his years as a tattoo artist, DeVita creates loose and textured pieces that are an "iconographic style of American tattooing." The Harlem-born artist will present his work at Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand Ave., March 19-22. The Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention will feature several of his pieces March 20-21 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, 9300 Bryn Mawr Ave. in Rosemont.

The new Evanston gallery, Sidetracked Studio, will host its first exhibition curated by Michele Mahon Jahelka Saturday from 6 to 9pm. The artist couple, Lauren Levato Coyne and Rory Coyne, work upstairs in the studio producing their own work, while the showroom on the first floor presents rotating exhibitions.

The all-female exhibition, What Did She Say? , will present works that span the spectrum from oil to wood and printmaking to drawing. Each artist brings forth a dialogue for perspective and communication through a variety of mediums. Jahelka urges viewers to "Stop and listen" when entering the exhibition space and derive meaningful contexts within the gallery and with the individual works.

The artists in the exhibition include: Raeleen Kao, Amy Ventura, Lauren Levato Coyne, Mary Lou Novak, Teresa James, and Kristina Smith.

The exhibition will be on view until May 10. The studio and gallery space is located at 707 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Gallery hours are noon to 6pm Wednesday through Saturday.

The commotion (and borderline hysteria) over the recent David Bowie exhibition [PDF] at the Museum of Contemporary Art in January has ceased -- the elaborate costumes and platform boots have bid adieu to Chicago and are traveling across the ocean into another realm of dreaminess and glamor.

The aura, subsequently, has changed. Visually powerful, elegantly arranged, and rich with conversation, the museum has welcomed sculptor Doris Salcedo in a retrospective that spans her 30-year career. The Colombian artist's exhibition opened Feb. 21 and will be on view until May 24.

Salcedo, a public-works artist, has transformed the fourth floor of the MCA into an installation that urges viewers and visitors to slow down, meditate, and remember the lives that she chooses to commemorate. Each death and each disaster draws Salcedo into a creative process involving found objects, every-day materials, and findings from the earth. While her works are created due to specific events, each piece acknowledges universal loss and bereavement. Salcedo urges viewers to never forget; the reminder is crucial.

I'll have to admit, I'm a little -- okay more than a little -- immersed in the online archive, Inside/Within. I won't go into specifics about how sleek their website is, or how they sometimes incorporate .gifs into interview segments, but I will go into how important I think studio visits are for eager fan-folk (like myself) and how, similarly, they are beneficial for the artists themselves. In a nutshell, Inside/Within is an online archive that visits, absorbs and features Chicago artists in their creative spaces. Exposing an artist's creative space allows for other artists, or interested peers, to gain insight into what goes on behind the scenes. The website has a pretty large collection of captivating interviews and close-ups of studio practice. For both reader and artist, the process enables creative growth and the ability to share ideas and artistic practice.

So, of course, excitement and dedication forced me outside into the fresh snow and black ice when I heard that VIA Publication and Inside/Within were hosting an event at Threewalls called "I Like Your Work."

Underground Unseen is the first exhibition of 2015 for FLATS Studio, a gallery space located in Uptown. FLATS strives to "develop, enhance, and engage" their neighborhood community by channeling the arts and representing Chicago creatives. The studios provide housing for residents who apply, as well as gallery spaces and exhibition venues.

On Feb. 20, FLATS will be hosting Underground Unseen from 6 to 10pm at 1050 W. Wilson Ave. The night consists of visual arts, performance, and sound, as well as the launch of the magazine publication, VAM, a new production which focuses and celebrates emerging artists in the Chicago area. The exhibition will feature photographer Todd Diederich, video artist Mikhail Khokhlov, textile artist Kristi O'Meara, street artist Ali6, and Allison Van Pelt. Additionally, Owen Bones will be DJing for the night and Antibody Corp will be performing at 8pm.

Koval Distillery and Lakeshore Beverages will be serving drinks for free throughout the night. Although there is no charge to enter the gallery, they do ask that attendees RSVP to rsvp@flatschicago.com with the number of guests attending.

"Pushing the paint around -- it's always in an attempt to get at something: something true, powerful, good. Paint is pure, innocent...it holds the potential to become an image that captures a facet of the elusiveness that is one's experience of being alive. In this way, the practice of art-making honors both the love and the suffering by keeping a record while always remaining vulnerable," states Rebecca George, founder of The Art House, a studio workshop and gallery based in Chicago.

The Art House, located at 3453 N. Albany, offers artist residencies, innovative coursework, advanced support for artist's professional practice, and above all, an environment to flourish as a creative individual. The studio/gallery offers instructional courses for the development of personal momentum and a meaningful connection to one's work while expanding and strengthening the technical language of material and method.

The downtown Chicago alleyways were filled last summer. Music, creative participants, performers and drinks were offered by the Chicago Loop Alliance in an event called ACTIVATE. The Chicago Loop Alliance strives to promote urban experiences which involve performance, art, and culture. The event attracted on-lookers, buyers and artists from all over the loop and beyond. This summer, CLA is activating again.

Artists, curators, designers and all-around creatives are invited to submit (PDF) their ideas and work in a chance to work closely with ACTIVATE. Creative exhibitions filled up the alleys of the loop last year and transformed the urban landscape of Chicago into an interactive party. Last year, 143 artists participated and 14,000 people attended the event.

Submissions are due by 11:59pm March 27. For further info, call 312-782-9160 or email info@chicagoloopalliance.com.

Every so often, weird stories surface in the news about people harboring a roofing nail, pair of scissors, toy dinosaur or other bizarre object in their dark interior. We read these accounts and recoil at the thought of something so alien making its home inside the human body. Yet millions of us are hosts to an array of medical devices made from metal, plastic and other synthetic materials, from pacemakers and stents to artificial joints and silicone gel implants.

Foreign Bodies, Vesna Jovanovic's exhibit of seven drawings at Packer Schopf Gallery, spotlights our new medical reality and its biological and ethical implications. Striking in size and execution, the works offer drawing purists plenty of virtuoso technique while prodding viewers to consider the degree to which rapid changes in our medical landscape are upending conventional conceptions of the human body.

Calling all plant lovers and plant parents! (Provisional) Park would like you to place your plants on temporary loan for a project in Bridgeport.

(Provisional) Park will be a temporary indoor park made up entirely of your wonderful green and tropical houseplants, located inside of Co-Prosperity Sphere at 3219-21 S. Morgan St. The project was created by artist Allyson Packer, who graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a BFA in 2009. The park will free and open to the public March 6-April 3 between 6am and 11pm.

If you would like to lend your plant to Packer for the duration of the park, email provisionalpark@gmail.com to schedule a pick-up or feel free to bring your plants to Co-Prosperity Sphere between 10am and 5pm on Sunday, March 1. Have no fear, your plants will be returned in April once the project is completed!

Lands End, a new exhibition at University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts curated by Zachary Cahill and Katherine Harvath, focuses on physical boundaries, the human psyche, and a revitalized concept of landscape. The notion of a "beginning" or a boundary of "separation" is displayed in the videography, auditory, painterly, and interactive work by 13 multidisciplinary artists represented in the exhibition.

Calling all artists, architects and designers! The nationally acclaimed artist residency, Ragdale, is accepting proposals for the third annual Ragdale Ring, an outdoor performance and theater space.

For the project and residency, Ragdale is seeking a "full-scale project and installation" which will be similar to the original Ragdale Ring created and designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912. The recipient will receive a $15,000 production grant to fund the project, a large studio, room and board for up to 10 people for 18 days in May.

Deadline for submissions is Feb. 20 and the selected month for the residency is in May. Ragdale is located at 1260 N. Green Bay Rd. in Lake Forest, 30 miles north of Chicago. If you are interested in participating in the Ragdale Ring Project, begin the application here. For more questions, call 847-234-1063 or email: info@ragdale.org Ragdale hosts up to 150 artists, writers, composers and various creatives at any stage in their career for 18-25 days each year. The residency grounds are made up of 50 acres of prairie, family style dinners, and supportive interactions in the program.

Upon walking into the Art Institute's Modern Wing, the beloved exhibition of Josef Koudelka is now removed and a new exhibition sits in its place -- quite literally. Before entering the space, Lucy McKenzie is projecting towards her audience. One mechanically operated sign moves up and down, another swirls in a circle, and a seated mannequin sits pretty between them both. Like out of a small town storefront window, the exhibition begins.

Once inside, the noise of the moving signs takes hold of the viewer as one wanders the space through a series of large canvas paintings which propel from the ceiling. "Manhattan (Phallic map mural for brasserie scene in unrealized Kubrick film)," is a piece, among several others in a series which re-images a Kubrick movie scene. The meticulous realism that McKenzie presents in this collection is contrasted with slight oddities and occasional humor in her exhibition at the AIC. Her realistic pieces are oddly composed, the majority are cropped on the sides to feature an off-centered piece. However, the script beneath the paintings, for example, "Sweden & Finland" or "Geneva," are delicately placed and perform for the viewer as a delicate, yet important, attribute to the entirety of the piece.

Located in the midst of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, Heaven Gallery is exhibiting the work of Shawn Creeden, Marshall Elliott, and Rachael Starbuck. Heaven, a contemporary art gallery which serves as an exquisite, yet affordable, Vintage Shop during the day, features musicians and visual artists throughout the year. The current exhibition, Mend Thine Every Flaw, is in partnership with Artists' Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions (ACRE), a non-profit which offers artists an open platform for discussion, support, and development for their visual practice. The artists featured in the current exhibition at Heaven Gallery are the summer of 2013 artists in residence at ACRE.

The three artists exhibited in the two gallery spaces in Heaven (plus the tiny room on the left, don't miss it!) are focused on video, experimental painting, performance, and sculptural techniques. The works are cohesive in terms of craft and attention; embroidered pieces hang on the walls, a rock is created from pulp, resin and plaster, and a tractor pulls several canvases through mud and muck. Each individual artist in the exhibition features work that invites patience, intimacy and understanding, in conjunction with visual manipulation.

Never in our wildest dreams did we think that graffiti and street art would be making its way into art galleries -- from the streets to the white walls, running from the law to running into Shepard Fairy. Since the 1980s, graffiti has found a nice warm home inside of the ever-changing and always surprising, contemporary art world.

Mint & Serf, the art duo from NYC will showcase their large scale paintings at the Maxwell Colette Gallery in their Chicago debut of, "Support, Therapy and Instability." The relationship between contemporary art and graffiti is also one that in constant flux and one that makes a memorable conversation. Mint & Serf are two artists who are combining these two worlds in the form of a canvas and a spray can. Utilizing the raw forms that graffiti art thrive around, Mint & Serf have created canvases which reflect buildings in a city or an underpass that has been decorated and adorned with bold lettering and ripped flyers from a previous life.

The collaborative duo layers tags, neutral tones, metallic paint ink and paper for their active and lively pieces which both reflect fine arts and street art.

The opening reception will be held Friday, Nov. 7 from 6pm-9pm at Maxwell Colette Gallery, 908 N. Ashland Ave. The exhibition will be up until Dec. 31. Hours for the gallery are Wednesday through Saturday, noon until 6pm. For more information contact 312-496-3153 or email gallery@maxwellcolette.com.

SOFA Chicago is doing it again. Thirty-four thousand individuals will attend the exposition at Navy Pier where 70-plus galleries will present creative works and emerging artists to Chicago art lovers. The 21st annual event will feature exhibits, a lecture series, in person creatives and the unveiling of many incredible first time, never before seen, art pieces -- a collectors must have! The Art and Design Fair is an internationally known event which interconnects the fine arts and the design world in a weekend full of creative bliss.

SOFA is Chicago's consociation of art collectors, creative individuals and designers. It continues to lure and pull individuals into the great event for a chance to witness or even purchase items that have never before been unveiled.

In addition to unseen work, the fair will also be hosting world renown galleries and artists that collectors and art lovers continue to come back for each year. Above is an image from Eric Zammitt, who is represented by the David Richard Gallery in Santa Fe. Along with artists like Zammitt and galleries like those in Santa Fe, Yvel, the William Zimmer Gallery, Pistachios, the Maurine Littleton Gallery, Kirra Galleries are just a small selection of those that will be in attendance at the fair. In total, 14 countries will be exhibiting this year at the exposition.

The Department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University is hosting a conversation and dialogue with Adam Szymczyk and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev on Oct. 11 at 2pm.

Adam Szymczyk is curating documenta 14, which is one of the known as the world's most significant art exhibitions. Northwestern will be hosting Adam for his first US discussion about his vision and curation of documenta 14.

Documenta 14 is a contemporary art exhibition which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. During this talk, the Polish-born curator and the visiting professor, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, will be discussing the "best frequented contemporary art exhibition." 2012 documenta artistic director Edith Kreeger Wolf will also be joining the talk for her input and background with the show. documenta has shown works from major movements such as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, the Blaue Reiter and Futurism.

The event is free and open to the public. The conversation will be held in the McCormick Auditorium at the Norris University Center., 1999 Campus Dr. in Evanston.

If you missed the year's greatest art film in June, The Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists is coming back. The 109-minute documentary about the lurid and outrageous Chicago art movement of the '60s and '70s will be shown at the Siskel Film Center from Friday through Oct. 9.

Director Leslie Buchbinder will be on hand at the 8:15pm Friday show. On Sunday, the six original Hairy Who artists will appear at the 5:30pm show.

Flats is a Chicago-based company that curates live-in spaces for those with character, authentic taste and design. The rent for FLATS is affordable and the spaces are exquisite. In addition to apartments, FLATSstudio is the sister to the housing unit -- the exhibition aspect that displays artists and creatives in the Chicago area in the Uptown neighborhood.

Last Friday, FLATSstudio exhibited its first formal show, titled Gravity. Ethereal forces and otherworldly shapes filled the space, located in a beautifully adorned and decorated building on Wilson Avenue. The opening reception featured nine artists ranging from painting, photography, and installations. Movable walls throughout the large gallery featured liquid mixtures of blood and water by Jen Lewis which were eloquently placed alongside Edward Muela's two pieces which featured a deteriorating clay baby in a clear container.

The show glowed with hues of pink, red and green. All of the pieces reflected and aided one another to create a cohesive and successful collection of works by Chicago artists.

In addition to the hues, Gravity displayed two floor-to-ceiling pieces that spread out like a red carpet (although black and white in shade) across the space. The connections between all of the artists and artworks displayed a strong sense of an ubiquitous force or impression of emotion.

Thoroughly impressed, visitors mingled, sipping on delicious cocktails from Koval Distillery and listening to a DJ set throughout the night. The show will run through Oct. 10 and may be viewed by appointment only. The FLATSstudio gallery is located on 1050 W. Wilson Ave. Contact (855) 443-5287 for appointments and other questions.

David Bowie was born September 16, 1965. Actually, that's the day that the 18-year-old David Jones legally assumed the name that became famous. This is one piece of minutiae that you can glean from the blockbuster exhibit, David Bowie Is, at the Museum of Contemporary Art through January 4. The exhibit fills the fourth floor of the museum and demonstrates far more than minutiae... and shows Bowie as far more than a musician. He is a cultural prodigy, knowledgeable and expert at art, design, theater, writing and music.

Bowie had been performing as David Jones or Davie Jones since he was 15. (He changed his name partly to distinguish himself from Davy Jones of the Monkees.) Even as a young teen performer, he was concerned about his image and identity. He designed business cards and stage sets for his band, The Kon-Rads. Throughout his career, he took almost obsessive control over every aspect of his performances, hiring noted designers to create the costumes and stage sets that he sketched out on paper. In addition to creating 35 studio and live albums and making 14 worldwide tours, he painted and acted on stage and in films.

Bowie has also been obsessive about saving items from his career, which explains why the David Bowie archive in New York has some 75,000 items stored, organized and managed by a full-time archivist. The current exhibit was developed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Chicago is the only US location where it will be exhibited.

How did the MCA manage to secure this exclusive slot in the tour? I asked that question at the press preview the week before the exhibit opened. The answer was simple, according to MCA curator J. Michael Darling. "We called up the V&A and asked if they would bring it to Chicago." And the answer was yes. The exhibit has appeared in Toronto, São Paulo and Berlin and moves next to Paris and Melbourne.

Logan Square's CTA Blue Line stop is about to get more colorful. Beauty and Brawn Art Gallery, in collaboration with artist Rachel Slotnick, recently started work on a 200-foot mural at the stop.

Gallery owner Lindsey Meyers has waited almost eight years for the chance to artistically transform this space.

"I had basically given up on adopting the wall until recently when Rachel and I discussed doing a mural that would truly embrace the color and flavor of my neighborhood," she said in a statement. Meyers aims for neighborhood collaboration on the piece, highlighting all of the neighborhood's cultural groups.

When artist Katherine Alexandria took a tour of one of the new condo developments that have risen on the land once occupied by the Cabrini-Green housing projects, it wasn't because she was interested in buying. It was to get a better sense of what she was protesting.

"The idea of displacing 15,000 people so you could use the property for something more profitable is inexcusable," Alexandria said. "There is a massive number of people in Chicago living below the poverty level. We have anti-discrimination housing laws, but we don't enforce them. It's such a slap in the face in how we treat our poorest citizens."

"Oh, the places you'll go" and things you'll see this September at the exciting Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! exhibit at Water Tower Place. As part of the national touring exhibition of the famous author's collections, attendees will be treated to a look inside Dr. Seuss's hidden treasures from his estate, on display for the first time. From paintings to towering feathered hats, this display shows off some of the most whimsical creations of the beloved children's writer.

The work of a Chicago artist who won national and international fame is settled in at a small museum in Jefferson Park, near the neighborhood where he grew up.

Ed Paschke, whose vividly colored and brilliantly grotesque paintings are part of the collections of major American and European museums, grew up the son of Polish immigrant parents on the northwest side of Chicago and lived there much of his life. The new museum dedicated to his work is the Ed Paschke Art Center at 5415 W. Higgins Ave. in Jefferson Park.

The center, which opened in June, exhibits about 40 Paschke works -- mostly paintings (oil on linen), but also prints and colograms (a digital photographic process that results in a 3D-like effect). His Howard Street studio, where he worked from 1980 until his death in 2004, is meticulously recreated. In addition, a 30-minute video runs continuously, showing Paschke working, talking about how he works, and teaching a class of art students at Northwestern University. The video is well done and worth watching for insights into the work and thinking of this creative and articulate artist.

High Concept Laboratories is an organization which supports Chicago artists through production services, space for creatives and various forms of administrative assistance. HCL has a wonderful open space located inside of Mana Contemporary, an old warehouse in Pilsen which houses artist studios, and hosts events and shows. This past week on Thursday, HCL hosted an event entitled, "Radical Tenderness" which featured performance, sound, poetry and video as a collective event with a small and intimate audience. Artists Amir George, Sofia Moreno, La Spacer and Anna Vitale, were each featured in the event where they brought their voices, their bodies and their overall energy in depicting the theme for the night.

The first "great war" commenced 100 years ago this summer when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The University of Chicago will observe the beginning of World War I with an exhibit of French graphic illustration of the period, opening October 14 at the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery on the UofC campus.

En Guerre: French Illustrators and World War I draws from illustrated books, magazines and prints to show more than 100 artistic views of the war. Patriotism, nationalism, propaganda and the soldier's experience are explored through fashion, humor, music and children's literature. The art was part of the mobilization of the French national home front.

Pitchfork Music Festival is known for its eccentric, acclaimed and even avant-garde performances of high musical caliber, and for the attendees that create a show of their own with diverse fashion statements and individualistic notions. Another component to this weekend's three-day phantasmagoria was that of exquisite art, in the form of an installation known as the Geometric Village, curated by Johalla Projects and dreamed up by visionary artists Chad Kouri and Heather Gabel.

As I stepped up to the Geometric Village on Saturday afternoon, I noticed sunlight streaming through the trees ahead of me, and falling upon the two upright pyramids in a simply lovely way. Each one allowed ample space for you to walk under it and absorb the messages seeded inside its carefully formed tunnel, one with skillfully designed words, and one with a collage of photographs, one of a skull, the other of a statue, and more. Both portions of the installation were vastly different, but in many ways, linked in commonalities. I noticed concertgoers interacting with the art pieces: some shuffling by quickly, others looking up at the peak and smiling, and a group sitting underneath, resting in a peaceful place. I oriented myself with the artwork, and then was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with curator Anna Cerniglia, and artists Chad and Heather, about the wistful yet introspective work they have been able to create at Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend.

This summer, the Chicago Park District and Chicago Sculpture International, commissioned artists based in the area to create artwork made out of dying trees. Either due to Emerald Ash Borer or various other tree diseases, these trees were transformed into sculptural pieces of art by selected artists around the Chicago area. Overall, a selection of 10 artists were made and each creative was given a tree to work over and embellish. The artists selected for this project are, Mia Capodilupo, Ron Gard, Kara James, Karl and Indira Johnson, Margot McMahon, Nicolette Ross, Marc Schneider, Vivian Visser, Taylor Wallace and Cheryl Williams.

The vibrant sculptures bring back to life the once sick and dying trees. In addition to this, the public art in conjunction with nature brings forth a beautiful display of creative work throughout the city of Chicago. The project was organized by Chicago Sculpture International which is a group of artists who promote sculpture as an important aspect to our communities and surroundings.

Learn more about the project and their locations by watching the video below and liking the Chicago Sculpture International Facebook page. Here is a map of the tree locations around the parks in the city.

LVL3, the crowd-pleasing alternative gallery space located in the heart of Wicker Park, had its opening reception last night for the exhibition, Two Rocks Do Not Make a Duck. Milano Chow, Sofia Leiby and Malin Gabriella Nordin are the three artists featured in the group show which exhibit detailed drawings, black and white collage and graffiti covered canvases. Typically, LVL3 hosts conceptual artists that spread out onto the floor, their paintings made up of duct tape and crayons or oddly shaped installations that involve teddy bears. Still conceptual, this show appears to be more tame. This is not to be taken the wrong way--this exhibit is absolutely a breath of fresh air, something viewers haven't seen at LVL3 recently.

Milano Chow, an artist residing in LA, creates large drawings of domesticated settings set through the window pane of a house or a structure. These classical drawings are so precise and so soft that one must take a moment to truly become aware if they are drawings, photographs or digital depictions.

"There's so many things they're doing to solve problems using creativity," said Gary Lehman of G Studio and an exhibit curator and artist of The Plant. "[They're] taking things that are around and creating a really beautiful solution out of it...[it's] what the whole exhibit is about."

Lehman, along with artist and curator Tracy Kostenbader of AnySquared, selected the artists in large part because of the intersection of their work with The Plant's principles surrounding the environment and reuse. One piece was crafted using hundreds of bottle caps and touches on oil spills.

"A lot of the artists create a dialogue about environmentalism, sustainability or how much waste we have," said Kostenbader.

While not all pieces touch on the environment, they all fall under the over-arching theme of repurposing items or ideas and transforming them into something new, thought-provoking and beautiful.

For instance, one artist used an immigration document from when her family came to the United States from China. She layered the document with photographs of relatives she never met, transforming a piece of paper into a comment on place.

In addition to the exhibit's pieces, the location of the show itself brings up topic of metamorphosis.

"We see the art in the context of The Plant," said Kostenbader. "It also transforms and changes because of the activity and action and ideas that are floating around in that space."

The show fits both Kostenbader and Lehman's goals of making art collaborative and accessible, as well as "taking art to a level of where you can really make it contextual and functional," said Lehman.

During Saturday's opening, the International Art Group Ensemble presented "Firebread," a masked performance created specifically for Salvage, and also featured a Brazilian music performance by Rio de Janeiro's Renato Anesi.

The exhibit is presented by AnySquared and G Studio. Logan Square-based AnySquared brings together artists in a collaborative environment, producing projects and events in cooperation with both local artists and businesses. G Studio, based in Chicago, specializes in unique art experiences.

The exhibit remains open through October 19 during regularly scheduled tours of The Plant, which take place Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm. The Plant is located at 1400 W. 46th St. For more information, including events incorporating the exhibit and The Plant throughout the show, visit the Salvage exhibit webpage.

Do you remember your first look at the so-called Chicago Imagists in art galleries in the '60s and '70s? Whether you were on your own or in a stroller pushed by your parents, you surely found the art of the "Hairy Who" to be eye-popping, colorful, vulgar and fun.

You can relive those artistic memories in Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists, a lavishly illustrated new film documentary that illuminates the lively and confrontational art movement that started here in the 1960s. Director Leslie Buchbinder combines film of the young artists and interviews with many of them in their later years. Other interviews are with the 21st century artists they influenced, such as Jeff Coons, Peter Doig and Chris Ware, as well as collectors and curators. Best of all, we see many of the actual works--vibrant, vivid and surreal paintings and objects. The production also features great animation work and original music.

Painters and paintings: this is a special relationship because there are so few relationships we get ourselves into where we cannot hide one little aspect of ourselves. Paint sits on the canvas looking back at us, as painters, mocking our attempt to run from the ugliness, shame and overall lack we carry with us day in and day out. That mocking sits in the studio for years, staring back at us telling us, in full color, what steps need to be taken and what changes need to be made. This is a conversation being had directly with us in full Dolby surround sound, around the clock, and it is still the hardest work as a painter to hear it, follow it and trust it.

If you are not a painter, this might be difficult to understand, but know that when a painter puts a mark on a page it says something. No matter how controlled or meticulously the painter works to hide their hand, there is always something there screaming back at us that we didn't intend. That's a message directly from a part of us that we do not have deliberate conscious access to. As painters we look to describe our work, in writing, to others, but because we don't have direct access to that information the paintings are telling us we go straight to what we, as painters, think we are offering the world.

I think we can all agree photography is not what it used to be, and that the appropriation of found photography as a practice can overstep the bounds of respect, creativity and artfulness pretty quickly. Recent cases of appropriating found photography — meaning using photos taken by other people as the core of your practice — although seemingly accepted in the wide world of fine art, has left a pretty distinct foul taste in my mouth. Polly Yates, a British artist currently living and working in Chicago, uses found photographs in a very distinct and interesting way. When I walked into Roman Susan Gallery to see Unhomely, I initially thought I was simply looking at old photographs that were grouped, mounted and framed but as I stepped closer it was so much more.

International People in the Know, an exhibit of works in colored pencil by Vito Desalvo, opens Wednesday at the Bluebird in Wicker Park. The works are the artist's reflections on "interpersonal relations in today's world."

Desalvo uses both fictitious faces and the faces of real people in his life; each portrait includes a caption-like statement. The backgrounds provide no clues as to place, identity or nature of the "conversation." Desalvo, a Pittsburgh native, studied art at Carnegie Mellon University and has worked as an artist in Chicago since the late 1970s.

The exhibit will open with a reception from 7 to 10pm Wednesday. King Art Collective is curating the exhibit.

The Bluebird, a wine bar and gastropub at 1749 N. Damen, is open from 5pm to 2am seven days a week. The works will be on display through the summer.

The Peanut Gallery, a small creative space in Humboldt Park, is featuring the artist Derek Weber until May 18 for his exhibition entitled Melting. Weber's work is all-encompassing -- ranging from drawings, video, installation and sound. The exhibition at the Peanut Gallery focuses on the natural world, sensory elements and psychedelia within the work of Weber's various mediums.

Upon entering the space, there is an overhead projector which shoots a surreal and unearthly image onto a white wall, while on the other side a more familiar scene is being displayed -- swimming at Devil's Lake. Throughout the exhibition, familiar, yet hypnagogic images can be examined by the viewer.

Derek Weber's interest in all mediums is something that creates a sensory successful exhibition. He includes CDs, pins, photographs and interactive black lights while walking through Melting.

An exciting new art collective has formed in Chicago's West Town neighborhood. Stairway Studios is a combination exhibition and studio space. This weekend it hosts its very first Spring Exhibition.

This unique group of artists thrive in an environment of close collaboration and cross-pollination. Stairway Studios is creating a new presence on the art scene, allowing the artists to take the reins and curate their own exhibitions. While this is most gallerists' worst nightmare, the result is gritty, raw, and utterly inspiring.

Hawk, a sculptor who works with industrial materials, cites the collective as the reason his art has developed thus far. He says, "Eric knows my work probably better than anyone else in the entire world, and because of that he can give the best critique. He sees the final project and knows the exact context because he's seen the entire trajectory." Not only do the artists work in the same space, they constantly are pushing each other. Each has a unique vision and an individual contribution to the Chicago art landscape, giving the spring exhibition an incredibly diverse, yet cohesive survey of the studio's works.

J. Mikal Davis, a.k.a. Hellbent
, "Suspect Device (Stiff Little Fingers)," 2014
, spray paint on panel, 22.5" x 22.5"

Hellbent: Past Future Perfect is the new exhibit of post-street art at the Maxwell Colette Gallery in Noble Square. The artist is J. Mikal Davis, a.k.a. Hellbent, a Brooklyn-based artist who uses intense colors with stenciled patterns to create bold geometric abstractions. This is the artist's first solo exhibition with the gallery and first show in Chicago, where he also painted a street mural in Wicker Park.

The paintings in this exhibit are what Davis calls his mix-tape series. They result from overspray patterns on the tape he uses when spray painting. He reconfigures strips of this tape into small arrangements he calls "demos" that serve as preparatory sketches for the larger work. Davis often displays the demos alongside the paintings they inspired. He describes his work as "elaborate abstract fields of color and movement, with compositions ranging from organized, quilt-like patterns, to completely haphazard bands of weaving color." He names them based on songs he was listening to during the creation process.

Davis adapted his street art name from Richard Hell, the influential musician, writer and artist of the punk movement. Davis began his career pasting confrontational slogans in the Deep South. He also paints abstract murals and street works in major cities and, during his recent Chicago visit, created a 30-foot-long mural, titled "Rhinoceros (Smashing Pumpkins)," at 1520 N. Damen in Wicker Park.

Maxwell Colette Gallery specializes in post-street contemporary art. Director Oliver Hild says his goal is to blur the distinctions between fine art, street art and graffiti. His gallery is committed to elevating art and artists who have been marginalized and under-exposed.

Past Future Perfect is on display until June 7 at the Maxwell Colette Gallery, 908 N. Ashland Ave, from noon until 6pm Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call 312-496-3153 or email gallery@maxwellcolette.com.

The Hyde Park Art Center, located at 5020 S Cornell Ave, is a wonderful addition to the Hyde Park neighborhood. The center holds exhibitions as well as artist residencies and classes for adults and children. While walking from the Bridgeport Coffee shop to the opposite side of the center, one cannot help but notice the new and alluring photography exhibition that the art center has recently installed. Typically, their is a large exhibition space which holds artwork, however, this presentation is located in a pathway and smaller gallery space--a perfect chance for us to take in the work of Ross Sawyers, a professor at Columbia College whose project beautifully documents "the rise and fall of the United States housing market."

At first glimpse, these images are abstract, surreal even. In almost every photograph, their is a glowing light drawing the viewer in, however, the light is too bright to fully contemplate what is there. Upon reading further into the images, one can conclude that Sawyers' work is focusing on the abandonment, manipulation and destruction of the housing market in the U.S. Traveling from the beginning to the exhibition until the end, the viewer is able to see the deconstruction of something that so familiar to all of us. In the beginning of his series, he depicts a closed space--claustrophobic and quiet--and by the end the image are torn and and tattered, yet beautiful and exposed.

The exhibition, Model Pictures, will have its opening reception Sunday, April 13 from 3 to 5pm. A gallery talk is also occurring on Wednesday, April 30 at 6pm.

Hyde Park art center is free and located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. For more information call 773-324-5520

By now most of you have heard of web series, for those of you that have not, it is simply a series of video content posted and obtained online. The most popular, and probably most recognizable, of these today is arguably "House of Cards." Mind you, "House of Cards" is not what I would consider typical, or most common, when thinking about web series. Most web series that are being produced today are independent, made by people that want to tell a story or be a part of the entertainment or film/video world but do not feel it is accessible from where they are, so like all great producers they just get out there and make it happen.

YouTube, Blip and Vimeo have given video creators a platform for distributing their footage. Today I want to focus on five web series being produced in Chicago.

The performance gallery, Defibrillator, will be presenting their annual April Fools Day fundraiser, the Lyp Sinc Show, on Tuesday, April 1. This unique art gallery focuses on performance art. The gallery hosts an International Performance Art Festival annually, entitled, RAPID PULSE, June 1-10. The festival presents a total of 28 international and local performance artists for a series of 10 days. The Lyp Sinc Show occurs as a fundraiser for the artists meals, materials and housing for RAPID PULSE. There will be a total of 13 artists/groups at the Lip Sinc Show, which kicks off at 7pm.

Defibrillator Art Gallery is located at 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. The gallery requests a $10 donation at the door, refreshments are included. Call 773-609-1137 for more information.

Additional events include No Lights, No Lycra, a weekly dance party in the dark. The next one will occur Monday, March 31 at 8:15pm.

To demonstrate that an office building can become an art gallery, King Art Collective has curated an exhibit of large-scale paintings by three Chicago artists at 300 S. Riverside Plaza from now through June 2.

Jen Evans, a Chicago native, is a multi-media artist and educator. She describes her current paintings as "a process of creating and discovering history. I use wood, plaster, wax, epoxy and paint to accumulate layers; I sand, carve, scrape, highlight and cover up elements to find balance in the chaos."

Bruce Riley, a self-taught painter, has studios in Chicago, where he lives, and in Cincinnati, where he was born. He has participated in several group shows recently. Recent exhibitions include two solo shows: "Psychedelic" at Packer Shopfs Gallery and "Science Fiction" at Miller Gallery.

Melody Saraniti holds an MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute. Her work evokes abstract expressionist energy. However, her drips and splashes are not the result of a spontaneous hand. Each "drip" is carefully painted with bands of color in order to investigate how different painterly gestures convey emotional energy.

The 23-story curving, glass-walled structure, designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, was constructed in 1983. The building, on Jackson just west of the river, and its Riverside Plaza siblings were formerly known as Gateway Center.

The exhibit is free and open to be public from 6am-6pm daily except for national holidays. For more information, contact kingartcollective@gmail.com.

Starting April 18, The Museum of Contemporary Photography will be presenting the works of nine photographers in an exhibition entitled, Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood. The opening reception, held from 5 to 7pm will introduce gender roles, domesticity and identity.

Are you intrigued by anatomy and art? Are you interested in (literally) looking inside of yourself? This spring, UChicago Arts will be hosting a multi-venue exhibition entitled Imaging/Imagining that incorporates both the artistic and the scientific history of the body.

This exhibition will be held in various locations across the campus, including the Special Collections Research Center (The Body as Text), the Smart Museum (The Body In Art) and the Crerar Library (The Body as Data). Each space will introduce the history of anatomy in a specialized and organized category. The Body as Text explores the history of medical illustration as well as when the partnership of art and science were separated due to the invention of the x-ray. The Body as Data focuses on modern anatomy and the introduction of computers. The exhibition at the Smart Museum, The Body as Art, focuses on the subjective imagination within the medical illustrations that were once incredibly important for anatomists.

The Chicago Arts District in East Pilsen opens its galleries, artists studios and neighborhood shops for local people every second Friday of the month.

Last night, Rooms, a performance space, had its final performance from an ongoing series entitled, RITUAL NO. 10:WAVES. The ritual included two male performers--one was seated and one was pouring water from one bucket to the other. The seated man beat a steady dream-beat while the standing performer transitioned from a platform to the wooden floor. As pictured above, the individual poured water from one bucket to another for three steady hours.

The weather, warming up slightly this week, urged a substantial amount of Chicago makers, gallery goers and visual arts lovers, to the Flat Iron Arts Building last night. I, finally wearing something that wasn't reminiscent of a Christmas Story, trekked out to Wicker Park for the open studios, refreshments and socializing. This was my first time "First Fridays" at Wicker Park; I usually frequent Pilsen for "Second Fridays," instead. However, I am a fan of the area and decided to wander down for a peek at how they run things down at the Flat Iron Building.

Encircling the Logan Center walls and spreading out like a scroll are the six large projections by the cinematographer and photographer, Yang Fudong. The exhibition, both a film and installation, is titled East of the Que Village, and features a rural area where Fudong grew up.

Upon entering the gallery space, I was struck by black and white film projections on each wall. As I stood in the middle, slowly circling my body to face each screen, I noticed people, rural locations, isolation and most importantly, wild dogs. Lots and lots of ravenous and skeletal dogs--fighting over meat, sanity and space.

As I rotated my body to face each of the projections, I continued to glance back at the dogs. I can't remember if it was their loud growls and bellows that attracted me or their savage existence to simply survive, however, my interest was incredibly sparked for further observation. Once I watched the film for a great amount of time, I began to connect the story between the separate screens. The stray dogs and the humans are all tied together into one, creating a pseudo-documentary which is united because of one young crippled dog.

The East of the Que Village exhibition will be up until to Sunday, March 30 at the Logan Center which is located at 915 E. 60th St. Yang Fudong's film is a documentation of his memories and time spent in his hometown. The dogs were pre-ordered, the locations scouted, but the environment and individuals are very real. Check out more Logan Center events/news on their Facebook and Tumblr page.

"The Cosby Show's" run ended over 20 years ago, yet, in today's pop culture circles, it still remains a popular "go to" reference when discussing what--or who--is black in America.

When it came to The Huxtables, so-called "arbiters of blackness" argued that everything from their professionally successful, financially comfortable lifestyle to their articulate speech was "unrealistic" for a black family.

For Paul Branton, Darno Demby, David Anthony Geary, and Brian Golden, it is precisely this mindset that has served as the catalyst for their latest exhibit, Not Black Enough.

These visual artists, collectively known as Four Of A Kind, are using their individual artistic styles, expressions, and interpretations to combat and challenge definitions of blackness from within and outside of the black community.

Jackson Junge Gallery will be hosting an altruistic art project this Friday, Feb. 7. The first ever "Paint with a Purpose," will be held in conjunction with Wicker Park's Orange Dot, a campaign aiming to promote the arts and culture nightlife in one of Chicago's trendiest neighborhoods. Every first Friday, the arts scene in Wicker Park will take over the neighborhood, from performance art in the front window of a vintage store, to live music in a comic book store.

Paint with a Purpose is one of many exciting events happening in Wicker Park this Friday. For this event, local artist Brian Morgan, whose Chicago-centric pieces are well known for capturing the cycling culture in the city, has created a very special piece.

The classically modern Maxwell Colette Gallery, open since 2010, is on an undistinguished strip of Ashland Avenue in Noble Square, but don't be deterred by the surroundings. The current exhibit of the work of two artists--one local, one internationally known--is artfully displayed in the two-level gallery and warrants a close look. The art is considered "post-street art" by gallery director Oliver Hild, whose gallery specializes in that genre.

White Out is the exhibit by Peeta, an Italian graffiti artist. His elegant mixed media pieces are created by taking the traditional letterforms that make up his name and bending, twisting, folding and styling them with shape and volume. His backgrounds suggest graffiti spraying, while the imagery is crystalline white and shadow.

Peeta says that the paintings in White Out are an "attempt to render the most deceptive condition that snow can cause; in which visibility and contrast are so severely reduced that no reference point remains, and the individual experiences a distorted orientation." Far from cold, these new paintings instead have a "bright, sparkling, total whiteness." Peeta, also known as Manuel Di Rita, lives in Venice; he has been a graffiti artist since 1993.

February marks Black History Month, which has historically been designated as a time for celebration and observance of the achievements and contributions made by blacks in America. Culturally speaking, Chicago always boasts a diverse mix of special events, shows, and performances; here, I've listed a few highlights worth checking out.

Contemporary art and the holidays don't often mix, but Diego Leclery's New Holiday Spirit: Sit on a Polar Bear's Lap brings the two together this Saturday at The Suburban gallery, 125 N. Harvey Ave. in Oak Park.

From 2 to 4pm, visitors may sit on a life-size polar bear's lap and be hugged, pose for pictures, take a very brief nap -- anything but be mauled and eaten, which is what would normally happen in such circumstances. This is the fourth year Leclery has held polar bear lap hours at the gallery. Admission is free, and (well-behaved) kids are welcome.

There's a steep, narrow stairway off the Blue Line at Irving Park that splits in two and spills out onto Pulaski Road. Commuters climb and descend this shadowed crawlspace, hurrying to their business as quickly as they can.

But these days, something stops them, catches them midstride, quietly and forcefully demands their attention.

It's a phoenix in flight, breathtaking in scope, its wingspan captured in brilliant bursts of orange, brown, gold and red. This is the keystone of Tony Sparrow's M(ani)fest Mural — one of 10 panels transforming Independence Park into a living, breathing work of art.

A compelling exhibit of paintings, drawings and sculpture by 13 artists dramatizes the emotional impact of ancient rituals that kill or maim millions of women and children. The 38 works are being presented in the third floor gallery at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law until February 3.

The exhibit--The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions--is "not about gender, culture or religion bashing," says Cheryl Jefferson, executive producer of the exhibit. Rather "it's an exploration of human rights, a dialogue to raise consciousness as the first step toward preventing these horrifying acts." Richard Laurent is co-producer and four of his pieces are shown, including the poignant painting of a young girl shown at right, titled "Small Change."

The thing about reproduction in our world today is it is part of the language. It is presented so haphazardly, almost without regard to its origin. I write these words, which have been reproduced so many times and I don't even care if I spell them right because that is a detail that will be auto-corrected. Appropriation, in the arts, is new but just as haphazardly utilized today as reproduction. I cannot say nor would I attempt to judge whether this is good or bad, but it is interesting. With Instagram and Pinterest we just get in there and tell ourselves we have the talent to gather a bunch of stuff from the internet or choose the right filter for that moment in our lives, but that brings up a host of questions about craft and how we relate to craft. What is craft today?

Jaume Plensa is a sculptor, a poet and a true creative spirit. He displayed all those talents and more in his appearance Wednesday evening at the theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The event -- titled "Architecture Is Art...Is Architecture Art?" -- was cosponsored by the MCA and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Plensa (his first name is pronounced "Jowma") is the creator of the magical Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. If you have ever taken children there, you'll know why I call it magical. The video faces and their waterspout mouths are funny and surprising, and the shallow depth of the pool and the showers that rain down the video columns at regular intervals bring about exuberance and playfulness in kids of all ages.

Okay, okay. So it already started last night. But if you're only going to make it to one art event this weekend, check out Vision Quest 2013.

Held at Mana Contemporary in East Pilsen near the river, Vision Quest is a three-day post-internet [IRL] translation of the dinca.org blog experience, featuring a handful of screenings and live A/V performances that travel the niches of internet art, computer art, new and experimental media, video art, avant-garde film and video, documentary and ethnographic cinema.

The inside of Design Cloud's West Loop office, 118 N. Peoria St #2n, is striking. That's partly because the two-year-old design firm looks like every creative professional's dream work environment, with mid-century meets industrial style custom furniture and lighting. But mostly it's because of the motorcycle parked in the middle of the space.

Chicago-based artists and former SAIC grad students Alex Gartlemann and Jonas Sebura are responsible for the motorcycle, which looks like a carriage with a wooden structure attached and a handful of books displayed inside. It stands as a grand centerpiece for Design Cloud's workspace, and holds a greater meaning to the artists who created it: the piece represents their collaboration during a trip they took together across the Rocky Mountains and into Montana. Called "Enduro," the piece is one of several works of art that make up the exhibit "Revisiting Undomesticated" adorning the walls of Design Cloud's office. Curators Cameron DuBois and Sarah Nodelman, or "Casa Duno," assembled the exhibit and they are the first residents under Design Cloud's newest initiative, the MOUNT curatorial residency program.

Norwegian-born Amund Dietzel learned the craft of tattooing on a merchant ship and brought it to Milwaukee in 1913, where he opened his first shop. Jon Reiter, himself a Milwaukee-based tattooer, has published a two-volume catalog of Dietzel's work, These Old Blue Arms: The Life and Work of Amund Dietzel, and worked in conjunction with the Milwaukee Art Museum for a recent exhibit of Dietzel's work.

Earlier this year, Reiter was diagnosed with a rare blood clotting disease; he was successfully treated, but is now burdened with medical bills. The Dietzel exhibit is traveling to Chicago as a benefit for Reiter, and will be shown in the gallery space at Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand Ave. On Friday, Nov. 29, there will be an opening reception from 5pm-10pm with appetizers and refreshments, limited edition posters and books for sale, auction items, and a raffle to help offset Reiter's bills. In addition, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, all tattoo proceeds from original Amund Dietzel designs will be donated to Reiter.

Here it comes: another more-is-more Weekend Art Pick for ya! There are a lot of MFA-student open studios this weekend, and there's bound to be something for everybody at them. Open studios are a great way to get a sense of an artist's process and usually provide the opportunity to speak with the artists themselves. Plus, you get to see brand new work.

Hatch Projects was just nominated by Newcity as the "Best Opportunity for Emerging Artists" because of the impressive critical infrastructure the Chicago Artists Coalition has built around the studios it houses to support its resident artists' practices and careers. It promises regular contact with curators, critics, collectors and arts administrators... even a solo exhibition for each member. To see what has come of it, head over to the CAC in the West Loop tonight for Twelve Variations.

At a reception held recently, the University of Illinois at Chicago introduced its new dean of the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts to the local arts community.

Steve Everett, a musician, composer and educator who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, becomes dean just at the time the college is being reconstituted into four separate schools: architecture, design, theater and music, and art and art history.

Everett comes to Chicago after 22 years at Emory University in Atlanta; most recently, he was professor of music and Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. His interests include electronic music, cross-cultural influences in music, and the philosophy of technology in art.

Provost Lon S. Kaufman opened the event by noting that UIC students look like Chicago and America. "We are of the city and reflect the city," he said. His comments suggested the mission of the new college, which Everett later expanded upon.

My first taste of Space Club HQ was a night of karaoke where I scream-sang Kid Rock and sipped PBR tallboys from the liquor store across the street. Between dancing and singing my heart out that night, I grew to admire the people behind Space Club for opening their own artistic venue on top of working full-time jobs -- something many of us only dream of doing.

Space Club HQ, 3925 N. Elston Ave., is best described as an art space operated by a group of friends who originally came together in pursuit of a sizable venue to practice their own art -- theatre, visual art, performance art, you name it. As is the case with great ideas, they soon realized its potential and began to host public events. In addition to hosting a series of karaoke nights cleverly dubbed "In Space No One Can Hear You Sing," the venue has played host to a series of "Freak Show" circus performances by Thom Britton, screened the 1945 British anthology classic film Dead of Night in 16mm and showcased Bogumil Bronkowski's artwork in an exhibit titled "Oh, the Horror!", among several other events. Lucky for us, they're knee deep in programming ideas -- a pinewood derby seems to be in the works.

Amber Robinson, Evan Chung, Alan Callaghan and Bart Pappas are the "official board members," or the organizers, behind Space Club HQ. I chatted with Amber and Evan via email to learn more about why they opened the space, what makes Space Club different than other venues and what you should expect on the calendar in the coming months.

East Garfield Park curator Edra Soto (right) with Featured Artists Andrea Jablonski (left) and DJ Mr. Voice (center)

There are a bunch of shows opening in the West Loop tonight, but if only because of its sheer breadth (and that's not the only reason), if you can only go to one "art event" this weekend (because those are the parameters I've committed to for this weekly column), go to East Garfield Park.

To me, there is one simple guiding principle behind art curator Evan La Ruffa's website-turned-nonprofit art organization, IPaintMyMind: introducing people to affordable local art is mutually beneficial for both the customer and the artist. Over the course of the five or six years since its inception, La Ruffa and 26 volunteers have written about local art and music, installed exhibits and organized performances in Chicago park districts, public schools and community centers under the "IPMM Gallery Initiative."

The sustainability of art has always been at the core of IPMM's mission, so it makes sense then that that the organization has a shiny new home within the country's largest LEED-certified business community, Green Exchange, 2545 W. Diversey Ave., Suite 255.

The permanent gallery space is impressive with its lofted industrial ceilings and sleek modernist feel. La Ruffa says having a central location to host exhibits and performances will allow them to really "put their flag in the ground."

This weekend, if you can only go to one art opening, go to David Sprecher's Anchors on Sunday -- his second solo exhibition at Peanut Gallery. He has built a false wall and is playing with perception subtly through various methods, and his playful approach to art making combined with his personal investigation into the human body and spirit makes for a compelling exhibition. BUT, because of my personal involvement with Peanut Gallery I may be biased, so I'm going to give you another option.

How about some colorful prints, paintings, arrangements & video work loosely based on nostalgia and technology at Roots & Culture?

I was over in River North the other day hitting up a few haunts of mine and I stepped into one of the most inspired galleries with a consistent vision here in Chicago, Zg. Meg and Myra never seem to disappoint, and the show they have up now which is in its final week, is no exception. The young and very talented Amanda Elizabeth Joseph who hails from Ohio and studied in Indiana takes a hard look at where she has come from.

Amanda is painting sweet, caring and understanding paintings of herself and her friends living pork rinds and cold beer. There is joy is exposing blemishes and these drew me in, they are bigger than high def and more real than we want to admit but it is a fun show that is worth a look at. Amanda's work will impress you, it did me.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA) is "the hidden gem of the West Side," according to its president and full-time volunteer, Orysia Cardoso. Founded in 1971 to promote the art of Ukrainian émigrés and Ukrainian-Americans, today UIMA is an art center for Ukrainian Village and West Town and a center for modernism for the Chicago region.

Located on Chicago Avenue just east of Western, the institute has a striking modernist façade that stands out among the century-old storefronts, many of them now businesses owned by eastern European entrepreneurs. The building, created from four storefronts, was designed by noted architect Stanley Tigerman, and opened in 1978. The foyer and exhibit space were renovated in 2006. The original institute opened in 1971 in a three-story brownstone nearby.

Do you love those colorful, childlike figures that are installed in Pioneer Court Plaza? The 16 figures, known as The Watch, were created by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley for Chicago Ideas Week. Brantley is Chicago Ideas Week 2013 Artist in Residence.

The figures, brightly colored and at first glance humorous, represent the failures and successes that teenagers face in their neighborhoods. Brantley was inspired by conversations with Chicago public high school students to create the installation in a public space to stimulate dialogue and community revitalization.

It looks like police tape. It's wrapped around the bannisters and plastered to the steps on the way up to the Fulton Street Collective gallery space. It runs long and yellow, the words "Everything is Practice" repeating over and over across its surface. Kyle Fletcher and Steve Juras, the artist curators of the exhibit, look at one another sheepishly.

"The curators aren't supposed to provide any art for the exhibit," Fletcher says. "But we thought it was interesting as a design element. Is it part of the show? Is it not?"

If anything, the yellow tape leading up to the space tells us that we're entering an ongoing investigation, a purposeful look into the forensics of the creative process. "Everything is Practice" explores the repetitive gestures, motions, and thoughts that bring works of art into existence.

If you can only go to one art show this weekend, consider spending a portion of your Friday night checking about a bunch of new sculptures that pee into wading pools!

It's been a little more than a year since Chicago-based record label Drag City decided to utilize the old soccer-themed bar attached to their office space, but the aesthetic hasn't changed a bit--including the name beside the art on the walls.

Chicago artist and musician Lisa Alvarado showcased her collection entitled "Limpia" for the grand opening of Soccer Club Club, 2923 N. Cicero Ave., in June of 2012, and now she's back with her new exhibit "The Traditional Object." Around 40 people attended the opening reception on October 4. Both Alvarado's artwork and musical talents were on display; she also performed with her husband's musical outfit, Natural Information Society.

For Bucktown residents, there is a new [shoe] sheriff in town: Nike Running, Bucktown, located in the heart of the neighborhood, celebrated its grand opening this past Saturday. The concept store, opening just ahead of this year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, will serve and provide resources for the area's runners. "This is really the first and only Nike store in the City of Chicago that was designed for runners and by runners," said Jim Beeman, General Manager, Nike Central Territory. "We really want to make sure we make this feel as comfortable for local athletes as humanly possible."

The contemporary store has a selling space of 3,000 square feet and boasts a modest selection of running shoes and stylish men's and women's athletic gear. It also features rafters for hanging marathon bibs, gait analysis, and a convenient Nike Plus Station for comparing Nike Plus runs, charging devices, etc.

Every weekend in Chicago, there is more art available to check out than any of us actually have time for. Most of it is listed at thevisualist.org and at Art Talk Chicago. For those of you who have a hard time deciding which to go to, I'll make a recommendation for you every week. This week's pick:

It's a 10 o'clock on a Tuesday, and the regular crowd shuffles in. Among the regulars is Ennis Martin, a local artist whose futuristic paintings are a favorite in the neighborhood. Martin has taken to painting at The Crocodile Lounge on Tuesday nights, turning the front window into a working studio.

Martin, who was born and raised in Chicago, became interested in art at a very young age. As a child he loved comic books and cites this interest as his first foray into art. His imagery draws heavily on the comic book tradition, with each piece being a "panel" that advances his plot line one step further.

Using science fiction as a springboard, Martin has created an elaborate storyline for his paintings, a series titled The Chronicles. He explains, "The Chronicles story line described in my artwork begins in a post-apocalyptic Earth, in which aliens come to re-create our world, though they have little to refer to determine what it once was. The only record they have is torn and tattered pieces of Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species. The aliens commence experimenting with concepts of how they perceive life should be. Beginning with aquatic life, they fashion jellyfish, squid and whales. The latter they have termed "Darwins," in reference to their Origin of Species manual. These original creations are metamorphic beings that can walk on land, as well as swim the waters."

This summer, the CTA requested proposals for art projects that it intends to display at newly-renovated Red Line stations on its southern Dan Ryan Branch. Ever since then, I've been taking a closer look at the art in and around the trains.

Like many commuters, I've caught sight of a mosaic or two on my way up the escalators or pushing through the turnstiles. But this fall, I want to be more purposeful in my hunt. The CTA's website provides a helpful booklet [PDF] locating and describing each piece of public art. Some of them I've leaned up against or walked on without noticing. Others, like the fuschia and red aluminum waves of Krivanek and Breaux's "Reflections Expressions Transformations" at the Chicago Brown Line station, evoke the same emotions every time I see them. Many of them decorate parts of the city I don't often get a chance to visit.

CTA art is art in flux; usually, people will only see it for a few moments. As they move to and from the trains and stations, they may not even register that what they're looking at is intentional. Having the names and locations of each installation in the back of my mind has encouraged me to look up -- or down -- as I travel and appreciate fellow Chicagoans who at one point passed through a station and thought of it not only as a destination or transfer point but as a venue, gallery or stage for their creativity.

A new exhibit--Artists Respond to Genocide--will open this week at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in the West Town neighborhood. The exhibit will open with a reception and viewing from 6 to 9pm Friday, October 4.

The exhibition features the work of 20 local, national and international artists, including Chicago artists Evhen Prokopov, Orest Baranyk, Jason LaMantia, Arthur Lerner, Bonnie Peterson, Mary Porterfield, Dominic Sansone, Eden Unluata and Erika Uzmann. Works will include paintings, photography, sculpture and assemblages.

Artists Respond to Genocide recognizes the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor Famine Genocide of 1932-33 in the Ukraine. The exhibit addresses genocides of the world--the deliberate massacre of millions of people because of their religion, beliefs or ethnicity.

An exhibition catalog is available for purchase for $15 and can be previewed on the institute's online store.

Artists Respond to Genocide will be on display from October 5 to December 1 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago Ave. Hours are 12-4pm Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free but a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call 773 227-5522.

Gallery season is in full swing now, with October marking the beginning of Chicago Artists Month. This month's theme is "In the Neighborhoods." Honoring said theme is Wicker Park After Dark, the solo photography exhibition by David Szpunar, a West Side native who began capturing the lively and eccentric nightlife of Wicker Park."

Spzunar who is also a local musician attended the reception supported by his band mates from "Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade." Chemistry professor by day and photographer/musician by night, Szpunar began shooting the series after his Friday night band practices in the neighborhood, trading his instrument for a camera just after the sun went down.

Wicker Park after Dark was inspired by Brassaï's "Paris by Night," and captures the energy, drama, and mystery of the local weekend revelers. There is a voyeuristic feeling to the series, as if Szpunar has for but the briefest moment captured the visceral and magnetic draw of being a part of the Wicker Park late-night scene. Close and wide-angled shots pull the viewer into the intimate setting, creating a sense of inclusion and closeness to the subjects.

The exhibit opened on Sept. 20 at Jackson Junge Gallery, 1389 N. Milwaukee Ave., and will run until Oct. 27.

A second EXPO Chicago has now come and gone, passing through Navy Pier like an electrical storm, this time buzzing with a few new satellites -- countless gallery openings and open studios, but also medium-scale alternative fairs like the econo-centric EDITION at the Chicago Artists Coalition and the grassroots, street-oriented Fountain Art Fair at Mana Contemporary, all within five miles of Navy Pier. It's nice to see this happening... hopefully the city will be blowing up like Miami during Art Basel by next year. Or maybe we like to keep things a little more low-key in Chicago. In any case:

"Meet your Maker" is an opportunity for artists and arts administrators to interact and meet face-to-face bridging the divide between them. We invite any and all creative types to join us for an evening of exploration among arts-passionate people. Join your colleagues from the creative sector to make a dynamic difference in the community.

There's a suggested donation of $5 to cover food and refreshments. Open to the public. Register online here.

Whenever a fair or festival becomes successful, satellite events are soon to follow. And now that the much-hyped EXPO Chicago has gotten a little steam, that's exactly what's happening. This weekend the Chicago Artist Coalition (CAC) and local gallerist Andrew Rafacz have teamed up to create EDITION Chicago with the aim of exhibiting high quality, cutting-edge work that presents new ideas, while remaining financially attainable. Because let's face it, EXPO is bound to have a lot of exciting work on exhibit, but most of us won't be able to buy any of it.

"We are pleased to present such a diverse and respected list of galleries in our first year that proves great contemporary art can be found in all price ranges," said Executive Director of CAC Carolina O. Jayaram. "Not only is the new EDITION Chicago an incredible opportunity to start building an art collection or add to your existing collection, but the satellite fair builds on the exciting momentum surrounding art in Chicago right now that CAC is proud to be an integral part of."

Well it has begun -- EXPO art week -- and although it culminates in EXPO CHGO beginning on Friday there are lots of things going on all over the city right now. One thing that I am particularly excited about is local artist Tony Orrico, who is adding to his Penwald drawing series with his eighth installment at the Chicago Cultural Center on Tuesday from 11am-3pm.

This series is made up of drawings in which Orrico uses his body to explore the geometry of his movement. With a background in dance he gestures according to mood and his sense of self both physical and mental, creating makes within the confines of his own reach. Orrico's repetition and spontaneity create large scale beautiful drawings that are astounding to watch come into existence.

This performance, which is being presented by both EXPO and Marso gallery in Mexico City where Orrico is represented, is sure to be an exhilarating stop to see the performance that will leave the creation of a drawing as a record.

The Chicago Loop Alliance has added new features to the recently created public plaza on the State Street median between Wacker Drive and Lake Street. Art and music now enhance the street plaza, which typically draws 40 to 50 people during any given afternoon.

Give, a new work by Dusty Folwarczny, was recently installed at the Lake Street end of the plaza. According to Folwarczny, the colorful loop-shaped sculpture is designed to be interactive. Visitors can walk through it or use it to frame photos of State Street--and when it's pushed, the steel loop can bounce back or rock in place. "The piece explores the art of giving--a transfer of energy from one person to another," she said.

In addition, the Chicago Street Musicians will perform popup concerts twice a week for about an hour during lunchtime; musicians scheduled to perform are guitarist-vocalist George Banks, saxophonist Beau Barry, keyboardist Eugene Rowland and violinist Hannah K. Watson.

The Gateway is supported through funding from the Chicago Loop Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes the use of art, design and technology to enhance public spaces in the Loop. The Chicago Department of Transportation's Make Way for People initiative also participated in this project.

Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods, separated by ethnicities. Old Irving Park on Chicago's northwest side contradicts that description with residents from 70 countries. The community's new mural--Positive Babel: The World Lives, Works and Plays in Old Irving--was created to communicate that message.

The new work, created by lead artist Tony Sparrow and a team of eight other artists, was just completed in the viaduct under the Union Pacific/Metra tracks at Irving Park Road and Keeler Avenue. It will be dedicated at 11am Saturday with a program featuring representatives of the Old Irving Park Association, artists and public officials. (See Saturday Slowdown for more information.) Marlena Ascher, president of OIPA, will emcee the event.

Old Irving Park is a one-square mile neighborhood bounded by Addison and Montrose on the south and north and Pulaski and Cicero on the east and west. The neighborhood has many underpasses created by two Metra train lines, the CTA Blue Line and the Kennedy Expressway. All have heavy pedestrian and car traffic every day. The community organization has been "turning those eyesores into assets since 2003," according to Anna Sobor, incoming president of OIPA. The Positive Babel murals are the 10th and 11th.

I have been writing and producing a web series, that I am planning on launching in the middle of October, called Our Cultural Center. This series is focused on a non profit arts organization that looses their main funder, Gertrude Vandeberg. The Founder then has to turn to her ex-husband, a profit driven lawyer with no interest in the arts, in order to keep things running.

It has been a great journey and I am very excited to announce my cast, which has been assembled only yesterday, but the interesting thing, by design, is how many wonderful non profits find themselves in similar situations. As an artist I am often surprised at: one, how little it takes to keep a non-profit organizations afloat and two: that they have trouble raising it easily

These times are rough on everyone and the arts are struggling to find new ways of raising money I am hoping I, through comedy with Our Cultural Center, can open door to getting more people to contribute to, and enjoy the arts.

The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, known as Expo Chicago, will present its second annual exposition September 19-22 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. The four-day event will feature art from 120 international galleries from 16 countries plus special exhibitions from museums, universities and organizations.This year's exposition will be part of Expo Art Week, a citywide celebration of arts and culture, cosponsored by Choose Chicago (a Chicago-destination marketing agency) and the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Included in the week's activities will be museum and gallery exhibits, music, theater and dance performances, and special dining events.

September 19 at Expo Chicago is an opening night preview and benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Most people would not admit it, but there is some art that can be really funny--sometimes, for reasons one cannot quite explain. There have been moments where I have stood, shoulders hunched, arms folded, head slightly tilted to one side, and whispered postulations about the meaning of a piece to a friend in a gallery. Admit it art snobs of Chicago--you have done that, too! But don't you wish there was a place where you could just laugh out loud at art?

The work of eight artists, six of them Chicago-based, will be shown at an exhibit titled Constantly Consuming Culture--The Art Show, September 7-13 on the lower level of 222 N. DesPlaines St.

None of the artists is represented by galleries or management, although some of their work already has been exhibited. The artists work in various media, including painting, sculpture, found art and video art. Chicago-based artists are John Airo, John Hamilton, Elyse Martin, Gretchen Hasse, Mikey Peterson and John Schedler. Other artists include Serene Toxicat, San Francisco, and Mez Data.

A photo by Vivian Maier, courtesy of Ron SlatteryVivian Maier found fame after her death through the efforts of the collectors who own most of her prodigious work. But depending on how U.S. copyright law is interpreted, the ultimate benefactor of Maier's fame may turn out to be the state of Illinois.

Born in 1926 in New York City to a French mother and an Austro-Hungarian father, Vivian Maier was a nanny by trade. She worked for several families in the Chicago area, and was known to be an extremely private person who her charges say seemed to bask in the shroud of mystery surrounding her. Although she was rarely without a camera, snapping photos while on duty and on her off days, her employers knew little about her talent as a photographer.

The sale at auction of her unpaid storage lockers in the fall of 2007 was the key to her discovery as an artist, but it wasn't until just before Maier's death in April 2009 at age 83 that her identity was learned. Her photos were soon electrifying the art world with their gritty depictions of life on the streets of Chicago and other cities.

Bronzeville native Hebru Brantley is a renowned visual artist whose work has been featured on the local, national, and international levels; in addition to numerous exhibitions and gallery shows here in Chicago and in major cities including Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta, two of his paintings are currently on display at the Embassy of the United States in Stockholm. Brantley, also a music enthusiast, creates social and political art that "draws influence from an array of pop culture icons, comic book heroes, and Japanese anime"; it is this unique style that caught the attention of hip hop superstars including Chicago's own Lupe Fiasco, Q-Tip, Lil Wayne, and Jay Z, who are all part of his clientele.

Eunice Johnson was a fashionista before the word was invented; she was a fashion visionary just as her husband, John H. Johnson, the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, was a publishing visionary. She saw fashion as beauty that should not be confined to the elite and made it her personal mission to bring it to the African-American community. She did this through her direction of the Ebony Fashion Fair, known as "The World's Largest Traveling Fashion Show."

Up at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center right now is a two person show that I would consider pretty exciting and a must see--not just because of the two artists it brings together but because they were brought together by Susan A. Gescheidle. For those of you that don't know, Gescheidle ran a gallery in the West Loop which closed in 2008. In my opinion, she helped support and shepherd contemporary conceptual art into Chicago, and to be able to see her hand so clearly in this show is a great treat.

There is no escaping the news of the pervasive violence among African-American youth in cities across America--and looking no further than our own backyard right here in Chicago, it is practically an everyday headline. Despite many efforts that include camps, workshops, panel discussions, etc., which have been implemented to [try] to help understand and offer solutions for this epidemic, the cycle continues. And it is this same vicious cycle that led to "KKK-Kin Killin' Kin," Ohio-based artist James Pate's touring exhibit series that illustrates visual imagery and the effects of rampant violence.

For Pate, who will appear at the DuSable Museum later this week, the images were born out of necessity; however, for some black people, the illustrations evoke a sense of shame and embarrassment, adding more spotlight on the violence. "Somebody accused me of airing our dirty laundry," said Pate. "I'm not airing dirty laundry; this stuff is out here in plain sight. But I'm trying to go to the laundromat and clean this up."

Recently, I spoke with Pate about the series, how it got its name, and the importance of visual art as a means of communication to the masses.

Tonight at Tony Fitzpatrick's Firecat Projects gallery, an exhibition of artwork by Cal Schenkel tonight from 7 to 10pm. Schenkel is best known for his cover art for Frank Zappa and Reprise Records, as well as many others.

Schenkel's first collaboration with Zappa was on the cover for the Mothers of Invention's We're Only in It for the Money, which brilliantly parodies the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art. He went on to produce many of Zappa's album covers and liner designs, as well as for other bands. The one you're probably most familiar with is Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, for which Don Van Vliet posed for photographs for hours with a hollowed-out carp head on his face.

The Century Building on State Street has undergone a number of developments to both its structure and facade since it was built in 1915. Next week, the historic building will undergo yet another change: the addition of a mural commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA).

CLA, a member based business organization, commissioned designer and illustrator Noah MacMillan to create a piece of work that invoked the metropolitan flair of Chicago. MacMillan's creation, "Float," is a colorful illustration of a parade of large, bright sea creatures winding through the streets of downtown.

Hi, guys! I didn't find much going on this weekend. Please leave info about additional exhibitions that flew under my radar in the comments section. Happy holiday!

Architect Marshall Brown and artist Geof Oppenheimer will discuss architecture and urban imagery this Thursday at the Western Exhibitions gallery. Brown's exhibit Center of the World, Chicago shows that this urban designer thinks critically about Chicago's architectural history and the city's future, especially when it comes to downtown's Circle Interchange.

If you have ever been driving downtown and reached the Circle, you may feel that encountering with this concrete mystery can be both daunting and time consuming. You may not know that in 1909 one of Chicago's famous architects, Daniel Burnham, wanted to build a civic center where the Circle exists today.

For 45 years, AFRICOBRA (African Commune Of Bad Relevant Artists) has put the political and social views of African Americans on display through visual art. A coalition of five artists began AFRICOBRA on Chicago's South Side in 1968. Their goal? "To encapsulate the quintessential features of African American consciousness and world view as reflected in real time," reads the homepage of the AFRICOBRA website. Artists Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams wanted to bring an authentically black voice and aesthetic, more often depicted in music and dance, to the world of visual art.

The works by AFRICOBRA's five founding artists as well as works by Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Carolyn Lawrence and Nelson Stevens will be on display at the Logan Center Gallery starting June 28. The opening at the Logan Center is the second of a three part series showing at three different Chicago locations. The first of the AFRICOBRA in Chicago exhibitions, AFRICOBRA: Prologue-The 1960's and the Black Arts Movement began in May at the South Side Community Art Center; followed by, AFRICOBRA: Philosophy, beginning soon at the Logan Center; and the final exhibition, AFRICOBRA: Art and Impact, will be held at the DuSable Museum from July until the end of September.

Subject to Change (STC) is a monthly dance party that encourages all types of expression. This Tuesday, Subject to Change brings you their June installment at Township (2200 N. California), the proceeds of which (a $5 suggested donation) will benefit 3rd Language, a self-decribed "Chicago-based collective of artists and thinkers exploring and embracing difference, otherness and transgression." The June 4 dance party will feature DJ regulars Josie Bush (Joe Erbentraut) and Butch Sassidy the Come-Dance Kid (Mar Curran), as well as guest DJs Corrine Mina and Cojuelo Alelao. Tuesday will also include performances from H. Melt, Drow Flow and Nicole Garneau. Mar Curran, one of the STC curators, answered some questions about what makes this Chicago dance party unique.

Experience interactive art from Intel at Grant Park Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9 at "Experience Intel. Look Inside." This global tour aims to introduce customers to the Intel's broad array of innovative devices. The Grant Park installation will combine art, film, fashion, music, and interactive performances that are all powered by Ultrabook. The weekend will include an interactive installation from Universal Everything, a gaming experience from Hide & Seek and a visual history of computing by The Office for Creative Research. Bring your old laptops to be recycled and receive a discount coupon redeemable for a new Ultrabook. In addition, several Ultrabooks will be given away to guests every day of the installation. The event is free and open to the public.

On Monday nights, you can usually find throngs of hip, artsy folks smoking and chatting outside of Beauty Bar. Inside, you can find even more of them dancing and performing. Salonathon, which takes place every Monday night at the bar where you can get a martini as easily as you can get a manicure, is one of Chicago's favorite parties. Combining performance of all varieties--from storytelling to improv to live music--with a killer post-show dance party and great cocktails, Salonathon is sure to please. The founder and curator of this weekly extravaganza, Jane Beachy, not only runs Salonathon, but also produces events at some of the hippest venues in the city, including the Metro, the Logan Square Auditorium, and Steppenwolf Garage. Currently, Beachy is planning for a Pride event at Berlin and for the Two Year Anniversary of Salonathon on July 15 at Beauty Bar. I got to chat with this Chicago gal who seems like nothing short of a party expert.

• Manifest (Columbia College's BA & MFA in Photography thesis show) @ 1006 Columbus • HUGE ART SHOW @ Hubbard St. Lofts • Image Structure (artist talk & book release) @ Public Works • Ron Copeland: Remnants of Things Past @ Galerie F • On The Precipice @ Zhou B Art Center • Artists Book Collection Launch @ Johalla Projects • In a Perfect World @ Beverly Arts Center • End of Year Show: Making the New @ IIT Institute of Design • The Salon Series with Lynn Basa @ The Salon Series Projects • Gertrude Abercrombie & Julia Thecla @ Corbett vs. Dempsey • Gina Litherland: The Reason for the Unreason @ Corbett vs. Dempsey • Per Se @ 3433 • Sway (UChicago MFA Show #4) @ Logan Center Gallery • Multiple Exposures @ Bridgeport Art Center • Kickoff Celebration @ The Parlor

Tonight from 6-8pm, join the DePaul Art Museum (935 W Fullerton) for a free artist talk with Mequitta Ahuja, whose mixed-media drawings are part of the current exhibition at DPAM, "War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art." Exploring constructed Asian American identities in the US, "War Baby/Love Child" is a multi-faceted project that includes a book, traveling art exhibition, website and blog. The project examines if, and how, mixed heritage is expressed in the artwork of Asian Americans. Multi-media works, including video and installation, bring to light the overlap of race, war and imperialism, gender and sexuality, and citizenship and nationality.

"War Baby/Love Child" is at DPAM (939 W Fullerton) from April 25-June 30. Photos courtesy of museums.depaul.edu.

Each year for 79 years now The School of the Art Institute of Chicago welcomes spring with its annual student fashion show, a celebration of conceptual and cutting edge collections for us to delight in as we thaw and shed our winter pea coats. As you might imagine from an art school, many of the garments are not so much "ready to wear" as they are physical experiments, diving head first into concept via tactile investigation. Sensible Chicago-style layers were scattered throughout the collections, juxtaposed with delightful yet completely impractical gestures -- several of the collections had the models blindly stomping down the runway with their faces completely covered, often by wigs or Zentai suits... occasionally by burka-like headgear or gas masks. As in the recent past and definitely the future, a post-apocalyptic style popped up in many collections. Perhaps it's the combination of adaptable, "ready for anything" garments and forward-thinking, futuristic design that makes the End of Days such an inspiring concept. Other trends included laser-cut acrylic accessories, iridescent and metallic fabrics, and sultry veils. Imagine 60's housewife meets manic psychedelia meets S&M cyborg. In other words, the future of fashion design is anything but conservative for many SAIC fashion students -- particularly the Juniors, who are confident enough to spill out of the box and not yet concerned with having to actually sell their work. Enjoy our favorites below:

Beyond Influence: The Art of Little City will be on exhibition in Chicago May 10-August 31, 2013 from 5-8pm at The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (Intuit) (756 N. Milwaukee Avenue) with a free opening reception on Friday, May 10th from 5-8pm. Presented by Intuit and in conjunction with the Little City Center for the Arts (Little City), Beyond Influence is co-curated by Matthew Arient and Frank Tumino. The exhibition features the work of 11 artists, who have been creating work at Little City in Palatine, Illinois for the past 20 years. Little City aims to provide artistic opportunites to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The artists in Beyond Influence will include Harold Jeffries, Tarik Echols, and Wayne Mazurek, and their work will vary in media, demonstrating the wide-ranging capabilities of the Little City studio. Intuit describes Little City as "a place where there are no constraints in ideas, mediums or possibilities." The featured artists in the exhibition, says Intuit, "display that they are in fact 'beyond influence' - that of the mainstream art world, other's expectations, and their own limitations.

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Imagine if the designers on "Project Runway" had semesters instead of days to complete their collections and they were encouraged to think way outside the box -- like, down the street from the box -- and come up with intricate, complete looks with solid conceptual frameworks and visual interest up the wazoo. The resulting wearable, avante-garde sculptures delight, amuse, and somehow manage to still (usually) make the models look sexy and savvy. This can all be seen live, right in front of you, at The School of the Art Institute's annual fashion show, Fashion 2013 -- because "ready to wear" is great and all, but when you're paying $75 a ticket, you want a show. And art school kids (love 'em or hate 'em) are the right people to give you one, because they've been poked and prodded by some of the most talented faculty in the world to come up with strikingly fresh designs, incorporating and combining techniques from the fields of sculpture, performance, design, technology, architecture and installation.

"Our strong team of faculty and students inspires us to advance, take more risks and follow unusual directions in order to break through to new territory," said Associate Professor Anke Loh, Sage Chair in Fashion Design. "We are poised and ready to continue to experiment with our individual and collective inquiries into fashion, body, and garment."

Fashion 2013 will be presented three times this Friday, May 3: at 9am is an open dress rehearsal. Tickets are $40. Noon and 3pm shows are general admission seating. Tickets for those shows are $75. Tickets are available now at saicfashion.org and also at the door. Those of us interested in the future of fashion, the intersection of cutting-edge design and contemporary art or simply a breathtaking show make sure not to miss it each spring. It's worth playing hooky from work.

If you've been paying attention in Chicago lately, you've probably found white, pre-stamped and pre-addressed postcards scattered throughout the city--in bookshops, record stores and anywhere they can find a place to hide. The postcards have one prompt on them and a code in the bottom right corner. The prompt is always the same: "Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die. Use this card as your canvas." You've probably figured out is that this is part of something artsy. But what you may not have known is that the postcards are part of a huge, city-wide art exhibition by Jenny Lam, one of Chicago's most impressive independent curators and a self-described "troublemaker and all-around nerd."

For months now, Lam has been collecting the postcards you send in, reading your answers, and tracking where you obtained your postcard by the code in the bottom right corner. The evidence she compiles will be part of her project, Dreams of a City, which will include a book of the postcards, a large exhibition, and site-specific installations around Chicago. Collecting postcards from every Chicagoan who is willing to send one in might seem like a daunting amount of work, but Lam has actually done this before: in New York City in 2008. Lam's current Dreams of a City in Chicago, however, promises to be bigger in scale and better than ever. Lam, who's most recent exhibition I CAN DO THAT won audience choice for "Best Art Exhibit" in the 20th anniversary edition of NewCity's Best of Chicago issue, is a pioneer of art that is interactive, collaborative and as much fun for viewers as it is for artists. She sat down to talk with me about her exciting and mysterious Chicago postcard venture.

14 15 111: this is more than a series of numbers, it is a series of titles that will be presented at the first event in The Other Room Series at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. This is a multimedia collaboration by composer/songwriter Daniel Knox and photographer John Atwood. 14 15 111 is a suite of music combining live instruments (synth, voice, percussion, two tubas, electric bass, violin, cello and a choir), pre-recorded material, and field recordings (featuring excerpts from Knox's work with The Pushkin Theater in Moscow in 2012), all set to video of footage shot by Atwood.

The work 14 15 111 seems to be created within a closed feedback loop between Knox and Atwood, both referencing their observations and experiences. The start of this loop can come about almost anywhere. To try and honestly define the moment when it began would probably be futile, because, as all creative processes, these compositions seem strictly driven by the passions of the creators. Out of focus video creates beautiful two dimensional meandering compositions, sometimes shot through windows, which becomes the primary grounding source for space within the footage. The scenes are almost abstract, and show us a world we have seen before, it is all so familiar. It is difficult to fully suspend the video into abstraction because throughout the video we are reminded that we are the creators of our reality, we tell ourselves stories, fill in gaps, and finish narratives. 14 15 111 successfully, although subtly, reminds us how much we take for granted.

Two performances of 14 15 111 are currently scheduled, one on May 2 at 7pm and the other on May 3 at 7pm. Tickets are available now for $15http://www.art.org/2013/04/the-other-room-presents-daniel-knox-john-atwood/

If you live in the city, which I am assuming you do because you are reading this, then you have heard of, seen, or been involved in some sort of violent act, and that is the topic of Collaboraction's Crime Scene, as the title may suggest. Anthony Moseley is the visionary for this piece that tries to "do something" rather than just entertain or tell a story, and what it does is start the conversation. What is violence? How can it be controlled? Who is contributing to it? And whether your conversation after the show will be about the show or about real violence, which is what the show is about, it doesn't really matter because it gets you talking, and it absolutely will.

This is not a performance I want to touch in terms of artistic quality, although it is, by no stretch of the imagination, quality. It is not about the story though, it is not really even about violence,. I say that because it is a confrontational performance that uses violence to speak against violence, this is about the viewer 100%. How do you feel? How do you react? When I was there I heard laughter when someone was killed on stage, if that person walks away to think about that reaction, I think they would find their relationship to violence a little more easy to locate, or examine. There are no answers to violence, and none are presented to us save the song "Let Hope Rise" which recreates the whole "We Are The World" type sob story, and very directly show how little can be done.

This weekend may be your last chance to see it so make some room in your calendar on Thursday April 4th 8pm Friday April 5th 8pm Saturday April 6th 8pm Sunday April 7th 7pm

This show is a must see and I would like to plug their IndyGoGo Crowd-Funding campaign - please Help this show continue being seen by seeing it and funding it's becoming a traveling show. Click here to help them out financially.

In the constant hustle and bustle of today's society, artists Stacy Peterson, Pei San Ng, and Amie Sell have decided to tackle the intricate web of human connections in their Art on Armitage installation: Nebulous Connections.

From April 5-30, Art on Armitage, 4125 W. Armitage, will be featuring an eco-friendly window art exhibit in celebration of the modern era of unity, harmony, and prosperity.

Inspired by a trip to Creative Reuse Warehouse with the goal to use "up-cycled" materials, these artists created a nebulous cloud of recycled industrial hardware and metal wires. The piece plays on modern communication and acts as a visual representation of how people work together to create communities, social networks, and how molecular structures build. Using the individual recycled pieces, a wholeness or oneness is created.

An artist's reception from 6am-8pm on April 6th will welcome Artists Stacy Peterson, Pei San Ng, Amie Sell, and you! Meet these artists and better understand their installation.

A reception featuring the installation's artists will be held on Saturday, April 6, from 6pm-8pm; for more information, be sure to check out Art on Armitage.

On the second Wednesday of every month, the American Society of Media Photographers and American Photographic Artists (with the help of either ProGear, Dodd Camera, or Calumet Photographic) turn DeLux Bar and Grill, 669 N. Milwaukee Ave., into Chicago's photography networking headquarters.

Bar nights are meant to be fun, and this one doesn't disappoint. There are always drink deals and some kind of food provided. It seems one of the sponsors does a prize-draw every time, and a business card is all that's required to enter. Yet, with events like this, I always wonder if professionals are actually forming connections, or if this is just a chance to party on someone else's tab.

When I asked Brian Eaves, "photographer first," and "digital tech. second to pay the bills," he said that it is a very important event that offers a multitude of opportunities that may not immediately meet the eye. "It's great for networking," he said, "'cause every now and then you do find some good people here that you've never met before." Eaves told me how a whole community of photo-related professionals ranging from makeup artists to printers surface at the allure of a more informal setting.

This informal setting also offers the opportunity for up and coming artists to rub elbows with the more established folks in order to make the connections that may eventually lead to the coveted photography assistant job. The bar night has a long history, beginning before ASMP and APA took the event on, maintained by devoted artists until the present day. "There was always like ten of us that would do this," said Eaves, "Everyone that pretty much worked off of Grand Avenue, between Foster and Damen and south to Lake St. -- we would page each other... everyone would come and just talk."

The event still sustains that important human element and cultivates the spirit of creation. The next bar night will be Wednesday, Mar. 13 at DeLux Bar and Grill, 669 N. Milwaukee Ave. It's free to go -- bring a business card to enter the drawing.

If you think you know Pablo Picasso, a visit to The Art Institute of Chicago's new exhibition Picasso and Chicago might have you second-guessing your expertise. In a sweeping tour of dozens of rooms, nooks and hallways, Picasso and Chicago takes viewers on a captivating journey into the artist's life and works. You would be hard-pressed to find an exhibition that is more engaging or more thoughtfully laid out.

In Picasso and Chicago, we learn of the people, places and events that shaped Picasso's work: the many women who served as his muses, including Fernande who inspired Picasso's cubist sculpture Head of a Woman (1900); the many landscapes that sparked his imagination, like the Cote d'Azur, which shaped his exploration of fauns and other mythical figures; and his relationship to wars happening around him, including the Spanish Civil War, which informed his notable and anguish-filled work Guernica (1937).

Kara Walker's new installation at The Art Institute of Chicago is as impressive for its visually rich and thought-provoking material as it is for packing itself neatly into a room no bigger than your living room. In the intimate, secluded space of Gallery 293 in the Modern Wing, Rise Up Ye Mighty Race! offers viewers a chance to confront issues of race, gender, and sexuality as historic and enduring phenomena of the human experience.

Rise Up Ye Mighty Race! includes eight silhouettes cut from white and black paper, five large graphite drawings, and forty small mixed-media drawings. Against the rich gray walls of Gallery 293, Walker's white and black paper silhouettes are immediately captivating. The silhouettes portray characters in groups of two or three with cartoon-like simplicity. Walker chooses characters that predominate in our collective imagination of the antebellum South, including slaves, masters, and Southern belles. The silhouettes seem to completely lack detail while simultaneously being completely filled with it. In the character's faces and bodies, we see nothing but blank white or black paper. But along the carefully carved edges of each cutout character, Walker has spared no detail. We see the armpit hair of a man with his arm outstretched, the erect nipples of a woman facing sideways, the fullness of a girl's lower lip, and a drop of urine clinging to the penis of a young boy. This is the most striking thing about Walker's silhouettes: we know practically nothing about the characters, while simultaneously knowing their most intimate details.

It is amazing how easily we sort each other into categories with one glance in our daily lives. White or black. Rich or poor. We see a mere outline of each other and we somehow know all we need to know. Walker's complex silhouettes, however, remind us that we never do. Maybe you try to ignore a homeless woman asking for change, but the color of her frayed shoes stay with you for the rest of the day. That detail reminds you that she is a person with a unique story, rather than just a stereotype. It is this tension that Walker captures--the tension between our desire to never really see each other, and the intimate details that we can't help but see.

Collaboractions' new and original production, Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology creates a bridge between entertainment, social justice and public service -- there is sophisticated lighting and choreography, touching musical interludes, comic relief and captivating, hyper-dramatic moments that we expect from theater, but to call this play entertainment is almost blasphemy. Luckily for us, it is still entertaining. Crime Scene has a clear agenda, though -- to call attention to Chicago's serious and escalating crime problem by re-enacting three key homicides that took place in the city over the past few years.

"The inspiration from Crime Scene came from a need to create work connected to important issues in our community", explained director Anthony Moseley. "I believe theater can serve a critical role in addressing the issue of violence by offering Chicagoans a transcendent artistic experience that forces us to confront and question the core elements of senseless violence."

Coming this September, come on out for EXPO Chicago's EXPO Art Week 2013 (Sept. 16-22) in conjunction with Choose Chicago and Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This four-day event will be held in Navy Pier's Festival Hall and will host over 120 leading international galleries providing visitors with a mix of contemporary/modern art and design. Meanwhile, art and cultural festivities will take place all over the city.

During the Expo, keep and eye out and partake in citywide exhibits, gallery openings, installations, public art projects, music, theater and dance performances, and special dining experiences for residents and visiting international cultural tourists.

What may be the city's smallest commercial art gallery has taken up residence in a mixed use building near the Loyola Red Line stop. The 200-square foot space has an unfamiliar shape. Its floor is sunk several feet below street-level, the gallery's six walls of various lengths join at odd angles, the bathroom door is three steps above everything. "It's perfect," says founder and director Kristin Abhalter. Named for her grandparents, "a creative force that was incredibly supportive of me," the Roman Susan gallery has a mission to be a similar force in the Rogers Park neighborhood and in the arts in Chicago.

On the Day of the Dead last year, Roman Susan opened its door to what Abhalter describes as a bustling Rogers Park art community. When she noticed the for-rent sign, she had already been thinking about establishing a public destination in her neighborhood to show art and simply connect to residents and local artists. In the age of social media, physical spaces open to everyone are essential to engaging residents in their community and warding off the degradation of networks that provide personal contact with like-minded individuals.

And already, the gallery seems to be building a name for itself doing just that. Artists from Rogers Park and around Chicago have exhibited work at Roman Susan, and the number of visitors to the gallery continues to increase. The building at 1224 W. Loyola Ave., also home to a hodgepodge of eccentric specialty shops, sees considerable foot traffic. Residents like 70-year-old Kate Walsh, a practicing dancer, stop on the way to the train and chat with Abhalter about art or Rogers Park history, and some have shown their work at Roman Susan.

The romance of the Industrial Age will sweep through Chicago for one night only -- this Saturday, Feb. 2 -- when the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts its annual fundraising benefit, artEdge.

MCA's Warehouse location will be transformed into a work of functional and live art reminiscent of days past and of the building's own history as a bakery. The benefit will include a meal and a concert, but is much more than the sum of its parts. Guests will be treated to a complete experience from beginning to end, and with the proceeds going back to the museum, the event is not to be missed.

Attendees will enter through the back alleys of the warehouse, a throwback to Chicago as a city of bricks, and then make their way up a winding, wrought-iron staircase to the first course of their meal, hors d'oeuvres strung from chain-linked walls. Next, guests will find themselves in an industrial-chic wonderland of light and metal created by Heffernan Morgan Designs and Event Creative.

The event guarantees not only a treat for the tastebuds, but also a symphony for the other four senses. As the party-goers make their way through the Chain Link Room, Automation Room, Corrugated Room and Chain Room, they'll experience dinner served on moving conveyor belts, whirling ceiling fans, state-of-the-art manufacturing presentations, and special live performances curated by Peter Taub, the MCA's Director of Performance Programs.

The soiree will conclude with a dessert bar, a VIP Rubber Bar, and a concert by indie pop group Fitz and the Tantrums.

The event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 7pm to 11pm. Individual tickets are available for $1,000, which includes the cocktail reception, dinner, dessert reception and concert performance. Table packages begin at $15,000. Concert tickets are available for $150 and include the dessert reception, open bar and concert performance. To purchase tickets, table packages, make reservations, or to inquire about sponsorship, email hhanas@mcachicago.org or call (312) 397-3868.

Last fall I visited SAIC's graduate painting studios on the 16th floor of 111 S Michigan Ave. to get a better look at Emre Kocagil's paintings. His juicy, energetic abstract oil paintings in Miami Vice colors, accompanying sculptural arrangements and unwieldy sketches fill out his studio nicely. They bring a lightness and an air of joviality to the small studio space, sitting at the end of a long hallway full of canvas-covered doorways, emitting the thick smell of oil paint. Inside, Kocagil excitedly pulled new work out of nooks and crannies, giggling to himself as he explained his trains of thought, spouting out ideas about color choices, painting traditions, modes of painting practice, simplicity and complexity, being a hermit, listening to music, talking to people and not talking to people, and mostly how crazy he feels after sitting alone in the studio for days.

This is a series of paintings done on 8 foot panels, displayed leaning up against the wall throughout the entirety of Gallery #4 in the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. One side of these panels shows devastation, the other side shows a utopia. The devastation is unrelenting ? it shows a world where every resource has been mined, from the trees in the forests, to the ocean and the human spirit ? there is nothing left but the reminisce of the culture that we opted for. The dried ocean floor with its oil tankers and the desolate neighborhood with the tire swing remain, but the corporate promises and support have completely faded.

Cold Basement Dramatic's production of Jenny Seidelman's Henry Moore is Melting makes its home at the historical Atheneaum Theater . The theater opened in 1911 as a part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, which still stands majestically next to the theater. It houses a 950-seat main stage theater and three studio theaters, as well as a reception room.

A five minute walk took us down an awkwardly long and winding hallway to Studio One, a 67-seat black box theater and Henry Moore's temporary home. We sat down in the last row of chairs, which were reminiscent of those in an old airliner, and settled in to see a play about which I only knew three things: 1. It was about Irish gypsies; 2. It involved art; and 3. It was based on a true story.

The true story took place in 2005, when one of Moore's bronze statues, Reclining Figure, was stolen from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds by a group of Irish Travelers. It is believed that the sculpture was melted down for scrap and sold for only a fraction of its estimated value. Seidelman's play brings these events and characters to life in a fast-paced, whiskey-filled, understatedly witty and passionate tale of a young man who loves art more than anything else in the world.

People are strange. They can be such idiots, and so violent. American culture is so ass-backward, yet so sickeningly appealing. Paul Perkins knows this all, and thinks about it, maybe a little too hard, as he cuts up tiny pieces of cellophane and construction paper in his carnivalesque basement studio on the South Side.

As part of an ongoing "Studio Visit" series for Gapers Block, I visited him in his studio back in July and asked him a few questions about his work. Perkins has a solo exhibition up at Peanut Gallery (1000 N. California Ave.) through this Saturday, January 12.

Dame Frances Yates, renowned scholar of English proto-science alchemy and mysticism, recounts the history of an architecture-based "art of memory" handed down from Simonides of Ceos to Greek and Roman orators, through Thomas Aquinas and Dominican monks, to Renaissance Italians Giulio Camillo and Giordano Bruno, to eventually influence the logical method of Descartes and the monadic metaphysics of Leibniz during the Enlightenment. Explicating Bruno, Yates says that, "(i)n 'your primordial nature,' the archetypal images exist in a confused chaos; the magic memory draws them out of chaos and restores their order, gives back to man his divine powers." The utilization of spatial structures as tools to link mortal minds back to eternal ideals, and thereby strive for self-perfection, seems a relevant technique to consider in contemplating the icons of local queer historicity lovingly executed in gouache and ballpoint pen on paper by Edie Fake.

...aaand that's all she wrote, folks! Please leave info about additional visual art events this week in the comments section, if you know of any. Have a warm and happy solstice!

See Potential, a collaboration between photographer Emily Schiffer, the Center for Urban Transformation's Orrin Williams and a variety of other partners, launched its first project today at the future site of Kusanya Cafe, 825 W. 69th St. Photographs have been installed at the site to "beautify the community" and raise awareness of food access issues in Englewood.

Filmmaker Steve Delahoyde created a short documentary for Alternative Apparel's Common Thread blog about The Installation Experiment. Installations by Nikki Renee Anderson, Gerda Meyer Bernstein, Barbara Cooper, Chelsea Culp, Ben Foch, Barbara Hashimoto and Bernard Williams was on view in the Chicago Arts District's ShowPOD spaces from Sept. 9 to Oct. 31.

SOFA is a fair of history. This is evident upon first entering Festival Hall at Navy Pier and was especially noticeable on opening night of the 19-year-old fair. Unlike the weariness masked as over-jubilant fervor of the inaugural EXPO CHICAGO, the spirit of SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art + Design) is born out its familiarity for visitors and for collectors.

Truly great design is invisible. It exists outside of our day-to-day interactions, instead seamlessly blending into everything else we do - the work, the play, the relaxation at home. You don't want a designed object to insert itself in the things you need to do, only help facilitate what happens from morning to night.

Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts opens at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., next Wednesday, Oct. 17, and continues until Feb. 3, 2013. The exhibition, which was organized by London's Victoria and Albert Museum, will make the final stop on its world tour in Chicago.

The exhibition welcomes attendees to step into the colorful and exquisite realm of India's maharajas, who ruled the large nation from the 1700s to the 1940s. Their absolute rule, including immense military and religious influence, caused them to play a significant role in both the cultural and political history of India. To this day, they are still a very important national symbol.

Maharaja teaches its visitors the rich background behind India's royal duty, including stringent expectations and guidelines.

The exhibition features over 200 regal artifacts, including ornate jewelry, instruments, artwork, clothing, furniture, and weaponry. Experience the decadence first-hand by viewing the bejeweled every-day objects of India's "great kings."

Admission to Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts is included in The Field Museum's Discovery and All-Access passes.

A sense of smell is paramount to a true food-tasting experience. Earlier that day, what began as a tickle in the back of my throat developed into a full-blown cold, one that challenged my enjoyment of the Chicago Artists' Coalition annual Starving Artist benefit. For the event, local celebrity chefs team up with local artists to craft works and eats inspired by each others' vision. Despite my own physical ailments shaping my experiences of the food, as a benefit in support of the visual arts, 2012's Starving Artist event was a success.

What does it take to run a worthwhile and eclectic artist-focused event? Well for one, the ability for guests to view and interact with a variety of different artistic practices. Rather than load the space and the evening with in-cohesive artworks, the event's organizers gave guests room to breathe and interact with the art on their own.

The Chicago Artists' Coalition's annual Starving Artist benefit event is this Saturday, Oct. 6. Once again, four artists have been paired with four chefs to create artwork and food inspired by each other.

Photographer Laura Letinsky teams up with food preservationist Tara Lane of Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, multimedia artist Jeanne Dunning pairs with executive chef Jared Van Camp of Nellcôte, conceptual artist Erik Peterson collaborates with chef de cuisine Erling Wu-Bower of Avec (formerly sous chef at Publican Quality Meats), and multimedia artist Jenny Kendler works with executive chef Beverly Kim of Bonsoirée.

In case you haven't heard by now, EXPO was good -- really good, and filled with museum-quality work. Little-seen gems by established icons hung next to ambitious new works by burgeoning talent. The overall quality of the work was astounding, as well as level of organization and class of the fair itself. I was left unimpressed by very few booths, and my only quibble is that the fair was only up a few days and I only made it there for one of them. Granted, the smell of commercialism wafted through EXPO, just like the rest of Navy Pier -- this was an art fair, after all, and it seemed that sales were ubiquitous on opening night. I enjoyed rubbing elbows with stylish, important-looking well-to-dos, and picking the goofy artists out of the crowds of goofy collectors. Make no mistake, this is great news for Chicago, and I for one am happy as hell to welcome EXPO (and the rest of the world, for that matter) to the city. We know we're awesome, but until last weekend, I don't think everyone else did.

If you've strolled along Michigan Avenue past the Van Buren Metra station, you may have noticed a poster for an unusual creature: the Octophant, a wondrous creation of Phineas Jones, artist, printer and Gapers Block's house illustrator. The faux Century of Progress poster was commissioned by the City, and has baffled tourists and locals alike.

Jones has set up an IndieGoGo page for pre-orders of a special limited edition of the poster. The 20"x18.5" silkscreen print will be at least 10 screens, he says, making its $45 pre-order price a ridiculous bargain. Get yours today, before it's too late.

It was apparent within my first few moments at EXPO CHICAGO that the caliber of artists and the chosen galleries were above and beyond the last year of Art Chicago. Last year, I reported on the dearth of quality of work at the now-defunct exposition. The attendees were more exciting than the artists and the Merchandise Mart, with its expansive yet claustrophobic environment did not provide a welcoming environment. Unlike Art Chicago, one of EXPO CHICAGO's greatest advantages are the size and scale of Navy Pier's Festival Hall. The vast ceilings and open floor plan allows room for guests to breathe. But most importantly, that extra space gives viewers a chance to actually see the art. The guests at last year's Art Chicago were compelling because that is all one could see in the tightly-packed space. EXPO CHICAGO succeeds then in its great focus on art. Rather than stifling the purpose of the exposition, EXPO presents works cleanly and precisely for collectors and novices alike. Below are my picks for the top galleries and artists for EXPO CHICAGO 2012.

I was able to get into EXPO Chicago and get some footage of some of the work and some of the people from the Vernissage event; with that footage I made this video.

I recently got the opportunity to catch up with Tony Karman about his new endeavor EXPO Chicago. Tony remarks on many of the contributing parties that really made EXPO become what it will be.

Tonight is the night to see some art, guys, or at least a whole lot of other people looking at art. Here goes it:

The African Festival of the Arts, one of the city's largest cultural neighborhood festivals, kicks off today and runs throughout Labor Day weekend at Washington Park, 5100 S. Cottage Grove. The family-friendly festival, now in its 23rd year, boasts a variety of visual and sculpted art, fashion, dancing and workshops, as well as live entertainment from local, national, and international artists.

Among the highlights for this year's festival is hip hop star MC Lyte, who will sign copies of her new book, Unstoppable, and performances by Chicago's own Joan Collaso and the Eleven Divas, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, legendary house music DJs Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn of the Chosen Few, Nona Hendryx and more.

Tickets are $20-$30; for a complete schedule line-up and ticket information, visit the website or call 773-955-2787.

Earlier this year, I wrote about one of the more interesting and independent project spaces in Chicago, SUB-MISSION. The space is below THE MISSION, an art gallery located in the East Village and featuring the work of local, national, and international art of the Americas. SUB-MISSION exclusively features Chicago artists and gives them a space to create unique, one-of-a-kind installation work that engages their community and the featured artists on the main level.

THE MISSION recently announced their open call for new local artists to exhibit in this subterranean space. The deadline for the next round of artists is October 15. More information about submission guidelines is available on their site. For additional questions, contact Sarah Syman by email at: sarah@themissionprojects.com.

Around January or February of this year a picture of a house with wings started following me on Twitter - yes, this post starts with a Twitter follow. I checked out the house-with-wing's Twitter and found out that it was an organization called Flying House - an annual collaboration project with artist-writer pairs. Naturally, I followed back.

In March, I submitted my application to Flying House - it sounded like fun being paired up with a random artist and having a guaranteed show out of it. A few weeks later, I got the adrenaline-producing call that I was chosen as one of six artist-writer pairs to work on collaborations.

Now, nearly six months after those first submissions, the six pairs are preparing for the upcoming show on August 25th at Maes Studio.

"Collaboration is so much about artists being OK with putting your work in front of somebody else and hearing the feedback and using each other's ideas," said Megan Paonessa, Flying House co-founder. "It's definitely that piling up of ideas and making something out of it."

The Edgewater café Kitchen Sink is currently presenting a group art show called "(wo)men & me(n)." The show is in conjunction with Chicago's first ever trans-pride event, Trans, Gender-non-conforming and Intersex Freedom (T.G.I.F.), which was held last Sunday, July 29 at Union Park and had around 300 attendees.

"Since [T.G.I.F.]was being organized this year, and we have such a wonderful trans-community in and around Kitchen Sink -- both in terms of customers and staff base - we decided that we wanted to do a collaborative group art exhibit focusing on the experience and the artistic vision of trans and gender non-conforming artists," said Jakob Van Lammeren, writer, artist and Kitchen Sink employee. "We really wanted to showcase what our community is doing in terms of art both visual, photography, and writing, as well."

The Chicago Film Archives is dedicated to preserving and cataloging films that reflect Chicago and Midwest history and culture. In this spirit, the organization is hosting its first annual fundraiser, the CFA Media Mixer, featuring three newly commissioned video pieces created by three video/film artists and three audio artists. The night will be hosted by WBEZ's Alison Cuddy on Friday, Aug. 17.

The video pieces were constructed in parts over the last two months. In June, the video/film artists worked with footage from the CFA's collections. Each visual piece was then handed off to an audio partner who spent the month of July composing an accompanying sound track. The final products will be premiered the night of the fundraiser.

The streets of Wicker Park are filled with upscale boutiques and gourmet taco shops, but the neighborhood was once reborn as an artist's enclave. Like many parts of Chicago, Wicker Park has undergone transformation, both good and unfortunate. The last legs of gentrification usually ensure that the artistic colonizers that first remade the neighborhood are pushed out. And yet, many artistic practices (even those still gaining footing in Chicago's fickle art community) remain. Defibrillator, a performance art gallery, has quickly established itself as an epicenter for emerging and established local, national, and international performance art in the city. For the 2012 Wicker Park Fest, the gallery curated (with a grant from the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce) Air Pocket Project, a series of five inflatable performance installations located at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street. The Wicker Park Fest runs from noon to 8pm today and Sunday, July 29.

When we talk about the Pitchfork Music Festival, we usually talk about the abundance of performers from across the country and globe. Perhaps we mention the heat or the the ongoing mini-events (CHIRP Record Fair, Flatstock) that provide a welcome respite during the long, intensive days spent walking from one end of the park to the next. This year, art installations by Chicago-based Matthew Hoffman and Andrea Jablonski in conjunction with Johalla Projects, aim to frame and entice the experience of festival goers. The Pitchfork Music Festival begins today, July 13, and runs through Sunday, July 15.

Work by one of my favorite screenprinters, Milwaukee's The Little Friends of Printmaking, will be on display at Inkling, 2917-1/2 N. Broadway, starting today. The shop will be holding a reception tonight from 6pm to 10pm. Meet the artists, Melissa and JW Buchanan, enjoy complementary refreshments, and pick up a poster or two!

Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 N. Ashland Ave., 3rd floor, opens an exhibition of more than 50 of Vivian Maier's original photographic prints from the collection of Ron Slattery tonight, June 29, from 5pm to 8pm.

Vivian Maier, as you may recall, was a North Shore nanny whose passion was street photography. Her brilliant artistry only came to light after her death, when large portions of her output was sold at auction and collectors of street and vernacular photography took notice. Slattery was one of the collectors who purchased prints at that auction in 2007, while others have exhibited their collections and produced books, he has kept his stash of photos a secret until now. The vintage prints in this show, all no larger than drug store snapshots, have never been exhibited to the public.

Interestingly, gallery co-founder Jim Dempsey knew Vivian Maier in real life. When he was manager of the old Film Center, she was a regular film-goer. Dempsey nicknamed her "Frau Blucher" for her heavy accent and idiosyncrasies, but over time became a friend.

As an artist making my way through all of the art Chicago has to offer I am often overwhelmed, not only by the amount we have to offer, but by the talent we have here as well, it is outstanding. Week after week we get the opportunity to see shows that deserve international attention and this week is no different. As I write this two of the biggest art advocates I know, Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke, are putting the finishing touches on a great show at the Co- Prosperity Sphere that is comprised of some artists, which, for one reason or another, are flying under the radar.

Opening tomorrow, June 22 at Linda Warren Projects is a much anticipated show of two artists with distinct voices and ideas of process. Juan Angel Chavez presents Gone, which is a collection of pieces that he arrived at, dealing with process as a means of creation rather than attempting to "create" something or another. The other artist, Glenn Goldberg, presents us with masterly crafted canvases of a world created by just as much of what it is as what it isn't.

June 22- August 18, 2012 Gallery Y: Juan Angel Chavez: Gone Gallery X: Glenn Goldberg: Fables and Other Places Opening Reception: June 22 from 6-9pm

It's not that traditional architectural practices lack a focus on design and the execution of ideas. But after spending time in Tele Vision, the School of the Art Institute's final graduate exhibition featuring works from students in the Architecture, Interior Architecture, Designed Objects, and Fashion departments, it is apparent that like other departments in the school, SAIC students value the complete synthesis of the tangible and conceptual.

Only the truly gifted can successfully make a hamburger from a societal sacred cow -- think Parker & Stone taking the most delicate of subjects, once relegated to tearjerker morality plays, and throwing it into the "South Park" blender. Remember Eric Cartman's afternoon adventure as special guest at the NAMBLA convention? The scene in the movie The Other Guys in which comedic actor Steve Coogan's sleazy hedge fund manager gets caught by police officers Farrell and Walberg (very) briefly watching kiddie porn on his laptop? Yep, grizzly topics, and the most talented staff has to perform a creative smash-and-grab -- get in, make the joke, and get out of Dodge, and fast. If you've got to stop and give the audience stage directions, well, the battle and the war hit the lost bin. I'll admit I wanted to see Exit, Pursued by a Bear, to see how long I could remain squirm-free in the seventy-five minute performance time.

Can the brain lie to itself? The definitive answer is "yes," from taking the obvious and rationalizing it to something else, or completely out of existence, to utter denial of the experience that's had, and having, the brain always lies to itself; it has to, to better serve its host, to keep moving forward. But on occasion, the brain can get stuck on stupid, embedded in an anatomical quagmire where no matter the jumbling of experiences, the jostling of gray matter, memory is faulty, unreliable, manipulative and manipulated. We're "fixed" to enhance to goodness, rationalize away the badness -- or simply forget; three speeds: rationalize, deny, lie -- all set to turbocharged.

Chicago is a city historically-rich in the practice of performance art. But like many artistic practices that were once prominent in the city, it is only now that this history is being recognized on a grander scale. Featuring a mix of 29 local, national, and international performing artists, the first Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival aims to address both the city's emerging practitioners of performance art as well as the eclectic array of seasoned performers across the globe. The festival runs through June 10 at various venues across the city.

One of the most exciting (and much needed) grassroots film projects in recent memory is the Chicago 8 film festival, which is devoted to exclusively showing Super 8 and other small gauge format films. After a successful fundraising campaign, the fest is gearing up for its second run in October and currently accepting submissions. I sat down with co-programmer JB Mabe for a chat about the festival's origins, the ongoing analog VS digital feud, and STEP UP 3-D.

What the folks down home won't do for a little excitement -- anything to justify their existence, and everything to prove that they actually exist. Even the risk of being poisoned and suffocated with WWI mustard gas beats staying around a place that even Death forgets to visit sometimes. In a split second you can go from a benign spectator, watching the excitement of, and living vicariously through someone else's minds' eye, to the performer, the chorus, even the ringmaster of events. Just when you think you've got the whole town figured out, cataclysm strikes. The circus comes to town, and nothing or no one is ever the same.

Kathleen Waterloo is opening her exhibition of new encaustic paintings tomorrow, June 1, at Addington Gallery in River North. These works made of layered wax infused with pigments are references to charts and graphs the artist sought out and encountered while working on the series.

Bruce Nauman's "Cast of the Space Under My Chair" is a pretty good rebus for a lot of postwar art. A cast concrete block bearing the rectilinear impression of nondescript legs and a seat, it disposes of concerns with high-tech functionality, high-fashion prettiness, or high-concept intangibility. Precious without being at all special or unique, it recalls a moment and a space that can be recorded but not retrieved, just an oddly pointless fossil of the industrial-design era. Much the same could be said of the thrust of contemporaneous Pop, Minimalist, and Fluxus artwork, currents which have resurfaced in the last decade.

On Monday, May 21, Northwestern University's Evanston campus will host a fleeting work of art, erected by students, staff, and faculty and removed by nature. The construction is a recreation of conceptual artist Allan Kaprow's seminal sculpture/performance work, "Fluids," and will entail stacking approximately 375 blocks of ice to build a monumental structure on the Plaza outside the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at 40 Arts Circle Drive.

Kaprow coined the term, "Happening" to describe an event or situation performed in the name of art. He first conceived of "Fluids" in 1967 and intended it to be staged again by others--creating a shared experience in art through separate happenings. This will mark the first time the project has been reenacted in the Midwest.

The cool cats over at FugScreen screenprinting studios have a conundrum (albeit a pretty good one to have): too much art, not enough space. So they're opening a gallery in Logan Square this July to exhibit the best work that's run through their hands by their cohorts. With a focus on poster and street art, Galerie F has a unique ethic: fully functional six days of the week, all day long, with no appointments required. In other words, an "open door gallery". This is important to them because they want to be accessible -- they want people to be able to wander in and browse at their own pace. And as cool as Chicago's plethora of artist-run, DIY spaces are, you just can't do that at most of them.

Coming to Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts in west Pilsen is a group show entitled 19th State of Mind. The title of this show refers to the 19th state to enter the union, Indiana, and the state of mind of the people who have grown up in this industrial, depressed area. A large portion of this show features the artists from CISA (Crazy Indiana Style Artists). I got to sit down and talk to Ish, a long time member of CISA, he spoke about the idea that Hammond, although not a "big city" like Chicago, has an inner city quality and, for some, long term effects that are directly related to the waning industry that the area was built on.

Gapers Block's house illustrator, Phineas X. Jones, is well known for his amazing Octophant, the mascot for his poster business. Visitors to Grant Park this summer will encounter the fantastical creature as an advertisement for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, posted on the art nouveau Van Buren Street entrance to the Metra Electric station.

Hell, at the Intuit, is a bright collection of work that takes a hard look at the evils of life. The artists that are in this show obviously deal, or dealt with, these ideas regularly in their daily lives rather than, like most of us, deep inside ourselves. Being so familiar with the material, they are able to conjure up imagery that most artists would feel might be too overt, and for them it very well may be. Without a formal arts education to decipher for them a random group of rules, they are free to examine art however they feel.

Laura Elayne Miller describes the process of her work as an "archaelogical dig." Before creating any new work in mediums ranging from sculpture to filmmaking to printmaking (and many others), Miller must collect, read, look, listen, and jump into the themes and ideas of her work. In her latest work - an "artistic cartography" of her three interpretations of sensory experience and space - entitled Sentient Space at THE MISSION, Miller based the creation on a prototype from two years ago.

"I just find it really interesting that you could take the structure of cartography or the idea of concrete data or elements from environment, space, and place to combine that with metaphor and experiential ideas."

Opening tomorrow at Linda Warren Gallery, Tom Torluemke's Ring Around the Rosie looks at life, packages it all up in beautiful colors, and presents it for us in all of its odd, conflicting and contradicting glory. As a seasoned artist Tom brings to the table maturity, deep exploration and a goofiness all his own, and to really appreciate it you would need to spend time absorbing what he has to offer in this, his first solo show at Linda Warren Projects. Also opening there tomorrow is Living Dead Girls, which features the work of Jeriah Hildwine. This group of paintings presents a body of work, created over the period of five years, that emanates from a slew of pop cultural influences.

John Webster crafted the uber-tragedy The Duchess of Malfi in 1612, based on the true life events of Giovanna d'Aragona, widow of noble-borne Alfonso Piccolomini, who secretly married the lesser-borne Antonio Bologna (of the same name in the play). After a brief and secret courtship, Bologna (Stephen Dunn) and the Duchess (Justine C. Turner) seal their earthly bond, ignoring political and sexual jockeying from brothers Ferdinand (John Taflan) and The Cardinal (Christopher Walsh), who vow to destroy anyone, including The Duchess, that gets in the way of the fate they have planned for their sister's hand and wealth.

The inaugural EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary/Modern Art and Design, announced yesterday the following list of galleries that will exhibit September 20-23 at Navy Pier. This promising list, along with the ambitious idea of creating an all-encompassing sensory event, rather than just a bunch of art randomly stuffed into endless corridors of cubicles, leaves me confident that EXPO CHICAGO will do more than just fill the gap that Art Chicago/NEXT have left.

"We set out to re-establish Chicago as a preeminent art fair destination with solid collector, dealer, institutional, civic and city support," said Karman. "What has resonated with our exhibitors is our steadfast commitment to quality, our limit on the size of the exposition, our return to historic Navy Pier and the opportunity to open the fall arts season with a great international fair in America," he added. "With this extraordinary list of galleries, along with the contemporary and 20th century work that will be presented, I am confident that we will host an international exposition that truly befits the rich legacy of our city and exceed the expectations of the international arts community."

Why make ceramic vases when you can construct realistic model cities instead and methodically destroy them? After all, if you've ever turned clay on a wheel, you know it really just wants to slump back into the lump from whence it came. In Natural Disaster, Allison Ruttan embraces ceramic's uncooperative nature, building intricate structures and craftily deconstructing them so that they look just like tiny versions of the bombsites we see on the news. Or, for a Chicagoan, like Cabrini Green looked a couple years ago. Despite the title of the show, Ruttan urges viewers to keep in mind that these are not accidents of nature but man made acts of destruction.

Our Banner in the Sky, 1861. Frederic Edwin Church 1826-1900 Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection 1992.27

The American culture is highly visual, and always has been, with the creation of great works of art punctuating some of our darkest days. A joint effort between seven premier cultural organizations in Chicago has resulted in a new website that will connect students to a piece of American history through art, fostering critical thinking and a deeper understanding of our national roots.

The online resource, The Civil War in Art: Teaching & Learning through Chicago Collections, has culled nearly 130 works of art and uses them as a basis for discussing the Civil War in the classroom. Funded and developed by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the tool was created in conjunction with teachers, historians, and museum and library professionals.

The artwork features photos, paintings, prints and sculptures. They invite students to experience the war through the lens of a camera, feel the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation through the strokes of a paintbrush, and recognize the sacrifices of families and soldiers as reflected in memorials made of stone and clay.

As you might imagine, there are difficulties that come along with hypnotizing groups of people at a time, and Jacob C. Hammes certainly faced these difficulties on Friday night as the small room he performed in at New Capital coursed with 50+ fidgety onlookers, awkwardly trying to cram themselves closer together so that they could take part in the action, or at least get a glimpse. About an hour into it, the room had emptied to about a dozen people - about five who seemed to be hypnotized and the rest along for the ride. The hypnotized slouched in their chairs, eyes closed, mumbling about balls of gas and floating inside of diamonds when engaged by Hammes.

It is not that Marc Bamuthi Joseph sees the world differently, but that he sees the world - and some of the world's problems and challenges - more clearly than others. Much of his past work and his current performance project investigates and dissect issues of the environment for the underserved and communities of color. The rise of the green movement - despite the movement's power and importance - has also created a limited, often one-sided interpretation of and reaction to environmental issues.

"It became clear," Bamuthi began, "that there was a homogeneous population with a certain kind of literacy and a certain kind of vocabulary that bordered on jargon in terms of environmental consciousness and environmental actions."

Bamuthi's latest project at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA), red, black and GREEN: a blues, a multimedia performance work combining text, dance, and visuals and in collaboration with Chicago-artist Theaster Gates, addresses the discrepancies of the goals and actions of the environmental and green movements with the various communities often ignored.

This is not for the faint of heart, but few good things are: The Homocult Show (featuring a screening of Homocult & other Esoterica) takes place this weekend at S&S Project(NSFW) in Bridgeport, and a visit is highly recommended, especially if you're looking to step a little outside of the box.

Homocult & other Esoterica is a group of short experimental queer films focused on magick & the occult, curated by Daniel McKernan.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA) today announced a gift of $10 million from Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. Long-time supporters of both the arts and the MCA, Edlis also serves as an officer of the MCA Board and an MCA Trustee. Edlis led the museum's Collection Committee from 2004 to 2008. Neeson serves on the Exhibition Committee.

In 2000, Edlis and Neeson gave a major gift to establish the Edlis/Neeson Art Acquisition Fund that has enabled the MCA to acquire significant works for the collection, including Maurizio Cattelan's Felix (2001), Thomas Schutte's Ganz Grosse Geister (Big SpiritsXL) (2004), Jenny Holzer's For Chicago (2007), and Olafur Eliasson's Your eye activity field (2009).

Every day, people face the constant struggle for approval - from superiors, peers, even strangers - and fear of reprimand. It's basic psychology; we seek reward and avoid punishment. This process, though, can be detrimental to an individual's creative outlet.

The concept of the Open Studio Project is an oasis in a dry desert of criticism. The only rule in the small Evanston art studio is that there is to be no comment. The classes held here aren't about learning technique or drawing a perfect circle. They are truly about self-expression -- which is a lesson that can be learned time and time again. Neither the facilitators nor class members are allowed to make a comment on someone else's work -- positive or negative, and the result is a liberating environment full of opportunity.

Those who enjoy directing their own artistic experiences should check out I Take Back the Sponge Cake, a "lyrical choose-your-own-adventure" book, illustrated by SAIC alumna, Loren Erdrich. Erdrich's simple yet gritty drawing style compliments Sierra Nelson's poetry nicely, giving us disorienting sensory experiences to dip our toes into and leaving us to sink or swim from there.

LVL3 Gallery presents its 3rd Annual Benefit Auction and Raffle, "hArts For Art" on Saturday, April 7, from 6pm to 10:30pm.

LVL3 is an exhibition space in Wicker Park directed by artist Vincent Uribe. The space welcomes artists, both established and emerging, to create and collaborate, building art and relationships.

The art benefit auction features work from more than 20 artists and a portion of the proceeds go to a local not-for-profit, Yollocalli Arts Reach. This is a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art dedicated to providing equal access to communal artistic and cultural resources that allow youth to become creative and engaged community members.

Yollocalli provides a similar space to LVL3 that encourages communal art and learning for youth. Originating in Pilsen, it claims a safe space that enables a progressive dialogue in urban and youth culture.

Advanced bids start Saturday, March 31 online and bidding ends at 9:30 pm on April 7. Artwork starts at $20 and raffle tickets will be sold at 1 for $3 or 2 for $5.

Former GB contributor Phineas X. Jones debuted his wondrous Chi-Noceros at Gapers Block's Chicago Artists Month Kickoff Exhibition in 2010, to great acclaim. The original print has been sold out for some time, and Jones finally acquiesced to calls for another edition. It's available for just $25 -- or for $40, you can get one of 24 prints from the "dusk" variant.

Believe Inn, 2043 N. Winchester Ave., is currently exhibiting PLAY!, a collaborative installation by artists David Cuesta, Lauren Feece, John Heenan, Anthony Lewellen, Chris Silva and Brian Steckel with music by This Mother Falcon and additional artwork by Laura Berger, Chad Kouri and Luke Ramsey.

Combining paintings, sculpture, audio and video, PLAY! immerses viewers in an unusual urban environment that stretches beyond the walls of the small gallery. It's on view every Saturday from 11am to 5pm through April 14. There's also an artist reception on Friday, March 30 from 6pm to 11pm. [via]

My favorite thing about Chicago is the way that we take things into our own hands. When we see a gap, instead of waiting for it to be filled -- instead of writing letters or signing petitions -- we just fill it ourselves. Chicago is full of hard workers and go-getters. And this is the case with Final Fight Family, a multidisciplinary arts & entertainment company focusing on uniting artists in a collective community of forward thinking individuals. Formed by an ambitious but small group of youngins in 2007, FFF provides artists with opportunities to expand their careers via collaboration and collective projects.Then, they showcase the artist's work by organizing events, highlight their daily developments in the media, and seek new ventures for them, to "establish a movement of creators who use their unique visions and perspectives to shape the world around them."

One of the original family members, Jarvis Smith, recently reached out to me to let me know about the FFF documentary, YOUNG, which will be released on April 7. I was immediately intrigued, so I emailed him a few questions about the "family."

A couple of decades ago, social satirist Paul Mooney gave an exhaustive commentary on the state of how race patronage works in show business, specifically Hollywood. In his act, Mooney lowers his voice to become the voice-over for the marketing campaign for the 1990 movie Darkman - "Who is Darkman" Who is Darkman?" in a deep and slow bluster, Mooney mimics the announcer, recounting his enthusiastic anticipation of wanting to see this "Darkman." Of course Mooney comically implodes upon the revelation that "Darkman," well, ain't "dark," but Liam Neeson.

There was "The Dinner Party" on Jan. 30--a monthly, streamed-live meal/performance featuring artists Tony Fitzpatrick, Jon Langford, and Rachel Rockford, as well as chef Homaru Cantu of Moto (see www.FearNoArt.tv for more). Coming soon, "Food & Performance", a two day installation of interactive, edible performances, will be held at Defibrillator March 17 and 18. And, I forgot to mention all of the odd salons/underground dinners/etc. that seem to be sprouting up around the city faster than I can say grace.

The Smart Museum's newest exhibit, Feast, sets out to chart our obsession with food, drink, meal-sharing, and art in a new, interactive series of installations and events in Hyde Park. It not only chronicles the history of the "artist-orchestrated meal", but also brings that history to a more contemporary table in which audience is asked to assess, participate, and celebrate in its meaning.

Local artist Edra Soto and her husband Dan Sullivan recently completed a project titled "the Franklin" -- an outdoor exhibition space currently installed at NEIU Gallery for a show titled Living By Example (a damn good show, mind you.) When the show finishes we it will be deconstructed and moved to Soto and Sullivan's backyard in East Garfield park, where it will be permanently installed. NEIU helped pay for materials, but in order to complete the project they need to purchase additional materials for the roof, deck and footings.

Watching the US premiere of Infra by Wayne McGregor was more like walking into a living, breathing art installation at the MCA and less of what we traditionally perceive as "ballet" -- a term that stereotypically evokes images of pink tutus and satin pointe shoes.

If you can't make it to the benefit for Kristen Romaniszak at Double Door on Monday, or if you're looking for another way to be supportive, consider purchasing a print from Chicago Tattoo Company artist Nick Colella. Prints are $30 and all proceeds go to support Kristen's recovery.

It's time for the Ox-Bow Winter Benefit! Hooray!!! What's Ox-Bow, you ask? Only Michigan's most inspiring, wild, longtime retreat/residency for artists, where Jim Henson is said to have invented Kermit the frog. What's the Winter Benefit? Only Chicago's best winter art party. Why? Well, it's a great chance to buy some fiiine pieces of work by Chicago's finest pieces of work -- big names, people. We're talking Jim Lutes. Rachel Niffenegger. Carl Baratta. In short, if you collect art, this is the premier event for buying it -- not only because you can get great deals on it, but the money goes to a pretty damn cool cause (Ox-Bow). And if you, like me, can't afford to buy much art but you still appreciate a good Swamp Thing-themed dance party, well, this is for you, too. Not convinced yet? Here are some more reasons for you to go:

I've checked in on OhNo!Doom's website since November for any events worth highlighting and always wound up disappointed on a calendar for 2011. I feared that the little gallery that could might have called it quits until I recently spotted a Facebook feed from them that read, "DOOM IS NEAR," and was filled with the same excitement I felt when I heard Bueller is back. Now, it's Facebook official.

Saturday, Feb. 11, marks OhNo!Doom's [temporary] name change to OhNo!Arcade and opening of its first 2012 exhibit, titled Super Button Mashers, a gamer tribute. The night will feature works from several local and import artists such as, Jeremiah Ketner, Aya Kakeda, Alex Willan (top right) and many more, as they present original art inspired by game console classics.

Accompanying the art will be local accents of food from the Duck N Roll truck, music from Saskrotch & Kkrusty, coffee from The Wormhole, and beer from start-up brewery LowDive.

Remember the controversial interview I posted with Rebecca Beachy a couple years ago? You know... the artist who was making hats out of roadkill? Well, she's graduated now and she's got a solo show opening this Sunday (7-10pm) at Roxaboxen Exhibitions in Pilsen, brought to you by ACRE exhibitions.

The Chicago Artist's Coalition (CAC) is at it again, providing a creative haven for emerging artists struggling to gather the resources needed to make their art a reality.

Two shows open tomorrow in their remarkably transformative space, the HATCH Projects, located in the gallery-riddled West Loop on 217 N. Carpenter.

The first is a solo show, Ascent, featuring artist Homa Shojaie. The second exhibit is the result of a collaboration between CAC and their resident HATCH Project artists, the Twelve Galleries Project, and the ladies of Quite Strong.

Brand-spankin' new multimedia book project Lightness & Darkness will throw its release party and first performance on January 28 at Happy Dog Gallery (1542 N. Milwaukee), a Wicker Park apartment gallery and alternative art space.

It has been a long time since my first visit to Woman Made Gallery, this year, on their 20th anniversary I am so glad, and proud, Chicago has such a great space that has nurtured and helped grow the arts here.

Woman Made Gallery has recently announce its 20 Years Strong campaign, and with it comes a look back on the arts, the women and the years that have made Women Made Gallery a unique institution, not only in Chicago but throughout the United States.

Scientists and history buffs may not realize it, but artists of the Northern Renaissance made vital contributions to the development of science during the 16th century.

Through a collection of rare and treasured prints, drawings, books, maps and scientific instruments, Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe at Northwestern University's Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art will demonstrate the active role artists played in facilitating the understanding of new concepts in astronomy, geography, natural history, and anatomy.

Nearing its Chicago premiere at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on Jan. 31st, The People Speak, Live! performance has officially added Academy Award Winner Matt Damon to host the event and compliment a cast of local talent. The supporting cast includes Robert Breuler and Alana Arenas of the Steppenwolf Theater, various local poets and Rick Kogan of the Tribune.

Based off of the 2009 documentary, The People Speak, The People Speak, Live! is a benefit performance that features dramatic readings of written works from people of the past. This month's performance will include readings of a fifteenth century priest documenting Columbus' arrival in the New World, a fugitive slave's scathing letter to a former master, the words of pathbreaking Chicago labor organizers, testimony of civil rights activists and more.

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This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. More information here.

I became aware of David Sprecher and his violently playful work during last fall's East Garfield open studios/art walk event. His studio is on the second floor in the Albany Carroll Arts Building, which also features a majestic garden, not unlike the one in The Secret Garden, except that it's in the middle of the 'hood instead of the English countryside.

After graduating with a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2006, Sprecher spent a few years working at a chemistry lab in New York, saving up money, and then about a year in Berlin (until he ran out of money). When he found a good deal on a studio space in Chicago via Craigslist, he jumped on it and he's been working here since.

Sprecher's work is engaging and accessible, lively and mischievous, but also deeply dark and potentially disturbing -- not unlike a frat house keg party or, for that matter, an African witch doctor keg party. Or an after-hours, staff-only keg party at a Louisiana state fair.

At first glace, Sprecher's work seems like it would look fantastic in a child's playroom, but don't be fooled -- that child would likely rack up therapy bills later in life.

Independent Chicago publisher City Files Press just relased a new photography book documenting the reversal of the Chicago River. The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed its River and the Land Beyond draws from nearly 22,000 photographs made between 1894 and 1928 for the Sanitary District of Chicago. The result is a gorgeous volume chronicling the development of the engineering marvel, its context and its effects. As Booklist reviewed, "Williams and Cahan profile the players, elucidate the technological innovations, track the politics, and document the beneficial and catastrophic consequences of this massive and hubristic tinkering with nature."

Check below the fold for a video providing an overview of the book as well as some additional sample photographs.

Local artist Nate Otto sent me this video last week -- his animated ode to Chicago. Check it out, it's damn charming:

Poet and artist Lee Groban, a well-known fixture on the Chicago arts scene, passed away Dec. 9 after a long battle with congestive heart failure and emphysema. He was 64. There will be a memorial service at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 W. Lake St., from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday, Dec. 18.

Groban's best known work is The Cure for Insomnia, an 87-hour-long film based on his epic poem by the similar name A Cure for Insomnia, which he co-produced with John Henry Timmis IV. It holds the Guinness world record for the longest film, and was first played in its entirety at The School of the Art Institute from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1987. The poem was a continual work in progress; Groban claimed it was well over 5,000 pages at the time of his death.

Here is Groban reading a portion of A Cure for Insomnia and sharing some philosophy with a group of people on the street in New York this summer.

I recently had the pleasure of previewing Memoria (Memory), a new installation at the Hyde Park Art Center of new works by Puerto Rican/Chicago-based artist Bibiana Suárez that reveals the shifting nature of memory, place, and identity within the Latino community.

David Leonardis is a gallery owner, a TV show host, an art entrepreneur and man in charge of the late Howard Finster traveling folk art exhibit. Leonardis began his career in the arts first working for a gallery so he could afford Finster prints, to befriending Finster, to now working on this traveling exhibit as well as raising funds to maintain Howard's permanent residence, the Howard Finster Vision House Museum, in Georgia. The Village of Long Grove, IL is playing host to the late Howard Finster exhibit, now through January 31. On his TV show, the "Chit Chat Show", Leonardis will turn the microphone around and interview Elysabeth Alfano of "Fear No Art" next.

Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, has long been a staple of African-American culture; however, the sale of the South Michigan Avenue corporate offices to Columbia College Chicago in 2010 was to the dismay of many devotees of the magazines.

David Hartt, Award Room, 2011. Edition of 6 + 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.

Curated by James W. Alsdorf and part of the Museum of Contemporary Art's new "MCA Screen" series, Stray Light, the latest work by Chicago-based Canadian artist David Hartt, explores the timeline and sociocultural impact of this legendary cultural institution via film and photographs.

See the opening of Stray Light on Saturday, Nov. 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; museum hours vary. Tickets are $7-$12 and are available online or at the box office. Exhibit runs through April 29, 2012. For more information, call 312-397-4010.

Well, there's not much going on on the visual art front this weekend -- at least as far as I can tell. If you know of anything, please do leave info in the comments section.

There is one thing, though, which looks pretty darn cool, going on all day today: a Chicago Data Portrait. Today from 10am to midnight, 50 Chicago dwellers have volunteered to record their movements using an app that tracks their GPS data. They will also record a narrative of their day. The data and narratives will be curated into One Image, Fifty Stories, an exhibit at the RGB Lounge design co-op in Wicker Park, Chicago opening January 5.

It's probably too late to volunteer, but the show should definitely be worth checking out. Details here.

In September, I attended an exhibit at the LVL3 Gallery titled This is the Same as That, a joint exhibit between New York artist Letha Wilson and Chicago artist Dave Murray. The show dealt with examining the real and the unreal, the physical and the imagined. The exhibit included photography, sculpture, and installation that dealt with the duality of materiality and material limitations.

So in October, over the din of silverware scrapes and the clank of beers at the Exchequer Pub (a supposed SAIC graduate student spot), I was finally was able to interview Dave Murray between his trips from North and South East Asia stopping in Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing, and his next trip to India and the Middle East including stops in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kuwait, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. As the Assistant Director of International Admissions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dave's job involves grand travels. In a few weeks he will be traveling to Portugal and Turkey.

Our conversation varied from kindergarten to the Tower of Babel, and in between we had some great discussion about art.

Here's an excerpt and link to a new cover story recently published over at Chicago's alt-weekly, Newcity on the human costs of unemployment. Above illustration: Zeke Danielson. Courtesy Newcity. -MW

In America, there is no more terrifying a ghoul than the threat of sustained, cripplingly high unemployment. We hear about it all the time. Have maybe even decided just to tune it out or maybe the ubiquity of the bloodless discussion of it has just inured us to the subject. It's just numbers, right? It'll get better eventually. Figure it out. After all, it's hard to get a sense of what's happening from those chatterboxes in the news, those talking heads feeding us an endless tickertape of statistics, empty percentages; high here, low there. We treat it like the weather. Numbers. Never any stories. Why does it always have to be numbers? Maybe it's too much, what's happening. Too garish, what's happening to them, how the poor behave. How low.

Ask yourself. What actually are the effects on a family slipping below the poverty line, of losing their home in a foreclosure, of a family unable to afford gas, utility bills, clothes? Its effects aren't just felt for a month or two, or something you get past in a year. There's a price. And it's one paid almost entirely by the less fortunate. And that's what defines our society: how we treat our less fortunate and what price they pay for other's prosperity. And if we're a privileged society, maybe all that means is that the privileged get to ignore the silent anguish of the poor. But the cost of it doesn't go away, ever. It stays with us as a people, changes and defines us psychologically and emotionally, and sometimes we lose one. But surviving it doesn't fucking make you stronger, it scars and mutilates. CONTINUE READING

Originally published at ARTINFO.COM, where I write a regular column, "True Stories" on Chicago and international art subjects. -MW

Cynthia Plastercaster, nee Cynthia Albritton, has earned a place for herself among the world's most famous groupies, if not THE most famous groupie. A product of the sexual revolution, she began making plaster casts of famous rock stars' penises in the mid-1960's, counting Jimi Hendrix and Jello Biafra among her collection of "babies." An iconic and legendary figure in Chicago, she has never told the story of her intimate encounters with the rock gods who populate her collection...until now. She recently began a Kickstarter campaign to buy herself some time to finish the writing, and "True Stories" sat down with her to get the skinny.

After a certain point in my life I couldn't help but notice I'd led a really interesting life, unlike any that I'd heard of and I thought it would make a good story. I've kept journals since I learned about Samuel Pepy's diary about the plague. I've also been into documents and that actually made me a really great file clerk. CONTINUE READING

For those of us who prefer to stay in on amateur night, Chicago's (fantastic) CAN-TV has a new program called "Cine Latino," featuring short Latino films every Saturday at 8pm. Although "Cine Latino" features films made from all over the world (From Peru to Spain), this Saturday's program features a film shot in Pilsen! More info here.

I had a great time today at kasia kay art projects, hanging out at the Diane Christiansen show. Let me start by saying that this is a very understated show, at first it doesn't seem like much. The show consists mostly of a number of relatively small oil paintings on plaster. These are not frescoes; the oil paint is applied on top of cured plaster where the paint is layered and sanded, and layered and sanded. Many of the pieces in the show reference landscape, they create a significant amount of space and it should be said that Diane uses a number of techniques and styles to create her work.

Spoke, a mixed project and studio space in the West Loop closed its doors in August after hosting over forty artist projects, events, experiments, and residencies in its nearly three years of programming. What always struck me about Spoke was how public its programming was. Once while wandering around their building at 119 N. Peoria, I knocked on their door and was soon let into the middle of an artist's project under construction. I assumed I was interrupting, but the artists chatted with me, explaining their project, and inviting me to stay if I had time. Visiting a later opening, I was taken back by the SAIC cheerleaders, mini-marching band, fake sports mascots, and kooky drum major who had crammed into Spoke's small project space to accompany "Game On", their interactive opening full of nonsensical artist-made games. Through art parades, beer making projects, international collaborations, and more, Spoke's programming proved to be unique, surprising, and full of variety.

This month, explore the relationship between fashion design and art at Columbia College Chicago's Black Gossamer exhibit; this showcase, curated by Camille Morgan and featuring work by contemporary black artists including Aisha Bell, Marlon Griffith and Columbia Assistant Professor of Photography Myra Greene, examines how clothing, fabric, material, etc., are used as artists' inspiration and how they are used to reveal various expressions and meanings of black identity and culture.

See the opening of Black Gossamer at Columbia College Chicago's Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, on Thursday, Nov. 17 from 5pm to 8pm; regular gallery hours vary. The exhibit is free and open to the public; closes February 11, 2012. For questions, contact Justin Witte at jwitte@colum.edu or 312-369-8177.

Need a little distraction this afternoon? Check out Robert Bills Contemporary's interview with Chicago artist, Nathan Vernau. It's a good read and the paintings are fantastic -- kind of like violent love poems written in Pepto Bismol.

The California stop on the Blue Line is getting a new piece of public art, donated to the CTA by Johalla Projects. Ryan Duggan's 4'x8' mural, Today Is Yours, will be installed on the northwest interior wall of the station, near the stairs to the platform.

Starting Friday and running through this weekend, The MDW Fair presents a Fall Showcase of solo and duo exhibitions curated by small not-for-profits, artist-run spaces, independent galleries, collectives and curators from around the country. This, the second iteration of the MDW Fair runs in conjunction with The Hand in Glove Conference and will highlight innovative curatorial and administrative practices happening in independent arts initiatives. The Fall Showcase will focus on the practices of individual artists, offering the opportunity for each artist to mount an ambitious project. The Fall Showcase, like the previous MDW Fair, will also feature an independent arts publisher's forum. The fair opens this Friday from 8 to 11pm and then noon to 6pm over the weekend. More info here.

Perhaps if you've got cable you've seen Ryan Shultz on TV -- he was on the first season of Bravo's "Work of Art," a reality television show which, to the dismay of many an artist, attempts to sort out the good from the bad, and decide "who will be the nation's next great artist". And he did pretty well, even though, as he told me, it "destroyed his soul." He's also been featured in several glossy "Barnes and Noble magazines," as he calls them. He scored a full-color, eight-page spread in Artworks Magazine and a feature in Germany's Intro Magazine, where they called him "so drauf!" (Apparently this means "on top of it" or "hip" or something like that.)

Diane Christiansen has been working as an artist in Chicago for decades, with an evolving body of work that incorporates drawing, painting, music, video, animation and more. Most recently, her collaboration with Slovenian artist Shoshanna Utchenik has yielded an intense and sprawling body of interconnected drawing, painting and sculptural work conceived as a totalizing installation for an exhibition last year, "Notes to Nonself," at the Hyde Park Art Center. Christiansen's works displays a wide array of evocative imagery, stunning for its sheer degree of inventiveness and ability to incorporate the internal logic of her own personal experiences into visual motifs that recur throughout. The Octopus of Attachment, her recurring Cocoon Girl character (which recalls fellow Chicagoan Archer Prewitt's Sof' Boy character comics), all add to a lush, illustrious imagined world of sacred ritual and psychic attacks from the so-called "reality" that confronts us daily. Briefing Room recently visited Christiansen in her Wicker Park studio to get a handle on it all in advance of the opening of her newest show at Kasia Kay Projects Gallery (information on the show and image credits appear at the end of the interview, please scroll down for these details).

Let's start off by talking about your collaboration with Shoshanna Utchenik, how that evolved and developed.

She would say to me, that she thought I had figured out how to be an artist and a mother and she desperately needed a connection because she was out in the middle of nowhere. She asked if I'd do some therapy sessions with her. You know where Slovenia is, it's out in the middle of nowhere. It's beautiful but it truly is not near anything else. So we did a few sessions and I said, I don't really want to be doing this. Because I think you're my friend and I think you should be making art. I think that's the antidote here. And so we started sending each other back and forth little notes. They're everywhere. This is one of the first notes, this blue blob and she sent me back this map of these little different parts of one's mind, because we were both reading the same Buddhist texts at the time. I'm a Buddhist and she was interested in Buddhism. So, that was one of the first notes but they became like...we'd only touch them once.

When I was given the opportunity to write about women in Chicago comedy, I knew exactly whom I wanted to feature. These five women were my first choice, not because they are better or more deserving than any other women in comedy, but because each of them has had a significant impact, in some way, on my own experience. Some of them are performers, some producers, some teachers, but they are all equally important, to me and to comedy as a whole. This is my homage to them.

Elizabeth McQuern was one of the first people I met after moving to Chicago. If not for her, I wouldn't have met most of the people that I did the first year I was here. She co-produces Chicago Underground Comedy, one of the longest running and most popular stand-up showcases in Chicago and freelances as a video editor, among other things. As a producer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, she is one of many unsung heroes of Chicago Comedy.

September marks a special time for the visual arts in Chicago. It is the annual kick-off to what is known as the art season. Out of the many art happenings that took place this month, Art on Track might possibly be one of the most anticipated annual events. It is an intriguing combination of site-specific installations on one of the Orange Line CTA train cars circling the loop.

Angel Otero, who studied at SAIC and is now living and working in NYC, has returned to show an amazing selection of paintings at the Kavi Gupta Gallery.

Angel has invented a process of painting on glass, removing the paintings and adhering them to canvas. The show is up through Nov. 12 and definitely worth a visit.

Meeting of Styles (MOS) is an annual meet-up of graffiti writers and aficionados. Artists are invited and assigned to an area on stretches of wall space. Public focus is emphasized at the main wall called the "Wall of Style" located at 30th and Kedzie Avenue. The remaining permissioned wall locations are segmented in general proximity to the Wall of Style. To get a good perspective about the event and it's general history, graff writer and organizer of Meeting of Styles (MOS) Đmn ÔloǤy chatted it up with me regarding his experience and involvement with the event and graffiti writing culture. In addition to speaking with the organizer, two former participants provided a better understanding about their experiences with participating in past MOS events.

Đmn ÔloǤy: Well, since I am one of the organizers, I have been involved since the inception of Chi MOS, starting in 2003, 7 times... but I have also participated in several MOS outside of Chicago, in Germany, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area.

Get a head start on Chicago Artist Month this weekend with the kickoff event -- the Ravenswood Art Walk, which will feature the work of over 200 local artists, including over 40 open studios. This opening night event this Friday will also include live performances and some damn good food by some of Ravenswood's best restaurants.

The Friday night event will kickoff at 7pm in and around the Ravenswood Event Center (4011 N. Ravenswood), with ample spillage out into the street (Ravenswood Ave. itself will be shut down between Montrose and Sunnyside for a street fair)(Stop by the GB booth!). The fun won't stop Friday, though, so make sure to stop by on Saturday and/or Sunday for more festivities. Bring the kids. Details here. MORE details, including a schedule of performances, can be found here. Click here for a map. Best of all, admission is FREE!

We consider it a sort of genre-bending -- journalistic reporting with comic books. Graphic journalism.

Our first story follows one Chicago woman through her marriage at the Cook County courthouse to her fiancé, an inmate at the county jail who will eventually be tried for first-degree murder. His next court date is Oct. 13, 2011.

All illustrations and narrative are pulled from a flow of events during this year's annual Department of Corrections ceremonies. All of the words spoken by people in this story are actual words spoken by actual people. Everything else is up for interpretation.

This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. More information here.

The hotly debated R and G words are taken by the horns in this candid and confrontational two-act play by Bruce Norris.

Set in 1959 in the fictional Chicago neighborhood of Clybourne Park, first introduced to us in A Raisin in the Sun, the first act picks up where Raisin left off, introducing us to the white family who is moving out of their house -- the house that The Youngers in Raisin are so looking forward to moving into.

On a sunny afternoon early in September, I drove to the Humboldt Park studio home of Chicago artist Lauren Levato. We drank coffee with chocolate, smoked cigarettes on her back patio, and spoke at length about her work. I first became acquainted with Levato through our mutual friend, Chicago artist and provocateur Tony Fitzpatrick, for whom she works as a Girl Friday. Diligent, focused and at times hard-boiled, Levato has been a fixture of Fitzpatrick projects ranging from stage plays to trade booths at art fairs, including (full disclosure) the Art Brooklyn fair I organized this past March. After trading emails and Facebook messages about writing and art, it became clear there was a story to tell, and so we took Briefing Room along to get it all on tape. (scroll down to end for image credits)

Let's talk about the ideas behind your work, and some of your history. I know you do a lot of writing too, and I wanted to discuss that and how you got into the visual work you're doing through that. The historical development, how it all got started.

I started working at Woman Made gallery when I was in undergrad at Purdue and I would work there as I could doing art handling and PR. I was pursuing a writing degree, and was working for local papers as a stringer immediately out of high school in '96 and was a reporter and editor until 2006. I'd always been interested in visual art, and Woman Made just made sense because I was also getting a degree in Women's Studies. So, I am just one of those people who does a lot of different things at once, holding down three jobs or whatever. I'm from Hobart, Indiana and the state has a great program, being the daughter of a disabled vet, they paid 75% of my tuition if I stayed in-state, so that's how I ended up at Purdue. They had a professional writing program and being a Midwesterner through and through, I was like "How do I do this practically?" meaning, how do I make money?

Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery has taken interactive art to another level with their current exhibition, CoLaboratory. Two artist collaboratives - ED JR. and (f)utility projects have joined forces to create a site specific video installation with moveable screens that, although quite beautiful in its own right, is made manifest by you - the visitor. Visitors are invited to adjust the structures on which video projections are shown, amending and re-forming the evolving images as they move. If that's not enough interaction for you, check out one of ED JR.'s free, public workshops at the gallery (Thursday, September 22, 6-8pm; Saturday October 1, 3-5pm; Thursday October 27, 6-8pm), where you can get your hands dirty and be featured in a video, which will be later projected in the space.

For this edition of Briefing Room, we check in with artist, artist agent, writer, and independent curator Jenny Lam. A recent transplant to Chicago from a stint at Columbia University in New York, Lam has embraced her engagement of the Chicago scene with wave-making zeal, landing in the press and in conversations for her work at the Zhou B Art Center, 4Art and, most recently, at the Fulton Street Collective. "Exquisite Corpse," the frenetic exhibit she organized for the Collective, drew notable crowds for its open embrace of artistic collaboration. We sat down with the Northbrook native to get some perspective on her splashy re-introduction to the Chicago scene, and here's what she had to say. (scroll down for photo credits)

Tell us a little about your background, what brought you here, etc., and what got you interested in art.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and lived in New York City for four years while studying at Columbia University. There, I split my time running the undergraduate art gallery, Postcrypt; interning at Christie's and at Eyebeam; getting weirded out by people folding their pizza slices; and tagging. And yeah I guess there was schoolwork too. I returned to the Midwest after graduating two years ago (a severe lack of money brought me back), and I moved into the city about half a year ago.

This article was originally published on Sixty Inches from Center on Sept. 5. This is the first of a series of content exchanges with them.

Last week, while exploring Chicago's Polish Village, I interrupted my friend mid-sentence as a familiar sight came into view. "Another one!" I exclaimed. Quickly, we crossed Milwaukee and headed towards a wall featuring the street art of Mental 312. Mental's thick, blue lines were similar to his other pieces: bold and expansive, almost Aztec in their geometric style. I didn't know how old the piece was, but judging from what I've observed of Mental's other works, it may have been around for a while. What strikes me about the pieces is that people don't seem to mind them. The ones that first went up last winter along the Garfield and Indiana Green Line Stations are still there, and those at the Sheridan and Bryn Mawr Red Line stops have stayed up for months as well. In fact, the Bryn Mawr piece looks even older, as if it's been around for years.

Last Friday several galleries around the city kicked off their fall programming with opening exhibitions featuring work by their crème de la crème. A/C writers Natalie Edwards and Kelly Reaves each spent the night frantically hopping from show to show, trying to absorb as much of it as they could, with their powers combined. Here are their impressions:

Kelly: This is an engaging, quality group video show in a cool, new(ish) space. The first piece that confronts you upon your entering the gallery is chopped up footage of Whitney Houston from The Bodyguard. She is on two "battling" monitors, which you can stand between, walk between, or awkwardly squeeze around. I believe one Whitney is only singing "I" and the other is only singing "you". I thoroughly enjoyed it and it looked like other people were enjoying it, too. I would have liked to stand between the monitors but, at least on the opening night, the amusement proved too popular for my tight schedule.

Alright, guys. This is it. This is a big weekend for gallery openings, with many (most?) of them kicking off their fall programming with the best of the best tonight. If you only make it out art-hopping once this year, go tonight.

...and there are surely many more I've missed. Check back on us in a few days -- A/C's newest contributor Natalie Edwards and I will have a recap of the opening chaos, including our two cents on the art we were able to catch glances of while smooshed amongst the drunken hordes.

This Saturday, after the big opening night of the art season, you might want to get a bit of the hair of the dog down at Prospectus Gallery in Pilsen. Walter Fydryck has been working on a new series of drawings that features prominently in this one man show. For a long time Walter has been inventing and perfecting a process of painting on Plexiglas, a few of these are present and help to understand the place where the drawings are coming from.

In fact, this two-day event is called ART WAR, and it is the first in a series of new explorations of the forces behind art. ART WAR, inspired by Tolstoy's writings of civil disobedience & non-violence, will involve the 7,000 square foot loft in Little Village known as Treasure Town being filled with artworks by over 100 artists from all backgrounds. From interactive installations to an entire circus, a dance war with fake blood on a blank canvas to the most inspiring local musicians, ART WAR promises to "not say what we do not think or feel."

Admission is a suggested 5-10 dollar donation, and every dollar earned goes directly to the contributing artists & future like-minded shows. This event will take place September 16 & 17 at Treasure Town Loft. Details can be found on Facebook. PS: The Tamale Guy will be there. Bring your hungry pants.

Local online and print art publication Jettison Quarterly made a splash at NEXT as part of the larger Art Chicago weekend with their newly formatted print edition of the magazine. Their latest issue -- featuring artist Scott Reeder and former MCA curator Tricia Van Eck -- promises to deliver on locally focused news, art and culture. To celebrate their latest release, the publication will be joining Old Style and Longman & Eagle for a free block party on Kedzie and Schubert. The event will feature a pig roast and dance party with tunes spun by DJs from the ever-popular Windy City Soul Club. The What's Happening!! block party takes place this Sunday, September 4 from 4pm to 10pm.

Additional copies of Jettison Quarterly will be available Sept. 9 at the Kavi Gupta gallery as part of the opening night for the fall art season, the Renegade Craft Fair on Sept. 10-11, and at various cafes and venues in the city.

New York City based playwright Tim J. MacMillan just rode his bicycle from Astoria, NY to Chicago as a fundraiser for his new play Soul mates don't die, which will be at the Fringe Festival this year. This unique crowd funding campaign through rockethub.com, called "801 Miles: A Pedaling Playwrights' Plea" raised nearly $3,000.

Soul mates don't die, directed by J. Preddie Predmore and produced by MacMillan's company, Never Assume Productions, illustrates how soul mates connect regardless of sex or mortal form. Set to debut at The Doppler Stage on September 3, it tells the tale of two star-crossed newlyweds who are ripped apart when their sexually oppressed guardian angels meet and fall in love. Love can be a funny distraction.

For more information about MacMillan and his show, visit his website. Also, check out his blog, which documents his epic bike trip.

The wildly popular and successful MDW Fair of last spring is happening again this October 21-23 at the Geolofts. Formed as a collaborative project between the Public Media Institute, Roots & Culture and threewalls, the MDW Fair was conceived as a showcase for independent art initiatives, spaces, galleries and artist groups from the Chicago metropolitan area -- basically what NEXT was eight or nine years ago, but on a larger scale.

The Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a swanky event last Thursday called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where eight Chicago's top chefs and artists were paired up to create a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, The Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.

The results were delicious, both gastronomically and visually. Between finger foods and swigs of champagne, I spoke with each of the artists about their experiences working on this project. (Read interviews with the chefs over in Drive-Thru.)

Influential humorist and art commentator Hennessey Youngman will visit the Windy City on September 7 to join "The Dialogue," an annual live-chat panel on "museums, diversity, and inclusion" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Theater. This year's event with Youngman will focus on Millennials and their effect on museum issues, alongside "Chicago's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Michelle T. Boone, and our newest curator, Naomi Beckwith, formerly of The Studio Museum in Harlem." While some concerns with Youngman's gender politics have been voiced among those in the art crowd, his highly entertaining video segments are largely appreciated for gleefully punching holes in otherwise hyper-serious art world conventions. The MCA's press materials describe Youngman as "You Tube's most followed art theorist," and points out Art in America's description of his satirical Art Thoughtz program performances as "Ali G with an MFA."

The characterization seems apt. In response to this writer's recent romantic breakup and search for art to make/look at appropriate to the moment, Youngman had the following hilarious advice (intentional spelling errors and grammatical breakages left in): "Break up art? Break into her/his house and lay naked in their bed until they come home from work and recite TLC's "Waterfalls" while they call the police. Videotape the whole ordeal, show the video of you waiting in bed on one channel projected onto the wall, then the police beating and crying on another channel, but way smaller. This way, the audience connects more with your interpretation of your ex's arrival, and your humiliation is underplayed and dismissible, also take every Macbook photobooth photo you've ever taken with them and make a rapid slideshow of the images to enduce nausia."

The Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Program and reception $35. Program only: nonmembers $10; MCA members $8; students $6. If you can't make it to the live event, check out the Live Tweet at @mcachicago, using the #thedialogue to participate in the conversation via tweet. Twitter comments can also be followed live during the event at the MCA's website.

Local Artists Taylor Hokanson and Chris Reilly have reached their Kickstarter goal for their low-cost CNC machine, which will do just that, but the fundraiser's still going until 11 tonight, so check it out if you're into art made by robots.

Hokanson and Reilly are the co-creators of the open-source DIYLILCNC project, with the mission of increasing the accessibility and educational potential of CAD/CAM tools and research. Hokanson and Reilly share a taste for the absurd artistic application of high technology in their respective practices (examples include a sledgehammer-operated keyboard and a wind-powered guillotine).

Artist Jeff Zimmermann has painted a mural, titled "You Know What You Should Do," on the Lake Shore Drive underpass to Oak Street Beach. Here's video shot by Jude Appleby and friends of the process.

This Thursday the Chicago Artists Coalition is putting on an event pairing local visual artists with local chefs in which they create original works (food & art) inspired by one another's aesthetic. The artwork created will be exhibited and auctioned at the event, while the chefs' creations are eaten. Sorry, chefs.

Tickets aren't cheap -- $100 for CAC members, $125 for the rest of us, $150 at the door -- but it should be a great opportunity for hobnobbing and stuffing your face with some of the best food Chicago has to offer. For more information, click here.

There's a lot going on this weekend but if you haven't cemented your Saturday plans yet, consider going to Comfort Station's kegger. Perhaps the best (and most obvious) abandoned-building-turned-art space ever, Comfort Station took over the little building in the heart/crotch of Logan Square that was vacant for so long, it became invisible to most of us.

Their party this Saturday will feature music, food by Homage Street food truck, face-painting, croquet, ping-pong, quirky film and slide show screenings, and, of course, good-ole' outdoor boozing. A suggested $10 donation gets you a cup for a night of Revolution beer. All proceeds from your donation benefit Comfort Station -- they're raising funds for storm windows to extend their active year into the cooler months and track lighting to keep spotlights on the artwork.

The party is this Saturday, August 20 from 6pm to midnight-ish at Comfort Station: The Keel/Coulson Sideyard @ 3016 W. Logan Blvd. For details, click here.

Pranks and comic relief have always been a part of the arts... well, maybe not always but at least for a while. Let's just say no one alive today can say there was a time, in their lives, when it wasn't. This brings me to Meg Duguid's performance last night in Wicker Park as Part of the Out of Site performance series done in conjunction with Walkabout Theater Company and Defibrillator. It is hard to really know what to say about any public performance, and this is no exception, so I will begin by just telling you what I experienced.

ONE NIGHT ONLY was developed by the cast and director using "found" text and music. Sources include Priscilla Ahn, Howard Barker (The Castle and Death and the One), Battles, Blue Valentine, Charles Bukowski, Ian Paul Custer, Hall & Oates, Matt Hooks, The Notebook, Kasey O'Brien, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, and Scott Walker.

Featuring: Ian Paul Custer, Matt Hooks, Kasey O'Brien and live painting by Sierra DufaultONE NIGHT ONLY will be performed in tandem with opening acts by:

Times Three Theatre - http://timesthreechicago.c​ om/ The Arc Theatre - http://arctheatrechicago.o​ rg/ and KJ Bessen-Johnson - http://www.kjbessenjohnson​ .com/

"Most of my paintings reflect people and things I have seen. Although they are rarely painted from life, they are almost always collected from life, via the sketchbooks that I carry, especially to sporting events with my husband, Jerry, a sportswriter.

As a result, I produce a wide range of images, from portraits to fans at sports venues to museum puppets, that all have one thing in common: each emerged out of the daily flux of images to form a picture that suggested some of the radiance, energy and mystery of everyday life. To capture those things is my sole ambition.

My work is representational but very far from photographic, and the paintings are often exaggerated in both form and color in an attempt to capture the rhythms of the subject. I am especially fond of festive occasions and people in costume, especially children who see the wonderful weirdness of life, as well as musicians and theater people at work." (from http://easternexpansion.blogspot.com)

Opening reception Friday, August 12, 7-9pm Complementary beverages and snacks served. Eastern Expansion 244 W 31st St Chicago, Illinois

Although the more underground, independent, and emerging Chicago art scenes and artists might be overshadowed by larger fairs and urban coasts, alternative events still foster and support local practitioners. BUILT Festival, a two-day event founded by Chicago artists Tristan J.M. Hummel and co-produced by David Dvorak, allows contemporary artists and curators the space to transform unusual, transportable, and seemingly temporary environments - shipping containers - into alternative and guerrilla venues in an empty lot on Milwaukee avenue.

The theme for this initial festival is "urban culture" and audiences will get the chance to witness more than 100 projects, exhibitions, and performances inside and surrounding these containers from local spaces and institutions such as the Chicago Urban Art Society, Spudnik Press, and the Chicago Artists Coalition. In addition to the array of visual and performative art projects, visitors can listen to music by musicians and DJ's such as White Mystery, Raj Mahal, and Tim Zawada.

Tickets for BUILT Festival can be purchased online or at the door for $10. All-weekend BUILT VIP passes are also available online today and include $6 worth of drink tickets. BUILT Festival takes place in the empty lot at 1767 N. Milwaukee this Friday from 5:00pm-10:30pm and Saturday from 12:00pm-10:30pm.

You've seen the downtown advertising for the Art Institute's new exhibit, "Windows on the War," which focuses on the Soviet TASS News Agency's World War II posters, a call to arms for the Soviet citizenry against Nazi Germany. Thrilled by the prospect of such an exhibit, marrying the allure of popular culture, modern art, and propoganda, I went to the museum and headed eagerly for the exhibition hall. But I didn't make it to World War II.

"Belligerent Encounters: Graphic Chronicles of War and Revolution, 1500-1945" contains works that predate WWI by centuries, like depictions of war by Goya and Dürer, but the majority of the exhibit focuses on war-related art from the early 20th century. Posters calling men to enlist or entreating the public to help with the war effort visually dominate the hall with bold colors and exclamatory statements. Side rooms contain series of lithographs by Max Beckmann and etchings by Otto Dix, both more graphically subtle, but more thematically in-your-face.

"Belligerent Encounters" is an ingenious complement to "Windows on the War," higlighting the general onus of war through art, and showcasing the dynamic war posters of an earlier era in a different part of the world than the TASS posters represent. While the smaller exhibit doesn't have the elaborate display or deep focus of the main-event TASS presentation in the larger Regenstein Hall, it's definitely worth a visit next time you're at the Art Institute.

Experimental multimedia puppetry group Manual Cinema presents ADA/AVA, its first evening-length original shadow puppetry work, at the Charnel House (3421 W. Fullerton) this Thursday, July 28 through Sunday the 31st. Manual Cinema combines overhead projector shadow puppetry, actors in silhouette, and live music performance to create handmade, cinematic stories exploring new frontiers of immersive storytelling.

Although the Object Design League's one-week residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Balloon Factory, ended at the beginning of this month, balloons constructed during the project are now available for purchase at their new online store, ODLCO. During their week at the museum as part of "We Are Here: Art and Design Out of Context," curated by MCA Design Director James Goggin with MCA designer Alfredo Ruiz, product designers Caroline Linder, Lisa Smith, Michael Savona, Thomas Moran, and Steven Haulenbeek demonstrated each step of the creation of balloons on a small scale. As a whole, their project demystified and brought the typically unknown creation and manufacturing process of a balloon to the public. Each handmade balloon costs $5.00, was hand-dipped and hand-painted in the gallery, and are inflatable by mouth or with a pump.

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, affected the artistry of both Adrienne Pierluissi and Ken Vandermark. Vandermark, a photographer, captured life in that city, which in turn Pierluissi would paint. Through their work they created a dialogue between the two mediums and their practice.

Terrie Hessels of The Ex will be present during the opening reception the proceeds of art work sold will go toward helping support Terrie's ongoing music programs in Ethiopia-- for the last few years he's been bringing musicians to schools for workshops and a repairman from Amsterdam to help fix damaged saxophones and clarinets. He will also be performing with Ken Vandermark.

This Friday HungryMan Gallery presents the group show Keepin' it Real, featuring the work of Petra Cortright, Thomson Dryjanski, Derek Frech and Bob Myaing, Aaron Graham, and Mac Katter.

The relevancy of internet context within a physical exhibition is a new challenge for our generation of art makers and curators. Keepin' it Real examines the possibilities and difficulties presented by work that exists in dual realms, the physical and the digital, as well as the opportunities and limitations of a curatorial process entirely reliant on e-mail, chat and internet surfing.

Opening Reception 7 - 11pm, this Friday July 15 Closing Reception 4 - 7pm, Sunday August 21 Open Sundays 12 - 5pm

Artist Conrad Freiburg opened a show of new work at Linda Warren July 8, only a week after closing his long stint at the Hyde Park Art Center that yielded It Is What It Isn't. Conrad's focus for the show at the Cultural Center was loss that he often explained as nothingness. His new show at Linda Warren, The Blind Light, the Pyre of Night, deals more with crisscrossing ideas about science, mathematics, art and anything else that exists wholly or partially within nothingness.

The Smart Museum in Hyde Park has a really great-looking exhibition up right now, illustrating pivotal moments in figurative art of the last sixty years through the work of nine exceptional (mostly local!) artists: Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Christina Ramberg, Martín Ramírez, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas and Sylvia Sleigh.

In case you haven't heard, the illustrious Garfield Park Conservatory was severely damaged by the hailstorm last Thursday, and The Hideout is hosting a special Soup and Bread benefit program tonight to help fund the cleanup and repairs. If you've been to the conservatory, you love it. If you've been to The Hideout, you probably love it, too. Why not stop by tonight (5:30 - 8pm) and stuff your face for a good cause? Details here.

Chicago is well known for dynamic architecture, but many of our public spaces are also transformed by expressive works of art -- some rock for our solid. "Cloud Gate" and interactive video fountains hold court at Millennium Park. Just across Randolph Street, a sound sculpture resides. As the wind blows, so hum long metal wheat-like reeds that sway in a faux field as if an aeolian harp.

Chagall's "Four Seasons" mosaic mural dominates a plaza nearby. Picasso and Miro face off at Daley Plaza while Dubuffet watches from the Thompson Center as Claes Oldenburg bats clean up. The list is long and impressive. Frank Gehry, Sir Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Isamu Noguchi and Frank Stella to name a few.

Marching Toward Justice: The History of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is on display now at John Marshall Law School, is about much more than the milestone amendment, passed in 1868, which granted automatic citizenship to anyone born in the United States. The colorful, maze-like panels and giant black-and-white photographs cover more than 350 years of African-American history, from the arrival of slaves in the Americas in 1619 through the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ended legal segregation.

Nothing Special Productions continues their 2011 season this summer with the Chicago Premier of Let X by Gwydion Suilebhan, directed by Robert Quinlan, Assistant Director of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts (Steppenwolf and Broadway.)

Let X performs Mondays through Wednesdays at Strawdog Theatre (3829 N Broadway St.) now through July 20 at 8pm (no show July 4). Tickets are $15.

Tomorrow afternoon the Hyde Park Art Center hosts part four in their series of neighborhood-centric gallery tours -- Artist-Run Spaces in Garfield Park. Hop on your bike and explore the warehouse artist studios and artist run spaces on the west side. Starting at noon at my favorite coffee shop, The Star Lounge (2521 W. Chicago), the tour will visit some of the city's newest exhibition venues and see the work of emerging artists, followed by a barbecue (at my house!). Visit hydeparkart.org for details (the site says the tour is over at 3 but a little bird (and a bunch of fliers) told me it goes 'till 6pm).

It is easy to forget what led to the power and passion that unfolded onstage in HOPERA: Unleashed. Composer and vocalist Adrian Dunn's fusion of hip-hop and opera was the perfect blend, so much so that the merging of two genres that come from separate worlds becomes lost and forgotten.

The performance marks the return of the company's 2009 performance, Hopera: A Fallen Hero and features a series of numbers from the first studio album of hip-hop opera company, HOPERAWorld, released earlier this month.

A month ago I found myself in Bloomington Normal for the One State Together in the Arts, the only conference for Illinois' entire creative community. While I was down there, I met a number of people, one of which was Ife Williams who told me about her project "See Me Better", bringing together ten community organizations to create murals on boards that will be secured over windows of vacant properties in North Lawndale, South Lawndale and East Garfield.

Since late January, students and community members have been meeting weekly, brainstorming ideas for their mural concepts and designs, developing fundamentals in art, as well as participating in neighborhood field trips and history lessons. Classes were led by art students from a number of colleges around Chicago.

This Saturday, June 25 the public will get their first look at the results of this project, from 10am to 1:30pm at 1528 S. Christina. You will have the opportunity to meet the artists and talk with the organizations involved in the project, as well as partake in a community barbeque lunch.

Tonight at 7pm, Art In These Times, the community gallery at In These Times' office (2040 N. Milwaukee Ave.), presents a new exhibition of posters and photographs from ongoing labor demonstrations in Wisconsin that began on February 14, 2011. The exhibition is a collaboration with Nicolas Lampert and will feature prints and placards he has collected as an active participant in the labor and community rallies in Madison. The Hard Times Trio, a jazz group which performs classic labor songs, will perform. The artwork will be on display through the summer and fall.

The exhibition features screenprints and off-set posters from rallies in Madison and Milwaukee and features prints by Nicolas Lampert, Colin Matthes, Eric Drooker, Jesus Barraza, Josh MacPhee, Jesse Graves and others. The photography of Lauren Cumbia (who co-organizes the gallery space with Daniel Tucker), Brandon Pittser and the Public Collectors archive will also be exhibited.

Check out this recent report from Wisconsin by curator Nicolas Lampert and Dan S. Wang for more information about the movement to defend collective bargaining rights.

Four youth winners of Graffiti Zone's Next Top Artist Contest will be honored tomorrow night at GZ's Spring Fundraiser. The event will take place at Chicago Urban Arts Society: 2229 S. Halsted from 6 to 9pm. Hosted by Chicago hip hop performer Philip Morris, described as "one of the ultimate word smiths of hip-hop (Skope Magazine)," the evening will feature catering by Green Cuisine, open bar, silent auction and performances by Opera-Matic with sound by Mark Messing. Ample free parking is available behind the building off of Cermak. Tickets are $35 at the door, or online at graffitizone.org. All proceeds to benefit Graffiti Zone, a five-year old non-profit arts organization serving kids from Humboldt Park. More info about the fundraiser can be found here.

When violence goes viral, as happened most notably in some of the raw video footage depicting and sharing with the world the outpouring of protests during the Middle East's Arab Spring earlier this year, it can be difficult to accept the images we see and the sounds we hear as reality. Our mind chooses to resist the Hollywood tendency to place ourselves in the lead "character's" shoes and we distance ourselves from those living another life, speaking a different language and living in a foreign land. We retweet and move on to the next slice of scandal, society or, if we're lucky, substance amongst the digital deluge.

But once one watches the video depicting the violent April 18 attack of 22-year-old trans woman Chrissy Lee Polis in a Baltimore area McDonald's, it's hard to forget the sound of her screams amidst a backdrop of ambivalence, at best, and egging on, at worst. It's difficult to erase the image of Polis' hair being pulled and her body being dragged along the floor by her teenage assailants, who leapt on her in the restaurant's restroom. It's impossible to un-cry the tears that may shed upon watching the attacks coming to an end only after an older woman interjected -- and the restaurant's employees warned the attackers that police were, finally, en route to the scene.

Daniel R. Whiteneck On the seventh floor of the former Carson Pirie Scott building, the graduating students from the School of the Art Institute's Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO), and Fashion, presented works befitting the classic Louis Sullivan-designed building. Aesthetically speaking, their designs and concepts - ranging from mobile food cart projects to illuminated public art works to multi-functional furniture - are a far cry from Sullivan's steel-framed Chicago landmark. But the goals of the students' designs, often touching upon ideas of recycling, conservation of resources, and streamlined communication, were grounded in multi-generational sustainability.

"It was a chance to do something really beautiful, really challenging, and a challenge for myself," said Alysse Filipek (BFA 2013), the Grand Prize winner of the Designers of Tomorrow competition. Filipek's work addresses both her personal history in Southern California and her reaction to the harsh, Seasonal Affective Disorder-creating winters of Chicago.

Other works on view include LOADED: SAIC in Milan, originally presented during the 2011 Milan International Furniture Fair; Industry Partners: Living in a Smart City; a five-year GFRY Design Studio retrospective; and Where is Where, the graduate thesis exhibition.

Furniture geeks and functional art fans, take heed: the 7th Annual Guerrilla Truck Show is tonight, along with a bevy of exhibitions and parties in the area designed to be visited in tandem. These events take place tonight from 5:30 to 9:30 in the West Loop, with the official truck show at Morlen Sinoway Atelier: 1052 W. Fulton Market St. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. For a map of all the locations participating, click here. Also, (not noted on the map) EBERSMOORE (213 N. Morgan, #3C) is hosting a special exhibition of work by the talented group known as the Dock 6 Collective (works pictured above). For photos of past GTS's, check out this Flickr collection.

Steppenwolf's Next Up program -- featuring three productions showcasing Chicago's next generation of artists -- is going strong right now, with just a handful of shows left before it wraps up on June 19. I strongly encourage you to hurry up and get your tickets to see at least one of the shows this week.

Sadly, I haven't been able to see Venus, but the other two plays: Animals out of Paper and Where We're Born had me on the edge of my seat all day yesterday.

In the past year, what has become noticeable in Chicago's emerging and contemporary gallery scene is the ubiquitous and relative importance of Anna Cerniglia's Johalla Projects. The space not only provides ample opportunities for many locally-based artists to exhibit their work. It also provides a unique platform for more experimental and brief artist projects that connect a wider variety of artistic practices than the traditional exhibition.

In Urban Dwellers, artist Andrea Jablonski in collaboration with Vicki Fuller of VLF Development created and installed large-scale and glittered deer in the empty lot of 1827 North Milwaukee. The deer serve as a reminder for of the original natural surroundings of the area prior to urban development. Urban Dwellers closes June 11.

Thomas Roach, 86 plastic chairs uncomfortable to stack but ill, 2011. Tonight begins a two-part reading series at Alderman Exhibitions featuring selections from William T. Vollman's short story collection, The Atlas. A companion to the gallery's current exhibition, Thomas Roach: New Drawings, tonight's reading will also include a discussion and reception. Vollman's stories, often quick and glinting descriptions of brief moments in passing, are a compliment to Roach's drawings which often evoke an ethereal and visceral quality. Although the event is free, guests are encouraged to RSVP at info@aldermanexhibitions.com. PDF's of the selected stories are available for each session and copies can be sent to you upon request in the RSVP.

The Program: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 7pm William T. Vollmann, The Atlas, PART 1 Selected stories for Part 1:

The Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and the long-standing friendship between the U.S. and Italy with a new art exhibition, A Sense of Place, presented in conjunction with the 2011 Venice Biennale, Italy@150 and the AIC's Highlights of Italian Art exhibit.

Chekov fans will want to visit the Raven Theatre by July 23 to check out The Cherry Orchard, his last play, directed by Michael Menendian.

In keeping with Chekov's favorite theme of family discord amidst financial woes, The Cherry Orchard tells the story of the Ranevskayas, a Russian family of wealth and history whose estate faces financial ruin unless strong measures are taken to save it.

In a sparsely-furnished office in the Merchandise Mart, five recent graduates of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy are striving to write the next chapter in Chicago's film history. With their independent movie Chicago Rot, currently in pre-production, they're determined to change the perception of their hometown among film-goers and filmmakers alike. And by partially funding the project via the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, they're inviting Second Citizens who share that vision to chip in.

Chicago Rot is the brainchild of Brant McCrea, Dorian Weinzimmer, Jeremy Vranich, Ryan Berena, and Sam Fell. All five were part of the 2009 inaugural graduating class of Flashpoint, the school for digital arts and media studies, which opened downtown in 2007. Rather than following the film student's stereotypical path straight to Los Angeles or New York, however, they're committed to proving Chicago can rival its coastal competitors as a hub for successful artists. Only fitting, then, that their first feature-length project should be what Weinzimmer calls "a personal love letter to the city - a dark love letter."

Collaboraction theater company's wildly popular annual Sketchbook festival begins tonight at the Chopin Theater. Sketchbook is a lively multi-media event, combining several art forms including theater, music, visual art, new technologies and bombastic partying, anchored by a show that features several short plays. Selected from hundreds of submissions, Sketchbook brings together the collective talents of more than two hundred pioneering directors, designers, actors, musicians and artists from Chicago and around the country for a jaw-dropping evening of creativity, experimentation, and celebration.

Art Futura is a small yearly exhibition (in its 9th year with attendance growing to 300 last year) connecting artists and art therapy patients -- blending the best of both worlds. It is a great cause that helps the community of emerging artists who submit work and the work of art therapists who help support over 100 patients as they try to rebuild their lives after spinal cord, brain, and stroke injuries.

The Art Futura website has a collection of inspirational profiles of the artists in the exhibition for you to check out, as well as more information about tonight's benefit, which caters to a younger audience than most events of this type -- this is for people who want to be engaged and may just be starting to get into charitable causes.

Jim Nutt is amazing. I finally got over to the MCA and saw Coming into Character. This is a show of portraits over anything else, with a selection of pieces from his "Harry Who" days, overshadowed by his exploration in the imaginary women portraits.

When Jim Nutt was making his wild Plexiglas reverse paintings he used text to indicate and address things within the work, he also used mutations, growths and sales ads renderings. The use of all these devices was necessary to emphasize the work being made. Having painted them on Plexiglas, the nature of these early pieces were to be slick, but in order for that to work with his style they had to be dramatic. This is where there is a huge leap from the early work of Jim Nutt and his Imaginary Women.

Nonprofit arts organization Threewalls is connecting artists and collectors by adapting a model better known for supporting local farmers.

The Grid is a series profiling Chicago businesses, subcultures and landscapes. These short, lyrical documentaries aspire to be art cinema, ethnographies and experiments in form. Ben Kolak and Brian Ashby's directorial debut, Scrappers, won Best Documentary at the 2010 Chicago Underground Film Festival and made Roger Ebert's top 10 list of documentary films in 2010. Editor Dave Nagel is a recent University of Chicago graduate.

ArtXposium is upon us once again, in it's fifth year in West Chicago IL, this multidisciplinary arts weekend is being brought to life by People Made Visible. "A non-for-profit organization with a mission to facilitate community while fulfilling the artistic, social, educational and cultural needs of the community through an innovative physical and web based presence."

I had the pleasure to speak with one of the featured artists Stine Marie Jacobsen who has been working with teens of West Chicago for her video project Detention Club. Stine has a history of working with reenactments of all sorts from popular films to urban legends, she enjoys repurposing stories to help get across ideas the story was not originally intended to address.

Jno Cook may very well be the best in the Midwest when it come to conceptual art. A long time photography professor at Columbia College, Jno has been contributing to the arts here for decades. Have you ever heard of Spaces.org? That's him, along with ChicagoArt.net and ChicagoArt.org. Jno is not really organizing the visual arts resources and institutions in the city, but he is documenting and adding them all to a database.

There are many ways to a teenager's heart; you just have to know where to start. Co-op Image Group started with a few video cameras and has kept the kids interests by adding stencils, samplers, molten glass and hot sauce.

It all began in 2002 when Mike Bancroft (who was working for Street Level Youth Media at the time) and his sister, Bridget, were working on a project with the SLYM kids called "Post Our Bills." The idea was to use boarded up buildings as exhibition opportunities -- rather than looking at plywood-covered windows, wouldn't you rather look at paintings? Although they didn't get a lot of cooperation from the city, they attracted a lot of volunteers and positive attention from the neighborhood, and before they knew it they received a donated building and a community garden -- now the Campbell Co-op Garden (1357 N. Campbell St.).

Lovers of both shoes and art will definitely want to check out BucketFeet, a new shoe company based in Chicago. Co-founded by Aaron Firestein and Raaja Nemani, BucketFeet not only boasts artsy kicks, but is also about making a difference in the lives of children in the community.

Through the company's motto, "Buy a Shoe, Build a Community," BucketFeet works to build and expand communities that support children and the arts worldwide. The shoes, adorned with artwork and designs by Firestein are sold online, with portions of each sale going to three children-focused non-profit charities: Children Mending Hearts, an organization dedicated to arts programs for homeless children; love.futbol, which helps build safe soccer playing fields and Metropolitan Area Group Igniting Civilization (MAGIC), a youth organization in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood that encourages kids to pursue music through its stringed-instrument program.

For Nemani, the shoes are only part of the bigger picture; for him, being involved with kids in the community is what is most fulfilling. "Selling awesome sneakers for a living is cool," he says, "but being able to use that to try to make a difference in the lives of kids around the world is a dream come true."

To learn more about or become involved with BucketFeet, visit the website or send an email to info@bucketfeet.com.

Julieta Alvarez is a local artists who, like many of us, feel discontented about the state of arts advocacy in Chicago. Although always interested in the arts Julieta didn't find herself working as an artist, or even within the arts, until she parlayed her interest in corporate branding experience into a partnership with RATIOnation, a production and artist management company in Chicago. With this relationship, and her experience as a brand ambassador, Julieta began forging a path that would lead her to helping, housing and mentoring young and emerging musicians, photographers and all manner of other artists.

In an effort to bring more performance-oriented stuff to the already artistic neighborhood of Logan Square, a few of its residents have started a performance collective called Strong Works, and they'll be bringing a series of staged readings, improv shows, panel discussions, traditional "performance pieces" and live music to the neighborhood over the course of this summer.

"The Cannon," a monthly event starting tonight, will feature six Chicago actors performing short stories chosen by Will Litton, fiction editor of the literary magazineWag's Revue, and Sam Nyhart, company member of Strong Works. Readings will be "performative, polished and punchy," according to Amanda Rozmiarek, production manager of Strong Works.

Tonight's event will be held at Bonny's (2417 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from 9 to 10. Afterward, the Strong Works jazz band will play, followed by DJs, dancing and drinks. A $5 donation will be gently suggested at the door to keep their otherwise entirely unfunded season going.

It's never a good sign when you spend more time checking out the crowd rather than the art. The scene at this year's Artropolis opening was as festive as ever, and the joining of Art Chicago and NEXT on the same floor provided ample opportunity to move back and forth between more established galleries and emerging spaces. However, much of the appeal of Artropolis lies in the activities, discussions, and other assorted events that will continue to take place throughout the weekend. The opening was only a taste of the culture of this year's event and I highly encourage guests to spend time exploring all that the two events have to offer.

Caitlin Arnold (represented at Johalla Projects): Arnold's images document adolescent girls at their most curious and questioning stage. Her subjects understand and are fearful of the world they are quickly being thrust into; this much is evident as each subject stares with longing at the camera.

If Chicago is a beer city, then our status is one that is in a state of flux. Although our selection is on par with other cities of similar size, our mass breweries are far outpaced by towns with more-established emerging and DIY breweries. However, the number of smaller breweries continues to grow with each year and home brewing has increasingly expanded as an option for the individual or groups more deeply invested in a hands-on and locally sourced means of food production.

For his latest community-oriented project, artist Christopher Tourre aims to bring the culture of the home brewery to the masses. Entitled PUBLIC BREWERY, Tourre organized a temporary and experimental brewery that includes a series of workshops and gatherings at the Spoke's Residency Project Space that will allow guests to brew their own beer or soda using either their own ingredients or locally produced food items such as cherries, honey, and crabapple blossom syrup.

I was lucky enough to catch Artropolis last night-- what a scene! I've never seen so many plastic faces and big money in one place! ArtChicago and NEXT were on the same level this year (floor 12), which I think is a good idea because it forces the two worlds to mingle. Unfortunately I didn't see anything in ArtChicago that piqued my interest in the least this year. The whole section just looks like an overcrowded hotel lobby. NEXT was great, as usual, though. And the antiques fair on the 8th floor is pretty damn cool, too-- don't forget to check that out.

Here are the artists whose work particularly stood out to me at NEXT. Keep your eyes peeled for them both at the fair and in the future. You'll probably be hearing some of their names again. (Please note: A lot of the artists' sites don't appear to be as updated as the sites of the galleries that represent them, so make sure to search for the artist by name on the gallery's sites if you're interested in an artists' work.)

If you don't know what Artropolis is, or if you do but were just gonna skip it, you might want to reconsider.

On the Make did such a great job with their annual Art Guide (released today), I figured I'd just link to that this week, rather than try to do all the work they already did all over again.

Whether you're an opera aficionado or an opera virgin, consider exposing yourself to an avant-garde take on it this week with Mexico City's Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes' El Gallo: Opera for Actors-- part of the MCA's Global Stage Series. This piece of experimental theater, opening this Wednesday with a short run (through May 1), features a music director and five singers pushing themselves to their limits, "teetering between insanity and euphoria as they work through their deepest inhibitions." Sung entirely in a made-up language, El Gallo features a score and libretto by British composer, Paul Barker, who conducts the music-- performed live by Chicago's MAVerick Ensemble.

In case you missed it, check out Jessica Palmer's preview of Passing Strange, the new Rock/Soul Musical adaptation featuring J.C. Brooks (of the Uptown Sound), which was published in Transmission last Friday.

Well, ready or not, he's here and said he wants to go as loud as he can to tell stories through his work in a non-traditional way.

"You have to have a home base to blow up," said Brantley. "I've been blessed and fortunate enough to build a base here and now I'm ready to conquer the rest of the world."

The Chicago native said this city is the best place to establish that home base. Brantley said his recent solo exhibition, Afro-Futurism: Impossible View, served as a major stepping stone in his young career, as the first African-American under the age of 30 (at the time) to be featured at the Zhou B. Art Center in Bridgeport-- not far from his stomping ground of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. In this exhibit, his illustrations depict stories surrounded by his creation of a superhero named Flyboy and other goggle-eyed creatures--children specifically--and their emotions from today's socioeconomic times and a group of World War II unsung heroes-- The Tuskegee Airmen.

Chicago's largest art fair, Art Chicago, has taken a hit in recent years due to mismanagement and other logistical issues. For the local art community, the fair - now a massive four-day event encompassing multiple floors of the Merchandise Mart - often isolates or ignores the eclectic, diverse, and ever-changing Chicago and Midwest-based art galleries, publications, and institutions.

Three of Chicago's most celebrated art entities-- threewalls, Roots and Culture, and Public Media Institute-- present the MDW Fair, a celebration and gathering of Chicagoland area independent art initiatives, spaces, galleries, publishers, and artist groups, and something of a response to the much larger fair which takes place the following weekend. Running April 23 and 24, the fair aims to "demonstrate the diversity, strength, and vision of the people/places making it happen in the art ecology of our region."

I got a chance to talk with Paul Klein about his Klein Artist Works courses and I have to say, this is the sort of thing that we used to wish for.

Artists will show their love for the most popular sport in the world on Thursday, April 21 at the Adidas store at 923 N Rush St., from 7 to 9pm.

The collaboration between The Chicago Fire and Arte y Vida Chicago is something I have been looking forward to for months now. With the Champions League down to the Semi-Finals, all the European leagues coming down to the wire and MLS in full swing, this show couldn't come at a better time. A celebration of the strength, power and fanaticism of the worlds most popular sport through art is something to shout about.

Textile Discount Outlet, located at 2121 w. 21st Street, has helped sustain Chicago's creative classes with discounted fabrics and inspiration for over 30 years.

The Grid is a series profiling Chicago businesses, subcultures and landscapes. These short, lyrical documentaries aspire to be art cinema, ethnographies and experiments in form. Ben Kolak and Brian Ashby's directorial debut, Scrappers, won Best Documentary at the 2010 Chicago Underground Film Festival and made Roger Ebert's top 10 list of documentary films in 2010. Editor Dave Nagel is a recent University of Chicago graduate.

Michael Darling, the recently appointed James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator of the MCA, announced the appointment of Naomi Beckwith as the museum's newest curator yesterday. For the culturally diverse yet fractured city of Chicago, Beckwith's new appointment could potentially usher in a new wave of eclectic and inclusive programming from the museum. Currently the Associate Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Beckwith's curatorial projects frequently focus on themes of identity and conceptual practices in contemporary art and artists of African descent. A native Chicagoan, Beckwith begins work at the MCA on May 11.

In a press release about the appointment, Beckwith noted the importance of the museum in the development of her education in contemporary art. Recent Studio Museum projects include Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Views, the critically acclaimed exhibition of photographs from the South African photographer.

Humboldt Park art and community center Rumble Arts (maybe you remember last year's feature story profiling them?) is in trouble because the family-owned pawnshop that provides its primary source of funding is in danger of being overthrown by a Cash America. It's like a civil war over there. Support the little guys! Support arts programming!

Attend the Town Hall Hearing TONIGHT at 6pm at the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, (1400 N. Sacramento Ave.) and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals, April 15 at 2pm at City Hall, (121 N LaSalle St, 3rd Floor). The hearing on April 15 determines if Cash America will receive a business license. If you need a ride, a bus will depart Rumble Arts (3413 W. North Ave.) at 12:45pm to travel downtown. A second bus will load at Fullerton Red Line (943 W. Fullerton Ave.) at 12:45pm.

Are you one of the legions of artists out there lamenting your lack of productivity, chalking it up to not having a proper studio space, or perhaps feeling alien from the artistic community and generally uninspired? Do you need a muse, or an excuse to get out of your living room, away from your kids and your dirty dishes and start making art again? Or maybe you've been working your ass off in your basement but your work never sees the light of day and you would like some serious, critical feedback from someone other than your dog hiking his leg on it. OR maybe you're fresh out of college and you worry that you're going to fall into atrophy without some continued structure.

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, the newly-established Bolt Residency program may be a good option for you. The Bolt Residency is a highly competitive and juried artist program housed in the former FLATFILEgalleries, an 8,000 square foot space in the West Loop. It features a one to two-year artist residency program consisting of nine subsidized studios and professional exhibition space with daily, ongoing professional development and in depth collaborations with prominent Chicago curators, visiting artists, gallery directors, dealers, and collectors-- from Candida Alvarez to Monique Meloche. The idea is to not only provide studio space for artists, but to serve as a support structure and a network for artists to develop their creative practices into viable careers. It is not an easy thing, after all.

Brooklyn-based artist Sheila Pepe's ongoing and traveling installation performance, Common Sense, makes its fifth stop in Chicago at Oak Park's he said, she said. Thus far, the performance has traveled to CAHM in Houston; Testsite/Fluent-Colab in Austin, Texas; Artisterium 3, in Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia; and Carroll and Sons in Boston.

The participatory exhibition is yet another example of the gallery's ongoing effort to engage audiences in a conversation about art and culture. Incorporating ideas of abstraction and construction, the large-scale crochet "drawing" allows audiences to participate in the work by unraveling the material to be used for their own creations. As well, this is another chance for art lovers to venture to the burgeoning and eclectic art community growing in the diverse suburb of Oak Park.

Common Sense, Chicago opens April 9 at 6pm and runs through May 14. he said, she said is located at 216 North Harvey Avenue, Apt. #1 in Oak Park.

We know that Chicago is full of great art. We've got a bunch of internationally-renown educational institutions, attracting artists from all over the world. On top of that, we've got almost as many exhibition spaces as we've got artists and perhaps even more journalists who are just dying to write thoughtfully and comprehensively about the work being made. So why do artists keep on moving away to New York and LA? Money. Artmaking is not a viable sole source of income for most Chicagoans. Many artists have to work two, three, maybe four jobs at a time to get by. And that doesn't leave much time for sitting in the studio, staring at blank canvases, trying to come up with ideas.

The brainy people over at threewalls have come up with a brilliant idea, however, to start to solve this problem: Community Supported Art-- an art subscription service much like the increasingly popular community supported agriculture programs, in which shareholders invest in a local farm and receive a monthly payout of fruits and vegetables.

Now that it is April we can all look forward to the art fair season kicking off. One of the biggest, and longest running under the same management is Version Fest. This year Version fest will be held from April 22 thru May 2nd with so many different programming platforms that there will literally be something for everyone. Over the next month I will talk a bit about a few of the many groups participating in Version, how you can see them, contact them or get involved yourself.

Last night, former Cabrini-Green residents gathered at the last remaining high-rise building, 1230 N. Burling, to celebrate the community's life while wishing it farewell. A few short speeches were made to the press, but the highlights were mixing with friends, performances by ThaBrigade Stamps Marching Band and the installation in the building itself.

David Schalliol has been documenting the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation since 2003. Additional images from his documentation may be seen on his website.

A new episode of Fear No Art Chicago is about to hit the airwaves on WTTW11. The third episode of this wildly popular arts program will feature Chicago legend Tony Fitzpatrick, actress Joyce Piven and puppeteer Blair Thomas. I encourage all of you to tune in at least once to help Chicago get WTTW11 to make this program a regular series and finally get Chicago some serious arts programming.

WTTW11 March 31 @ 10pm April 3 @ Noon April 6 @ 10:30pmWTTW Prime April 1 @ 4pm April 7 @ 4:30pm April 9 @ 5pm

If you've been craving some serious art talk but don't have the loot to go to art school, stop by threewalls tonight (or across the hallway at Western Exhibitions, rather) for their "Unschooling Arts Education" SALON-- part of their monthly, (free!) super-educational and interactive discussion series.

Starting at 7 tonight, the discussion will start off with questions along the lines of: Do I really need a MFA to be a successful artist? What does the fact that you can get a PhD in visual art say about the baseline criteria that art professionals need to meet before being allowed to do anything in the arts? Is formal education valued over experience, and if so, what does this mean for the democratization of voices in the art world?

Invited guests who will be driving the discussion include Zachary Cahill, Erica Meiners (Northeastern Illinois University), Bert Stabler, Jacqueline Terrassa (MCA) and Rebecca Zorach (University of Chicago). This event is free and open to the public. Details here.

Growing up in Evanston, IL, Jen Bosworth had an upbringing similar to many of today's suburban youth. The daughter of Ines and Chuck Bosworth and sister to Cecily, Jen attended Evanston public schools and eventually made her way to DePaul University where she auditioned and was accepted to the Theater Conservatory. Not exactly sure which career direction she wanted to go in life, theater seemed as good a path as any. After graduation Jen was cast as the lead actor in the Steppenwolf Theater's production of The House on Mango St. Following the success of her public stage debut, Jen continued acting, starring in the television series "ER" and "Early Addition"-- both filmed and produced here in Chicago. Seeking a life of greater fortune and promise, Jen abandoned her local fame and headed west to L.A. where she promptly quit acting.

Dumping her trained skill in the land of the silver screen where actors are born and careers are launched wasn't exactly planned as Jen describes her cross country move.

If you haven't made plans for Friday yet, consider buying a ticket for Urban Gateways' 50th Anniversary Gala &/or Gala Undone After Party. Gala starts at 6pm, and tickets are a steep $350, but the after party (Gala Undone) is affordable for normal folks, with tickets going for $40 in advance or $50 at the door. The event will feature veteran Urban Gateways artist James "Casper" Jankowiak, who will create an interactive mural during the event, a performance by Urban Gateways touring artists and resident performing ensemble of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, BAM! and a late-night dance party to the music of DJ Mister Wolf (of Only Children). Also on hand will be plenty of munchies, an open bar and a silent auction.

Gala Undone will take place this Friday, April 1 from 9:30 to midnight at Venue One (1044 W. Randolph). More details here.

Art Club is a concept to bring purpose and support to a community of discouraged artists. Artists are given from March 4th to March 24th to create a (pre-chosen) concept-based piece, one of which can be spent in-gallery working in an open studio.

The word "steep" to be interpreted by the artists and create reactionary work based on their definition.

BYOB Chicago (organized by Nicholas O'Brien and Brian Khek) has invited more than 30 Chicago-based and international artists to create a collaborative happening of moving light, sound and performance. The dynamic structure will no-doubt be enhanced by a series of ad hoc installations, performances and special projects, creating an immerse environment of DIY spontaneity and experimentation.

The Chicago iteration of this international project will occur on Saturday, March 26 at the Archer Ballroom from 7 to 10pm.

Internationally lauded street artist, Gaia, is officially here-- all over the place. A series of projects showcasing Gaia's work around town, collectively titled GAIA: Resplendent Semblance launched a few weeks ago with a bunch of work pasted up all over the city, a collection of work at Pawn Works (which opened last Friday) and a show of new, large scale paintings and collages at Maxwell Colette Gallery, which will open this Friday.

To have Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese secure brilliant, attractive actors as your subjects, to have the perfect movie set as your background, to have the lighting already flawlessly arranged for each shot, then for the two famous directors to invite you in to capture it all on film - that is a photographer's dream. Steve Schapiro is a lucky bastard.

Here is a comprehensive list of artsy options for the weekend. These are mostly all opening receptions, with a few performances, benefits and artist lectures thrown in. Most of the events today start around 5 or 6pm, but some of the Saturday and Sunday events start earlier. Click on the links for details. See you around!

This Saturday night Collaboraction will throw its most revolutionary fundraising party to date with their 9th annual CARNAVAL: Let Them Eat Cake! party at the Double Door. The venue will be transformed into a party battle zone with live musical performances, radical costumes, burlesque, immersive theatrical interludes, two floors of dancing and bottomless drinks.

"With revolution in the air, Collaboraction gathers its diverse and vibrant colony of artists to create an immersive artistic experience that vibrates with bacchanalian insurrection. Part party and part living art installation, our 9th annual CARNAVAL will be a debaucherous deconstruction of the history of revolution in France and throughout the globe," said Anthony Moseley, Artistic and Executive Director of Collaboraction, in the press release.

Meet "Flyboy," the goggle-wearing hero in artist Hebru Brantley's solo exhibition, Afro-Futurism: (Impossible View), who takes children mired in an abyss of socioeconomic obstacles and celebrates their unwavering spirit to survive and succeed despite it all. Brantley, a self-taught painter and illustrator from Chicago's South Side, conceived Flyboy via "attempts to commercialize the idea of an ethnic hero," something not always visible in the general cultural landscape.

Afro-Futurism: (Impossible View) opens Friday, March 18, 7pm-10pm, and runs through April 25 at Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St. For more information, contact curator Michael Zhou at m@zhoub.com or 773-523-0200.

Vivian Maier, Self-portrait, 1968; silver gelatin print - available now through Russell Bowman Art Advisory

There has been a lot of talk (and a little controversy) about nanny-cum-street photographer, Vivian Maier, whose work was discovered in 2007 when storage units containing it were emptied due to late payment and the work was sold to an auction house. Maybe you've even seen her exhibition at the Cultural Center (up through April 3). In a sense, she is our new Henry Darger--a talented Chicago-based outsider artist whose work has earned her posthumous fame. The difference is that her work is genuine documentation of the city and the people in it rather than the zany imaginings of a madman (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But just like the prices for Darger's work rapidly skyrocketed, Maier's are on their way up, and now you have a chance at a piece of the pie.

In his debut one-man show, Tim Paul's Retarded, Annoyance Theatre veteran Tim Paul reveals what happens behind the closed doors of a group home. Supplemented by pop-cult video segments to add context, he recounts true (and horrifying) stories from his years working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders, exploring society's all-too-comfortable relationship with the r-word. The result is a challenging piece of theater with its fair share of tongue-in-cheek laughs.

Tim Paul's Retarded opened last Sunday and will run every Sunday at 9:30pm through April 3 at The Annoyance Theatre (4830 N. Broadway). Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at theannoyance.com or by calling the box office at 773-561-4665.

A heavy bill is set for Mortville tonight; a few of the bands have traveled long distances to grace Chicago with some serious music. Check them out and have some fun while gazing into the installations reminiscent of the Garbage Pale Kids.

If you want to go, you've got to figure out the address for yourself. You can thank the city's PPA drama for that. Hint: It's in Little Village.

Critically acclaimed comedy troupe Octavarius is premiering a new show series titled "Octavarius: Battle for the Belt," tomorrow night (March 13) at 7pm at Stage 773. Additional performances will take place on March 20 & 27. Colt Cabana, former WWE and current Ring of Honor superstar, is a special guest of the series, making an in-person appearance on night two (the 20th) and video appearances on night one and three. "The Ego" Robert Anthony, CZW Heavyweight Champion, will make a surprise appearance on the final night of the series (the 27th). The stage will be transformed into a wrestling ring, complete with ropes, turnbuckles and a Jumbotron. Tickets are $15 per show, or $25 for a ringside pass to all three nights. Audience members are encouraged to make a sign cheering or jeering their favorite Octavarius superstars, and receive tickets at a discounted rate of $12. For more information, visit Octavarius.com.

Also, tomorrow we've got Karen Bovinich & EJ Hill's There is no I in it opening at The Hills Esthetic Center and Candida Alvarez's Black/Dinner Napkin Paintings opening at Peregrine Program.

Well this kid's got spirit, and in the year since that profile was written his work has developed into some INSANE s*%t. He has progressed from painting pigeons and two-flats to battles between tube-sock wearing devil children with rainbow juice for blood. I guess that's just what happens when you lock yourself up in a studio with a bunch of toxic chemicals every day for an extended period of time.

Local artist book shop and exhibition space Golden Age continues to present a strong line-up of curated and solo exhibitions. For their latest, New York City-based artist Erik Lindman will be in attendance for the opening of his latest solo exhibition, One Year Edit. Constructed of cast-offs from other paintings, Lindman's four unique abstract works combine varying surfaces with more formal compositions. As Golden Age co-director Marco Kane Braunschweiler noted, "You go out, find your subject in the world, come back, edit out what doesn't work and if you've done what you've intended, you present something resonant. It's a bold and cutting edge way of working because it doesn't present any hint of the artist as a traditional, avant-garde painter."

One Year Edit opens Friday, March 11, from 6 to 9 pm. The exhibition runs through April 17. Golden Age is located at 119 North Peoria, #2D.

Filmmaker Amy Grappell has featured works in Sundance film fest, winning honorable mention. She has also shown work at SXSW, Rotterdam film fest, and among many others. Now, she will be presenting work at University of Chicago's contemporary art gallery The Renaissance Society. The opening reception will take place this Sunday (March 13) from 4pm to 7pm, and will include a discussion with Grappell from 5pm to 6pm, in room 307 at Cobb Hall.

Yael Bartana is a female video artist who works from Amsterdam and Tel Aviv, whom recently was awarded the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize. Her work explores the complicated implications of social and political discourses revolving around the age of globalization.

Admission: $10 general admission, $7 students, $5 Film Center members, $4 SAIC faculty and free for SAIC students.

This Saturday The Garden is hosting a one night event from 8pm to 1am that will feature too many talented Chicago artists and musicians to wrap your head around. Brett Manning (a girl), is the curator along with the help of others. This isn't an event to miss and then cry about later when you hear all your friends were there. It is a small world after all. Visit the P&P blog for more information.

This Friday from 6pm to 9pm the Co Prosperity sphere is opening a new show in conjunction with the old Uncle Freddy's Gallery of Northwest Indiana. Uncle Freddy's was a space where artists who didn't fit the mold of the traditional gallery scene would be able to show their most heartfelt and intense work.

If you're looking for a little lively art talk today, look no further than UIC's Gallery 400. Today at 5pm they're hosting an artist's talk with Kalup Linzy-- a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes videos, performances, and music. I am not familiar with his work but it sounds like a lot of fun, and (potentially) part of the Post Black movement-- one of the most exiting contemporary art movements, albeit underrepresented. (Pulled from the press release:)

Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. in the West Loop. For more information about Linzy, visit his website.

The recent rainy Friday evening did not detract from the opening of SAIC MFA-alum Chinatsu Ikeda's solo show at the Nicole Villeneuve Gallery being well attended. Indeed, the weather seemed an appropriate fit for Ikeda's paintings, some of which feature falling rain and snow, and are made up of tiny washy marks.

The show, comprised of eight recent works on canvas and paper, ranges from oil to watercolor. A particularly strong example of what can perhaps be described as a contemporary interpretation of impressionistic mark-making can be found in an untitled oil painting featuring a clown-like figure situated between a fork and a spoon. The picture is enveloped in a variety of Ikeda's tiny marks that could be falling rain or snow, but in areas alternate between resembling popcorn or rice (further evidenced by a tiny orange bowl in the lower left corner). Elsewhere these same marks help to form the face and arms of the figure-- notably the figure's broad, bright red lips.

Today is the first Friday of the month, which means there are a bunch of art shows opening tonight. Here's a quick sampling of what's going on around town:

Former Gapers Block contributor, banana enthusiast and (above all) photographer Brian Leli has begun selling prints of his photographs on his website to facilitate the taking of more photographs. Prints are $80 each and come with a hand-written letter from Leli and (apparently) a date (if you live in Chicago). Good deal. Pictured above is the first print for sale on his website.

Local comedian Mo Welch debuts her "one woman show", Weird Girl, at the Lincoln Lodge tonight. For the show she combines her trademark characters from "The Mo Show" with her real life upbringing. Welch also adds her original short films, making the show both multi-media and interactive. Although "The Mo Show" is nascent, it has already received a good amount of press, with appearances by some of Chicago's top comedians. Welch's Weird Girl: One Human Show promises the same wacky abandon.

Weird Girl debuts at 9pm tonight at The Lincoln Lodge, and runs again tomorrow (March 4)-- same place, same time. Tickets are $10. More information can be found at mowelch.com. Buy tickets ahead of time at thelincolnlodge.com.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's re-vamped monthly party, First Fridays, continues to combine music, visual arts, and exclusive events. March's theme is Robots and includes selected tunes by DJ Josh Madden and an appearance by Billy Bot of Slideshow Theatre.

Compared to previous iterations of the event, March's celebration is fantastically heavy on the museum's bread and butter, the arts. Club Nutz return to the museum after a week-long summer residency as part of Here/Not There. In its latest presentation, visitors can view a robot stand-up comedian, a robotic magic show, an open mic, and DJ dance parties. Visitors also get a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of artist Kirsten Leenaars' soap opera based on MCA staff members. As well, Takeshi Moro, the latest artist in the UBS 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work series open his solo exhibition of photographic works and designed objects.

First Fridays: Robots takes place Friday, March 4 from 6 pm to 10 pm. Tickets are $10 for MCA members, $13 in advance, or $18 at the door. All tickets include museum admission, live entertainment, and hors d'oeuvres. For more information, visit mcachicago.org.

ACRE, in conjunction with Johalla Projects, presents TALKING WITH FEAR ABOUT DYING TOMORROW, a solo exhibition of new works by Chicago-based artist and educator Matthew Austin. The latest installment in ACRE's year-long series of solo exhibition by 2010 ACRE summer residents, Austin's new work was born out of a month-long road trip following his summer residency.

In his series of photographs, Austin carves into trees or poses for a tourist photo as a means of exploring and documenting the ways in which an individual interacts with his or her environment. Austin reiterates personal messages and tangible artifacts of an individual experience as a way to highlight the universality of such interactions.

In addition to the photographs, Austin will be releasing an edition of news prints and a monograph of new work. On Saturday at 4 pm, Austin will also exhibition his first contribution to HomeSchool, a traveling institution for experimental pedagogy.

Matthew Austin: TALKING WITH FEAR ABOUT DYING TOMORROW opens Friday, March 4 from 7 - 10 pm. The exhibition closes this Saturday, March 5. Johalla Projects is located at 1561 N Milwaukee and is open Thursday, March 3 from 3 - 7 pm and Saturday, March 5 from 1 - 6 pm.

I am super excited about an upcoming show I want everyone to know about, and it isn't just because I can finally write about soccer in the arts section. My passion for art is immense, I love doing studio visits with fellow artists, and ChicagoArts exists because I can't keep from talking about great work and trying to let people know how awesome art is. So there are only a few things that get my mind off creativity and the arts, one of those things is soccer. Remember that The Onion article "Nation's Soccer Fan Becoming Insufferable"? Well, that was me.

Starting March 18 and running through May, an ongoing discussion series will be staged at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave., on a weekly basis on Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm. To Art & Profit -- performed by panels of artists, scholars and creative advocates -- will address art as knowledge in discussions defining purpose and building solidarity. Tickets are $15, or $10 for students.

The new show at Carl Hammer, although ultimately disappointing, is interesting at first because all of the large format images by artist Eric Daigh are made entirely with colored push pins. Red, blue, yellow, white and black pushpins are used like points in printing or pixels on a computer screen to create portraits.

These portraits couldn't help but reference the impressionists and Chuck Close, but the depth is more in line with what I would expect to come out of a BFA show rather than be in one of the better galleries in Chicago.

Independent curator and arts administrator Karly Wildenhaus' latest solo exhibition, Twice Removed: a Survey of Take Away Work, has already garnered extensive press coverage for its crafty exploration of an object's meaning and place in contemporary art long after its initial exhibition run. Featuring prints, buttons, posters, and other ephemera, Twice Removed is a unique and expertly constructed exhibition based solely on others' work.

Local artist book shop Golden Age will launch the publication component of the exhibition today, from 3 to 5 pm. Wildenhaus, who also wrote the publication, will be on hand to discuss both the exhibition and the publication.

There is no apparent anarchy in Signal Ensemble's tidy and well-rehearsed version of Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist. That is not to say it is not in the spirit of anarchy, or that it is not an effective play-- because it is, without a doubt. The impeccable craft, attention to detail and obvious investment of countless days memorizing lines only makes a stronger case for this timely (if not timeless), sharp, satirical production.

This clever, faced-paced story pokes fun of police corruption, inspired by the real-life case of anarchist railway worker Giuseppe Pinelli, who fell-- or was thrown-- from the fourth floor window of a Milan police station in 1969. The events of the play itself, however, are fictional. The play opens with Inspector Bertozzo (Vincent Lonergan) interrogating "The Madman" (Joseph Stearns). The Madman, a scam artist with a role-playing fetish, constantly outsmarts the dim-witted police staff-- pretending to be a judge, wreaking havoc, getting them to re-enact incriminating events and eventually completely lose it in front of a suspicious reporter (Simone Roos).

If you are one of the many people who have heard about Chicago's vibrant independent theater scene, but haven't made it out to see anything because your perception of theater has been tainted by cheesy musicals, you may want to free up a night this month or next to check out Collaboraction's Sketchbook REVERB.

"Sketchbook has proven to be this place where we've found a way to make theater super tasty and consumable to a young diverse audience," explains Anthony Moseley, director. "The audience is not just made up of people who go to a lot of theater."

In Nicholas Knight's latest solo exhibition, Declaimed, at 65GRAND, the artist subtly re-purposes images or the idea of the image to create one unified whole. The image become something new and complete, even as it breaks down the context of and the relationship between the audience and the image itself. His works are re-purposed both tangibly and symbolically.

We live in a world of "declaimed" images and as Knight reiterates in works such as Double Dramatization (2010) and Screen Images Simulated (Youthful Hercules) (2010), it is a matter of breaking down and rediscovering (perhaps even creating) the truth out of the inauthentic image. The questions of authenticity also play a main role in Knight's images: What is true and not true? Are we as cognizant of the false images and ideas that stem from these images as we imagine?

In other, non-photographic works, Knight breaks down the idea of the image to its most singular of definitions: forms captured. Each new piece in the exhibition becomes more and more difficult to identify as just prints or as manipulated images from Knight's psyche. Knight responds to the idea of the manipulated image, in turn making something that is "untrue" but still tangible.

Declaimed closes this Saturday. 65GRAND is open Friday and Saturday from 12 pm to 5:30 pm, or by appointment. The gallery is located at 1369 West Grand.

At six o'clock on a Friday night, there are no lights on at the Vivekananda Vedanta Society temple, a Prairie-style building on a dark crossroads in rural Homer Glen. But the door is open, so you go inside, slip off your shoes, and follow the intensifying scent of incense, up the stairs, to the sanctuary, where a little man in an orange robe is sliding blue velvet slipcovers over framed photographs of Hindu mystics, which repose on burnished mahogany thrones.

The Vivekananda Vedanta Society's temple is only two years old, but its roots in Chicago go back over a century, longer than any non-Judeo-Christian religion. The society traces its origins in the 1893 Parliament of Religions, a sideshow to Chicago's Columbian Exposition. The Raja of Khetri provided a wandering monk named Vivekananda with a first-class steamer ticket from Bombay to Vancouver. When he arrived in Chicago, without an invitation, he knocked on doors in the Gold Coast until a wealthy society matron gave him breakfast and introduced him to the Parliament's president.

Vivekananda's appearance at the Parliament was an important moment for both the United States and India. The Hindu monk introduced yoga and meditation to the Americans, who would adopt both practices, although as self-improvement disciplines, not spiritual undertakings. In Vivekananda's homeland, his journey is remembered as the first time the West seriously acknowledged Indian culture.

Laika Dog in Space is a lot of things. It is more than a play; it is an event. A class, even. A field trip. It is a variety show of sorts, with an art gallery/museum for a lobby and a live band.

Upon arrival to the Neo Futurarium, where Laika Dog in Space is playing, audience members are invited to explore the "state park" (a.k.a. the lobby), where there are a few dioramas on shelves against one wall and framed photos of all the famous dogs from pop culture on another wall, complete with clever descriptions underneath. Snoop Dog is even included.

Chicago Dramatists take on the oldest profession head on with their current performance, Bordello, written by Aline Lathrop.

The entirety of Bordello takes place in the kitchen of Pussy Willow Ranch, located 60 miles outside of Las Vegas in the great state of Nevada.

It isn't easy dissecting this play. First of all, I am a man, and any thoughts I have about what I experienced have to be put into perspective. Having said that, Bordello is not a sexy romp through the lives of some of Nevada's premier sex workers-- not that I thought it would be. It is more like a glimpse into the lives of some people who happen to work in a place that happens to be a bordello.

Time to sit down and take the Creative Chicago Survey, help us find out what we need to make this a better city to create in. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CreativeChicagoSurvey

For the past 100 years Ox-Bow (the SAIC-affiliated artist residency/commune/adult summer camp) has hosted a themed costumed dance party and benefit auction every Friday night while classes are in session. Every year the themes get more creative and the dance parties get more epic.

Friday, February 18 they are bringing the party into the city (lucky us!) and they invite you to come dressed as a famous artist or artwork. Eric May, head chef at Ox-Bow and director of Roots and Culture Contemporary Arts Center, will spin funk, soul, dub and reggae CORRECTION: yacht rock/early rave/Moombahton.

The blizzard that is moving in on us at the moment is causing several cancellations and closures in the art world today and tomorrow. Here's what we have so far:

Please comment on this post with information about other cancellations. The Great Chicago Blizzard of 2011 may have won the battle this week, but art will win the war. Maybe. Or maybe everyone will continue to move to L.A.

Linda Warren's current show, Walking, consists of new paintings by Willie Kohler. Willie's approach to painting is a breath of fresh air from what you're bound to see at many galleries today. It is the ability to experience art that relies mostly on observation, both internal and external, to direct the viewer through an individual painting, as well as the entire body of work, that makes Walking so fresh and exciting. Willie's work breathes with nature that is not influenced by pop culture. Raw and overgrown, these paintings influence us and inspire meditation. They have the ability to transport us to familiar places we have never been and to show us what we only thought we saw.

Jim Nutt made a rare appearance yesterday at the preview of his much anticipated show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Coming into Character, which officially opens today. Though the Chicago artist does not currently reside in our city, his involvement in the off-beat Hairy Who group and the Imagism movement that can be seen as a quintessential milestone in Chicago art history, makes him a local treasure.

Coming into Character is an extensive collection that exemplifies his work's ability to be simultaneously stunning and grotesque. His acrylics on plexiglass are startlingly colorful and the extensive details of the often vulgar subjects pull the viewer in with a bizarre intensity. Severed limbs, skewed facial features, and unforgiving interpretations of genitalia may confuse some and offend others, but Nutt's ability to capture the senses cannot be denied.

Many of Nutt's pieces in Coming into Character are accompanied by the drawings that he experimented with before jumping into the final project. The ghosts of erased lines provide a fascinating glimpse into the experimental nature of Nutt's process.

As awesome as Chicago is, we have our fair share of problems, from homelessness to gun violence. As much as many of us would like to ignore these problems, it is important that we don't. Luckily there are artists and activists who have taken it upon themselves to bring attention to these problems in creative, even playful ways, encouraging communities to take responsibility for them. One of these groups calls themselves Piñata Factory. Piñata Factory is an ongoing collaboration between Mike Bancroft, working with the youth he mentors in his organization Cooperative Image Group in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, and Bert Stabler, with the students he teaches at Bowen High School on the southeast side.

Independent curator and creative administrator Karly Wildenhaus' latest exhibition explores an object's meaning and place in contemporary art long after its initial exhibition. In Twice Removed: A Survey of Take Away Work, artwork initially available as free and in unlimited or large-run exhibitions is displayed in the local artist book shop Golden Age. Featuring work by artists such as local luminaries Aspen Mays and Jason Lazarus, as well as Jeremy Deller, Bruce Nauman, and Rivane Neuenschwander, Twice Removed examines the "post-exhibition" life of take away work when exhibited in a new and conceptually different space.

Twice Removed: A Survey of Take Away Work opens this Friday, January 28 at 6 pm at Golden Age, located at 119 North Peoria #2D.

The current show that is up at Western Exhibitions was created from a simple call to artists by Paul Nudd and Scott Wolniak, who requested "Heads on Poles". What they got is exactly what you might expect them to have gotten, a few politically driven works, a number that had environmental overtones and some just fun, off the wall pieces. Making your way through the gallery presents a pretty interesting problem. As we all know, we are not supposed to touch the art even if we want to, it is hard not to be reminded that if these were actually dismembered heads on poles, that the same rule would most likely apply.

A delightful celebration of subversion is going up at Northwestern University's Block Museum, with a public opening reception tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm. Two complementary exhibitions are opening: Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, and The Satirical Edge in Contemporary Prints and Graphics.

The former includes 71 drawings, watercolors, prints, and books by Thomas Rowlandson, a popular English satirist who applied his masterful drawing skills and keen sense of humor to colorful, detailed, and sometimes bawdy depictions of everyday life in and around London during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These works offer an entryway into the social and political life of Georgian England. Rowlandson specialized in capturing the follies and foibles on display in his native city during a time of remarkable population growth and social change, as members of differing classes clumsily mixed and mingled for the first time. Click here for a slideshow preview. (Flash)

For her latest solo exhibition, local artist Heather Hancock created three mixed media works addressing the "constructed nature of the cognitive moment." Materials such as glass, paint, and 24 karat gold smalti are used to create unified experiences born out of the sensations of the emotional and physical world.

In many of her works, Hancock incorporates and emphasizes the power of glass as a material to literally reflect and figuratively channel meaning for the viewer. For Imagining Mind, Hancock uses the glass to explore ideas of focused attention, narrative, and the autobiographical self. Imagining Mind runs through February 10 at the Montgomery Ward Gallery as part of the UIC Student Center East, 750 South Halsted.

Baltimore-based theater group, The Missoula Oblongata, is bringing their newest play, Clamlump, to Ball Hall on Monday, Feb. 14. The description of the play is pretty mindboggling except for the bit about it being set "deep in the hollows of a boarded up stadium," but if you check out TMO's website I think you will be convinced to go whether or not you understand what you're going for. The play will feature a live score performed by Travis Sehorn and an opening act by ventriloquist, April Camlin. BYOP(illow) to sit on. Click here to visit the Facebook event page, or here to visit The Missoula Oblongata's website. Ball Hall's address is secret because the city will try to get their hands into the venue's (empty) pockets if they are given the opportunity. If you wanna go, you've gotta find out where it is for yourself. You can thank the city for that. Admission will most likely require a small donation, but has not yet been specified.

The final exhibition at Chicago's inimitable David Weinberg Gallery opens this Friday, January 7, from 5 - 8 pm. The salon-style exhibition, titled The Collective, features work by the gallery's 21 artists including Weinberg along with other local and national artists such as David Burdeny, Amanda Friedman, and Dylan Vitone. The complete list of participating artists is available at the gallery's website. The gallery also dedicated a significant amount of its time to creating free and educational programs for third through 12th grade students to foster greater discussion and insight into the Chicago arts community.

The Smart Museum joins other national museums' decision to screen late artist David Wojnarowicz' 1986-1987 video, A Fire in My Belly. An unfinished and contemplative tribute to the artist's friend Peter Hujar (who died of AIDS), the video was recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery's latest exhibition, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. Despite the exhibition's aim to explore such themes as, "the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America," and how art reflects "society's evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment," museum officials pulled the work following protests from conservative politicians and a vocal religious group.

As part of its exhibition, the Smart Museum will screen the original 13-minute version of the film first edited by Wojnarowicz from 1986-1987, as well as an additional seven-minute chapter found in Wojnarowicz's collection. A Fire In My Belly opens tomorrow and runs through February 6. The Smart Museum is located at 5550 S. Greenwood.

The Chicago Journal features a very inspirational piece on Project Onward, an vehicle for special needs artists. Founded in 2004 and housed in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, the organization provides artists with full support via working space, supplies, teaching, promotion, etc., to help them develop and hone their craft.

On Chicago's Southwest side stands a community enriched with Mexican influences from its restaurants, businesses and well-known art district. Through efforts from its community, Pilsen showcases its cultural pride and works to assist neighbors and new residents from Chicago and the surrounding areas. Casa Aztlan, a community center and nonprofit organization in the heart of the neighborhood, at 1831 S. Racine Ave., offers those services to help residents in the area and people who relocated to the United States from another country.

Carlos Arango, executive director of Casa Aztlan, said although the center focuses on the Pilsen community and the Southwest side of the city, some residents travel from all over the state of Illinois and as far as Indiana for services. The organization helps about 12,000 people year in various capacities, said Arango.

Casa Aztlan is an established figure in the Pilsen community that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of the oldest organizations that fights for social justice. Its roots stem from 1970 when Mexican immigrants migrated in large numbers and settled in Chicago. Originally, Casa Aztlan served as a Bohemian settlement house in the late 1800s. From the Howell Neighborhood House to the Neighborhood Service Organization, the community organization made a shift and changed its name to Casa Aztlan, reflecting a part of the community's Mexican and Aztec heritage.

Cauleen Smith, a San-Diego-based artist who has been picked up by Threewalls residency program, is in the process of trying to fund her experimental film and LP project, The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band. Basically, this is a marching band flash mob made up of musicians of all ages that appears in different locations around Chicago, gingerly plays a Sun Ra song and then scatters. What's better than that? According to Smith's mission statement, "The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band brings many Chicago communities together to interrupt ordinary life in the city with fleeting ecstatic moments of visual and aural incongruence."

Alberto Aguilar made 1000 friends on Facebook and invited them to participate in his Personal Dinner Invitation project where he simply had people over to his home for dinner. Alberto curated the people, music and food to create a memorable moment for him and his Facebook friends. One of the guests, Becky Grajeda, recorded part of her evening and made a soundscape entitled Enacting that can be heard during the credits of this episode.

Last summer a bunch of sculptures appeared (seemingly magically) along the boulevard on Franklin in East Garfield Park, between Sacramento and Central Park. Some are pretty cool, others are downright hideous. Most of the residents of the neighborhood are happy to see them out there, though, because they represent interest in the area-- something Garfield Park has been suffering from lack of since the housing bubble burst. But now that the mystery of who put the sculptures up and who the artists are is solved, the controversy has shifted from whether or not the sculptures are eyesores to what a bunch of sculptures by white guys are doing in a largely African American neighborhood. Also, why weren't the numerous artists who already live in Garfield Park not invited to participate? Why outsource?

WBEZ, a.k.a. Chicago Public Radio, posted an interesting feature story on their site about it last week. Check it out and share your thoughts.

Theater is one of the best ways to warm up on these oppressively wintery Chicago evenings. Better yet, how about a story about people looking for other people to keep them warm? Bus Stop, William Inge's heartwarming, all-American tale of human connections and social blunders in the face of a brutal Midwestern snowstorm certainly fits the bill, although some may find it brutally old-fashioned.

Bus Stop, a collaborative directorial debut by veteran actors Lia Mortensen and Ryan Martin, is the first show at The Den Theatre-- a promising new venue capable of seating about 100 with a spacious stage and a cavernous lobby. It is a solid first show with an inviting small-town diner set by Caleb McAndrew and Aimee Plant.

Although they originally began as industrial advertising, lithograph posters soon found a hungry audience of collectors who viewed the works as art. The lithograph posters helped define the Belle Epoche period in France. Jules Chéret's print shop printed smaller (yet aesthetically accurate) versions of these posters, known as Les Maîtres de l'Affiche (The Masters of the Poster).

For their latest exhibition, the Zygman Voss Gallery presents Les Maîtres de l'Affiche. The exhibition features 55 original lithographs from the Belle Epoche period by such masters as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, and Jules Chéret. Les Maîtres de l'Affiche opens tonight from 5 to 7 pm at Zygman Voss Gallery, 222 W Superior, 1E. This event is free. RSVP here.

I got a chance to visit the all new Harper Gallery in the South Loop today. I have to say it is a lot more interesting now that they have a clearer focus. Working with local jewelry designers, toy makers, and of course visual artists they have made a gallery that can be perused rather than just ran through real quick, which is exactly what it used to be.

Inspired by artists and designers who use available analog and digital tools to communicate complex data from the everyday to the very obscure, the Public Media Institute presents Select Media Festival 9: Infoporn II this weekend as an homage to their love for data visualization. A selection of works from around the world takes form in installations, a publication library, interactive projects, and infographics. The exhibition itself will be viewable at Co-Prosperity Sphere for two days only: Friday, Dec. 10 from 7pm to 1am and Saturday Dec. 11 from 2 to 9pm.

Tonight they open SMF9: Infoporn II with the release of their own contribution to the information overload, Proximity Magazine: Issue 008. Themed "Education as Art," their newest issue is a 230-page opus and represents their latest and greatest effort in publishing. Stop by the release party at Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar to get a copy at a discount ($10), enjoy some beverages and meet the creators/contributors to the issue.

The Chicago Arts District down in East Pilsen has announced a call for entries for its 2011 showPOD season. The seven ShowPODs are temporary exhibition spaces designed to "create an instant art experience in a non-traditional space." Got an idea? Fill out the PDF entry form.

Sometimes the fashion shows take place in abandoned warehouses on the West Side or in third floor fledgling art galleries in Wicker Park. Occasionally, someone will clear out the knick knacks and sketch pads they normally scatter across the battered love seats of their first apartments in the city. The point, it seems, for a new crop of young designers, is to prove that there is some form of community (albeit smaller and certainly less competitive) in Chicago in a similar vein to more established design cities like New York or Los Angeles. If there are designs to be shown, a venue can be found--or created--to showcase a young designers work.

Every fall, the events of Chicago Fashion Focus primarily take place in the Macy's on State Street or in elaborately constructed tents in Millennium Park. The number of shows, usually less than 10, are a far cry from the fashion week events in smaller cities such as Miami or Minneapolis, and in no way compare to the extravaganza known as New York Fashion Week. With the demise of GenArt, the opportunities for local emerging designers to showcase their work during Fashion Focus is even less than during the event's first fledgling years in the early aughts. The results of this post-Gen Art era in the Chicago fashion scene has been ignored, or largely disjointed. For young designers obtaining their degrees from local art colleges such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, and the Illinois Institute of Art, the disconnect between their academic pursuits and the communities or opportunities available has been a wake-up call and the inspiration to pursue more DIY-generated opportunities for exposure and experience.

In the spirit of this DIY-ethos, Carmen McGhee and Aris Sergakis, two fashion design students from the Illinois Institute of Art, came together to produce "UNEARTHED," an evening dedicated to the young emerging fashion designers of the city.

I know Christmas is on the minds of almost everyone these days, and for better or worse we have to accept that fact. So if you are tired of everyone around you talking about TVs, Movies, and the Corporate Crapfest that most holidays have turned into, you might want to turn to local and international artists, crafters, and designers to get your gifts from this year. Through Sunday the 5th you can go talk with creators, attend workshops and get a free years subscription to ReadyMade Magazine.

Head over to The Merchandise Mart and visit the One of a Kind Show and Sale before you have to settle on getting your aunt the Munsters Box Set.

The Museum of Contemporary Art's monthly exhibit, UBS 12x12 New Artists / New Work, will be featuring it's 100th artist this Friday, December 3. Jessica Labatte, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is the lucky participant in this milestone for the MCA. Her photographs of paper objects toy with the perception of three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional formats. The materials of her work are collaged and photographed in a way that focuses on composition and color. Her subjects often appear deceivingly two-dimensional and Labatte reminds viewers of their three-dimensional nature, only with very subtle shadows.

Ticket's to this week's First Friday event, which will be the opening reception for Labatte's exhibit, are available online for $13 and at the door for $18.

It's the mid-nineteenth century, Normandy, France. Claude Monet is still just a young boy with dreams of being a singer when one day, he happens upon a swirling cluster of water lilies. Maybe he doesn't realize it then, but the moment marks him in an indelible way.

Jump 130 years later. Ben Spencer is an average American kid, growing up on a steady diet of cartoons and action figures. He, too, doesn't realize the impression that will inspire him years down the road, how He-Man, Thundercats, and Go-Bots are shaping his sensibilities.

The point here is that, at times, part of the enigmatic process of creating art is a reflection of the culture one grows up in. Claude Monet grew up to create a series of water lily paintings; Ben Spencer just recently designed his first toy, Galaxxor, a figure that blends Spencer's love of early-80s toys with his own design aesthetics. Yet the gap between the two sensibilities-French Impressionism and toy design--and how they are perceived as art couldn't be wider.

If you've walked through the front doors of the Art Institute recently, you've seen a bright and interesting new temporary exhibit; in fact, there was no way you could have missed it. The entire Grand Staircase is lit up like a giant Lite-Brite, and will remain so until May 1, thanks to an eye-catching and decidedly political installation by Jitish Kallat, entitled Public Notice 3.

The installation, which was unveiled on September 11 of this year, presents the text of a speech given at the Art Institute on that date in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda. The speech, which was presented in conjunction with the World's Fair, is a plea for religious tolerance and respect; Kallat reproduces the words in the colors of the Homeland Security alert system, not-so-subtly alluding to the politics of religious fanaticism that have been so present in world events since September 11, 2001.

In collaboration with Change It Up, a challenge organized by the City of Chicago's Department of Environment that asks property owners and their tenants to improve their environmental impact, two creative and concerned artists take the fore by designing window installations with materials that have been diverted from the waste-stream. Indo is Crystal Grover and Linsey Burritt and you can see their latest creative collaboration in the storefront window of 445 North Wells.

Stephanie Dean is focused on food. Her photography is informed by Dutch Still Life painting and she uses the same sort of tools as they did to raise questions about the state of our food supply today.

There are people whose sense of identity is validated by their possessions. Most of us, actually, are defined by them to a certain extent. That's what display cases and bumper stickers are for. In times of uncertainty we can be comforted by our collections. Conversely, it can be very upsetting to lose them.

This concept is what Dog and Pony Theatre Company's newest production, Auctioning the Ainsleys, is all about.

The play opens with a statuesque redheaded woman (Avery, played by Rebekah Ward-Hays) boisterously auctioning off a man's suit-- hat, shoes and all. "He couldn't have gotten too far without his shoes," she proclaims. Soon thereafter we learn that the suit belongs to Avery's late father, and that she killed him, left town, and left the rest of her family behind to pick up the pieces.

Starting tonight at 8pm, Calisthenics for Shrapnel, by Robbie Q. Telfer and Marty McConnell, creates an opportunity for artists and audiences to "work out" their dis-functions with society by assessing the divisions of colors (race), collars (class) and pants (gender/sexuality).

The show will run on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through January at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, Suite 207, on a biweekly basis. Tickets for general admission are $15 and for students are $10. For information please click here or call 773-281-0824.

It's a dream come true for 12-year-olds: take Super Mario Brothers and combine it with nudity. Throw in a locked door and it's a pre-teen wonderland that most greasy-haired guys can only dream of. Boobs and Goombas is (thankfully) not just for sticky-fingered boys, it's a fantastic new show that has been playing to cheering crowds at the Gorilla Tango Theater. Set to run only through October, the show has been such a hit that (lucky for you!) November and December dates have been added.

I wasn't expecting to love Boobs and Goombas as much as I did. I was ready for a standard cabaret style burlesque show made up of rotating performances that have little to do with each other (besides the Nintendo theme) with a host acting as ringleader introducing the lovely ladies- a fun show but also nothing really new either. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Boobs and Goombas is actually an original play with a plot propelling forward amongst the pasties.

Of course you do. Since 1942, the Little Golden Books series has been a part of the lives of millions of American children. A Special Collections exhibit currently running at the Harold Washington Library showcases a favorite element of these famous little books: their artwork.

With 60 works of original illustration stretching from the 1940s to the present, Golden Legacy: Original Artwork from 65 Years of Golden Books offers a smile-inducing combination of nostalgia and creativity. Works from perennial classics like Poky Little Puppy (1942, illustrated by Gustaf Tenngren) steal no spotlight from more modern gems like Dan Yaccarino's Mother Goose (2003), and some early work, like Alice and Martin Proverson's illustrations for The Color Kittens (1949) looks positively modern. Keep your eyes peeled for my personal favorite piece, a triptych from Richard Scarry's I Am a Bunny.

For those of us looking not only for a good deal this holiday season, but also that perfectly unique gift, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Holiday Art Sale may be just the solution. Affordable gifts (and lots of items to treat yourself with as well) from over 120 artists, will pack the SAIC ballroom, starting on November 18th when the art sale opens with its Preview Party. Each year, SAIC students create and sell original artwork to the public at the annual Holiday Art Sale- students take home 85% of sales made through their work. It's a great opportunity to check out what the up and coming artists of Chicago have to offer- and snag some of their work before it's worth your whole holiday bonus check.

SAIC's Holiday Art Sale is free and open to the public on November 19 and 20. Tickets to the preview party on November 18 can be purchased here.

Nathan Robbel is the artistic director of The Right Brain Project. Halfshut, the final installment of his three-part collaboration with playwright and former Gapers Block A/C writer, Randall Colburn, is being presented now through December 4. I interviewed Robbel via email today about his work.

What inspired you to collaborate with Randall Colburn on this project for a whole season instead of a single play? How did the projects come into fruition?

It was really Hesperia that drew me to Randall. The play really spoke to me and I was inspired by the aesthetic I saw as a possibility to carry his words. We knew we wanted it to go up in the summer, and at the time, we had nothing for our winter 2010 slot. Randall shared Pretty Penny with me, and even though it was in an early draft, I loved elements of it tremendously. When he was hip to workshopping it, we set out to make it happen. Because the themes of the two shows were similar, it just felt natural to turn the season into a trilogy of sorts. Randall and I tossed around a few ideas to take the themes of Pretty Penny and Hesperia to a different level, and we began working on Halfshut in early summer.

Fear No Art's host Elysabeth Alfano heats things up with glass artist and lighting designer Sharon Gilbert and paperweight artist Melissa Ayotte at Talisman Glass Studio in her latest webisode.

One of the cultural institutions I have often overlooked has been the Instituto Cervantes, or the Cervantes Institute. Upon arriving at the opening of Women & Women, a traveling show featuring 5 female photographers, I quickly realized how much I was actually missing. It is odd for me to have not frequented the Instituto Cervantes, as both an artist and a Spaniard, I could have been influenced by a culture I am proud to be connected to, but if I were to be honest, know very little about.

Chicago-based artist Jason Lazarus has started an archive of photographs deemed "too hard to keep," and he's looking for submissions from the public. Submissions may include photos of friends, family, pets, places/objects that are too painful to view again. If you've got photos to send him, be they digital or analog, click here for submission details.

Martin Mull's show entitled Witness opened yesterday at the Carl Hammer Gallery. I would like to start by saying Martin's work isn't the easiest to talk about while trying to be concise, or I just don't have a wide enough vocabulary. Martin Mull has build an entire career examining Americana ideas, ideals, and mistakes. He has regularly challenged and questioned white privilege as well as the American Dream. I think if you were to investigate any part of Mr. Mull's career you would find traces of these challenges and questions. Having said that Witness is no exception.

Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunchweiler of the West Loop art shop/community space Golden Age once again demonstrate a potent knack for exhibiting up-and-coming artists primed for success. The shop's latest project features Jon Rafman in his first solo exhibition, The Age Demanded. In the exhibition, Rafman mixes a variety of different media (video, photography, and painting) in celebration and critique of technology and the "consciousness" it reflects.The Age Demanded opens tonight and included an "existential tour" through Second Life, the still-popular virtual environment that eerily promotes and masks different facets of contemporary life.

The opening lasts from 6pm to 9pm, and the exhibition runs through December 10. Golden Age is locate at 119 N Peoria, #2D.

Alright, people. If this doesn't sound like fun to you, you're absolutely hopeless: this Saturday Oct. 30, artists Mike Bancroft and Evan Plummer of Garage Spaces team up with The Hyde Park Art Center to bring you S***, Shower, and Shave. Part of HPAC's fabulous-sounding "Mischief Weekend" festival, S***, Shower, and Shave will begin with a tutorial on how to create your own arsenal out of a modified shaving cream can, then visitors will be released into a 60-foot soft sculpture tunnel to engage in shaving cream combat. What's better than that? S***, Shower, and Shave is only one of several events/exhibitions the HPAC has organized for "Mischief Night," which takes place at the museum this Saturday from 1 to 10pm, and is described by the HPAC as "celebrating the subversive, the weird, the illusive nature of art and artists." I highly recommend checking them all out here.

For those of you who are planning on going to the SOFA/Intuit Outsider Art fairs next weekend (November 5 - 7 at Navy Pier), we have good news: you can get half off your tickets if you use the code "ARTFAIR" when visiting the Tickets & Showtimes link at www.sofaexpo.com.

Better yet, you can register with Intuit here for a FREE ticket, plus they'll get a donation for every complementary ticket that is turned in.

Before the discount, general admission is $15 per ticket-- this admits visitors to both fairs and their related lecture series, special exhibits and events. Both fairs kick-off with a joint Opening Night Preview in Festival Hall on Thursday, Nov. 4. The public is invited to attend from 7 to 9pm for $50.

Beidler Elementary students performing at the "Forms of Spectacle and Solutions to Vacancy" Unveiling Ceremony. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Everyone knows the story of gentrification. Artists and other progressive people move to low-income neighborhoods looking for a good deal on a big space in the city. This attracts investors and developers, and the next thing you know, the original occupants of the neighborhood — including small businesses, families and even the artists themselves — are priced out of their homes to make room for culturally bankrupt replacements. The charm of the neighborhood is beaten out of it.

Because of the housing market crash, along with foreclosures, the gentrification process has pretty much come to a halt in many parts of the city. A classic case of this in Chicago, for better of worse, is Garfield Park. Real estate in the neighborhood was highly sought after during the real estate boom because of its proximity to downtown and to the CTA and Metra trains, as well as the beloved Garfield Park Conservatory and the sprawling park itself, but has since been given up on by many developers. Now it is home to clusters of vacant lots and buildings, but what a lot of people don't realize is that a surprising number of the buildings that are occupied are occupied by artists. Not just any artists, either. Artists who aren't afraid to take risks, who dance to the beat of their own drums, who make some of the most engaging work and eclectic work around.

The joint effort of Chris Busse, 26, and Paige Bailey, 25, Penguin Foot Pottery wants to bring ceramic arts to Logan Square. Offering a variety of classes appropriate for all ages and skill levels, there's no shortage of experience on either side: Chris is a long-time ceramics artist and teacher, having worked in the Chicago Public Schools and Oak Park Park District. Currently a project manager at a Chicago-based media company, Paige handles the business and marketing end of the operation. Talking to them before their grand opening this Saturday, they explained the personal context behind their mission, plans for classes, and why they believe working with clay, wheel, and tile shouldn't be intimidating, but practical, beautiful, and fun.

Penguin Foot Pottery is located at 2514 W. Armitage (entrance on Bingham St.). You can pre-register for classes through their website.

Chris Busse: I started in high school, and then I went to college for ceramics and art education at the School of the Art Institute. I've been doing ceramics, and teaching in Oak Park, and I did a residency at the Chicago Park District. I've been teaching art for the Chicago Public Schools' on the south side for the last three years.

CB: I wanted to do this for awhile anyways. And they cut half of my position towards the end of last year, and then they cut the rest of it in August.

CB: I was still going to go ahead and do this, when I had a half-time position there. But then, that fell through, so that kind of bumped this up.

CB: I think it's watching people learn things, it's interesting just see them, the a-ha moment, you know, watching them progress -- it encourages your own work. Even when I was teaching at CPS and not doing my own work, because I was busy, it was still encouraging to see kids progressing and learning stuff and affecting how your own work is done.

Gallery 400 recently tweeted that on the last day of Stephanie Syjuco's exhibition, Particulate Matter (Things, Thingys, Thingies), viewers can walk away with one of the sculptures, no strings attached. Syjuco's handmade sculptures were designed by users of Google's SketchUp, a free 3-D modeling program. We can't say for certain whether or not this is true, but it is certainly a good excuse to catch the show before it closes this Saturday.

Gallery 400 is located at 400 South Peoria, and is open this Thursday and Friday from 10am to 6pm, and Saturday, from 12pm to 6pm.

On an eclectic strip of North Broadway St. in East Lakeview sits a new(ish) store called Inkling, where Stephanie Keller sells her wares-- from hand-printed wrapping paper and greeting cards made by local artists to wacky porcelain knickknacks she's collected at antique stores and estate sales over the years. It's like Etsy, but you get to touch stuff.

The store oozes cozy creativity and smells really good, too. There are so many interesting objects packed into the space that a fair viewing will probably require a good half hour, at least. Take your time. I would recommend bringing a coffee to aid with digestion and a few bucks, because you're going to want to buy something. Luckily, though, a few bucks are all you'll need because the prices are surprisingly low, especially considering that many of the items are hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. $5-$10 will get you a quirky, thoughtful little birthday/housewarming/baby shower gift for someone and $20 will get you an original screenprint.

Your friendly Bucktown comic emporium (and according to Chicago Magazine, Best New Comic Book Store), Challengers Comics, is trying to open a gallery -- and they need your help.

On Friday, October 22 from 3 to 4pm, Jiang Jun, editor-in-chief of Urban China magazine, takes over the MCA Chicago facebook page and will be answering questions. In anticipation of this online open forum, audiences can also post questions to the MCA Chicago facebook page throughout the week. The three most "vocal fans" will be chosen to meet Jun, take a private tour of the the museum's latest exhibition, Urban China: Informal Cities, and get prime seating at the Informal Cities Colloquium, taking place this Sunday.

Urban China: Informal Cities explores the repercussions of urbanism in global cities. The exhibition arrives at a particularly rapt moment, when half of the world's population lives in these continuously evolving environments (either out of necessity or pleasure).

During Sunday's colloquium, audience members are invited to join a discussion about global informal urban development and led by four architecture practitioners or writers. More information about the colloquium is available in Slowdown.

Wendy White can't be contained. Her large scale works - part painting, part sculpture, part literary word play - are so enigmatic that the Andrew Rafacz gallery space, the location of her latest Chicago solo exhibition, seems small, downright tiny in comparison. This is not a reflection of the gallery itself, but rather a testament to White's vision. Even her newest work, recognizably smaller in scale and shown for the first time in gallery two, are constructed and manipulated in the same vein as the showstopping first four works that one encounters upon entering the gallery, take up space and demand a more active participation from the viewer.

FRENCH CUTS is not only an examination into the practice (and purpose) of painting in the contemporary art world. It also serves a more direct purpose, throwing various areas of artistic practice (the literary, the visual) together to formulate a more visceral and tangible experience for the viewer. White's works are immediate.

FRENCH CUTS closes Saturday, October 23 at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery (835 W Washington). The gallery is open Tuesday - Friday, 11am to 6pm, and Saturday, from 11am to 5pm.

This is the weekend of the Bridgeport Art Walk, and a great place to start is at the Bridgeport Art Center, where you will find all sorts of good stuff. I don't spend a lot of time looking at a whole lot of quantity at an art walk, but I did get a chance to spend some time with Fred Camper's photo collages. He combines photos taken from different perspectives, which sometimes works out beautifully. Other times it looks like a real estate ad, which is a pretty huge comment in itself.

Dan Gunn's work is multi-faceted and multi-layered, something that continues to evolve for the viewer. It is not work built on first impressions but rather, idealized with the past in mind. In his first solo exhibition, Multistable Picture Fable, Gunn employs a variety of material to playfully challenge ideas about sculpture and painting. New surprises abound in the tiny crevices or behind the face of each work so that the viewer feels compelled to break down their own viewing experience, and then piece together the parts for a whole.

There is a physicality to Gunn's work. Observing the titular piece as it covers most of the floor space in the gallery requires two things sometimes lacking in contemporary endeavors: time and patience. One must - literally - bend and twist and circle around the work, multiple times, forcing the viewer to more actively engage with it. Multistable Picture Fable closes October 16 at the Lloyd Dobler Gallery, 1545 W Division, 2nd floor. The gallery is open Thursdays, from 6-9pm, and on Saturdays, from 12-5pm.

Bridgeport is home to a surprisingly bustling artistic community, from Co-Prosperity Sphere, run by the Public Media Institute to the Zhou B. Art Center. In an effort to raise awareness of that fact, the cultural spaces down there have teamed together for a "Bridgeport Art Walk" this weekend. At least seven (but probably more) exhibition/production spaces will open up to the public for us to meander around and gawk at their wares. The CAR website says that the walk will kick off each day (Friday, Oct. 15, Saturday and Sunday) at the Bridgeport Art Center at 1200 W 35th Street with the artists of Eastbank studios and then scatter throughout the neighborhood.

We need your help solving a mystery. A Gapers Block reader emailed us today about the installation pictured above, which is under the Metra overpass on Ogden near Kinzie.

Does anybody know who the artist is? Email me at kr@gapersblock.com if you have any ideas and/or would prefer to remain anonymous.

It is time you had a say in which artists, art groups or galleries should be getting publicity coverage. ChicagoArts is now accepting suggestions via Google Moderator, and the first suggestions to get 100 votes will get interviewed as part of the ChicagoArts video interview series. The only stipulation is that the artists are located within Chicago or the nearby suburbs.

Bring on your suggestions and be sure to include links and brief descriptions so we can see the work and learn more about the artists.

The new gallery I co-run, Peanut Gallery, has a new show opening tonight-- a vacation-themed group show with paintings, drawings and photographs by twelve local artists:

BONUS: A performance by the majestic Brandon Howe during the opening reception, tonight from 7 to 10 at Peanut Gallery: 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Rm. 345.

This is a great show with a lot of unpredictable art by enthusiastic local artists. I'd love to see you at the opening, but if you can't make it the show will be up for a month by appointment.

Oh Fridays, the traditional day for a gallery opening or some cultural experience or another. Well of course we can't go out every Friday but if you happen to be calling it an early evening on the 8th make sure you don't miss that art and culture so much of us dedicate to this day. Fear No Art Chicago is airing its second show at 8pm on WTTW. Elysabeth Alfano hosts this interview series, engaging with artists of all sorts in their creative spaces. Watch as she cooks with Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering, and Tangos with Jorge Niedas; the original Chicago Tango instructor.

Fear No ART Chicago airs on WTTW on October 8 @ 8:30pm October 18 @ 10:30pm October 24 @ 5:30pm October 31 @ 12:30pm

CBS-2's Harry Porterfield's "Someone You Should Know" segments spotlight everyday Chicagoans who do amazing things. The people featured are always fascinating, and this time was no different.

On a recent segment, Porterfield featured Chet Mayes, owner of Finess Ladies Apparel, Boutique and Salon, a salon and art gallery located at 1951 E. 71st St. in the South Shore neighborhood.

Mayes, aka "Finess," does unique sculptures, portraits and other works of art with shards of glass from mirrors. Some of the mirror glass portraits he has created include President Obama, Elvis Presley and Oprah Winfrey. He is a hairstylist and a designer, too, and considers both a form of artistry as well.

By now you may have heard the hype about 1001, local favorites Seth Bockley and Collaboraction's version of Jason Grote's critically acclaimed Post-Modern retelling of "Arabian Nights."

I'll cut to the chase-- the play is fantastic. But you already knew that. How can you go wrong with Grote, Bockley and Collaboraction?

What you have here is a surreal, action-packed comedy on speed or mushrooms or something with a healthy dash of politics sprinkled on top. And yes! It's sexy! And there's murder! Above all, this production squeezes every last drop of juice out of an unbelievably talented little troupe of actors-- six, to be exact, playing a whopping 28 roles, running around like lunatics somehow seamlessly performing all the scene changes and costume changes in front of us.

For those of you interested in actively participating in the programming over at ChicagoArts I encourage you to suggest and vote for artists in the Chicagoland area that you feel would be a good fit for a video interview. For the past three years I have been producing these video interviews and now I am using Google Moderator to try and give you more control of the programming that ends up getting produced. This is also a way of me getting to know more about the arts in Chicago. Thanks for your interest.

Chicago Artists Month launches this Friday from 6pm to 10pm with an exhibition organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Arts District and Gapers Block. The exhibition will also be open from noon to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday. Visit it at the Chicago Arts District space at 2003 S. Halsted Street. Complimentary drinks provided by local beverage start up Greater Than.

I went around to a bunch of gallery openings the Friday before last and have been stewing on what I saw since then. The work I keep going back to is Joey Fauerso's installation in Gallery 2 at Western Exhibitions. First of all, the videos are funny. LOL funny. But what made me stick around after the initial giggles was the awkward sexual desperation Fauerso was able to express with this work. There is something very human about it. Or maybe animal. Either way, this work seems to have a heartbeat.

Last Friday we had a whirlwind of galleries open, and if you got to see more than a few, you probably saw less than most. Within the next few weeks I encourage you to get out and see what all the hubbub was about. Galleries across the city are hanging amazing shows and they are free to stop in and have a look, so please do. it is a ton of fun and one stop I hope you will make is to Packer Schopf where they are showing a stellar selection of artists. One in particular that caught my eye was Frank Trankina.

Denver folk artist Max Kauffman makes art about things that seem like they deserve to have art made about them. His new solo show, which opens tomorrow night at Pawn Works, is about the things we hold dear-- our beliefs, our idols, our relics and our nostalgic ephemera. He is interested in what these things actually represent and why we, as human beings, become so attached to them. How do inanimate objects garner so much strength and importance? He believes we are actually "pulling on the strength within ourselves, our thoughts and spirits, when we look to these things."

With this collection of his work, titled R'fuah, he poses the question: "Does this renewal, this evolution of this cycle of spirit and material make us more or less human? By putting our faith in objects, are we overpowering or overpowered?"

R'fuah will feature new mixed media paintings on paper and wood, ceramic works and a site-specific installation. The opening for this exhibit will be from tomorrow, Friday September 10 from 6 to 10pm at Pawn Works: 1050 N. Damen Ave. If you miss the opening, the show will be up through October 10 by appointment.

This weekend, September 10-11, the Historic Water Tower Building at Pearson and Michigan Ave. will host art-making demonstrations and original artwork for sale by Illinois artisans. The newly remodeled Water Works Visitor Center will offer visitors the opportunity to purchase one-of-a kind jewelry, fiber, and ceramics pieces during the monthly Meet Illinois Artisans program. Hosted by the Chicago Office of Tourism and the Illinois Artisans Program, this month's event will feature the work of Highland Park's Dan Greene, Lake Villa's Svetlana Kunina, Metamora's Susie Ryan (art pictured), and Chicago's Meg Guttman.

Admission to the event is free. Visitors can view the work of different artists at the Water Works Visitor Center, 163 E. Pearson, on the second weekend of each month. This month's Meet Illinois Artisans runs from 1-5 pm on Friday, September 10, and Saturday, September 11.

Peanut Gallery, the gallery in the Flat Iron building that I recently opened with collaborator Charlie Megna is looking for art to show in October, in a group show devoted to vacation. What did you do this summer?

Submit jpegs to peanutgallerychicago@gmail.com by Monday, September 27. Please only submit work that will be available for exhibition in Chicago in October, that you can deliver to the gallery by Monday, October 4. This is a curated show, but we welcome work of any media by anyone, as long as we can get it through the door. We'll get back to you by September 28 and let you know if we can show your work. Please email us with questions. Thanks!

Over the past few decades, anatomy-- specifically medical illustrations-- has grown in popularity in art and design. You may recall the skull trend that took over the interior design world a couple years ago. Vanessa Ruiz, Art Director for a large pharmaceutical ad agency and author of the popular blog, Street Anatomy, has taken note of this trend and has curated a show devoted to anatomy in art at the Museum Of Surgical Science, opening this Friday.

Ruiz states, "Anatomy has become as pervasive in modern culture as it is in medical textbooks. The subject is used extensively in advertising, designer toys, fashion, interior design, street art, and more. Even the heart at the center of the classic ʻI heart Momʼ tattoo has taken a turn for the anatomically correct, as tattoo artists impart a more real and visceral emotion to the piece--a testament to the validity of the statement."

Had I known that The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard was a play about how the efforts of critique are fruitless and irrelevant, I may not have jumped on the chance to critique it. If you're not familiar with Stoppard's story, written and produced for the first time in 1968, it's a "whodunit" play, within a commentary on the biases of critics. But there I found myself last Thursday, in the Signal Ensemble Theatre's new permanent space in North Center, being sucked into two simultaneous plays and questioning my role as a "critic" in the room.

Don't forget: Chicago area visual artists are encouraged to submit work today to an art exhibition to kick off Chicago Artists Month that will sponsored by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Arts District and Gapers Block. A panel of three Gapers Block staffers will curate the show, and selected artists will participate in the exhibition on Friday, October 1 from 6-10pm at 2001 S. Halsted Street.

In less than a month, students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will return to classes under the new leadership of Walter E. Massey, who was named President of the school this summer. The SAIC community was surprised, (and a little peeved) by the resignation of Wellington "Duke" Reiter at the end of this past school year, after he served only two years as president. The sudden announcement of the position already being filled comes equally as shocking.

Mysticism and folklore are really hot right now. Don't believe me? There are two art shows opening in August that flirt with those themes. First, Hey, We're All Beginners Here! opens at Roots and Culture on Friday. The show, organized by The Network of Crowded Art is inspired by a multi-headed hydra in that it utilizes multiple voices and activities to "illuminate our historical moment and paths into the future." Through a series of workshops, field trips, performances and exhibitions, the events at Roots and Culture are designed to make you think about what we're doing here on earth (I think.) Hey, We're All Beginners Here is a trans-temporal, trans-spatial, trans-disciplinary exhibition (a big show!) of mutating, mutable work by a cast of talented marginal characters. Among those contributing are Robin Hustle, Sarah Kavage, Pennie Brinson, Salem Collo-Julin, Sarah Ross, Red76, Sarah Smizz, Courtney Moran, and Park McArthur. The exhibition includes drawings, an open stage and pulpit, a book making work shop, good food, video, wheat grass, and a bike ride to Schaumburg.

If you thought refrigerators were just for storing food or showing off your kindergartner's fingerpainting masterpiece, think again; for the folks at ComEd, this household appliance is truly a work of art.

Starting Monday, August 2, pedestrians strolling along the Magnificent Mile will get to witness "Fine Art Fridges," an art exhibit that showcases refrigerators that have been recycled and made into art.

The exhibit is in conjunction with ComEd's Appliance Recycling Program, in which old refrigerators or deep freezers, usually extra ones, are removed from customers' homes to promote the use of more energy efficient models. Also, many of the pieces in the exhibit will contain well-known Chicago architecture.

Some of the Michigan Avenue locations for the exhibit include The Omni Hotel, Tiffany's and Grand Lux Café.

If you find yourself in the West Loop at some point over the next month make sure to stop by Thomas Robertello Gallery at 939 W. Randolph and check out the collaborative video by Brooklyn-based artists Jason Robert Bell and Marni Kotak playing continuously in their storefront window today through September 6. The video, titled "Double Face Fantasy" (named after John and Yoko's final record, Double Fantasy) shows the faces of a pair of lovers performing a narcissistic-yet-romantic duet. Presented as a moving diptych, each artist finger paints the other's face, revealing a self-portrait of the painter. Using the application of paint to uncover flesh, the lovers find themselves quite literally emerging through the eyes of their soulmate. Romantic, huh? The press release says the video is best viewed from the sidewalk after dark, so go there after a dinner date at The Publican or Blackbird or somewhere and you may just seal the deal.

Last night I met a wonderfully spirited artist Marilyn Propp, co-founder of Anchor Graphics. We talked all about art, Chicago and painting. I just got a chance to visit her site and I have to say bravo. A lively style that references late Philip Guston, without all the gloom and doom, painted on multiple panels. Some come together in organic circular forms that remind me of cellular clusters. Others are strips, but still organic in nature they have the quality of an amoeba. These references to the building blocks of all life are a great base to make these active and lively works.

It is amazing how many people don't know much about printmaking. I was trained in the ways of printmaking back in 1997 over at UIC. I learned that I had patience and was attracted to the process of creating things, not just the outcome. In printmaking you have to have patience, because every step of creating a print is important to the end product, which you might not get the opportunity to see for a month or more.

In honor of its 35th anniversary, Lillstreet Art Center conducted a small ceremony to unveil its new mural last Saturday. As people arrived, they were greeted with an enormous blue tarp hanging down over the building near the front door that covered the mural. Inside, refreshments were served and everyone was excited to get outside and see the mural for the first time.

Once outside, Some speakers were introduced including Lillstreet's founder and CEO, Bruce Robbins. Unfortunately it was impossible to hear anyone outside but the mural spoke for itself.

Adhered to the exterior brick wall on the west side of the building, the mural is a swirled 40 square foot thing of beauty. It's like a mosiac made from leftover pieces of tile and other objects from the Lillstreet studios. The outer ring is composed of clay hand molds from Lillstreet students. Everyone was applauding and reaching their arms in the air with cameras in hand.

Lillstreet always makes an exemplary effort to bring communities together and this was no exception. The mural itself was the result of a 4-week mural-making class taught by Sonata Kazimieraitiene and it utilized the students' hard work and creativity as well as found objects from the studios that would have otherwise gone to waste. The mural is a great addition to Lillstreet's permanent collection.

Reaching out to children, as a mentor, is never an easy thing. But the difficulty of finding a common ground works both ways. Often, children have trouble communicating fully with adults; they feel that their voices aren't heard, their opinions not appreciated, or they simply aren't comfortable opening up in the first place. The women who run Ag47, a Logan Square arts mentorship program catering to pre-teen and teenage girls, never take these communication gaps for granted.

"All the girls come because they love the idea of being listened to, being heard by an adult," Executive Director Virginia Killian Lund said.

Ag47 is more than a mentorship program. The foundation of reaching out to children on a creative level is what fosters an environment of expression and the idea that everyone has a story to tell, everyone has a unique perspective on the world. Having just wrapped up its first six-week session, the program is off to a quick start. And the result of this inaugural run? An inspiring collection of photographs, paintings, and poems that is currently touring the city.

The women who started Ag47, including Lund, had all worked together before, with a different mentorship program. When that program closed, the big question was, what next?

I've started a gallery-- 345 Gallery-- in the Flat Iron Building (1579 N. Milwaukee) along with local artist and Genesis Art Supply employee, Charlie Megna. You can see pictures of our last show on his blog. The gallery doesn't have a website yet, but it will soon. Our first curated show, opening August 27, will focus on color. If you like color, you should absolutely submit jpegs of your color-conscious artwork to me for consideration in the show. I'm not just talking about colorful work; I'd like to see work about color. I'm very exited about this show, and I have a feeling that it'll be a good one, because a lot of people seem to like color as much as I do.

Submit up to five jpegs of your work (any media-- send a URL if you've got a video) to me at kr@gapersblock.com by August 9 for consideration. Please include dimensions and only submit work that you'll be able to personally drop off at the gallery if it's accepted.

Chicago area visual artists are encouraged to submit work to an art exhibition to kick off Chicago Artists Month that will sponsored by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Arts District and Gapers Block. A panel of three Gapers Block staffers will curate the show, and selected artists will participate in the exhibition on Friday, October 1 from 6-10pm at 2001 S. Halsted Street.

Just in time for Comic-Con 2010, Threadless presents Comics-On Tees. The series "Every Night I Have the Same Dream" features designs by Jill Thompson, Tony Moore, Cliff Chiang, & Art Baltazar in four issues. To tie in with the series, Threadless has a new design challenge, Threadless Loves Comics. The chosen design will be worn by a character in an upcoming issue of CHEW by Tony Chu.

Registration begins now! For a graphic novel camp taught by renowned cartoonist Nicole Hollander who is the creator of famous "Sylvia" cartoon strip. Starting at Lill Street Art Center, 4401 N Ravenswood Ave. from August 2nd to the 6th, this unique one-week camp enables children from ages 10 to 14 to create their own short graphic novel. No previous experience is necessary! Camp fees are $175 for Lillstreet Members and $180 for non-members. To register, visit lillstreet.com or call 773-769-4226.

Registration is open for a graphic novel camp taught by renowned cartoonist Nicole Hollander, creator of famous "Sylvia" cartoon strip. From August 2 to the 6, this one-week camp at Lillstreet Art Center enables children from ages 10 to 14 to create their own short graphic novel. Camp fees are $175 for Lillstreet members and $180 for non-members. To register, visit lillstreet.com or call 773-769-4226.

If you missed it in May, Chicago's Floating World Gallery is giving you a second chance to attend "The Great Wave: An Introduction to Japanese Woodblock Prints" on Saturday, July 31. The free seminar, designed for collectors, will provide audiences the chance view original museum quality prints up close. FWG Director of Exhibitions Elias Martin will share insights into Japanese print genres, and explore not only the history of the art form, but also production techniques, and collecting strategies. Works of artists such as Katsushika Hokusai, Kawase Hasui, and Kiyoshi Saito will be discussed.

The event takes place at Floating World Gallery (1925 N. Halsted St.) Saturday, July 31 from 1-3 pm. A reception will follow the seminar. Admission is free, but space is limited. To reserve your spot, email classes@floatingworld.com, or call 312-587-7800.

Packer Schopf Gallery is currently showcasing the work of Catherine Jacobi, Nancy Bardawil and Casey Gunschel, Danny Hein, and Harry Young. Jacobi's solo exhibit, entitled "Gleaners, Hawkers and Reapers," features a conceptual found object sculpture through which Jacobi explores the novelty of form. Bardawil and Gunschel have worked in tandem to present "Skivery," an exhibit merging Bardawil's paintings, and hand-tooled leather frames, with Gunschel's sculptures.

"South Country Scrapbook," a series of drawings by Hein, have been inspired by the artist's youth in rural Indiana. He has described the figures of his work as "corn-fed ghosts." "The Cowboy Constructions of Harry Young Circa 1930-1950" will round out the exhibition. Young's works include hand drawn cardboard figures of cowboys, lawmen, and horses.

Packer Schopf Gallery (942 W. Lake St.) will feature the works until August 21. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 am to 5:30 pm. For more information, visit www.packergallery.com.

Elysabeth Alfano interviews Tony Tasset about his three-story creation, "Eye," in this Fear no ART Chicago webisode. Alfano and Tasset take you behind the scenes to the construction of the over-sized eyeball sculpture, and share their own impressions of the piece.

Artist Dan Gamble will open his second solo show with Zg Gallery this Friday, July 23. Gamble's exhibit, entitled "Phenomena" includes works describing the existence between opposing conditions, including abstraction vs. figuration, and order vs. chaos. The artist describes his images as puzzles consisting "of many false starts and abandoned paths." Gamble explains, "I consider my work visual inventions; a synthesis of organic forms and geometric structures in which each image presents numerous possibilities."

"Cog," egg tempera on panel, by Dan Gamble The "Phenomena" opening reception will occur July 23, 5:30-7:30 pm at Zg Gallery (300 W. Superior St.). Gamble's exhibit will run through September 4, 2010. Zg Gallery's regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am - 5:30 pm.

Last night was the opening, or unveiling, of WPBMakeBelieve, which is a project that asked artists to envision commerce of Wicker Park Bucktown as it would be in the future. All of the work is accessible 24 hours a day because they are housed in storefront spaces and lots that are currently vacant. The selection process was extensive, and now there are only 10 artists or art groups left. These 10 finalists have built there installations within spaces in a two block stretch near the Milwaukee and Ashland intersection.

When you sit down at Right Brain Project's new play, Hesperia, you may notice an uber-friendly barefooted actress scampering around the hot little black box of a theater, introducing herself to the audience members and thanking them for coming. If you're like me, you may think to yourself, "Huh? Is this a cult? Have I stumbled in on some sort of church service?" Then, upon inspection of your program, when you find the hymn printed on the back, you'll really start to sweat.

So there's this book called "Art of Touring" that came out recently filled with art, photos, writing and other goodies made by members of touring bands while on the road. It's been getting a lot of positive attention lately, so local artist/musician Andrea Jablonski and Johalla Project's Anna Cerniglia have curated a show opening at JP on Friday, showcasing some of the art from the book plus a plethora of fresh art and ephemera made by local musicians. Artists include members of The Ponys, Mucca Pazza, Califone, Wilco and Flosstradamus among many others.

When you're out and about on Friday stop by the opening of the show. It'll be at Johalla Proects (1561 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from 7 to 11pm. If you miss the opening, the show will stay up through August 7 for you to check out. Also, keep your ears peeled for an interview that WBEZ's 848 did with the curators and a few of the artists in the gallery yesterday.

The Summer Stone Theory Institute presents an informal lecture by James Elkins in the Morton auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., on July 18 at 1pm. This year's event addresses one of the central puzzles of contemporary art practice: the choice between continuations of modernism with its aesthetic values and the many kinds of postmodernism, which include politics, gender and identity.

At the Nightingale Gallery last night I saw something that I have been waiting to see for a long time, a one person show featuring Celeste Neuhaus. Celeste is, if you don't already know, an artist who is wholly in touch with her experience and lives her life honestly to that end. This show, which also has a few video pieces, features a collection of paintings, assemblages, and collages all of which we will just consider objects. I have known Celeste for over 12 years now and she never ceases to amaze me, whether that being her as a person, or in terms of her artwork.

Come out to the "Citizen Sound" Symposium tonight from 5pm to 7pm! This wine and cheese reception kicks off a weekend-long 2010 ASAE National Symposium and Retreat. This evening will include performances by Edmund Mooney, Viv Corringham, Andrea Polli, Eric Leonardson and Michelle Nagai.

The reception is free, and takes place at 33 E. Congress Parkway, basement lobby, room # LL11. A media lounge, where guests can check out CDs and published work by participants, performers and ASAE members, will be open all night.

Starting today, when you pass by Pritzker Park at the corner of State Street and Van Buren you're going to get stared at. That's right, Tony Tasset's much-anticipated "Eye" opens today. The 30-foot-tall eyeball sculpture will be there for your viewing pleasure through October 31, thanks to the Chicago Loop Alliance. Be sure to check out Tasset's series of banners entitled "Cardinal" as well. After you've had a chance to check out Tasset's latest art installations, let us know what you think. Love 'em or hate 'em?

Fulfill those fantasies of scantily clad women reading to you in iambic pentameter during The Poetry Brothel's "Voix De Ville," a Vaudeville-style cabaret that mixes private poetry readings with burlesque and comedy.

"In April of this year we held our first Brothel in LA at the House of Blues, it is organized and hosted by our former costume mistress, Molly Campbell. After doing two events at the House of Blues in LA, the management asked us to do an event at their venue in Chicago," said Nicholas Adamski, who created The Poetry Brothel with Stephanie Berger in 2007, while earning their MFAs in poetry from the New School in New York.

The stage for the whimsical event will be set in The Foundation Room of The House of Blues (take a gander here).

"It has always been our mission to create an event that is never boring or stuffy, where poetry and the poets who write it can have the opportunity to interact in a very intimate and personal way with the public, and vice versa of course," he said.

And remember, kids, even when you're surrounded by lovely ladies of the evening, it's still a classy event. Adamski said in the three years it has been done in New York, only one or two guests have gotten rowdy.

"We have security, but the seriousness of the art and the fun and whimsy of the event is pretty easy to get swept up in," he said.

The Poetry Brothel will be held from 8 pm to midnight on Saturday, July 10. It's $15 at the door, but $10 if you RSVP here. Use that extra $5 to pay for a private poetry reading.

Kanye West has always shown a keen interest in art, having tapped Takashi Murakami to do the artwork for his 2007 album, Graduation, and the late Ernie Barnes for the painting A Life Restored, a definitive piece about his near-fatal car accident in 2002. The rapper has now added a new artist to the list, having commissioned painter George Condo for the artwork for his latest single, "Power," from his forthcoming album, Good A** Job.

There are currently two paintings by Condo to promote West's new music, however, one, in particular, is getting a lot of attention.

It's no secret that green design is hot right now, and for good reason. There are a bunch of tiny, local design companies like Green Sawn and Bladon Conner that have popped up over the past few years and are doing pretty well for themselves making modern, high end furniture and other domestic items out of locally sourced, salvaged materials.

One of my favorites, Strand Design, recently came out with a "Good Dog Spotlight" (pictured at top) that's pretty charming. Strand has also recently been working on commissions around the city like a checkout desk for the Dill Pickle Food Co-op made out of materials from the Re-Building Exchange and a fabulous earthy-yet-geometric table for UIC.

Keep your eyes peeled for more little design companies popping up around the city; this green thing is definitely not going out of style.

On July 23, Chicago Filmmakers will host a screening of James Herbert's early experimental work. Who is James Herbert? Herbert is most famous for the music videos he made for R.E.M in their early days, including the dizzying "It's The End of The World As We Know It." Although that's great, the real earthquake is bound to be his early work, made during the years he collaborated with the band, but far more intimate.

The series of four shorts ("Cantico," "Frontier," "Piano," and "Soundings") are described as scenes of "beautiful young couples naked, sunlit, and embracing in sumptuous environments." Sounds to me like the perfect viewing for a summer evening!

The screening will be at Chicago Filmmakers' headquarters at 5243 N. Clark St. Tickets are $8 for general admission, $7 for students with IDs, and $4 for Chicago Filmmakers members. The show begins at 8pm.

Go for the love of R.E.M, stay for the tempered confusion of young love, and watch Herbert's video for R.E.M's "Driver 8" below.

Poster Cabaret, an online store specializing in gig posters and art prints, is offering its second annual 2010 Bicycle Art series. Several Chicago printmakers participated, each offering their own spin on the theme. Diana Sudyka's print features a spectral cyclist; Delicious Design League's, a bicycle family; Sonnezimmer's (pictured at left) is an homage to Cromwell Dixon, and Jay Ryan's features animals doing a BMX-ish trick (the "poster animals" of extreme sports?) Ryan's print is sold out, but others are still available for purchase.

This summer, Kevin Coval, one of Chicago's premier spoken word poets and co-founder of the youth poetry festival Louder Than a Bomb, will lead a camp dedicated to up-and-coming poets. The camp, called Check the Method, is open to writers ages 15-21 interested in honing their writing and performance skills. Check the Method will have two week-long sessions, one to be held at the Art Institute's Modern Wing from July 12-16 and the second at the Southside Community Arts Center from July 26-30.

Both sessions run from 10am to 3pm. Guest faculty will include Roger Bonair-Agard, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Krista Franklin, and Robbie Q. Telfer. The camp will conclude with a performance by its participants on July 30.

To join the camp experience, click here to fill out a registration form, submit three poems, and pay a registration fee. Scholarships are available, so don't be intimidated by the price!

Last Friday at HungryMan Gallery, (2135 North Rockwell Street,) Aaron Fowler's opening reception of OCEAN debuted. Curated by Jason Lazarus, this show is a conglomeration of Fowler's photography created over an extended period of time. Running until July 11, a commonality extracted from OCEAN is the avenue of mnemonic transition of time which recalls the passage of travel as the measure of memories encapsulated.

Over the summer you will have the opportunity to check out one of the best art shows to be hung in Chicago in a long time. Roger Brown: Calif U.S.A. is an experience that is much more than what you will see at an average gallery tour. Curator Nick Lowe explores Roger Brown's obsessive collecting and arranging by showing us objects found in his La Conchita home loaded to the gills with pottery, sculpture, stones, and for lack of a better word, stuff. This arranging was about much more than everything having a place; it was about aesthetics. The arranging that Roger Brown was doing can be seen culminating into some of the greatest works of art Roger may have ever done: his Virtual Still Life series. This is the first ever exhibition that concentrates solely on this series of three-dimensional art works.

The painting aspect of each piece is almost indescribable: moving and vibrating on the surface of the canvas, they create a deep space which is activated by vibrant pottery sitting on a shelf attached to the painting. The frames, having been painted with metallic automotive paint, are subtle at first, but play a huge role in the success of each piece.

Roger Brown: Calif U.S.A.is up now through October 3 at the Hyde Park Art Center, visit their website for directions and more information.

This Saturday, Art Adventure! Events is hosting a free Art-About in West Town. With a trusty map in hand, participants are encouraged to stroll their way through the area's art attractions. The festival is meant to highlight the increased art activity in the West Town neighborhood, drawing those interested into this new area to create and learn from each other.

Twenty-five venues are offering a variety of activities, from simply perusing a gallery space to live music to wine tastings, even a tai chi demonstration! For a full listing of Art-About participants and offerings, click here.

The Art-About starts at the Sculpture Courtyard at 935 N Damen at 4pm. Drop by to pick up a map and explore a new area!

This summer, the Experimental Sound Studio is hosting another installment of its Florasonic series in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

During these hot (and now cloudy) summer months, anyone with a curious pair of ears can step into the Fern Room and hear the custom-styled composition of Max Alexander. Max is a musician, performer, and composer from Canada who currently resides in Chicago. His composition designed for the Fern Room is titled Half-Steps are Okay, an affirmation of the small steps along the journey to our larger goals.

Reflecting this in-between state, the composition in the Fern Room sounds a bit like a rehearsal that's yet to begin: snippets of conversations flicker in over short riffs on a guitar. As you walk through the room, you keep expecting to find a circle of people, a source of the sound, behind the thick green plants.

Experience it yourself now through August 31, from 9am to 5pm. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is located at 2391 N. Stockton Drive.

Up until July 7, Sense Objects exhibition at Noble and Superior opened this past Friday. The show consisted of a photo series and installation dealing with depiction through performative action and interactive perception of objects. Both works dealt with experience in contrasting manners, one through documentation, the other through experience.

Through the classic lens of black and white photography, Kate O'Neill's work does what it depicts. In her series, Third Law, she subjects the body into positions of oppressive banality. These portraits consist of a body, usually hers, in a posed position with part of the body either hidden or out of the frame. Hints of theatricality appear because all of the images are spontaneous but posed pictures based on performances. Through a cyclical point of view in Third Law, a critique of the "boring" is reiterated. Since this series is based on performances, the momentary element is present but her compositions are all too simplistic. Why try so hard to be boring? This series gave me nothing to remember it by except the fact that it bored me. As a young art consumer I was not attracted to these compositions.

In contrast to O'Neill's series, Rebecca Kressley's installation ON THE SOUTH LOCK OVER SHINE was one I was interested in experiencing. She has accumulated a plethora of natural but processed materials meticulously arranged on the space's floor. The scent of the peppercorn and mint was not pungent but begged the viewer to kneel onto the floor to waft in this unique mixture of glass shards and earth. The fragrance like the installation isn't permanent, ephemeral by design because the moment of experience, like the installation, is temporary. A sound loop, "Dragging the Hound," ran in the background, subtle but ostensible because of its striking low pulse. A deep whistle echoes in the room and creates a vibrancy that ties together the artifacts of the piece. It amplifies the fact that one is still present in this quasi environment. The reminiscence of nature conglomerated with man-made articles is vivified in this installation.

I finally got away to look at some art this weekend, and what a weekend it was, at least at David Weinberg Gallery where they opened "Wheatley, Kaiser-Smith & Glink". With a title which sounds more like a law firm than an art show I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a room full of small abstract explorations. Rhonda Wheatley is seemingly exploring thought, how thoughts are projected, and how experiences are perceived. She is exploring memory and, I don't know if she would necessarily agree with me on all this, but it seems that she is allowing memory to exist without language. Wheatley's collage's, all untitled, are the thoughts we have before we make the effort of turning them into words. These works seem to show the inadequacy of verbal communication and the poetry of visual communication.

Beyond Wheatley came Yvette Kaiser-Smith, a local sculptor who came here from Czechoslovakia via Texas and is utilizing the structure of math, particularly through crocheting, to organize the world. Delicate hanging geometric sculptures, made by crocheting fiberglass and coating it with a resin, reach out from the wall allowing you to move around it and take in every angle you can. In the final Gallery was Marissa Glink whose Ceramic sculptures topped the show off nicely. I must say I don't know much about ceramics, so that's all I will say about those. If you saw the show and have something to say about Marissa's work, or anyone elses, please feel free to leave a comment.

Every summer for the past five years, Harold Arts has hosted a residency program for emerging and mid-career artists and musicians on a farm in rural Ohio. As a send-off for this year's program, the Chicago-based nonprofit arts organization presents Six Rooms, a one-night only event at Logan Square gastropub Longman & Eagle.

On Saturday, June 5, local artists Carson Fisk-Vittori, Jesse Harrod, Brian McNearney, David Moré, Edra Soto, and Casey Ann Wasniewski install works in six rooms above the restaurant (future suites in an unopened-as-of-yet boutique hotel). Meanwhile, Dan Bitney (Tortoise), Matt Lux (Isotope 217), and Joe Adamik and Jim Becker (Califone) furnish some live music. There will also be an auction of works by local artists. The event costs $15 (includes a Belgian ale and hors d'oeuvres) and begins at 9pm. Limited space available, so RSVP to rsvp@haroldarts.org. We highly suggest clearing some room in your schedule for this special event.

On July 7, the Chicago Loop Alliance will unveil internationally-renowned artist Tony Tasset's giant eyeball in Pritzker Park. No, not the artist's actual eyeball (don't go macabre on us), but a 30-foot-tall sculpture that will serve as one of two centerpieces to CLA's inaugural "Art Loop 2010." The three-story "Eye" will reside in the park at the corner of State Street and Van Buren through October 31.

In addition to "Eye," the artist has created "Cardinal," an installation of 156 banners that will appear on State Street lamp posts from Congress Parkway to Wacker Drive, and unfurl to reveal the state bird, a bold red cardinal. Tasset has commented, "I hope both 'Eye' and 'Cardinal' change the everyday experience for pedestrians and drivers along State Street. The image of the flying bird is quieting and humble in contrast to the commercial bustle surrounding it, while the enormous scale of the 'Eye' serves to miniaturize its surroundings."

CLA will present a series of free public programs from July through October based on "Eye" and "Cardinal." Check out CLA's Website for forthcoming details. And be sure to check out the "Eye" and "Cardinal" beginning July 7 (although, with an "Eye" that size, how could you miss it?).

This Saturday, June 5, Lillstreet Art Center will offer free workshops as a part of its open house. Workshops for adults and children will be held from noon to 5pm. Adult workshop topics include drawing, jewelry (with materials ranging from metal to glass to wire), digital photography, knitting, and wheelthrowing. With a dedicated team of resident artists on hand to demonstrate techniques and assist you, you're sure to leave the center with a new self-made piece of art and some serious skills!

In addition to the workshops, art by the students and faculty of the center will be on display, and guests are welcome to take a tour through the building. Free snacks will be provided by First Slice Pie Cafe.

Lillstreet Art Center is located at 4401 N Ravenswood Ave. For workshop times and more information, visit their website or call (773) 769-4226.

For teens interested in an atypical art class experience, Yollocalli Arts Reach is offering a Graffiti Mural class, "Breaking Through Walls," this summer from June 28 to August 6. Students will learn how to create murals using spray paint and graffiti techniques. The class is taught by Miguel Aguilar, who teaches graffiti history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. "Breaking Through Walls" will be from 10am to 2pm, Monday through Friday, at Piotrowski Park, 4247 W 31st Street.

In addition to "Breaking Through Walls," Yollocalli is offering two other summer classes for teens: "Wall of Hope," a traditional Mural Class, and "Carnival," a class focused on experimental theater forms. For dates and more information about these classes, visit Yollocalli's website.

Yollocalli Arts Reach, a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art, is located at 1401 W 18th Street in Pilsen. To enroll in a summer course, first apply at the After School Matters website. Following an application, there will be portfolio reviews from May 31 to June 4. Students who complete the registration process will become paid interns, sponsored by After School Matters.

The complexity of the artistic process is the concept at the forefront of From Process to Print: Graphic Works by Romare Bearden. The extensive collection of collages, lithographs, etchings, and prints is made up of 75 works by Bearden, spanning 30 years of his life. Bearden is best known for his collages, and the experimental methods he applies to them. Many of his collages are repeated with different colors, applications, and titles- accentuating the importance of these changes.

Deborah Boardman's latest multi-media exhibit, A Porous Space, will open on June 3rd at the College of DuPage's Gahlberg Gallery in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. For those without the necessary transportation, the artist has arranged for a free bus from the Art Institute of Chicago to the gallery opening. The bus will leave at 5pm and return to the city by 9pm.

A Porous Space focuses on a common thread between the earth and human experience: faults. Juxtaposing the fault lines of the earth with our own flaws, Boardman's work is a unique attempt to connect us with our environment. Her paintings and her constructed wooden crank illustrate the shared faults of a random selection of the population. During the opening, a group will sing their faults aloud. Other site-specific installations will call to mind the physical fault lines of the space within and below the gallery.

For an upcoming exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, artist Sara Schnadt recreated her site-specific installation, Network (originally installed in a Wabash Ave. storefront as part of Pop-Up Art Loop), this time extending its height. Now the intricate arrangement of mirrors and electric yellow twine (pictured) stretches from floor to ceiling. Hovering above the gallery and slicing through space, it ties together various themes of Spatial City: An Architecture of Idealism, a show inspired by Yona Friedman's theoretical architecture of the same name. Friedman believed that the structures of the spatial city are mobile, alterable, and occupy minimal ground area, instead hovering over the earth.

Art: Under 21, curated by Carolina Wheat, showcases the talents of young artists from around the country, all of whom are under 21. For this juried exhibition, on display at Swimming Pool Project Space, Wheat invited 30 high school students from various magnet art programs to submit their work. From that pool, 11 artists were selected to exhibit work at Swimming Pool: Nicholas Alguire, Luke Carlson, Sky Cubacub, Jackie Furtado, Walter Latimer, Christine Porco, Christina Quinlan, Julian Stropes, Mitchell Thar, Harrison Tyler, and Azura Wannman (whose work is pictured). As part of the exhibition, a biographical video compilation of the 30 young artists will be distributed during the opening and projected on a screen behind the gallery. The opening celebration is on Saturday, May 22, from 7-10pm. Gallery hours are Sundays, 1-5pm, and by appointment.

Installation artists must be having the time of their lives lately. With all the empty store front "pop up" galleries going up all over the city they definitely don't have a lack of spaces to work. If you wanted to show your work downtown all you had to do was submit to the Chicago Loop Alliance's Pop Up Art Loop project, Hyde park had the Op-Shops and now a recent request for proposal has been launched by WPB SSA #33 for their upcoming Make Believe Project in Wicker Park Bucktown.

From June 11-July 30, Chicago Urban Art Society (the Pilsen-based nonprofit arts organization and studio) presents Sweet Tea & American Values, an exhibition of solo works by artist and designer Ray Noland, aka CRO. The show offers "a glimpse into the absurd and at times distressing reality of our social experiment called the United States" and features Noland's boldly colored hand-cut stencil work on canvas. The works engage a variety of subjects--e.g., pop culture icons, political figures, and skin whitening ads of the 1940s and '50s.

In an exhibition running from May 29 to June 27 at Golden Age, five artists explore the touchy and sometimes feely subjects of sentimentality and emotionality. Titled UNCOVER, DISCOVER, DISCARD, the show is curated by Jessica McKinley and features explorations by Erik Yahnker, McIntyre Parker, Michael G. Bauer, Sidonie Loiseleux, and Emilie Halpern (whose work, Apollo (2009) is pictured above). Discover their works at the opening reception on May 29, from 6 to 9pm.

Originally conceived as a one-woman Internet series, The Mo Show, which goes up this weekend in its seventh inception, has evolved into a once-a-month comedy variety show blending some of Chicago's top standups, sketch comedians, musicians and circus performers.

"The best advice I've ever heard about doing things in Chicago is just to put up your own show, and then you can do whatever you want," said comedian and host Mo Welch, whose comic sensibilities can't be boxed into a four-minute open mic or even a regular standup showcase. "Since it's my show, I can do whatever. I can dress up like gangster if I want."

And she does. She also nabs a handful of performers from her big bag of comedy friends and/or performers she sees around the city and then hosts wild mix of comedy, music and insanity.

Humboldt Park's glorious yet hanging-on-by-a-thread art/culture venue, Quennect 4, has put together a benefit music compilation that promises to be thoroughly awesome, and you can get a sneak peek at it today through Bandcamp, and you'll be able to download the whole thing there on May 7 with a download code. There are two ways to get a download code. Either make a donation to Q4 on Kickstarter (which is one of the best ways to spend your money that I can think of) or attend the Compilation Release on Friday, May 7 at Elastic Arts.

The May 7 event will feature live music by the Chicago Gypsy Experiment ( Eyes Manouche/Ode mashup ), Rambos, and Wake Up Siouxsie. You can also expect special guest performers, and raffles for Q4 artwork. It starts at 9pm and is an all ages event. They are asking for an $8 donation which will get you admission plus a download of the compilation. No one, however, will be turned away for lack of funds.

Michael Darling* The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art announced this morning that the MCA has a new chief curator-- Michael Darling. Darling is currently the curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and before that he was associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. (MOCA).

"Michael is an exceptionally well-respected, intelligent, and open-minded individual who is a very prescient choice for chief curator," said Mary Ittelson, Chair of the MCA Board of Trustees in the press release they sent out today. "He is a versatile curator who understands the importance of presenting the art experience in an approachable manner for the audience."

The biggest annual art fair in Chicago, a combination of Art Chicago and NEXT , collectively referred to as Artropolis, starts this weekend at the Merchandise Mart. Just about every gallery in Chicago (and a bunch from the rest of the world) has a booth set up to showcase their artist's latest and greatest. The fair offers curators, collectors, artists and art enthusiasts a comprehensive survey of current and historic work, from cutting-edge to modern masters in a wide variety of media including: painting, photography, drawings, prints, sculpture, video and installations.

The show will be open to the public Friday through Monday, starting at 11am. Tickets range from $15 to $25 depending on who you are (i.e. student, senior, or regular person) and if you want a day pass or a pass for the whole weekend. Click here to check out a slide show of last year's fair to get an idea of what you're getting yourself into. Click here for more information.

Also worth mentioning, The School of the Art Institute is doing what seems to be a sort of guerilla-style "fashion invasion" this afternoon (at 12:30) at Millenium Park and tonight (at 7) at the Artropolis preview at the Merchandise Mart.

Just south of the intersection of Ogden and Chicago is a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue where, if the wind blows just right, you can smell the chocolate being made at the Blommer Chocolate Company a mile or so to the east. Located across the street from CVS, behind a green door at 756 N. Milwaukee is a gallery that you'd walk right past unless you were looking for it -- Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. This morning Dan Galemb, a local artist and sculptor, is leading a workshop entitled Build Your Own Treasure, part of a series of lectures and workshops based on the current exhibit: The Treasure of Ulysses Davis, which includes over 100 pieces of wood sculpture made by a self-taught barber and sculptor who lived in Savannah, Georgia. "I like to stand around and pontificate, but I wouldn't call myself an art history teacher," Galemb said when asked if he was an art historian.

It is this disarmingly un-stuffy approach to art that makes Intuit so accessible. Exhibitions in recent years have included Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots, The Mark Michaelson Collection, which covered the walls of the entire space in mug shots dating from the 1870s to the 1960s; Freaks & Flash, an exhibition of archival tattoo art; and on permanent display are the mantle, objects and Vivian Girls portraits from Henry Darger's room at 851 W. Webster, where he lived as a recluse and created copious amounts of art detailing the fantasy world in his head.

Local gallery Roots & Culture hosts its fourth annual fundraiser slash "art fair decompression party" on Saturday, May 1, from 8pm to midnight. The festivities include a full bar, Chicago-style street food (see adjacent image), and the fun-raising talents of a few "funky DJs." Oh, and did we mention an auction featuring works by approx. NINE MILLION artists (give or take)? Decompress--and help R & C progress--for a mere $10.

After attending the opening to the Judy Pfaff show, at the David Weinberg Gallery in River North, I knew I would require another look before being able to say anything about it. The show, which consists of all new works, is surprisingly Judy's first solo show in Chicago. I say surprisingly because she has such an illustrious career of showing her work all over the world, and to look at the work one would think Chicago would be a place that would embrace her.

Most of the work in this show, which I revisited on Wednesday, sits inside deep shadowboxes, and no photo would ever do, any one of these works, any justice at all. Created out of cut paper that ripples and undulates, she builds these compositions out of random ephemera, natural objects, and all sorts of cultural reference materials. The work is finally painted by hand, pulling it together, and adding a very real and tangible soul to each piece.

The works that are not in the aforementioned shadowboxes are few, but all the more impressive for being so. Hung under vents, and with parts extending about a foot from the wall, these works breathe with a hypnotic rhythm. Like a fire or treetops in the breeze you can hardly look away.

Judy's work fills the space beautifully, the works within the shadowboxes seem to want to be released, but luck for us they are confined in order to examine them. This show will be on display through the end of May but if you don't have time to see them at the gallery you should defiantly stop by their booth at Art Chicago because Judy is sure to have a prominent display there.

Last week I spent some time roaming around my usual handful of West Loop Galleries and didn't have much trouble picking out a favorite show-- New York artist Cordy Ryman's Tempest at Kavi Gupta.

I had a feeling I would like this show ahead of time when I got the press release with an image of "Doodle Chips." It's just so nice-- painting on wood chips, tracing the growth rings with pen and paint. It's so big and little at the same time. And it's easy on the eyes, too.

The illustrious Version festival starts this Thursday with Territories, a group exhibition at the Zhou B. Art Center. Also, starting that night at midnight Version fest presents six episodes of experimental television featuring works submitted to this year's festival. Watch every night of the festival at midnight to view a 30 minute episode on Chicago Cable Access Channel 19 (CANTV).

On Friday the opening party for Version Festival kicks off at 8pm at Co-Prosperity Sphere, promising more unabashed creativity and wild rock and roll than any one human being could hope to completely absorb in one night. The meat and potatoes of the show Friday will most likely be the live music by amazing local acts including Mahjongg, Brilliant Pebbles, and Mr666 (among others), but the show will be garnished by art and entertainment by Telefantasy Studios-- a group of artists specializing in Sci-Fi/fantasy film productions who claim that their aim is to "transport people to realms never before imagined and to tell heroic stories with dazzling special effects." For the Version fest opening party they will create a temporary soundstage for performance, and they want everyone to come in costume as a Sci-Fi/fantasy character to be filmed, photographed, interviewed, and auditioned.

Tomorrow, and every Wednesday for the past forty years or so, there is an awesome service provided to everyone and anyone who loves to draw. The Drawing Workshop offers drop in live model sessions for $15. I went a few weeks ago for the first time and was thrilled with the set up. They have drawing stools and boards, they have paper if you need it and the model does a series of poses ranging from 20 seconds to 25 minutes. It is so nice to find a classroom environment to do some drawing without having to commit to a weekly class or hefty tuition fees.

If your interested feel free to check it out- 4410 N. Ravenswood Ave. enter through the side entrace 773-334-4412

The Chicago improv comedy group Octavarius doesn't think we use the word "boner" enough in our daily lives. Starting today, they aim to change that. In pursuit of Octavarius' mission to "Find Fun Everywhere," today they light the fuse on their first Fun Activism campaign. The mission? To make "boner" the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day. In the official press release for this event, they wrote that they feel driven to accomplish their goal because "boner is one of, if not the, most fun words in English. By making it the Word of the Day, we can celebrate, explore, and honor this great word."

Printervention, a collection of socially active posters and prints, opened on April 17 with a bustling reception at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery. The show presents over 70 works by artists around the country, each one drawing awareness to a specific cause or idea. The messages range from politically charged to casually speculative with a refreshing mix of styles and ideas. One piece by Tyler Galloway titled Spread Love encourages people to embrace the homeless of our city. The four-section poster is constructed like tear away coupons, each offering a different way to help the homeless- invite someone home for dinner, share money without judgment, or knit someone a winter hat. A nearby poster with a more comical feel suggests people "Go Swim, or at least go outside and do something," illustrated with neon swim shorts.

Printervention poster exhibition will be up at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery at 72 E Randolph Ave. until May 4. On April 27 from 7pm-2am, you can check out the prints in both poster and sticker form at the Whistler, a social event that will include an awards presentation at 8pm. Looking to get your hands on some prints from the show? Printervention is also incorporating a mobile silkscreen cart that will be distributing prints throughout parks and on the streets of the city.

Jon Fjortoft is a little known and self-taught photographer whose black and white photos are on display now at The Chicago Cultural Center. The show is divided into two bodies of work: street photos of downtown Chicago and warehouses from neighborhoods in the western suburbs of Chicago.

The street photos sometimes capture the rare momentary solace the city can provide: a woman walking down the street, surrounded by no one or a someone waiting for the walk signal. Other times, he exposes the choreography of commuters who dance across the city stage. Sometimes, they line up perfectly along the geometry of a building or skip across the crosswalk.

Fjortoft also has a subtle, ironic sense of humor. There are a couple photos that illustrate this humor while exhibiting the way the city can reflect and interact with its inhabitants. One photo shows an American flag waving over the Michigan Avenue Bridge whose image is mirrored in the design of a (presumably) tourist's windbreaker jacket in the foreground. Another is of a homely, over weight woman who stands, transfixed by an advertisement at her bus stop that depicts a car full of beautiful women. The street photos are delicate and powerful, graceful and graphic. Fjortoft has a talent for seizing fleeting and beautifully understated moments that, had they not been captured on film, may have never caught the city-dweller's eye.

Christine Tarkowski's Last Things Will be First and First Things Will be Last is now on view at the Chicago Cultural Center through May 2. Tarkowski's work explores the relationship between social and religious rituals and architecture and how these structures interact with us both physically and emotionally.

This is Tarkowski's largest exhibition to date, spanning three rooms. Viewers are confronted immediately by colossal ship-like sails constructed of metal that, when examined from the other side, protect huge coils of cardboard tendrils. After cutting a path around the dominating ship structure, curtains printed with dilapidated landscapes guide viewers to the second room, which is wallpapered with posters. The posters, with bold black typefaces, read things like "PRAISE the SCAVENGER to CAPITALISM. BIO/WIND/HYDRO/SOLAR the GARBAGEMAN is the RATIONAL HERO" on white paper that look a bit like the wanted fliers of the Old West. This feeling is heightened by the country music that is echoed off the walls from behind the geodesic dome in the corner. There, plays a record with folksy gospel songs produced by Tarkowski and performed by Jon Langford from the punk band, The Mekons.

The Architect's Newspaper is reporting that Joseph Rosa, the John H. Bryan Curatorial Chair of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute, will leave the institution to direct the University of Michigan Museum of Art. As anyone who's been to the Art Institute in the last few years knows, the role of design and architecture at the institution has significantly expanded under his tenure. Here's to looking forward to finding out what's next!

AREA Chicago just sent me an email about this shiny new website that aggregates all the activism, education, art & cultural happening-type stuff that's going on around the city onto one calendar. This upgrade & evolution of their existing print calendar features a "map view" of events, a "post to Facebook" option, weekly events email digests, and event feeds to iCal, RSS, and Twitter. Check it out.

Wellington "Duke" Reiter, who was appointed president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago just two years ago in July, has officially resigned from his position as of graduation this Spring.

My first visit to Fill In the Blank {FIB} gallery yielded a great evening, with a wonderful variety of artwork from two artists. FIB is an artist run gallery in Lincoln Square whose tag line is "Cultivating Emerging Culture". That sort of a statement is not only something that is close to my heart as a motto, but also exactly what they are doing, so far as I could tell. FIB offers classes as well as having an extensive website with interviews and blog posts with, about and by artists.

Bureaucratics, an exhibition by Dutch photographer Jan Banning, opens this Friday in the University of Chicago's Harper Commons, 1116 E. 59th Street. The 50 images in the exhibition are the result of years of photographing bureaucrats behind their desks on five continents. Banning's photographs express the relationship between bureaucratic work, identity and the state, all the while maintaining the cultural and institutional differences of each represented bureaucracy.

Facebook isn't just a way to keep up with friends' breakups, makeups and favorite 30 Rock quotes anymore--many businesses and organizations are finding this ever-changing social network to be a great way to more intimately and conversationally connect with their devotees.

If art galleries were looking for a closer way to connect with the public, a Facebook page is like placing their own personal cork board in every coffee shop in the city.

Interviews with various curators leading fans through new collections; updates to their ARTicle blog; schedules of guest speakers; travel arrangements for out-of-towners and photo uploads from patrons are just a few of the features the Art Institute will have pop-up on your feed, sporadically of course. If you delve deeper in their profile you'll find their most recent hours, various social media sites (from Flickr to YouTube), links to new exhibits and a pretty phenomenal photo gallery.

African-American authors and illustrators who strive to reach the "heart and soul" of children and young adults just might be a lucky recipient of one of the Coretta Scott King Awards. The awards, named after the wife of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and given in conjunction with the American Library Association, honor artists who "create outstanding books" for youth.

To celebrate the awards,The Art Institute of Chicago is currently exhibiting Heart and Soul: Art from Coretta Scott King Award Books. The exhibit, which runs through Sunday, Apr. 18, features illustrations from influential and memorable passages from the books of award recipients.

Heart and Soul is on display at the Ryan Education Center, 111 S. Michigan Ave. Museum hours and admission prices vary; contact 312-443-3600 for more information.

Hey! Dancin'! is a simple play. It is not meant to change your life but to make you smile. It is very much about the 80s, and whether you look back on the decade with nostalgia or disdain, you will have trouble keeping a straight face at this performance.

Hey! Dancin'! takes place in 1986 at the studio where a public access television dance show of the same name, reminiscent of "American Bandstand," is recorded. Our protagonist is a teenie bopper named Halle (played by Melissa Nedell) who, if not for her slut-wannabe best friend Trisha (played by Catherine Dughi), is probably the show's #1 fan.

Everybody knows Keanu Reeves has a special way of acting... a certain je ne sais quoi... so it makes perfect sense that he would be played by a slightly bewildered audience member reading lines off of cue cards in the stage adaptation of Point Break.

Within the first ten minutes of Point Break Live!, Reeves' character, Johnny Utah, is chosen from audience volunteers based on his (or her) ability to mimic Reeves' vacant stare and recall his most popular lines while doing jumping jacks.

In case you're not familiar with Point Break, it's a movie about surfers who are also bank robbers and it stars Keanu Reeves as an ex-jock/FBI rookie and Patrick Swayze as a ripped surfer guru with Gary Busey and Lori Petty (Tank Girl) in supporting roles. As you might imagine, it's pretty over the top, but in an awesome, action packed, 1991 kind of way.

As spring settles in, I have been drawn outside more and more, this week I headed to Hyde Park, where Laura Schaeffer is preparing to open her second Op Shop. Laura's Op Shops start as vacant store fronts or businesses that she transforms into creative retail spaces. With the help of local artists and visionaries Laura will be offering a space for artists and community members to come together and teach, learn, witness and connect, as well as buy, sell, display and observe. This sort of balance is not easy to maintain, but seeing as Laura is also the owner of the Home Gallery, and hanging the beautiful shows she has at Home, definitely qualifies her to make this an absolute success.

Her artistic eye scans everything as it comes together, artists run amuck in the 3,000-square-foot space of 1530 E. 53rd St., and Laura takes pictures and so she is sure to recount the process. In the short time I was there I found out that the space, built in the '30s, was a Walgreen's, a Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore, and a Hollywood Video, but according to a project being done for the Op Shop, the most influential incarnation of the space was the Hyde Park Federal Savings and Loan. Although Laura is directing the resurrection of the Op Shop for Saturday's opening, I would like express that this is an evolving space, the items and projects within the space will alter and grow throughout its existence, which will be until, at least, May 1.

Opening Reception: March 27, 6-10pm Open Wednesday through Sundays 11am - 7pm Closing Celebration: May 1, 6-10pm

If you're downtown and you're looking for something unusual to check out this evening, check out the new show at The (Con)Temporary Art Space (208 S. Wabash) tonight, starting now. Part time cab driver, artist, writer and sometimes homeless 60+ year old gentleman, James Bruce King is showing his hyper, surrealistic, Chicago-centric drawings with Bruner and Bay in the back room and Reuben Kincaid on Youtube karaoke. Click here for details.

Be sure to check out local favorite Richard Hull's new work at Western Exhibitions tomorrow night. The opening reception is from 5 to 8pm and the show will stay up through May 1. Click here for more information.

Meet Charlie Megna. He is one of the multitudes of artists who have studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park, but he's one of the scarce few who are always there. He got his BFA at Lewis University, and now he spends his days at work at Genesis Art Supply and his nights painting like a madman.

Right now he's preoccupied with painting bricks. Not the mortar, as most of us would draw, but the bricks themselves. This way, he has to randomly pick and choose which bricks should go where-- an activity he described as cathartic as he painted them, and I watched, in his studio yesterday. He likes making the rapid, random decisions of placement. "They represent choices," he said to me.

We all know the feeling. Job-hunting can be the most daunting, soul-sucking, ego-crushing activity that all must at some point endure- these days especially. Mike Nourse and Marta Sasinowska's collaborative project, Looking For: New Works, captures this tumultuous and timely experience through photographs of people looking for work, which have been transferred onto the glass of salvaged windows. Nourse and Sasinowska collected resumes from their subjects and asked one simple question- "what are you looking for in life?" In doing so, they managed to wade through the hopelessness of searching, to find and capture peacefulness in possibilities, and the thrill of eventually finding.

Have you ever looked at something and thought "There is no reason in the world that this should be good" and even still, it is? Every now and again I see art that catches me by surprise, not because it is good but because, by all accounts, it should be bad. Think of thick paintings that utilize subdued color, images of bird and flowers, as well as collaged elements and sparse linear aspects, doesn't sound too great does it. Well, how wrong could I be. Nothing would of prepared me for the work of Marti Somers which is on display for the next three weeks at Addington Gallery in River North.

Marti has a grasp on her materials and what she is communicating. These paintings are light, although the process in which she is using to arrive at them is far from that. Soft edges and grayed color float on the surface and I haven't the slightest idea why these paintings aren't just falling apart. They invited me in and I was surprised to spend a few warm minutes with them, the whole time thinking, "These should be bad, but they're not". If you get a chance, check out this show, it is rather impressive, and if you have any idea why it all works, please, let me know.

Arthur Miller's The Crucible is the first full production of Infamous Commonwealth Theatre's 2010, redemption-themed season. The classic telling of the 1692 Salem witch trials, with political parallels drawn in response to the McCarthy Trials of the 1950's, is a fitting choice for the topic of redemption, and with some great performances, it was a quality kick-off for ICT's season.

Because school arts programs are virtually non-existent, keeping arts in the community is crucial for youth; it provides them with future opportunities and teaches them teamwork, social skills, and familiarity with other cultures--something that Mojdeh, President and Curator of Lethal Poetry, Inc., understands all too well.

Lethal Poetry is an interdisciplinary arts organization that goes "beyond entertainment and into the cause." "Our vision is to bring many Chicago artists together to activate them as social activists," says Mojdeh. "Also, we create a model that shows the benefits of for-profit organizations working with the nonprofit sector when it comes to the arts."

This is just a reminder... don't forget to go to the highly anticipated 50 Alderman/50 Artists show opening tomorrow night at Johalla Projects (1561 N. Milwaukee) from 7 to 11pm.

It should be a lively show-- 50 artists volunteered to make portraits of their alderman for it in an effort to raise awareness of local politics within the art world. Old Style is sponsoring the opening, too, so you can have a undeniably, unapologetically Chicago experience at this show. Don't miss it. If you do, though, the show will be up through April 2.

Starting at sunrise (6:45am) on Saturday, performance artist Stan Shellabarger will start walking down Chicago Avenue from the street's terminal point in Melrose Park. He will walk east on Chicago, toward the lake, through Oak Park, through the 'hood, through Ukranian Village, hoping to end up at the lake at the sun's transit at 12:58pm, when the sun will be directly overhead.

This performance will be the latest in his series of Equinox and Solstice Walking Performances, in which he uses the tread of his boots to draw directly on the earth's surface, bringing the meaning of art making into the future by nodding to its distant past in pagan ritual.

To view Shellabarger during this performance, call Western Exhibitions at 312-480-8390. Viewers will be given Shellabarger's cell phone number so they can contact him for his coordinates. Or, just show up where Chicago Avenue hits the lake at 12:58pm.

See prior Solstice and Equinox Walking performances here and here. Click here for more information about Shellabarger and his work.

Rine Boyer's Animal Series opened last Sunday at Old Town Art Center's Triangle Association, which is tucked away on North Park Ave. in a hardly marked building on the north side of Old Town. Animal Series is a collection of ink on paper portraits. Some of the larger pieces are pasted to large slabs of wood and glossed over with resin. The models appear to be friends of Boyer's; they are all titled by the subject's first name but Boyer's artist statement reflects her interest in "painting strangers as friends and friends as strangers to explore common personalities" so ultimately, the distinction is lost. Each portrait is decorated with a free-hand print of an animal that, according to Boyer, depicts the subject's personality. "Christine" is adorned with owls, "Bruce," with moose, and "Gabrielle," with whales. The show has character and Boyer's fondness of her work and her subjects is evident and frankly, cute.

I read two stories that blew my mind today, both of them shared the topic of asking the public to understand that because some people decided to follow their dreams they should make more money or be more "successful."

First I will start with Chris Brown. I don't know much about this kid, but I read that he is begging for more support. I guess radio stations aren't playing his music enough because he said "They're not being that supportive and I wouldn't expect them to." Really Chris? You know what, welcome to the club kid. Millions of artists out there have day jobs to follow their dreams, and trust me, just because you were getting paid doesn't mean you're all that great.

Anatomy in the Gallery is the rotating exhibition space at the International Museum of Surgical Science. From March 5th to May 21st, it will house two exhibits- Annie Heckman's You thought that you were alone but I caught your bullet just in time, and Laura Kalman's Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellishments.

Annie Heckman's exhibit lies behind two heavy, black curtains. Pulling the curtains aside uncovers a dark room that feels like the damp basement of a horror movie torture scene. The floor is littered with glow in the dark bones and skulls, and a chandelier of bones hangs from the ceiling. The exhibit is on a timer that allows for a light to turn on every five minutes and recharge the glow in the dark paint. If you happen to catch the exhibit in its intended state, its effectively chilling. If, however, you pull back the curtains at a time when the lights are on (there is no way to tell before peeking in the room) the room feels more like a third grader's Halloween project. The bones and skulls are painted cutouts, and their 2-D reality is disappointing without the flowing effect.

Today I saw The Mo(ve)ment Effect: Art Without Boundaries paint and play at the WNUR studios, and earlier this week, they performed to a packed audience at SPACE in Evanston.

On Friday, March 12 at 10 pm, Tali Farchi and Royce Deans will be painting to music performed by Wilbert de Joode (bass), Dave Rempis (reeds), and Mike Reed (drums) at Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, 2nd floor in Chicago. Suggested donation is $12.

If you like art and improv jazz, I highly recommend going there--it's a combo you probably haven't seen before and well worth it.

Last Friday I attended Carnival of Curiosity which consisted of works by the Priestesses of the Holy Mountain, which is a BDSM (bondage discipline/ dominance submission/ sadomasochism) temple. The problem I have with these sorts of shows is that, the idea of having a show like this is often better than the show itself. The work unfortunately didn't deliver enough insight nor did it utilize innovation in a way suitable for the subject matter.

Quennect 4 just started out as a space, nothing more. Just a place on North Avenue in Humboldt Park for people to use for concerts and parties. And that's what it was. But over time, somewhat serendipitously, it became something more-- not only a venue for art and music but for communication, harmony, and activism.

One of the many revelatory occasions that contributed to this transformation happened recently, during a benefit at Quennect 4 for the well-known taggers Evol and Afro, who died in a car accident on the highway last April. The circumstances surrounding their death were infuriating--a (probably) drunk cop was involved--so the attendance was immense. The large space was full and they had to stop letting people in at 10:30.

"It should go down in history," said one of the guys who runs Quennect 4, who asked to remain anonymous when I interviewed the crew of volunteers there in February. "Every tagging crew in the city was here. On the streets they're at war with each other but in here they all got along. You could feel the energy in the room. It was very tense. We were all nervous, but nothing happened."

Between Chicago and Division streets, just east of Clark sits an unassuming square of green, at its center sits a weathered fountain, its yellow paint flaking away. Spokes of sidewalk radiate from the fountain to the edges of the park. It marks the home of the majority of the trees in the neighborhood and also houses a handful of snowed over flower beds.

The park sits just south of the hulking Gothic mass of the Newberry Library, a privately owned research library that houses awe-inspiring special collections. The northeast corner of the park sits adjacent to the aqua accented spires of the now shuttered Scottish Rite Cathedral. The eastern and southern sides are bordered by modern office towers and tony apartment complexes.

A motley collection of folks occupy the park on a weekday afternoon. A trio of aging Polish women sit chatting on benches. A few business men clad in ties and khakis enjoy the unseasonably warm weather while having their lunches. A pair of homeless men have docked their shopping carts side-by-side and carry on an animated discussion. But Washington Square Park's current tranquil appearance belies it past as a home of kooks, communists, and everything in between.

Trine Bumiller, who currently has a show Zg Gallery in River North, paints trees. You may think that that is nothing to write home about but I would beg to differ. Trine's paintings are more than just trees, they are meditations on nature. These paintings, which are made up of multiple panels, utilize memory and some very keen observational skills Trine transports us to another place entirely.

Skillfully using layers upon layers of paint, Trine recreates a stillness you may have experienced, just before you realized you strayed too far from your hiking party. That is the moment we are reminded, by something ethereal, that everything is going to work out, which is all too often just before you are thrust back into reality and panic sets in. The same attributes that created the stillness, multiple layers, soft edges and silhouettes also create movement within her work. Subtle, and ever so sexy, the paintings breath, shifting their color and mood to tug at our memory and allow us to settle into these images.

Up until April 10th you have plenty of time to experience this show, and I would defiantly recommend that you do. Zg gallery is located at 300 W Superior in River North and is open from 10a to 5:30pm Tuesday thru Saturday.

The eyes of the mentally ill are lost but not vacant, as they stare past visitors who enter Eugene Richards' exhibit at the Gage Gallery of Roosevelt University, titled A Procession of Them: The Plight of the Mentally Disabled. Through his volunteer work with the human rights organization Mental Disability Rights International, Richards experienced and photographed the nightmare of concentration camp like conditions, serving to hold the mentally ill in countries including Mexico, Argentina, Hungary, Paraguay, and Kosovo.

"There's an old woman who's been here about forty years, left over from the past," describes a grandmotherly woman who should be in a warm bed, surrounded by loving friends and relatives at the end of her life. Instead she stands alone in Richards' photo, completely forgotten by the outside world. Quotes from prisoners and others involved in the travesty of these institutions scatter the walls, and offer further emotional context to the incomprehensible reality confronted by this series of photographs. Eugene Richards, an award winning documentary photographer, does not allow the trauma of this situation to escape the eyes and hearts of viewers. In one photo, he captures a young boy whose stump leg has been tied to a window and is unable to leave his bed. Another presents men being wiped down with a gloved hand as freezing water bathes them like dogs in the communal showers. They stand shivering and helpless, without towels to dry off.

A Procession of Them is frightening, but real. Although not a view of life that is enjoyable to experience, the effect that Richards succeeds in creating is powerfully unavoidable. The words of a patient capture the impact best- "I don't like it here. It feels like a prison that kills."

If you don't know the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon, this exhibition is for you. If you think it's preposterous that anyone wouldn't know the difference between a mammoth and a mastodon, well it's for you, too.

The Field Museum's newest exhibition, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, opens this Friday and is expected to be pretty popular. The museum has gone all out for this one, creating hands-on life-sized dioramas and virtual experiences for visitors to explore and imagine themselves as cavemen.

Dog and Pony Theatre Company's The Twins Would Like to Say starts in the lobby, as the audience is greeted by Mr. Nobody (charmingly played by Nick Leininger)--the imaginary friend of a pair of twins who only speak to each other and spend their free time writing stories of Pepsi addictions and California beach parties on typewriters.

After a brief introduction to a couple parrot puppets--also products of the twins imaginations--the audience is led into a cramped hallway, flanked by mirrored walls. At the end of the hall, the twins (June and Jennifer Gibbons, played by Paige Collins, Ashleigh LaThrop) suddenly appear, dressed identically and holding hands--creepily reminiscent of the "come play with us" twins in The Shining. The crowd that is the audience then abruptly parts and pushes back against the walls (and each other) as the twins begin to march toward them in perfect unison, toward their nagging nemesis, a pair of blond girls with shrieking Welsch accents. We are immediately led to sympathize with the twins... of course they don't want to talk to anybody when everyone around them is so awful!

The twins reading diaries, left to right: Teeny Lamothe, Ashleigh LaThrop, Paige Collins and Kathryn Hribar. Photo by Peter Coombs

On March 5, Lillstreet Art Center will be hosting Empty Bowls at their Ravenswood headquarters to fight hunger. Artists are making hundreds of ceramic bowls, which will be sold for 20 dollars a piece and put to use at Friday's event. Proceeds will benefit hunger-fighting organization First Slice Cafe, housed on Lillstreet's first floor. Jane Hanna, Director of Marketing and Communications, took some time from preparing for this event to take me on an energetic, in-depth tour of Lillstreet.

We began in First Slice, the community-supported organic-friendly cafe, led by Chef Mary Ellen Diaz, that will provide the soup for the event. Along with First Slice, Soup and Bread, The Hideout's weekly get-together that benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository, is also a collaborator.

GB flickr pool contributor Rob Bernhard found the above installation on the Orleans Street Bridge, and Noah Vaughn noticed a similar setup on the Lake Street Bridge. Do you know who made the art and what s/he had in mind?

"Does anyone have a cigarette?! Does anyone have a cigarette for William Eggleston?!!," an assistant yelled to the masses of people waiting for Mr. Eggleston to sign their books. People desperately shot their hands up, hoping to give the icon a smoke. Eggleston, pioneer of color photography, was on hand at The Art Institute's Modern Wing on Saturday for the opening of his retrospective, Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.

The show is huge, exhibiting his early black and white photos, every image from William Eggleston's Guide, video, and paraphernalia from commercial projects like the album cover for Memphis band, Big Star. Eggleston is a legend. His imprint on art, photography, and American culture is so large, this enormous retrospective still doesn't do it justice. Although I didn't have a cigarette to give him, standing 15 feet from him felt pretty cool. Democratic Photos closes May 23, 2010.

My first visit to Blanc, on S Martin Luther King Dr was for the photography of Bryant Johnson. If it is true that nobody reads artist statements at an art opening, Bryant is lucky to say the least. His show, Farther Where Art Thou: The Depletion of a National Resource was, as you might guess, topical to say the least. He was using the ever-present push to live green as a way to address the treatment of black males in Chicago, possibly the United States. Bryant's statement rambled on about how everyone is working at living green while there is a natural resource that is going untapped, namely the black male. Unfortunately it was unclear in the photographs, close up head shots of middle aged black males, how the connection was being made.

His photographs, which I found out from talking with Bryant, were of homeless men he had encountered in Chicago. These were printed on what I would consider to be cheap paper, then mounted with wheat paste on a shallow metal sheet or a wood backing with black frame. Bryant's approach to displaying his work may have been lacking only in an explanation. His photos were powerful, referencing iconic images of black men like Martin Luther King, Rev. Al Green, and Sonny Stitt. Making images like this and treating them like street posters is absolutely no mistake and as intriguing as the show was, I couldn't help but think the statement and the message of living green confused the point that every man is a son and every father is a hero.

Blanc is open Weds through Fri 11am-3pm and Sat by appointment only, and is located in Bronzeville at 4445 S. Martin Luther King Drive. Check out this show and let me know what you think.

Starting March 16 and continuing through April 17, UIC's 2010 Masters of Fine Arts candidates will exhibit the culmination of their graduate work. These exhibits will include the work of students in Visual Art, Photography, Moving Image and Electronic Visualization. The exhibitions take place in five day runs, with a pause for Spring Break.

From what I can tell, the work looks really interesting and all over the board-- from interactive installations to quirky graphite drawings. Anyone curious to see the direction art is going or what they are teaching in MFA programs these days should try to make it to at least one of these shows. Image: "Charlie" by UIC MFA candidate Raychael Stine, 2010

Joe AvellaWhat's the project you're most proud of making? Hmm. If I had to pick one, I'd go with Scatterbrained .

I made it super quick, as an entry to the iO Theater's Vidiocy competition. I wrote, shot, and edited it in a day and a half, for no money. It ended up winning the fest. It also got into the South by Southwest Film festival, which to this day tickles me greatly.

What do you think are the benefits or challenges to filming in Chicago? In my experiences, people are usually pretty cool when you're shooting in a public place. I've never gotten harassed by police or surly locals...well, one time I was helping a friend shoot something in an alley by his apartment, and this dude called the cops on us. He told the police we were filming a porno. The cops showed up for 2 seconds and were like 'yeah, you're fine.' It was really weird, but the porno turned out great!

J.M. Colberg, the author of the contemporary photography blog Conscientious, spent the last few weeks exploring issues of similarity and plagiarism in art. In what appears to be Colberg's final post on the matter for now, Chicago-based photographer Brian Ulrich submitted an interesting exploration of his thoughts on the matter as it relates to his artistic practice. [You'll need to scroll down a bit to see Ulrich's material.]

Nathaniel Russell has had shows in New York, LA, San Francisco, and now decorating the walls of the home of a family of four- as the most recent exhibition titled NOWS at Home Gallery in Hyde Park, run by Andrew Nord and Laura Schaeffer.

Russell's artist statement provides a unique and encompassing view of the eclecticism of his work. Created in a "mind map" format, a practice used by graphic designers to create a sense of brand or identity on a project, he starts with the word "Oneness" and branches out to such random musings as "Old Men", "Hippies", "Dust", "Library" and "Mystery Lights." Visitors can wander throughout the living room, kitchen, hallways, and master bedroom of Home Gallery and find traces of these many random influences in Russell's work. He works mostly with pen and ink, but also has a sculptural display of made-up books with illustrated covers, and some screen-printed material as well.

Russell's style has a very 1970's feel- inspired by the decade's advertising and popular posters. His frequent combination of images and words reflects a background in graphic design, as well as his repeated focus on books and literature. Chicagoans may find another 70's style link in that some of his work seems tied to the Imagist movement that occurred in Chicago at that time- particularly one ink drawing that involves bizarrely proportioned, spindly cowgirls with blue skin and giant red hats, titled "Agnes Lake Memorial Summer Program for Girls Survival Guide." In an interview he did with Schafer, who runs Home Gallery, Russell discussed his fascination with cowboys and cowgirls as the "American Knights"

NOWS remains on display at Home Gallery until the closing brunch and reception this Sunday, February 28th from 12-3pm. Home Gallery is located at 1407 E. 54th Place, in Hyde Park.

Maya Lin is a monumental sculptor and architect, most famous for her Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC. Lin was only a 21-year-old undergrad when she completed that work and fortunately she didn't she burn out early. She has been working non-stop since then, creating landscape sculptures, public art, architectural concepts and art that is based in natural themes.

The exhibition at The Arts Club of Chicago (201 E. Ontario) is made up of 11 works of varying media that piggyback her exhibitions, Topologies and Systematic Landscapes that explore landscape and technological forms. The first piece seen the moment viewers walk in is Blue Lake Pass which is made up of undulating particle board that recreates the Rocky Mountain Pass. To the right, Flow is a sea of upright 2x4s standing shoulder to shoulder, in varying lengths, creating a large wave-like structure. One of the installers explained the installation process, which consisted of five guys lifting and placing 200-pound sections of wood. Each section is glued together but it seems like the pieces on the outside ring aren't touching at all. This is because they interconnected them with another piece below that remains unseen. The first time Flow was exhibited, each 2 x 4 was separate which meant they had to be placed individually -- a time consuming endeavor.

Accompanying those large, dense works are more delicate pieces made from more graceful materials such as straight pins, hand-blown glass and wire. All the materials Lin uses are sustainable and recycled. The exhibit provides a calming, reflective experience about our planet and its natural forms in the middle of downtown.

Conceptual artist collaboration Art & Language has been creating discursive thought-provoking pieces since the late 60s. Their work provides intentional open-ended and ongoing conversation. Since the 60s, the members have changed many times including, at one time, (random, fun fact) Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker. They are known for incorporating text and art to a point at which the text is the art and always posing the question, as Kathryn Born put it in her interview with members Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, "How nothing can [art] be?" Rhona Hoffman hosted Art & Language at her gallery in the West Loop, which opened last night. The show acts as a sort of mini-retrospective, showcasing works across the span of their career.

Many of the works are actually just documentation of more illusory work, like their lyrics for the band Red Crayola or blueprints for posters that no longer exist.

Other pieces, like the ones about greetings that cover two walls, all converse with one another. Frame after frame, line after line asks "Hello, (name) how are you?" Of course, I spent a good minute or two trying to spot my name. On the adjacent wall are paintings with Gustave Courbet's close up of female genitalia from "The Origin of the World." When the viewer peers uncomfortably into the woman, the faint word, "Hello" appears. I didn't try to find my name in that one.

Whether you know it or not, filmmaker Al Jarnow probably taught you a lot about the world at a very young age. His short films for Sesame Street deconstructed the world for kids, coupling time-lapse, stop motion, and cel animation with simple objects found in every day life. Later he became a component of the New York avante-garde art-film movement alongside artists like Harry Smith and Stan Brakhage.

Tonight and tomorrow at 8pm the Gene Siskel film center is screening a collection of shorts of his, titled Celestial Navigations: Theatrical Screenings, compiled by Chicago record label, The Numero Group. Employing the archival skills honed during the excavation of over 40 full-length albums, Celestial Navigations marks The Numero Group's first foray into the world of cinema. The 45 films collected have been transferred and color corrected from the original 16mm prints, along with fully remastered sound.

The screenings will consist of 60 minutes of shorts from his independent work and films featured on public television, followed by a 30 minute documentary that deconstructs his creative process. Visit the Gene Siskel's website for details.

Something awesome is happening at Steppenwolf this week. Garage Rep, a theatrical program combining three productions from three of Chicago's most innovative theater companies, is opening. The three plays--Adore, punkplay, and The Twins Would Like to Say--are being presented in repertory through April 25.

This morning I spoke with Devon de Mayo and Seth Bockley about their play, The Twins Would Like to Say--the culmination of a lot of work between a troupe of enthusiastic and ambitious local creatives (Chicago-based Dog and Pony Theatre Company--which de Mayo is co-founder of). The Twins Would Like to Say is an interactive performance based on the true story of a pair of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, Caribbean immigrants trying to find their place in provincial Wales in the 1970s. At eight years old they made a pact to speak to no one but each other--a pact that lasted over 20 years. Because they were unable to express themselves verbally in their daily lives, they took to writing and their imaginary worlds blossomed into a collection of highly imaginative novels detailing provocative themes like teenage lust and rebellion.

You've probably been hearing a lot about "pop-up" art galleries around town lately. It makes sense-- dismal spatterings of vacant storefronts are plaguing this city as it simultaneously busts at the seams with even more underrepresented artists. The solution? Put art in those windows! One of the most successful examples of such lives in Pilsen around 18th and Halsted. Last Friday the frozen sidewalks were bustling with plastic cup-carrying art fans, hopping from gallery to gallery, enjoying the squatting spectacles in the windows between them.

Check out these videos of some of these pop-up gallery projects, put up by the Chicago Urban Art Society, collectively titled Street Level. If you'd like to see them in person, you can find them along the 1800 block of S. Halsted until February 28. More videos can be viewed at Chicago Urban Art Society's Vimeo page.

Chicago Art Magazine asked Claudine Ise from Bad at Sports to reveal all the art blogs on her RSS feed. Her list of 115 blogs can be seen here.

Last weekend was the College Art Association (CAA) conference in Chicago. The CAA's website describes the conference as "The world's largest international forum for professionals in the visual arts." It's three days packed with panel discussions, networking events, and gallery parties. In her book, Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton recounts her visit the CAA conference in New York, "Art historians...swarm the building seeking to improve their positions, recruit colleagues, and win publishing contracts. Some network on their own; others parade the corridors with entourages of grad students nipping at their heels." Some events and discussions are free and open to the public but most require paid membership.

In Abraham Ritchie's (ArtSlant Chicago editor) thoughtful piece about Relational Art he says that, "Reaching a wide public that is distrustful of artists and suspicious of their work proves to be a challenge for the artist who is interested in the unifying or universal aspects of art. Relational Art rises to this challenge." Relational Art (sometimes called relationalism) was defined by Nicolas Bourriaud as a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space." Ritchie cites many examples including Jeremy Deller's It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2009.

Of all the pieces in the exhibition: The Treasure of Ulysses Davis, Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop, perhaps the most striking is the glass case filled with busts of US presidents, from George Washington to George H.W. Bush, who was in office when the artist died. They were created largely in the 1970's using stock illustrations from textbook covers as source material. Individually they are unique pieces of work, together they create a wall of patriotic wonder. Gazing at the wood-rendered likenesses of the first through the forty-first presidents, you can trace the progression of men's fashion; from George Washington's ruffled shirt to James Monroe's ascot, and from Andrew Johnson's bowtie to full length neckties, which make their first appearance in the bust of Theodore Roosevelt. Centered among the busts is a presidential seal with the words "The Greatest" carved into it. The detail carved into the busts is remarkable: barber clippers were used to make grooves representing hair; Nixon grins menacingly; Franklin D. and Teddy Roosevelt each wear a pince nez; Harry Truman sports a pair of glasses; and the hair on Reagan's head fairly jumps out of the case.

Nick Black is a top class tinkerer and we at ChicagoArts had the privilege of meeting him in his studio for a quick interview about what he does, and how he does it.

Nick will be joining me in the studio for ChicagoArts Live on Monday February 22 for a live stream of a follow up interview in which you are invited to participate by asking questions or making comments about Nick and his work or the interview.

Addington Gallery opened with three newly acquired artists this weekend, and as always the surface was the focus. In the main gallery was the work of Carl A Linstum, who's mixed media paintings played a bit more like a collection of individual things, rather than complete compositions. The work did have interesting symbolism utilizing birds and butterflies and his statement talked briefly about spirituality, family and the power, or lack there of, of memory, so there was plenty to ponder. Again, I don't think the subject was all there was to see here, a big part of this show was the surface which was layered with wax and lush with movement.

Winter: a curse to humans, a boon to anthropomorphic ice cream sandwiches. Gain some new perspective with local crafter Steff Bomb's bitten-into plush Ice Cream Sammy, who's got to worry about melting and being eaten. Man!

Do you like paintings? Well then pay attention: this Saturday the 13th, four Chicago galleries will open exhibits of exceptional paintings by 13 artists, (who are all, as far as I know, currently working in Chicago.) This is in conjunction with the College Art Association's annual conference convening in our wonderful city this week.

The festivities will kick off at the ungodly hour of 9:30am with a panel discussion on the state of painting at the Hyatt Regency. A glorious team of local painters/academics will address questions such as: What's to be done about painting? How is painting valued? How does painting assert its authority? What is painting's speed? Can painting enact radical social and cultural critique? What is painting's place within the mainstream? And how does painting implicate itself in capital?

After that, each of the artists on the panel will exhibit their work at four Chicago galleries that afternoon, starting at JULIUS CÆSAR at 4pm, continuing to Shane Campbell Gallery at 6pm, and ending at the 119 N Peoria Building in the West Loop at Rowley Kennerk Gallery and Western Exhibitions, from 7 to 10pm.

I am particularly exited about the Painter's Paintings show at Western Exhibitions, which will feature new work by the talented Carl Baratta and Nicholas Frank, among others. Visit the individual galleries' websites for specific information about each of the exhibitions. Don't miss these!

Carl Baratta's "These Hands Around Your Neck, Like Flames To A House", courtesy of Western Exhibitions

You may or may not be up on what February is dedicated to. When I was a kid it was Black Heritage Month, and although I think that is still observed, I am now being made aware that it is also the American Heart Month. I don't know if this has any connection to Valentine's Day, other than the American Heart Association wanting to be cute like that but, it seems a great way to earn a little PR if you're an artist who makes hearts. Bill Moran is publishing four prints in editions of 75 through Gregory Gaymount Studio & Gallery. Although the edition will only be made available on February 28, a portion of all pre-publication orders will be donated to The American Heart Association.

On February 5, it was announced the $100,000 Ordway Prize would be awarded to Hamza Walker, the Director of Education and Associate Curator at The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. In 2001, The New York Times named him one of the most influential American curators. The New Museum describes the prize as, "acknowled[ing] the contributions of a Curator/Arts Writer and an Artist whose work has had significant impact on the field of contemporary art, but who has yet to receive broad public recognition. Nominees for the Ordway Prize are midcareer talents between the ages of forty and sixty-five, with a developed body of work extending over a minimum of fifteen years." Walker curated a solo show of Chicago-based photographer Anna Shteynshleyger which is on view at The Renaissance Society until this Sunday, February 14.

Stephen Daiter Gallery recently moved to 230 W. Superior and the first show in their new space features the amazing Martin Parr. Parr's supersaturated color photos with blazing flash can be slightly grotesque. Photos of food or tourists or fellow Brits, Parr's camera always seems to tease its subjects a bit. Some of Parr's work will also be featured in the Art Institute's In the Vernacular exhibit, up until May 31. Jeriah Hildwine has some good photos on Art Talk Chicago and you can hear the artist speak at Stephen Daiter Gallery on March 12, 5-8pm.

Hollis Sigler's Expect the Unexpected opened on January 30 at the Cultural Center, alongside relative newcomer, Angel Otero's Touch with Your Eyes. The side by side Chicago artists allow viewers both pride in the past and anticipation for the future of Chicago's art scene.

Sigler, who actually began her artistic career in strict realism, grew into her own with the striking colors, scratchy strokes, and child-like rendering of reality, evident in this sixty work series from 1981-2001. Her style was evidently impacted by Chicago's Imagist movement- a "faux naïve" craze that gripped the city in the 1960's, starting with Jim Nutt and his clan of Imagists. Sigler's crude depictions of femininity, life, and death, allow the viewer to experience her frustration and anguish- primarily relating to her fight against breast cancer. Sigler passed away in 2001 after battling her disease since diagnosis in 1985. Her work stands as a testament to her strength in the shadow of suffering, and her rapturous ability to incite discussion around the issues she addressed.

Hollis Sigler's Expect the Unexpected can be viewed through April 4 in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery of the Cultural Center.

Chicago's comprehensive history of community organization and social justice make it an optimal city for arts-based not-for-profits. The first inception of arts education began in Chicago at Jane Addams's Hull House in the late 1800s and in the past few years, education was one of only two job sectors to experience growth (the other was healthcare). Everything suffers in a weak economy and when it is difficult for people to meet their most basic needs, the arts can become a second priority. Chicago arts-based not-for-profits like Open Books and Marwen are reviewing their business plans, reevaluating their spending and committed to providing a creative haven for underserved youth.

This Saturday, recently relocated OhNo!Doom gallery hosts the 'Torn Pages' group show, a series of artist/writer collaborations focusing on imagined children's tales and the illustrations they've inspired. I spoke with art blogger and show curator Josh Lucas, and we touched briefly on the themes behind the show as well as Chicago neighborhoods, fairy tales, and the trials and rewards inherent in running a large group show.

"The Following are Pages Torn from our Most Favorite Imaginary Books", takes place on Saturday, February 13th, 2010, and runs through the end of the month. OhNo!Doom gallery, 1800 N. Milwaukee Ave., 6-10pm.

The Torn Pages show is about a few things. Bringing people together who don't normally work together. in the creative world people tend to congregate together in what they do. writers will have readings, artists have shows, etc. but they rarely do things together. I believe the things that connect people are more powerful than the things that make them different. The creative process, and act, is a very beautiful and personal thing. And at the core, it's that feeling, and need to do so that every artist understands.

It's also about that feeling you got reading a story as a child. And wanting to get back to that place. The full show name expresses this "the following are pages torn from our most favorite imaginary books", it's about that story you always had in your head, or maybe just an image. But it was yours and now we get to share those things with the public.

The idea for the show was just a quick thought at first. My girlfriend was telling me about a story she was working on, and as she was telling me about it I saw it in my head, illustrated by a friend of mine. So i sat on it for a month or so and then started sending out emails to see if it would work. And it just kind of evolved from there.

The artists and writers were picked from names I'd seen around, and a few people I already knew. My girlfriend suggested some great people. I also got some help from Jason over at "Orange Alert": http://orangealert.net/blog he sent me some great suggestions. I got really lucky with the people who are now the lineup for the show.

Chicago-based photographer Adam Eckberg's show, In the Between, closes today at Thomas Robertello Gallery but if you missed it, don't worry. Eckberg's work is also featured in the Elements of Photography exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Bad at Sports has posted a great interview with him.

The Flat Iron Artists Association and the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce kicked off their 2010 Inaugural season of First Fridays with Now You See It, Now You Don't. The concept involved using the walls of the Flat Iron Building at 1579 N. Milwaukee as canvas and then ceremoniously painting over them with white paint. This spectacle speaks to idea of art as something that come and goes, evolves and doesn't last forever. Some artists involved with the mural were Sebastian Napoli, Kelly Jensen, Matthew Morgan and George Berlin. The opening reception began last night at 6pm and the murals were painted over 10pm. Visitors were invited to wander in to all the studios housed in the Flat Iron Building and treated with the familiar cups of wine and veggie plates. I spoke with artist Scotie Cousin who mentioned this would not be last time this performance would occur.

If you'd like to learn more about the artists involved or the project, visit the Now You See It, Now You Don't Blog.

The studio of an artist is a visceral, messy and sometimes chaotic fortress of solitude. It's what one would imagine another's inner-most covert thoughts to be, personified into empty paint buckets of brushes, heaves of ripped canvas, macabre pilings of wooden figures, twisted mannequin body parts and presumably meaningless sketches and blueprints. It's horrifying. It's flawed. It's humorous. It's one of those "whoh buddy, too-much-information" moments. But above all it's human.

Production Site: The Artist's Studio Inside-Out is the Museum of Contemporary Art's latest exhibition connecting the artist with the observer. Here, running February 6 through May 30, it's not the product of an artist's endeavor being presented, but the studio as subject matter. Curator Dominic Molon lead the media preview of the exhibit featuring large installations, films, video projections, photographic light-boxes, life-sized fabrications of artist's studios--some literally ripped off their studio walls, sculptures, performance pieces and evolving canvases explained the display as a being a timely exhibition during the current economic downturn, a "reorientation of our celebration of conspicuous consumption that we've seen as a more central topic of aesthetic discourse [and that it] shows a deeper and more serious consideration of production."

While the exhibit displays numerous artists' studios from all over the world and many from Chicago, here are some of the highlights of Production Site.

Timothy Vermeulen's new paintings are based on specific texts from Moby Dick, and currently showing at Packer Schopf Gallery. Tim's figures, and his use of perspective that is just off enough to keep you just unsettled, is reminiscent of the early Northern Renaissance painters, think Hieronymus Bosch and Giotto, but very contemporary. There are lots of things about Tim's work that make each piece not only inviting but engaging, one is his understanding of color and how it effects mood, another is his odd sense of space, as each painting seems to open up to the room. The way he skewed the perspective in the piece made me feel as if I were being enveloped and the paintings became much bigger than their modest 13.5 X 17.5 size.

Each piece was part of the Moby Dick narrative but Tim would place himself in these paintings, participating and exploring as both an onlooker and a participant. His presance in the paintings allowed me to involve myself in the storytelling, reexamining my place in a world in flux. Tim's paintings are brave and confident and this show is not to be missed, unfortunately you only have until February 13 to see it.

There will be a special reception for the College Art Association Convention on Friday, February 12, from 5 to 8pm, which will also host a book release of Words for Paintings by Jason Lahr, whose paintings are also currently on view at Packer Schopf. Don't forget to visit the downstairs gallery while you are there, ventriloquist dummy portraits by Gene Hamilton tie this three person show together quite gracefully.

Almost every day I discover a new cellphone artist. It started with the iPhone Therefore iArt show last month, and hasn't stopped since. Remember when people were complaining about how digital photography allows "just anyone" to be an artist? Now, cellphone cameras allow anyone to be an artist, at any time, without even requiring the forethought of bringing a camera with you when you leave the house.

Sure, this means we're all going to be exposed to even more crappy art. But every once in a while, we'll run into some nice stuff that is beautiful in its spontaneity, like Jeremy Edwards' From the Pocket photos and Sarah Best's Daily Photos series, which will be exhibited at Antena Gallery in Pilsen, opening on February 19.

The artistic process can be a private, personal journey for many, taking place in a closed space shut off from the outside world until the masterpiece is revealed. But The Museum of Contemporary Art hopes to re-examine the location where a piece of work is toiled over, a place that may ultimately turn up in an artist's work--the studio. In their newest exhibit opening this weekend, the Museum of Contemporary Art wants to reveal to viewers how the studio has played a role in many works of art. Production Site: The Artist's Studio Inside-Out will be comprised of many mediums including multi-channel video projections, photographic light boxes and installations, and life-sized fabrications of artist's studios.

To celebrate the opening, the museum is throwing an Artist's Studio Party tomorrow night, February 4, at 6 p.m. The event will be a three-floor fundraiser honoring the artists, with live music, food, artist guests and interactive entertainment. For members, tickets cost $35, and for non-members it is $45. Children under 12 are free. The party runs from 6 to 9 and is open to all ages. Buy tickets online or call the box office at 312-397-4010.

If you follow me on FourSquare you'll already know I was at the leet speak filled M155 4m3r1c4, or Miss America, last night at Noble & Superior Projects. I had never been there before and thought it'd be a hoot, and it was. Leet Speak refers to elite speak, because it is encoded, and there are plenty of variations to keep people, not in the know, busy for some time.

Noble & Superior Projects hosted what might have been more of a film screening than an art show, but either way I enjoyed the video. Patrick Bobilin was the Filmmaker of the pair of artists that made up M155 4m3r1c4. Patrick did an excellent job with his, part documentary part fictional self-portrait. It was a linier journey for the most part, although it utilized some wonderful symbolism and imagery to make social as well as cultural commentaries mainly revolving around cause and affect. For those of you that might be interested, you also have the opportunity to look at documentation collected during recording and referenced in the video.

In the kitchen of Noble & Superior Projects was a corresponding show, or a rider to Patrick's video and documentation, of Cara Anne Greene's curated culinary creations. That was cool too.

It's a relaxing way to spend your Saturdays: Chicago Gallery News leads a free tour every Saturday (rain, snow or shine) through various River North galleries and every sixth Saturday (the next taking place on Jan. 30) they host a guided West Loop gallery tour.

The River North Tour will meet at Starbucks, 750 N. Franklin St. at 11am and will be lead by Addington Gallery. The tour will be showcasing Byron Roche Gallery, 750 N. Franklin St. (which opens Jan. 30 and will be Roche's last showing in this space), Ken Saunders Gallery, 230 W. Superior St., Jennifer Norback Gallery, 215 W. Huron St. and then Addington Gallery, 704 N. Wells St.

The West Loop Tour will be lead by Thomas McCormick Gallery and will visit and meet at Walsh Gallery, 118 N. Peoria St., 2nd floor, at 1:30pm. The tour will continue to Dubhe Carreno Gallery, in the same building; Western Exhibitions, 119 N Peoria St.; and then Thomas McCormick Gallery, W. Washington Blvd.

The tours are free and no reservations are required. For more information visit the Chicago Gallery News website for art tour details.

Do you know what your alderman looks like? Mine has a mustache. Ever had the urge to make a painting of your alderman? Now is your chance. Johalla Projects is putting on a show, titled 50 ALDERMAN/50 ARTISTS, which is pretty much what it sounds like. 50 artists from across Chicago (you could be one of them) will choose one alderman to feature in a 16″x22″ portrait, using their media of choice. There is a point to this -- participating artists will be required to interview or at least attempt to interview the alderman they are depicting. The idea is to use art as a vehicle for learning about the people who represent us at city hall -- to foster an understanding of local politics and more involvement in our communities.

The Art Institute is free the whole month of February, so you have no more excuses. For what it's worth, my personal favorites in the new wing include Charles Ray's "Hinoki", Gerhard Richter's "Candle", Bruce Nauman's "Clown Torture", and Peter Doig's "Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre." Go, check them out, and let me know if you agree.

In Pilsen, there used to be place called the Whale. It was actually just a residence, but it represented much more because it was the base of operations for a society of creatives and intellectuals (but not the hoity toity type) called the "Order of the Lamprey." People from every imaginable background would meet there to enjoy the finer things in life-- mostly art making, pig roasting, doohickey inventing, cold beer, and heated discussion.

Now the Whale is gone, and everything in it, because it burned down on December 17. Kenneth Morrison, Michelle Faust, and Nat Ward, the trio who started the Order of the Lamprey and lived in the building, lost all of their posessions. Since the fire, though, an astounding number of Chicagoans have stepped up to the plate, coming together in support. A Facebook group has been started which serves as a vehicle for recovery, or at least the first step, helping friends of the Whale connect with each other. Check it out, join the group, and if you have any money left over after helping out the Haitians, help these guys out too by donating to their Paypal account. (The email address to use to donate to them through Paypal is natmichellehideout@gmail.com.) Also, Bridgeport's wonderful Co-Prosperity Sphere is hosting a benefit party for the Whale on February 5. Check out our listing in Slowdown for the details.

"Comedy is tragedy plus time," said Carol Burnet. The hodgepodge of characters gathered for the Bavarian comedy The Wedding may not sport lederhosen but are tragicomic figures at heart. Tuta Theatre presents the 1919 Bertolt Brecht classic (whose work is performed throughout Germany more often than Shakespeare) with a modernized approach featuring original music by Jesse Terrill (and a smidgen of Brittney Spears) mixed with flapper-style evening wear and tailored tweed suits in homage to the roaring 1920's bourgeoisie. The wedding party includes a contemptuous mother of the groom played by Laurie Larson who compulsively instructs her son which piece of fish to choose for dinner.

Throughout the 70-minute performance her dismal gaze and pathetic longing for her grown son reach the audience beyond the limits of comical one-liners. The groom's friend (Andy Hager) instigates a kind of sexual chess game among all guests, married or not, beginning with a hilarious and remarkably not exaggerated scene where Hager's character randomly pleasures a female wedding guest beneath the dinner table. As the wine flows ("It makes the conversation better!") the antics remain impressively understated with the casts' brilliant use of movement, expression, and time in this highly overstated satirical take on German bourgeois society.

The Wedding runs now through February 14 at Chopin Theatre Studio, 1543 W. Division. Tickets are $20 for students and seniors, $25 for everyone else.

Chicago writer James Kennedy's 2008 young adult fantasy book, The Order of Odd-Fish has not only gotten a lot of attention lately, it's inspired a slew of fan art. The artistic mediums seem to be just as creative as Kennedy's story, from a Belgian beer named after the villian to a cake depicting a fish vomiting out a high-rise. There are also a bunch of lovely cut-paper illustrations by high-schooler Max Pitchkites-- one for every chapter of the book, in fact.

Kennedy is so impressed with all the fan art he has decided to organize an art show/costumed dance party to celebrate and exhibit it, in collaboration with Collaboraction, which he says will most likely open on April 17. People will dress up as gods and do battle-dancing in the Dome of Doom, and then the fan art as well as the elaborate installation itself with stay up for a while. If you'd like to make something to be included in the show, you're in luck-- he's accepting submissions through March 1. Visit his incredibly entertaining blog for more information about submissions as well as the multitude of interesting anecdotes and Odd-Fish-related events going on around Chicago over the next few months.

I went to my first Peregrine Program opening, which happened to be only their third, to see ChicagoLand, a show that consisted of work by Daniel Lavitt. After seeing it I found it difficult to talk about this show to others, because I wasn't sure what it was to be honest. It was kind of a series of sculptures, but it was also utilizing electronics. One piece in particular was an homage to the late Roger Brown-- a house sculpture, which was hung on the wall. When you interacted with the door, the lights in the windows went on.

The whole show apparently has a technology theme dealing with the electronics of these lights that are part of the pieces. It is set up so that you can view the work in an ascending order of the artist's technological prowess. The final piece in the show, the most advanced technologically, really caught my imagination. It was part of a house sticking out of a wall, like those damn baseballs people put on their car's rear window, and the lights in the house are on until you approach it. This is where the advanced technology comes in, although not extremely advanced in the grand scheme of programming, the lights turning off as someone approaches, has a lot to say. Actually, I spoke to the artist about this and the house was a replica of his first apartment in Chicago, and because he didn't like his room mates, he would often pretend not to be home by turning off the lights as they would approach.

I left a bit unsure if it was a sculpture show, that had some electronics, or an electronics show that used sculpture as a vehicle. In the end I guess it doesn't matter but what might matter is that we have a new space in Chicago called PEREGRINEPROGRAM, and although it is only a 13" X 23" box, the owner Edmund Chia is showing what he likes and I am always excited about new spaces showing new things.

Looks like the Alliance Française de Chicago and the French Consulate of Chicago have prepared quite a treat for the city's art-enthusiasts this Thursday: Musée du Louvre curator of sculpture, Isabelle Leroy-Jay Lemaistre explaining what it is that makes a masterpiece.

The way we define art over centuries of iconic masters and their worldly masterpieces can take an army of art history professor's their life's work to explain-objectively or subjectively. So, what better place to learn then from the perspective of the most visited museum in the world?

Lemaistre will lead the lecture in three critical themes: the changing historical and cultural definitions of a masterpiece (in paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and drawings); authenticity and connoisseurship (what makes an expert); and the evolution of taste and scholarship (the changes in adoration over time).

Tickets for the Thursday, Jan 21st lecture can be purchased for $10 (for non-members) at the Alliance website. The 6:30pm event will take place at the Alliance Française de Chicago's 54 W. Chicago Ave. entrance.

Art Shay's footprint on Chicago photography is colossal. Shay's (unbelievably) first color exhibition opened at Thomas Masters Gallery on North Avenue in Old Town last Friday. The homey vintage space with creaky floors made Thomas Masters a perfect host for this show.

Shay shot for Time, Sports Illustrated and was a Chicago-based photojournalist for Life. In the entrance is a list of quotes from celebrities like Roger Ebert, Hugh Hefner, Studs Terkel, and David Mamet who said "I have one of Art Shay's pictures over my desk. It reminds me every morning of my Chicago roots. Art photos, like me, have the Chicago accent, which is to say he's telling you the truth."

The show is packed with recognizable faces like President Kennedy, Andy Warhol, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Hoffa, and a few wonderfully moving pictures of and about Martin Luther King, Jr. After the assassination of King, Shay talked his way into the building across from the hotel and snapped a photo of the murderer's handprint on the wall, highlighted by police fingerprint dust. It took my breath away.

It would be easy to spend a good hour in Thomas Masters, wandering from each photo to the next. There is a description or anecdote from Shay under every photo, which heightens that magical feeling of finding dusty boxes of old magazines in your grandma's attic and experiencing nostalgia whether or not you lived through the sixties.

Before Laura Letinsky's opening last Saturday, I hadn't been in Monique Meloche's new location on the west side of nightlife mecca, Wicker Park. I assumed it would be a giant space that showcased her stamp on the art scene, especially when I looked in from the outside and saw the 10 by 25 foot, psychedelic mural by Assume Vivid Astro Focus in the window that certainly didn't suggest modesty. However, I was baffled when I realized Letinsky's show was comprised of only five photos. Five! I am so impressed by Meloche's confidence and ability to surprise.

Letinsky is a still life photographer. But these photos are not Cezanne's apples and pears. They are delicately morbid, always suggesting something slightly depraved has taken place just before the photo was taken. The pictures involve objects like fruit, eggs, oysters, birds, and unidentifiable furry creatures, all gutted or skinned. However, Letinsky's meticulous placement of these objects indicates care on the artist's part and ere on the side of quixotic rather than gore.

This show is titled The Dog and the Wolf which partly refers to the French phrase L'heure entre chien et loup--the time when both dog and wolf are seen when dusk becomes night. Unlike Letinsky's last photos, set in daylight, these have a beautifully melancholic atmosphere when set at dusk. Almost always, there lies a wrinkled white tablecloth beneath the objects, adding texture and shadow. Dead flowers and wine stains add a nostalgic and romantic approach to these photos as well. Letinsky also has an unsettling talent for skewing perspective, shoving the table to the very foreground and leaving an uncomfortably large, grey background or giving the tables an apocryphal lack of depth.

Exhibiting only five photos invited in depth analysis of the photographs that perhaps a larger show would not have afforded. Letinksy's work is both inviting and confrontational and simply put, really really good. The show closes on March 13, 2010.

Most theater companies define themselves by what they want. Jeremy Menekseoglu, artistic director of Chicago's Dream Theatre Company, knows exactly what he doesn't.

No fourth wall. No superfluous roles. No poor roles for women. No living rooms. No boundaries of realism. By articulating these rules, Dream Theatre is more efficiently able to arrive at what it is they do desire, a destruction of the barrier between actor and audience.

It began in Russia. As students at the Moscow Art Theatre in the late 90's, Menekseoglu and three friends started the company to explore this tricky relationship.

"We wanted a theatre in which the audience became a part of the story," Menekseoglu says. "A real part."

Originally dubbed the Theatre for Humanity, the company was interested in personal psychology over politics. In the midst of his struggle to find a common ground, a place where everyone could relate, Menekeseoglu had a dream. It turned out to be his revelation. "No matter who we were or how different we were, we all could relate to one another in our subconscious."

Bill Boyce is a sculptor and metal fabricator that has an uncanny sense of how things could go together. His work flows, and organically comes together so consistently beautiful that I would say it is remarkable. Bill will be on a follow up interview on ChicagoArts Live on Tuesday January 26 at 7:30pm. You are invited to participate by asking questions or making comments about Bill, his work or the interview.

I do not normally do this but this one is from the heart, as they say. I found out less than an hour ago that someone I know died in Haiti. I have never been, nor did I have any inclination to travel to Haiti, but many people that I know have done just that. Two in particular were in Haiti during the recent earthquake.

Sue Frame, who I had lived and worked with for a number of years, thankfully survived although Flo McGarrell did not. I did not know Flo well enough to feel comfortable speaking about him too much, but I will say he was one of the strongest people I knew, and although I may not have spent long hours getting to know Flo, I do know there is an absence in the world without him.

Sue and Flo were in Jacmel, Haiti, building an artist's center. The last I heard was that there was trouble getting the container of tools they had collected past customs. That school has fallen down the priority list, now that things like fresh water have been added to the list of needs of the Haitian people.

In response to this loss of a Chicago Area artist, there is a small group of Chicagoans starting an art raffle to help give back to those giving to Haiti. If you are an artist, artisan or anyone willing to donate items to this raffle, please upload images and descriptions to this flickr page. Every $5 donated to Doctors Without Borders between Wednesday the 13th and Thursday the 21st will buy you one raffle ticket; just send your confirmation letter to AlexPolotsky@gmail.com. For more information, visit haitiaidraffle.wordpress.com/. Thank you.

On February 26 and 27, threewalls gallery will host Chasing Two Rabbits as part of a two week animation festival featuring animation programs curated by local and national artists. Chasing Two Rabbits is a special event curated by Sonia Yoon and Shannon Stratton that pairs animators with live performances by sound artists and musicians.

Inspired by the experimental films of Norman McLaren, who combined abstract imagery (including scratching and painting into the film stock in earlier work, as well as paper cut-outs and live action and dance) with imaginative music and sound, Chasing Two Rabbits acts to pair artists in both genres to produce a unique event with sound and vision illuminating each other.

Currently threewalls is looking for proposals from both animators and sound artists and/or musicians who would like their work to be matched up with each other's. Pairings will be chosen from submissions, with animations provided to musicians and sound artists to review and score for live performance in February.

Animators can submit pieces for sound, no longer than 10 minutes in length, on DVD. Sound artists can send audio files (mp3, aiff, wav) on CD to Chasing Two Rabbits, c/o threewalls, 119 N Peoria #2D, Chicago, IL, 60607 or can send files or links to Shannon and Sonia c/o rabbits@three-walls.org. Materials must be submitted by this Friday, January 15.

Pearl Art and Craft is closing several stores across the country, and the Chicago store is among them. Everything in the store is 50% off, so deals are to be had even with furniture and easels. How often can you pick up a solid oak easel for half off?

Pittsburgh artists Susanne Slavick had a show open Friday, January 8 entitled R&R(...&R) in the northern most of the Cultural Center's Michigan Avenue galleries. Susanne works with photographs she finds on the internet of war, desolation and/or destruction. After finding the images she wants to work with, she often digitally manipulates them, but that is far from the beauty that is her artwork. Her poetic images come from her painting over these found photographs with gouache. Her use of contradiction and the way she hints at the unknown is uncanny and attracted me immediately.

The piece that was getting a lot of attention while I was there was "Remorse: White Curtains." This piece was based off a photo of a building in which Susanne had painted thin white curtains billowing from its windows. The delicate way in which she painted the curtains and the obvious lack of people made the work eerie and have an overall feeling of desolation or desertion. These sorts of desolate feelings were not consistent throughout the show thankfully; part of the show also consisted of a series of desert landscapes in which Susanne painted this welling up of water from holes in the ground. These works read as hopeful. The style in which she painted these and most of her other pieces were derived from Persian masters.

Three interesting shows of paintings and drawings open tonight at Packer Schopf Gallery. Jason Lahr shows DEATHMETALHIPPIEKILLER, Tim Vermeulen shows Moby Dick, and Gene Hamilton shows Vent Figure Fun! (Ventriloquist Dummy Portraits).

According to the press release, "Jason Lahr's [work] integrates darkly comic texts with appropriated images, creating shifting narratives of working class male identity as influenced by popular culture." In other words, you might say he makes "dude art." He might be a masculinist! (Yes, it's a real thing.) Either way, I'm intrigued. Gene Hamilton-- an artist, actor, and ventriloquist, presents us with very creepy and strangely hilarious dummy paintings. Tim Vermeulen is showing Moby Dick paintings-- small, figurative, autobiographical work, inspired by the epic novel, addressing giant themes of existence and consciousness. Although the subjects are heavy, the paintings appear lighthearted and are fun to examine. The aesthetic is similar to the Hamilton paintings in their detailed, colorful, almost "outsider" rendering, but the heady subjects seem very insider.

This show looks like it will be colorful-- literally and figuratively-- and good enough to warrant trudging through the snow this afternoon to attend the opening (from 5-7pm). Have no fear, though, if you miss the opening you've got until February 13 to check it out. Packer Schopf gallery is located at 942 W. Lake Street. Visit their website for more information about the show and the gallery's hours.

The Zhou B. Art Center, a rather new art studio in Bridgeport, has high expectations and even deeper ambitions in stake for Chicago's contemporary artist community.

Gallery owners and brothers, Shan Zuo and Da Huang Zhou's latest exhibition celebrates young artists from all over the United States, featuring recent MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) candidates and recipients working in the medium of contemporary painting. The National Wet Paint Exhibition, a reference to the collective of fresh artists, starts January 15 at the 87,000 square-foot gallery--a gallery that houses several exhibition spaces, artist studios, a café and even an art store.

Think of Wet Paint as a representation of contemporary art graduate programs across the country, seeking to display resulting innovations in painting materials, techniques and methods. There's even a free multimedia iPhone app to keep patrons up to date on the artists and their exhibitions.

Technology has done wonderful things for art. One of my personal favorite new tools is the cell phone camera, as I have never been in the habit of carrying a camera around, and I used to miss priceless photo opportunities on a daily basis. Now, when I see a car on fire, a porch with 15 tricycles on it, or a girl peeing in the middle of the sidewalk in Wicker Park, I whip out my phone and capture it instantly. When I do, I amuse myself by deeming it art, and apparently I'm not the only one.

The Chicago Art Department has organized an exhibition of new art made with iPhones, most likely because there's so darn much of it. Plus, if you think about it, we are in the midst of an incredible technological revolution and iPhone art is a symptom of this distinct moment in time (whether you like it or not). And that's pretty cool.

The show, amusingly titled iPhone Therefore I Art, is the culmination of a class led by CAD artist Mike Nourse, in which ten local artists met weekly, working towards a completed project in the forms of photo, digital sketching (finger painting), animation, sound, and video--all made with iPhones, of course. For this exhibition, in addition to local artists, Nourse brought in iPhone artists from as far away as Russia, Norway, Spain, France, and Germany. The end-result is a comprehensive investigation and celebration of this fancy new tool. iPhone Therefore I Art addresses issues dealing both the identity of the artists using iPhones and the identity of art itself. Check out the show to see how the ubiquitous iPhone has worked its way into contemporary art, and to imagine where it will go next.

iPhone Therefore I Art opens this Friday, January 8, at Chicago Art Department (1837 S. Halsted). The public reception is from 6-10pm.

"Weatherbee's Revenge," a solo show by California-bred New York artist Mark Mulroney is opening at ebersmoore gallery next Friday. The work, though "dirty" in nature, has a clean, pop sensibility that makes it massively appealing. You must admit, Mulroney makes reliving the horrors of adolescence kind of fun.

The press release for the show opens with Mulroney explaining how a book about puberty scarred him as a child. He describes how his youthful imagination completely misconstrued the information given him: "My theory was as follows...If you are ever to shower with another boy this giant sperm would erupt from your stomach, fall to the floor of the shower and lay there wet and smiling all the while whistling a little tune."

Recently, trends like the Renegade Craft Fair and the Slow Food Movement have shown people are recoiling from today's mass produced, dehumanized, and automated way of doing things. On the heels of this trend is the Apostles of Beauty exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Much like today, the Arts and Crafts movement stemmed from an anti-industrialist mentality that placed an importance on thoughtful design and handmade artifacts. The exhibit is vast and varied and what is truly fascinating is every piece of art came from private collections in the Chicago area.

Although most people were huddled around the pictorialist photography portion of the exhibit, the most "wow" inducing segment was the Japanism display. By the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Japanese style and woodblock prints were wildly popular (Frank Lloyd Wright was an avid collector). A Japanist-style Tiffany Lamp brilliantly glowing against the wall is hard to miss. Its dragonfly shade and mosaic base detail is breathtaking.

This is a nicely curated show, especially for those interested in interior design, architecture, and Chicago history. It closes January 31st.

Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, James Castle: A Retrospective is an exhibit that would be a shame to miss. Lynne Cook of Artforum named this show one of the best of 2009. The show closes on January 3rd so don't waste any time.

Castle was born in Garden Valley, Idaho in 1899, deaf and mute. Even though he went to a school for the blind and deaf, he never even learned sign language and remained illiterate. He was a self-taught artist whose only real communication and form of self-expression was through this art. He made a seemingly endless collection of drawings made from only his spit and charcoal as well as small books and paper and string constructed sculptures.

The drawings have a certain density and surprisingly precise yet imperfect perspective skills. Castle's work is centered on observations of home: drawing over the pages of his school books, drawings and paper sculpture of different porch doors, and studies of his home where his parents ran a local post office. It was in this post office that Castle took inspiration from newspapers, mail-order catalogs, and magazines. Although he never left Idaho and had almost no communication tools, he was able to interact with the outside world through his reappropriation of these commercial images.

As museum-goers wandered through the many rooms housing this huge retrospective, I caught the words, "Child-like." Castle's work could be considered "Outsider" or "Folk" but these terms have become problematic and condescending precisely because of descriptions like the ones overheard in the museum. It is impossible to create from within a vacuum. Perhaps Castle was never professionally trained or wouldn't be able to name artistic influences but he created for himself as a way to express and communicate. The best way to view this show would be to leave the labels behind and listen to what Castle has to say.

Starting on January 26, UIC's Gallery 400 is hosting The Free Store, a nomadic, temporary store full of free stuff that moves around the city. It only works, though, if it has stuff in it. If you've got something to get rid of, perhaps a Christmas fruitcake or an ugly sweater, drop it off so it can be art for a little while. Then, if it's lucky, someone will take it home and love it in a way you never could.

Items can be dropped off at Gallery 400 during open hours beginning January 5. Pick-ups can be arranged for some items or larger collections on a case-by-case basis. For questions on what items and services are acceptable, or to try and arrange a pick-up, you can contact The Free Store directly through their website or by calling 773-562-1428. They want anything and everything except people, animals, toxic stuff, and illegal stuff. Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria.

I met street artists Viking and Goons for an interview a few weeks ago at a dive in Logan Square that is adored by loyal locals for its warm, Cheers-ey spirit. Viking is probably best known for his skulls and anthropomorphized wind-blowing clouds. Goons is known for his stylized, teethy portraits. Their work is scattered all over the city, much of it rather large and very detailed. Viking and Goons are sort of second-generation street artists, hailing from a tradition popularized by the likes of Basquiat, a grassroots art movement, not to be confused with graffiti. Grafitti is more complicated in the sense that it involves more street politics and violence, and less complicated in the sense that it is basically a spray-painted human version of a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.

If you've never been to I Space Gallery in River North before, go see "Architecture of Crisis" before it closes this Saturday along with the gallery itself. "Architecture of Crisis," co-curated by Beat Steuri, Julie Larsen and Roger Hubeli with the help of U of I architecture students, rethinks how to use existing housing materials to benefit the environment. This reexamination is important considering there is a potential surplus of 22 million vacant homes due the housing bubble and economic crash in the coming months.

In yesterday's Sun-Times, Hubeli said "In America, standard construction is harmful to the environment on so many levels. Not only do we use cheap materials that are not sustainable, but we also have created an illusion of value."

The show is a bittersweet elucidation on the current state of real estate that coincides with the closing of the University of Illinois' I Space Gallery in River North. In October, I spoke with Mary Antonakos, the gallery's director since its opening 18 years ago. With all the budget cuts, she explained, they just couldn't afford to run the gallery anymore and they were out of solutions.

The non-profit artist's alliance organization, Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) is rolling out their annual DIY Silk Screening 101 Workshop beginning Jan. 9, 2010. The two 3-hour courses cost $75 and include all the materials a budding silk screen-printer might need, including "takeaways," and will be located at Bridgeport, 37th & Morgan St. The workshops will run from 11am to 2pm with three groups. (Here are photos from last year's workshop.)

Group 1 starts Jan. 9 & 16, Group 2 starts Jan. 30 & 6 and Group 3 starts Feb. 20 & 27. For more information visit their website, call: (773) 318-9407.

Influenced by the ever-changing urban contemporary art movement, Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) located at 1048 West 37th St., offers Chicago's visual artist community representation, learning opportunities and forums for conversation. For a listing of further events, visit http://chgourbanartsociety.carbonmade.com/.

CUAS is also accepting exhibition proposals and artist portfolios to be considered for their new gallery space. They're asking for artist's info to be sent by email in no particular format.

Juan Angel Chavez's "Dragging the Leash," at Linda Warren Fine Art Gallery, 1052 W. Fulton Market, opened Dec. 4 and will run through Jan. 16, 2010. This is the first solo exhibition of an artist so thoroughly invested in Chicago's community art scene you'd be hard-pressed not to have seen his work.

The exhibition is Chavez's personal representation of the "urban jungle of Chicago" comprised of collages made from carefully foraged "rescued artifacts." The objects, sculptures, assemblages, light boxes and instillations were cultivated by the Mexican-born, local artist and former School of the Art Institute student.

Chavez, as a member of the Chicago Public Art Group, has been commissioned by the city to paint murals for the Chicago Park District, the CTA, the Sun-Times, and the Toman Branch Library, among many others and has been exhibited at the MCA, the Mexican Fine Art Center Museum (where he was once an intern) and the Hyde Park Art Center.

An opening reception with Chavez and artist, Shannon Kerrigan--also represented at the gallery--will be on Friday, Dec. 11 from 6- 9pm.

Hey, check it out, it's winter in Chicago during a shaky economic time. How many of you can recall a time when there have been so many vacant storefronts in your neighborhood? Have been downtown recently and seen the spaces waiting for some enterprising boutique, or another Starbuck's to move in? I can recall when all of Fullerton from Halsted to Pulaski was boarded up, but that was a long time ago, long enough in fact that we don't just board everything up anymore. Pop up galleries are the new busy bee board up, the idea is too keep the building viable, while owners can find suitable tenets.

Artists around the country are benefiting from these vacant store fronts by being able to show work in high traffic areas. The Chicago Loop Alliance, who a few years ago brought us Looptopia is now offering Pop Up Galleries one which features the work of Sara Schnadt (who we interviewed last year). "Inspired by the idea that we simultaneously live in a real and virtual world, and that the virtual is infinitely expansive, Network uses large quantities of electric yellow twine and mirror to suggest a virtual network landscape cutting through an otherwise ordinary space." Sara's Pop Up Gallery is called Network and can be seen throughout December at 220 South Wabash.

For a guy who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, Gregory Battcock had a very interesting life, and an equally interesting death. Born in 1937, Battcock was a painter in the early 1960s who found his way into several of Andy Warhol's films (he starred in "Horse" and "Drunk"), and later he became a critic with eclectic interests--he wrote about minimalism and performance and video art as well as the aesthetics of ocean liners. He lived a short life, though, and was found dead on Christmas day in 1980 on the balcony of his San Juan condo. He was stabbed 102 times.

Funeral is the third and final installation at the temporary alternative art space, Garage Spaces. Perhaps you remember the last one, Stolen, which received a lot of press. Funeral opens tomorrow, Friday, December 11 at 5pm and closes the same night at 10pm.

For Funeral, artists and curators Mike Bancroft and Evan Plummer will complete the series with a performance that poses a dialogue on the culture and commerce of death in contemporary America. Garage Spaces will be recreated as a funeral home/parlor to mourn the death of Garage Spaces. Viewers can participate in the performance, if they want, by communally mourning their losses in life.

Garage Spaces is located at 1337 North Maplewood Ave. Admission is free. Call 773-216-5580 for more information.

Angel Otero is Chicago art's most precious baby bird. He graduated from SAIC with an MFA last spring, was released into the wild, and has since been included in the MCA's Constellation show and won a prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship grant. He has a giant solo show coming up at the Cultural Center (opening January 29,) and his first solo show at Kavi Gupta Gallery opens this Saturday (December 12.)

His paintings are colorful and textural, oscillating between representation and abstraction. They often incorporate unusual elements like dried oil paint skins and lacy lines of silicone, somehow squeezed onto the canvas, resembling the decorative icing on a birthday cake. His work is deeply intuitive and often quite personal, reminisces of his childhood in Puerto Rico, beautiful amorphous glimmers of memories.

Otero has achieved impressive, yet well-deserved, notoriety for a painter who is not yet thirty. I look forward to growing up in the art world with him and watching his work evolve over the next few decades.

It's not easy shopping for the artistic type, and sometimes thinking outside the box goes beyond the time-consuming holiday shopping list. Don't worry; we've done the leg work at various artist-centric gift shops around the city--and of course, online--along with a few ideas to motivate an eclectic shopping spree:

This mini shop of student art from Columbia College carries quite impressive photographs, unique stationary, stylish dresses, eclectic fashion accessories and bags, interesting silk-screen prints (I found one with a squid fighting a polar bear), and a plethora of art of various media. The shop, which opened a little over a year ago, is an opportunity for students to make money off their art year-round. While the online shop isn't set up yet, the shop on campus is like an art-instillation in itself, with a claw-machine of t-shirts and vending machines of buttons.

This shop is filled with some surprisingly hilarious home accents, from ice trays in the shape of the Titanic with little icebergs and dentures to a wall clock of mathematical equations and an alarm clock with wheels (that'll run away blaring if you hit the snooze). Their book selection is quite impressive too, many dedicated to the architecture of unique buildings all over the Windy City, as well as eras of history and notable architects.

It's that time of year again. Redmoon's Winter Pageant is already well in session, and is proving quite popular with critics and kids alike.

This annual celebration of the seasons is surrealistic and unconventional, in the Redmoon tradition, and promises to entertain folks of all ages.

The show is running through December 27 at Redmoon Central: 1463 W. Hubbard. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and kids under 10. Call 312-850-8440 for more information or visit Redmoon's website.

Co-Prosperity Sphere is hosting Seeking Art Bargain Basement, a quasi-conceptual art sale just in time for the holidays. According to their website, "In a world of simultaneous surplus and exclusion, the Bargain Basement seeks to raise issues inherent in today's art market including the accessibility of art, the practice of limiting dispersal to drive up value, the economy of art objects (and art non-objects), the speculative nature of the art market, and whether there is a stigma for artists to exhibit or sell in certain venues."

In other words, strapped-for-cash-artists are seriously discounting their work, and those of us who are looking for unique Christmas gifts are in luck.

The Art Bargain Basement has hundreds of works by almost 50 local, national, and international artists, all for sale at $200 and under (with a lot in the $10-$75 range). The best part is that all proceeds from the sale go to the artists. The sale is open Saturdays from 1pm to 6pm or by appointment through December 19 at Co-Prosperity Sphere: 3219-21 S. Morgan St. Contact Ed Marszewski at edmarlumpen@gmail.com to make an appointment. Contact huimintsen@gmail.com for more information.

On Friday the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council unanimously voted to recommend adding the remainder of the Gropius-related Michael Reese Hospital buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. Later the same day, Mayor Delay rebuked the committee and stated he will press on with demolition of the campus. As it stands, one early building will be protected and one Gropius affiliated building is temporarily safe.

Last night was the opening for Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley's photomicrographs at the Carl Hammer Gallery. Bentley was the person to discover no two snowflakes are alike. The photomicrographs on display are small (only 3"x3.5") so you'll find yourself bent over, face inches away, examining the first photos ever taken of snow crystals. This show makes for a perfect holiday-themed outing without any of the commercial cheesiness so prevalent this time of year.

Bentley, a farmer, captured these images by adapting a microscope to a bellows camera in 1885. He took pictures of over 5,000 snowflakes in his lifetime. In 1925, Bentley described the wonder of snowflakes, "Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind." This show is up until January 30th, so stop in while snow still seems beautiful because by February it will have lost its wonder for any Chicagoan.

I attended my first PechaKucha night at the Hackerspace known as Pumping Station: One, last night. If you are anything like I was before I went to this, you will have no idea what any of that means, and that's okay.

Lets start with PechaKucha; the name is based on the Japanese word for "chitchat", it was originally devised in Tokyo as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has evolved into what almost seems like a party game for the both creative and tech savvy, although neither of these are prerequisites. PechaKucha is essentially a speaker series, for instance, I saw seven different speakers talk about things ranging from the history of metal music to geology. Presenters have to follow some simple guidelines that limit their time, and the way they might decide to present, mainly, 20 images x 20 seconds. Each talk is then limited to 400 seconds (6 min 40sec) and hilarity ensues as the speakers try and fit, and fill information for each image.

Next we tackle the age old question what is a Hackerspace. These are community-operated places, where people can get together to work on projects, simply stated a hackerspace is a geek headquarters. Pumping Station: One, on north Elston, is Chicago's hackerspace, and I encourage you to check out an event at some point, especially if you are someone who has projects. Word of warning, this is not your typical stitch and bitch.

Pumping Station: One is a member based non-profit, but that non-profit status seems to only ensure that there is a space to house something as unique as this is. Okay it might not be a unique as all that, but I do have to say that within an environment such as this it is hard to imagine most people having this sort of experience.

Production is infectious and PS One, having 40 some odd active members, is a snowballing mountain of productivity. That sort of environment can make a huge impact on a person, even a single visit by a less than inspired tinkerer may yield a lifetime of change.

Allan Sekula's current solo show at the Renaissance Society, titled Polonia and Other Fables, was executed over a three-year period and is comprised of 40 photographs and related text. Also on display in the gallery is an older piece of his, an installation of a slideshow, titled "Walking on Water."

Motifs such as the hammer and sickle, May Day parades, black sites, music, and the artist's family are repeated throughout the exhibition. We can tell that Sekula is definitely trying to say something about geopolitics, and perhaps something about heritage and assimilation, but it's difficult to figure out exactly what without extensive research. The subtly snarky title of the show, Polonia and Other Fables, is the clearest indicator. For interested viewers who want to try to piece together the puzzle, Sekula, who is an accomplished writer in addition to a photographer, has provided extensive texts both on the walls and in laminated folders on tables within the exhibition. The writing in the folders reads like spontaneous memoirs. Quotes spur rants and elicit memories, which are often vague and poetic. In this sense, the writing mimics the photographs, but I'm not sure how much it adds to the photographs. It almost seems like the photographs should be supplementing the text, instead of vice-versa.

Yesterday, the Tribune had a story about "The Ghost of Daniel Boone," which is the permanent installation of murals created by 54 Boone Elementary students. The murals, to be finished next week, will be divided among three floors of the school and incorporates a story written by the fifth-graders. The story is part historical, part fiction, and the whole project is conducted by Deb Sokolow.

Sokolow's work is currently being shown at "Heartland" at the Smart Museum and has previously shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art's "12x12" Series in 2005. Her quirky and imaginative illustrations seem to rub off on her teaching style. Lauren Viera from the Tribune offers examples of the student assignments such as "Chair Sketcher, Ghost Recorder, and Smell Recorder"

The article doesn't mention if the murals will be on view to the public but it would be great if they hosted a spooky exhibition opening complete with ghost stories.

Studio Chicago is a year-long Chicago art community project beginning in January, designed to build and strengthen networks between artists and arts organizations. The deadline for applying for the first round of Featured Programs (Jan - Mar 2010) is tomorrow, December 1.

Featured Programs pose new ways of thinking about the artist's studio, serve as forums for exchanging solutions, or reflect on the practical realities of working in the studio. All programs must address any or all of these questions:

Local publishing house CityFiles Press's newest volume is Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home: Chicago's Forgotten Renaissance Man, by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, with more than 400 beautifully reproduced photographs by Alexander Vertikoff.

The book is the first major monograph about Edgar Miller (1899-1993), who was internationally heralded for his organically modern reinterpretations of Victorian-era Chicago buildings beginning in the 1920s. In his transformations, Miller used painting, glasswork, woodwork and other fine art techniques to construct wholly new environments.

I want to make sure that everyone knows how awesome AREA Chicago is. AREA is a local art/research/education/activism organization that is manifested in both a biannual magazine and a series of sponsored events. For the past four years, since AREA was created in 2005, they have focused on producing and strengthening networks among grassroots practitioners and given a voice to underrepresented Chicagoans and Chicago issues.

I got an email from them on Friday, letting me know that they've just received a $6,000 MacArthur grant for being so awesome. Check out their website, read some articles, go to some meetings if you want, and bathe in the awesomeness yourself. In such a segregated city, it is important that we reach out and stay connected with fellow Chicagoans so we know what's going on around us and so we can network with and support each other.

A little over a week ago I went to the press opening for the new Italics: Italian Art Between Tradition and Revolution show at the MCA. The guest curator, Francesco Bonami, who is also a curator of the 2010 Whitney Biennial, led a tour through the show, displaying an almost maternal pride. Italics presents the work of over 80 Italian artists who were active during the past four decades. The work is varied, some the art on display pays homage to Italian tradition while other work breaks entirely away from it. To someone who is not familiar with Italian identity politics, the show can be enjoyed simply as a display of contemporary art that most of us have never seen before, by artists who many of us have never heard of before.

It's that time of year again: when holiday lists, coupons and gift ideas jotted down on post-its fill your desk. But sometimes, shopping at department stores just doesn't cut it for your more eclectic, arty friends. So, for those unconventional one-of-a-kind gifts, you may want to hit up the School of the Art Institute this weekend.

Photographs, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints, drawings, jewelry, fashion accessories and handmade paper designs crafted by students from one of the most influential independent art schools in the country will be sold on Friday Nov. 20 (11am- 7pm) and Saturday Nov. 21 (10am - 5pm) at the MacLean Center Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Who knows, you could be investing in a piece by the next Walt Disney, Grant Wood, Edward Gorey or Jeff Koons. Visitors will also have the opportunity to chat with some of the art students before taking home a piece of their work.

The school's 21st Annual Holiday Art Sale is also a chance for the starving art students to luck out as well: 85 percent of the individual art sales' proceeds go directly to the artist -so think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.

For more information on the event contact SAIC Campus Life at (312) 629-6880 or student_life@saic.edu.

If you are reading this I can assume you go to art shows often enough to warrant reading an arts blog. Whether that is true or not, I am sure Tipping Observation at the Mars Gallery would be one of the most shiny show you would come across in, and for, quite some time.

Syndy Ziegenfuss' work consists of painting, collage, I am sure some printmaking as well as other sorts of mark making. What seems to separate Syndy's work from other collage/mixed medium works is partly their size, all of these works are 50" X 50". In their presence you are almost enveloped, an illustration that was once only 3 inches now looms, life size, in front of you, kind of both creepy and kitschy.

Now on to the shiny part. These large collages are covered by a thick blanket of resin, poured by Syndy's wife, it is like the tables at Lazo's on Western. This resin covers everything, and at first being in front of these works is fun and playful. That doesn't last however mainly because of the standard quality of each piece.

We often find ourselves in front of paintings or prints or even collages and the surface quality changes. Maybe not within the same piece but between works there are usually some changes in the surface, but not in this case. There are numerous studies about how when you eat something, with a distinct texture, your mouth gets tired and bored quickly. I would use that same analogy about my eyes in an art show that utilizes the same exact surface quality throughout. Individually, or part of a group show these works would stand out because of their approachability and surface, unfortunately those qualities do not stand up in this case.

The directors of Home Gallery, in Hyde Park, have an exciting and interesting pilot event coming up called the Op Shop. The name refers to Opportunity Shop, and the idea here is to open a temporary space where artists can bring their work, as well as services and ideas, in order to barter, sell and openly exchange. I don't want to give the impression that this is a just retail space, although that is one aspect of what will happen within this space. Artists are being encouraged to be a part of this event organically, utilizing the space to create a dynamic and evolving installation. All mediums are welcome, so artists may host a workshop, lessons, or performances as well as sell paintings or sculptures.

Another aspect of this pilot project, which, if all goes well there will be more of, is to work in conjunction with property owners, bringing attention to their vacant spaces while helping to keep the Op Shop's costs down. This will also attract new consumers to an area and will aid in revitalizing neighborhood shops that may have seen a drop in sales over the past few months. This Op Shop will be located in a vacant space currently owned by Mac Properties in Hyde Park at 1613 E. 55th St.

If you are interested in participating in The Op Shop, you should contact the Laura Shaeffer immediately. They are also looking for people to donate time to help run the space during its open hours.

Opening reception: 11/27 Fri, from 6-10 p.m. Silent Auction: 12/5 Sat from 6-10 p.m Closing party: 12/31 Thu from 6-10 p.m.

Maker of those now-iconic neighborhood typographic prints, Ork Posters will be opening an exclusive holiday shop which will feature their own typographic t-shirts, prints, postcards and posters as well as artwork from other various artists.

Ork World Headquarters is hosting a grand opening for their shop on Nov. 14, set to run through Dec. 23, in West Lakeview, 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave, Suite 133.

What started out as Chicago-import Jenny Beorkrem's search for a neighborhood poster with clean typographical design in 2007, has led to a print design sensation sold in a growing number of framing and print shops, such as Lakeview's Foursided, 2939 N. Broadway St., among other locations. Today, there are more than a dozen different designs featuring many cities or locations (Boston, Brooklyn, the Great Lakes, and even a map of the human heart and brain).

Artists being featured include Yellena James, Andy Pratt (who creates colorful watercolor prints of city skylines from Manhattan to Hong Kong), Frank Chimero, local printer/designer Starshaped Press (who can be commissioned to create stationary, invites or custom illustrations), The Little Friends of Printmaking, and many other spectacular prints begging to be hung in your apartment.

Roadworthy, paintings by Kevin Sonmor, opened on Friday Nov 6th at Addington Gallery, luckily for everyone who didn't get to the opening night it will be up through Christmas. Kevin's work is a delight to behold, and I mean that. These paintings are breathtaking, Kevin is hinting at landscape while utilizing abstract expressionistic movements to create meditative spaces. His use of space allows the viewer to search the painting and study his technique.

His ability to render is obvious, but his exploration of the paint is what is incredible. Thick passages of rich red paint, cover the majority of the paintings. So much so that it may be surprising that the show demonstrates an overall feeling of calm. Kevin has been painting, and has been recognized for doing so, for a long time now, this show proves why and really should not be missed.

The U of C has publicly announced Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's design for the 170,000 square-foot Logan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. The building will be the new home for most of the U of C's arts activities when it opens in 2012.

I'll be honest with you. I don't exactly know what the hell is going on. I just found out about this. It sounds pretty darn awesome, though. Apparently what is happening, right now, is a 24-hour decentralized art show all over our wonderful city, ending at midnight tonight.

The show is called "Something New." It was organized and curated by Nikola Tosic (an internet artist and poet based in Serbia) and Sarah Weis (multi-media artist, performer and creative director of i^3 hypermedia.) Check out this webpage to find out exactly what artwork is being shown today and where. The idea is basically to turn the whole city of Chicago into an art viewing space for one day, a sort of choose-your-own-adventure concept, relying heavily on the participation of the audience.

Making your own stencils for artwork and decoration is a relatively easy thing to do -- it just takes a bit of time and patience. A stencil is a form of template used to draw or paint identical shapes and patterns and is usually made of a thin sheet of material such as wax-coated paper, cardboard, vinyl or mylar. What is perhaps most important about the material is it does not allow moisture to pass through.

There are several ways to make stencils, as well as different uses for each. Here, I'll cover how to make my favorite one-time-use and reusable stencils.

Last Friday, SAIC opened its doors to the public for their annual graduate open studio night-- an opportunity for every single MFA student to display their newest work amidst their personal collections of sketches, magazine clippings, sofas, mini fridges, and wacky ephemera for all to see. Hundreds of people weaved like ants through endless corridors of little white studios, armed with little plastic cups of soda and fistfuls of leftover Halloween candy, creating some pretty epic gaper's blocks. I went alone this year, a good move, I think, so I was able to efficiently weave through the crowds, spending at least a few seconds with every single piece of art on view.

The experience of seeing that much new work in so little time is mindnumbingly stimulating and inspiring. Even if some of the work is a little lame, there is plenty of amazing work to make up for it-- too much, actually. Which is why, for today, I am only going to share with you some highlights from the painting and drawing studios. Sculpture, photography, performance, etc, will come soon. Upon viewing these images and the accompanying artist's websites I think you'll find that painting is alive and well, and abstraction, either gooey or op-arty, is super hot right now.

Today's front page of the Sun-Times features a story about Pedro Bell. He wrote many of the liner notes and drawings for George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. Sadly, he has never received any compensation for his work. Living in the "shabby" Hyde Park Arms, he is practically blind, living with a wound on his ankle that won't heal, receiving dialysis three times a week, and battling eviction orders.

His work was featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art's traveling exhibit, "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock 'n' Roll since 1967," but other than that has received little recognition and no money for this art. His younger brother, Maillo Tsuru says, "We're just looking for collectors at this point. There's no reason a world-class artist shouldn't have patrons."

Chicago experimental musicians Haptic have paired up with video artist Lisa Slodki to present the Museum of Contemporary Art's latest exhibit that is part of the monthly UBS 12x12 New Artist/ New Work series.

The exhibit runs until Nov. 29 and features a live performance as part of the MCA's Free Tuesdays. The exhibit, and in particular the live performance, explores the relationship between sounds and images. Slodki manipulates these images in response to Haptic's audio. Haptic, in turn, changes, adjusts and manipulates their audio contribution to the exhibit.

Live performances start at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10, 17 and 24. The artists will also lead a gallery talk at 6 p.m. prior to the Nov. 10 performance.

The Torn Pages Show is a Chicago collaboration of artists and writers teaming up to write and draw "pages torn from our most favorite imaginary books": eleven children's stories of their own invention. Artist-writer pairs include Joe Meno & Cody Hudson, Amy Guth & Pea-Be, Zach Dodson & Allison Dunn Burque, and more.

The show is set to open at OhNo!Doom Collective in early 2010, but curator Josh Lucas hopes to immortalize the original tales in a small, full-color book. Like many other creative types, he's using Kickstarter. Help the Torn Pages show reach their $2,100 goal by December 5th -- they're currently a little under halfway there.

Age 81 and still taking pictures every day, Barbara Crane's career retrospective, Challenging Vision, at the Chicago Cultural Center (CCC), hardly scratches the surface of her incredible body of work. She has shown in 170 group exhibitions, 75 solo exhibitions, and her work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Crane also taught at the School of the Art Institute for 28 years, making Chicago a central player in her canon of work.

The historical CCC, "The People's Palace," is an excellent home for this show. Nestled among Chicago skyscrapers is the most fulfilling way to view Crane's graphic explorations in her Chicago Loop Series, 1976-78 or her photos of Chicago commuters pummeling the viewer in her Commuter Discourse, 1978. Chicago Beaches and Parks, 1972-78 captures Windy City summers with glossy, bikini-clad bodies that look like stills from a multi-racial version Beach Blanket Bingo.

The key to viewing this exhibit is time. This is Crane's life's work in which her constant curiosity is deeply evident. Viewers should explore this retrospective the way Crane would--contemplate each photo and allow every to subject reveal its individual narrative.

The show is up until January 10 with gallery talks held November 19th with Crane essayist Abagail Foerstner, December 17th with curator Whitney Bradshaw, and on January 7th with the artist herself.

One would not usually consider a silver teapot or a reclining chair to be art. A wooden wine cabinet seems more appropriate in a furniture store than an art museum. But what if it's a teapot from acclaimed manufacturer Christopher Dresser, or a chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright? Now that is art.

Arts and Crafts are daily labors that integrate art with everyday life. This idea is what the newest exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago attempts to show. Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago features nearly two hundred objects in a wide expanse of media, from ceramics to stained glass, woodwork to embroidery.

On Thursday November 5th the Uncommon Ground at 1401 W Devon, in Edgewater, will officially unveil their new exhibit. On display until February 1st, this exhibit features the work of the director of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Deborah Maris Lader. Don't be fooled by the whole printmaking thing, the actual amount of prints in the show are fairly scarce, the bulk of the work are described as mixed media photographic paintings, this just means she uses an array of mediums which involves photography to create the work.

Family members can be the hardest to love, but the easiest to hate, and performance pieces in The Happy Family Series explore those "harmonic antagonisms." Presented by The Magpies, the pieces all take their cues from P.T. Barnum's controversial American Museum exhibit, The Happy Family, originally sold as "a miscellaneous collection of predators and prey, living together harmoniously in one large cage, each of them being mortal enemy of every other, but contentedly playing and frolicking together, without injury or discord."

Curated by Shawn Reddy and emceed by H.B. Ward (aka "The Tamer"), the lineup showcases more than 30 artists in three weeks. Performances range from multi-media monologues to cabaret and country music to good old-fashioned acting. For a detailed list, click here.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm, Nov. 13 through Dec. 6 (except Thanksgiving weekend). Tickets -- $12 each or three shows for $30 -- are available from The Viaduct or at 773-296-6024.  

A collection of Gary Cialdella's photographs of an area that begins in southern Chicago, and ends somewhere in Northwest Indiana, has just been published in a new book. This book of photographs took me a long time to digest, mainly because I know the Calumet region and was not very familiar with this sort of documentary photography. I don't know the area quite as well as Gregg Hertzlieb, editor and contributing essayist for this book, but I have spent enough time in the area to be familiar with the subject matter. It isn't easy to look at photograph after photograph of things you've seen before, all taken in black and white from a six foot eye level. It becomes monotonous and tiring after a while, but I am beginning to understand that there is a lot more here than was originally able to see.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning just announced a new photography contest for images of Northeastern Illinois. They're requesting images in the following categories: diversity, community vitality, natural environment, architectural/urban design and transportation, so if you want to contribute your shots, you have a chance to win photography classes, books, vegetables and walking tours, among other prizes.

The new show at Home Gallery of the works of Casey Roberts and Deedee Davis I think will appeal to a wide audience. Casey's cyanotypes, and the layered glass works of Deedee, at first seem to contrast each other fairly harshly. This, for me, ended up being just an initial reaction, because upon a second look I saw that the playfulness and mystery between the two styles complimented each other quite well.

As I approached the entrance to Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario, Liam Gillick's new survey at the MCA, I noticed a man in front of me amble up to it, pause at the edge of it, and stick his head in, quickly accessing the room to make sure there was nothing worth actually entering the room for, and abruptly turn and walk away.

If you have more patience for contemporary art than him, you will actually enter the room, spend a few minutes with the work, a few more minutes reading the wall text, and likely walk out confused and disappointed.

Floating World Gallery had its inaugural show today, with a wonderful display of mezzotints by Yozo Hamaguchi. Yozo was an oil painter until meeting E.E. Cummings in France who mentioned that his drawings would look great as prints. The rest is history as they say, Hamaguchi returned to Japan and studied printmaking. The prints on display at Floating World are from many stages throughout Yozo Hamaguchi's career. With such wide variety of work it is easy to see the progression of skill Mr. Hamaguchi achieves within the process.

A Mezzotint is done in one of two ways, additive or subtractive. Hamaguchi utilized the former, although the later has historically been more popular. You can easily see that this is the case, because along side of the prints at Floating World are the plates, which is rare for a gallery to put on display. Only adding marks where he wants the ink to print, these plates are inscribed with millions of tiny dots and line to create vast areas of even tones and gradations. His ability to manipulate the tools in creating these prints are on display for all to see, and his mastery of this technique unquestionable.

The one thing that did overshadow the Hamaguchi exhibit though, was the opening of the Floating World Gallery itself. This huge space dedicated strictly to the art of printmaking was astonishing. As a sometimes printer myself it is a joy to know that Chicago, which has a deep history with printmaking, has another stellar venue, for not only showing and selling, but for educating people on prints and the printmaking processes. With an intimate showing space upstairs and the large open gallery down, this space it sure to attract, as well as create, print lovers of all sorts.

Forgive me if this is old news, but I've just discovered the goldmine of videos on CAN TV's website. This is especially exiting because I don't have cable, so I don't get CAN TV on my television, which seems ironic somehow, but whatever. Money doesn't grow on trees.

Anyway, check out the great videos they've got on there. The local events videos are super interesting, and they have a pretty awesome collection of art-related stuff. Like this video documentation of a recent Artists at Work forum about how to make money outside of the white cube.

On Friday, Simple Gallery will present Unreleased Backgrounds, a show of Keith B. Evans' photography at Michelle Geoga Photography Studio. In advance of the show, we asked Keith for a few words about Unreleased Backgrounds. Selected images follow.

Several Chicago-based art institutions have banded up to form Studio Chicago, a year-long collaborative project, focusing on all aspects of the artist's studio. Through various exhibitions and events around the city, working artists and their sites of creative production will be celebrated and investigated from historical and contemporary perspectives.

Does that sound boring? Well, it's not. Several mind-numbingly interesting artists and galleries are participating in Studio Chicago, from Rodney Graham to Michelle Grabner; from the Hyde Park Art Center to threewalls gallery. UIC, SAIC, and Columbia College's galleries have jumped on the band wagon, too.

Studio Chicago launches with an Artists at Work Forum at the Cultural Center on Oct. 29th, and will go on for a year, manifesting itself though various exhibitions, talks, publications, tours, and research.

This should be fun- the folks down at The Hideout are putting on their own, probably even more twisted, version of Little Shop Of Horrors, produced, directed by, and starring Hideout staff, friends, and family. I am particuarly exited to see local poet and incredible soul/funk/Americana singer Marvin Tate play Audrey II "The Plant."

There will be six showings, one every evening Oct. 22-25th, and 3pm showings on the 24th and 25th. Tickets are $15. The Hideout: 1354 W. Wabansia. 773-227-4433. 21+

Golden Age, an innovative and niche bookstore on west 18th Street, has and interesting show of works opening on Saturday Oct. 17th. The show consists only of works previously published by Medium Rare. Founded in 2008 by Milano Chow, Medium Rare works with young emerging artists to publish works in an affordable and accessible format.

Mike Bancroft is an interdisciplinary community artist from Chicago and the founder and executive director of Co-op Image, a Non-Profit youth arts organization.

Gapers Block interviewed Bancroft at the site of his newest art installation, Stolen, which re-creates the claustrophobic space of a pawnshop out of a 3 car garage, executing a caustic aesthetic with ill installed faux wood paneling, low dropped ceilings, and mismatched fluorescent lighting.

Marwen, a non-profit organization serving Chicago's budding youth artist community from grades 6-12, is throwing their fourth annual Art Fair to raise funds for the art career-developing programs on November 6, from 6:30 - 10pm at Marwen's gallery space in River North, 833 N. Orleans St.

The signature event is an opportunity for the approximately 130 works crafted by Marwen students, alumni, staff and teaching artists of various media to display and sell their work and is quite literally an investment in the future of Chicago artists.

The suggested donation on opening night is $20 and will be hosted with not only food, cocktails and music but a reflection with artists who will be present to discuss their work. The Art Fair exhibition will continue until Nov. 13. Hours are Saturday, Nov. 7, 12- 6pm and Mon.-Fri., 9am-6pm. Prices of the art work range from $50 - $1000.

Every good play should have sex, drugs, and timeless moral lessons. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has all three, plus good jokes and even better music.

August Wilson's 1984 play, part of his Pittsburgh cycle, describes the plight of the black musician in depression-era Chicago. The story is masterfully directed by Ron OJ Parson and equally well executed by a small team of talented actors. Wilson's story is a quintessential drama, simultaneously timeless and modern, drawing from traditions of storytelling that go back to biblical times, and building up to an explosive ending.

I got to see the opening night of Binary, a show curated by Lauren and Francesco Levato, over at The Near Northwest Arts Council. The art show was nothing to rave about and I won't be doing that here although you can check it out through November 7, 2009. On the other hand the "Wetware Render Machine" was a hit with everyone.

This project, if you want to call it that, was an effort to create collaboratively. It unfortunately included all this writing about CGI computers, sampling and on off binary gibberish. The thing that actually took place at St Paul's Cultural Center they called "Wetware Render Machine," this was a live model session with artists, writers, students, parents, and all sort of people drawing and interacting in an open creative and active environment.

Lauren Levato actively invited people to draw, and create their own work on paper that was provided, or contribute to a number of works that were already started or even considered finished. This particular evenings event was not about one person effectively seeing through an idea or vision, although some may have seen it that way, but it was about a collective vision. That's what all the computer sampling talk was about, and although it makes sense, it made understanding the process difficult, and these days I would rather see art simplified than made overly complex. The Wetware Render Machine was as simple as it sounds complex and if you didn't get a chance to experience it, you have until the 7th of November to see the remnants of a great night of active, interactive and expressive art making.

I would like to add that there may have been a pay off for all the CGI talk that I was not there for but regardless I had a great time and bravo to both Lauren and Francesco.

The Art Institute of Chicago is hosting the first comprehensive museum exhibition of artworks by the late, self-taught artist, James Castle. Deaf since birth, Castle never adopted speech, sign language, lip-reading, writing, or any of the usual modes of communicating with other people. Instead, he communicated through his art, which, as a result, is charming and enigmatic.

Tony Wight Gallery is very quiet right now, like the stark silence after a tornado passes through, but the scene is much less cluttered. In the front room, Robyn O'Neil's giant graphite drawings hang on the walls, floating in clean, white frames, with plenty of breathing room between them. They depict post-apocalyptic scenes, which, without a familiarity with her previous work, might just look like textural investigations of hair and water. In the back room, her small drawings continue the same style and theme, but more intimately, and an upside-down ship and a cluster of pyramids are added to the mix.

The Seldoms return to the Loyola University Museum of Art this Friday, Oct. 9, as part of the abstract "Back to the Future" exhibit.

Members of The Seldoms will accompany the pieces with three new dances that respond to the vibrant, abstract works.

The Oct. 9 reception starts at 6 p.m. and includes a post-show discussion and "Paint with a Dancer" that includes cocktails provided by the Violet Hour.

Tickets are $30 for the reception, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Loyola University Museum of Art at 820 N. Michigan Ave.

Mark your calendar for two other performances: Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. and Tuesday Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets for those are $6 and include museum admission and a post-show discussion. Visit www.theseldoms.org for more information.

Renee Prible Una talks with ChicagoArts about how Teaching and her meditation practice inform her art making and had become an integral part of her process.

On Monday October 12th Renee will be doing a followup interview on ChicagoArts Live you will be able to ask questions and participate on UStream.

You can find out more about Renee on her website, and don't miss her shows in November at The Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston and at Perimeter Gallery in Chicago.

Let me begin by saying October is the beginning of Chicago Artists Month, so there will be no shortage of art events, or wine and cheese for the next thirty days. Having said that, this weekend you will want to check out the Ravenswood Art Walk or RAW. You may have seen the crow logo on red posters around town, but if not don't worry, I will fill you in on the haps right now.180 artists converge on the Ravenswood Corridor Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 6pm. There is a mapped route, and if you are inclined, the starting location is 4256 N Ravenswood (west side of the Metra tracks). This is the Central Gallery, and here you will be able to see one piece frome every artists involved in RAW Throughout the event you will also be able to participate in the GREAT ART RAFFLE featuring over $3,000 worth of art by some of our talented and most generous artists. There will also be FREE trolley service.

Don't forget to come to 4147 N Ravenswood to see the special exhibit: The Blago Project which is housed in Blagojevich's former offices (Where the FBI wiretapped and eventually raided!!) This project was open to anyone involved in the Ravenswood Art Walk and consists of artwork made to the theme of Rod Blagojevich.

If you were at the West Loop gallery openings on Sept. 11, you may have noticed a girl walking around with a dead cat on her head. As it turns out, the girl is an artist, an MFA student at UIC, and her name is Rebecca Beachy. The cat hat is one of her new pieces. I paid her a studio visit last week, and we talked about her work.

Kelly Reaves: Did you know that if you google "West Loop gallery openings," one of the first things that comes up is Alicia Eler's post on Chicago Now about you and your taxidermied cat hat?

Rebecca Beachy: Yeah, I saw that but I didn't know that it comes up when you google the art openings.

KR: Yep. You were at number three the first time I checked it but today you've moved up to the top. And your hat was also mentioned in an article on Art Talk Chicago about the openings. So I think it was a hit. How did you come up with the idea to make the hat?

I just got home from a remarkable show, so remarkable in fact, it kept me from going to the Gapers Block meet up this evening. Tonight, at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, was the opening of Tales from the Bubble, new work by Berry Sanders.

Now, I know what your thinking: retired running back Barry Sanders is making art now -- how awesome is that? And, as much as I would like to tell you that was true, it is just too good to be so. Berry Sanders is a painter from Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. He is in Chicago participating in a residency program at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

These works are all large, black and white, oil paintings on a prepared paper, you "prepare" paper because otherwise you would get unsightly stains from both the turpentine and the oil. With the smallest dimension of every piece being 55 inches, these do demand a bit of attention. The imagery is obviously narrative, and in the statement for the show they address that calling the pieces "stories". These stories do have a lot to tell, although it is ultimately left to the viewer to decide how much and what.

Screenprinter Phineas X. Jones of Octophant takes us behind the scenes of the creation of a recent poster, showing how he built up "Mr. Spaceman" and his scantily clad victim from scratch.

See art by Jones and many more at the opening of My Kind of Town at Rotofugi's gallery, 1955 W. Chicago Ave., tonight from 7pm to 10pm.

Western Exhibitions is hosting a free gallery talk with Paul Nudd, creator of the playful and intricate, if slightly repulsive Vomitromiton painting show that is currently living in the gallery. The discussion starts at 6pm this Thursday, Sept. 24th. Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N Peoria St., on the 2nd Floor.

I got the opportunity to sit down with Paul Sierra and talk with him about being an artist. I find it very inspirational to do studio visits with artists, especially ones that are 20+ years my senior.

From Chicago, to Detroit, to Omaha, to Kansas, the curators of the Heartland exhibit journeyed throughout the Midwest to find contemporary artists who have reshaped the way they see the world. Their works of art have been organized at the Smart Museum of Art with the help of Van Abbemuseum, one of Europe's premier contemporary art institutions. This exhibition offers a distinctive look at the inventive forms of artistic creation found in the interior region of America.

The exhibit features site-specific installations and performances, drawings, photography, and videos by a diverse group of artists. Along with the art showcased at the museum, Heartland includes a series of lectures and programs which will challenge the ideas of community, place, and contemporary art in the world.

This is the first time this exhibition will take place in Chicago. It was previously on display in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, from October 2008 to February 2009. The goal of that show was to expose outsiders to the reality of the Midwest and scrape away the stereotypes that so dominate the European image of the American Heartland.

Now, this exhibit comes home to the place it was initially inspired by. Heartland opens at Smart Museum of Art on the University of Chicago's campus on October 1, 2009, and runs until January 17, 2010. For more information call (773) 702-0200, or email the museum: smart-museum@uchicago.edu

CAN-TV has just posted a video of a panel on making a living as an artist, featuring those who figured out a different solution to the art/money conundrum.

Chicago's fall art gallery season has arrived--And this year, September 11 is kind of a big deal as dozens of new shows and exhibitions are launching.

On this highly anticipated opening day, ART Chicago and Chicago Gallery News have garnered a trolley service, free to the public, to take visitors around galleries in River North, Streeterville, River East and the East and West Loop.

Compiled with Chicago Gallery News' gallery listings and their September 11th schedule, here is a map of the day's openings with their adjacent trolley stops to help ease transit tension.

A theme of examining identity through multidisciplinary infusions will take the Museum of Contemporary Art's stage this season as forthcoming core performances were recently announced.

The self-examining premise could also be reflected off-stage as well this year as the MCA continues efforts to advance performances, exhibitions and educational services by converging digital media.

"We hope to draw people's native interests in music, dance and theater while at the same time crossing interdisciplinary work: infusing music with dance, film with music, [etc.]," said MCA Director of Performance Programs, Peter Taub. "By and large we are living within this multidisciplinary world--so, why do we have to think of [performance] in discipline categories?"

If you've ever considered taking a continuing education course in the arts (or simply miss the hitting-the-books, cramming-for-tests collegiate rush) take note: Loyola University of Chicago has just announced their Continuum Fall courses.

The non-credit series of courses, lectures and workshops offer students of any age or interest more than 70 different options, many of which for a less than $300 tuition.

While also offering courses in professional development, sustainability studies and communications, here are some humanities courses--from art and architecture to history and literature--worth checking out, with their schedules and cost.

Reader Seth writes, "Seeing these by crosswalks all around the loop. Cool, because the paint used is the same as crosswalk and traffic line paint. Any info on the artist or explanation? Inquiring robots want to know."

As a matter of fact we do. They're the work of a New York-based street artist known by the moniker Stikman or Stickman. His stuff is all over Brooklyn and the rest of the city, and apparently he recently visited Chicago to lay down some work.

If you're interested in Chicago's thriving street art community, check out the Chicago Street Art group on Flickr.

The latest from Ork Posters (creators of the awesome Chicago Neighborhoods poster) is an homage to the Great Lakes.

"Blue Mountain," by Clare Rosean, is the fifth in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.

"Blue Mountain" is an illustration from a series of drawings Clare Rosean did for her picture book, "The Poet." It is about a woman who is afraid to leave her house. "Blue Mountain" illustrates her love for solitude.

"Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)," by David Schalliol, is the fourth in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.

"'Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)' was taken on the South Side of Chicago in March 2009. I was out shooting for another project when the storm clouds broke and revealed the late afternoon sun -- I had to stop. Like so many buildings on South Ashland, this building has been converted into an automotive supply shop.

"The photograph is part of my Isolated Building Studies, a series exploring neighborhood change through the association between form and perception. Subject buildings are consistently framed to emphasize their relationship with their surroundings and to draw attention to the tension between their urban form and the absence of neighboring buildings. Examination of that tension is the starting point for a conversation about urban history and social change."

"Untitled," by Mark Hansen, is the third in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.

"In 'Untitled,' I am acknowledging my direct references to architecture, the grid and hand painted signs. By working with the themes of slipping, breaking, tension and gravity, I am interested in manipulating form and space as a means of blurring the line between object and abstraction."

"Like an Asteroid," by Sharon Parmet, is the second in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.

"This piece was inspired by a recent New York Times article discussing the likelihood of sending a manned shuttle to the Moon. Not very likely! I thought it strange that NASA may be asked to shift its focus to something else, like an asteroid."

"O'Hare Staging Area #10," by Dmitry Samarov, is the first in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.

"O'Hare Staging Area #10" is from a series of paintings done on site at the O'Hare Taxi Staging Area while waiting to be dispatched out to the terminals to pick up fares.

This beautiful image is a collaboration between artists Joseph Finn and Madeline Carol Matz, and is based on a photo taken of a little girl touching "Cloud Gate" in Millennium Park. It's available as a print on Etsy.

After months of delays, Zaha Hadid's proposed Burnham Plan Centennial Pavilion is due to officially open on Tuesday. If you can't wait to see it until then, the Trib has a sneak peek.

Local artist Joseph Lappie is offering 50-70% discounts on his work until Aug. 1. The fire sale on paintings, prints, drawings and etchings will help his move to Iowa, plus lighten his load a little. If you like what you see, check out a blind art auction he is hosting at his place of residence (2538 N. Central Park) Aug. 1.

In a metropolis of neighborhoods it's easy to feel trapped in your comfort zone--which may seem like an oxy-moron until visiting friends in Wicker Park equates to traveling abroad. And the city's way too big to truly appreciate commuting back and forth from Wrigleyville to the Loop.

That's why the Chicago Office of Tourism's Neighborhood Tours feels like you're discovering an entirely new, self-sustained city a mile or two from your apartment. OK, I know what you're thinking, "But I'm local, those tours are for those tourists who take pictures of themselves in front of Harpo Studios or wait an hour to get into Giordano's." The Neighborhood Tour guides know exactly how you feel--they don't even tour the Loop; or Wrigleyville for that matter. So why not venture a tour of Kenwood and Hyde Park or further South to Pullman's Historical District--two of the most popular tours among Chicagoans.

If you're like me, you love the way some things look more than they taste: cotton candy looks like sugar-spun clouds of heaven but leaves an unfortunate residue and makes the molars tingle. If you're not like me, you can still have it both ways with local crafter Steff Bomb's plush, a poly-filled array of sweet, vegetable, and occasionally Krylon-wielding delights.

Dip into the art scene next month with two free gallery events, both brought to you by the Art Dealers Association of Chicago.

Take a free guided tour during lunch Saturday, Aug. 1, in the River North Gallery District. From 11am to 12:30pm, the Starbucks Saturday Guided Art Tour will bring you to the Printworks Gallery, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Byron Roche Gallery and Habatat Galleries. Meet at the Starbucks at 750 N. Franklin St.

From 5 to 7pm Aug. 6, stop by galleries in River North and West Loop to explore art, meet friends and enjoy some refreshments.

About a month ago, Lindblom Math and Science Academy students placed a series of art installations in and on vacant buildings and adjacent lots in Englewood neighborhood.

"I Approved This Message" is a collection of site-specific sculptural objects that address a myriad of topics ranging from the culture of violence that is tragically taken the lives of 36 Chicago Public School students to homelessness. Some of the works will be driven by texts created by the students for installation on the viaduct while others will create large-scale installations in a variety of media using the public space as a billboard to express their growing concerns about society. Media range from vinyl on abandoned buildings to stickers to stenciled imagery.

The one-of-a-kind artworks were created through a partnership with The Museum of Contemporary Art, 35 students from Lindblom, teachers Nathan Diamond and Zack Linderman, and artists Mike Bancroft and Amanda Lichtenstein.

Chicago visual artists are invited to submit their work to a competition sponsored by Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank.

The four winning artists will be featured on Gapers Block, and their work will be offered as prints for sale on Wall Blank during "Chicago Week" in August 2009.

A fire hydrant made of canned goods on display at the Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago. Captured by swanksalot.

Are you an artist who identifies yourself (or your work) as LGBTIQ? Ever wish for some grant money to put toward your projects? Chances Dances, the popular monthly dance party that seeks to brings together the varied LGBTIQ communities of Chicago and create a safe space for all gender expressions, could grant you this wish--in the form of $500. The Critical Fierceness Grant provides financial assistance to queer artists in order to foster "personal exploration, community development and radical change through art." The application is available here, and be sure to apply soon! The deadline is June 30.

Catch Chances Dances on the third Monday of the month at the Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave.), as well as the spin-off dance party, Off Chances, on the second Tuesday of the month at Danny's (1959 W. Dickens Ave.).

The Art Dealers Association of Chicago, composed of fine art dealerships ranging from the antique to the avant-garde, has added a second round of gallerys to their weekly Saturday tours in River North. Beginning July 18th and taking place every 6-8 weeks, the ADAC will take groups through the burgeoning West Loop art community. Stops on the tour include Peter Miller Gallery, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Carrie Secrist Gallery, and McCormick Gallery. For more information about the new West Loop tour and their longstanding River North tours, see the ADAC website.

Photo of Kim Keever's "Wildflowers," from the Carrie Secrist Gallery website. Click on image for spectacular full-size version.

Peter Jones Gallery is hosting a huge rummage sale this weekend. Its lease is ending, and the members of the family-run operation are moving on after a quarter-century of (cheaply) housing Chicago's fledgling arts and performance projects.

A few years ago, the first time I stepped into the gallery, I took a sidelong glance back at the door I'd come through: to make sure I hadn't accidentally pulled an Alice-in-Wonderland. The gallery seemed like a parallel universe -- full of color, light, creativity, plant life, and I swear, someone strumming an acoustic guitar.

Speaking of Studio Gang, the firm earned new accolades for a Chicago residence known as the Brick-Weave House. The residence makes use of 30% of the existing structure, including a carriage house, and incorporates a garden into the front section of the building. Doing all of that on a relatively tight budget earned its inclusion on Architectural Record's Record Houses 2009 list.

(((christopher))) took this photo of local artist Gabe Lanza's robot sculpture. Check out Lanza's website for more information and photos of his other pieces.

Merging nature and culture with characteristic fluidity, Olafur Eliasson's Take Your Time demonstrates the artist's ability to use water, color, space, and light to envelop the viewer. The exhibition is the first comprehensive survey in the U.S. of Eliasson's work, spanning 15 years of his career, and it includes sculpture, photographs, and "immersive environments" inspired by the artist's native Scandanavia. Organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art from May 1 through September 13. Eliasson talks to the public about his work on Tuesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at the MCA. Advance tickets are sold out (due, no doubt, to a cascade of interest), but you can still get on the waitlist.

With all of our recent posts about the Art Institute's planned price increase, we thought it might be nice this week to showcase this photo of two patrons enjoying the art and atmosphere of the museum. Thanks to icecreamcastles for sharing it.

Back in 2008, two prints from Chicago photographer Colleen Plumb's series "Animals Are Outside Today" were selected to participate in 20x200. "Field Museum Sue" and "Tiger Rug, Cabrini Green" were offered at a range of prices, but you can still get versions of both on the cheap. If you'd like to check out other Chicago-affiliated artists, you can do that too.

nvaughn found this canvas attached to a tree by the canal. Others report finding similar work around the city.

From April 4-15, 2009, Mess Hall will host "Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago," an exhibition featuring counterculture documents and art from the Chicago hobohemian era, as well as audio from a rare interview with Studs Terkel.

The exhibit will make use of documents drawn from the Newberry Library and other sources, particularly those related to the Dill Pickle Club and its affiliated artists and activists.

billeguerriero contributed this photo of the artwork at the newly renovated Kedzie Brown Line station.

This drawing caught our eye and led us to discover Uncle Fun's new Artist in the Window series. Uncle Fun's is looking for artists to, in their words, "sit in one place making art for 8 hours for no pay whatsoever...(It's just like what you'd do on a weekend anyway, only you'll be gawked at by passersby!)" Thanks to qtouch for clueing us in to another excellent reason to visit Uncle Fun's.

Chicago screen printer Mat Daly posted some great new stuff on his website, including an art print called Waterloo Bridge, a nine-color cityscape of London featuring--yes--the Waterloo Bridge. The image will appear on the cover of a new poetry collection by Wendy Cope called Two Cures for Love, forthcoming from Faber & Faber. Created from hand cut stencils, this limited edition print is available for sale on Daly's website, along with two new rock posters.

Baker/artist extraordinaire Zilly Rosen created an amazing 5,900 cupcake mosaic featuring President Obama and Lincoln in honor of President's Day.

It's not too late to check out the 2009 Snow Days competition in Grant Park. Participants from all over the Midwest created the 15 ice sculptures on display in the Spirit of Music Garden this weekend and a winner (determined by viewer votes) was crowned on Friday. Now the large ice sculptures loom until they start to melt. With highs in the low-40s predicted for Tuesday, the city's special events website is listing the exhibit's closing date as Monday, Feb. 16.

Check out some photos from the exhibit on Uncommon Photographers here and here, or view the original sketches and proposals for the sculptures on the city's website.

It's not every day -- or ever, really -- that a truckload of Chicago musicians trek across the country to celebrate an inauguration, and today Jay Ryan, who runs the screen print poster workshop Bird Machine, is offering up his limited edition Big Shoulders Ball poster for just $20. There are only 450, and you can buy one here.

If you're keen on owning a piece of Chicago history, dropping a Jackson on this print is probably a better way to go than buying an overpriced newspaper on eBay.

Among cultural centers dramatically affected by the economic downturn, the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) has been particularly affected. In anticipation of even rougher times, the Board of Directors has reduced its budget by 15% for 2009 and four employees -- a quarter of the staff -- have been laid off. In response, the HPAC is holding a public forum tonight in which they "want your questions, reactions and suggestions to changes at the Center." The event starts at 6pm in its 4833 rph space, 5020 S. Cornell.

Curtis Mann will be the featured in February's UBS 12x12 exhibit of local artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art, beginning Feb. 7. Mann was profiled on Gapers Block last March. Mann re-shoots and enlarges found images of countries in conflict such as Israel, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq on Flickr and other photo sharing sites, then erases and destroys portions of them with nails and caustic substances such as bleach.

Large sections of the images are replaced with an ambiguous white void or are reduced to ghostly monochromatic washes of yellow and red. The original landscapes and context of the anonymous travel and family photos are severely altered and intended to reflect on the large-scale violence occurring in the photograph's setting and the fragility of the photographic image.

Tuesday night a crowd packed the largest room at Ann Sather's on Belmont to hear the City of Chicago Curator of Public Art, Elizabeth Kelley, talk about the new permanent art installation at the renovated Belmont El stop. Ms. Kelley carefully explained the 11-step process for acquiring art for a public setting, from choosing the site, to picking participating artists, to installation. The CTA worked from a database of several hundred artists, then gave each of the six finalists $500 to develop a submission. 

On-site requirements included filling a 6 feet tall by 20 feet wide wall space with a tile mosaic. Two columns several feet in front of the wall would be similarly tiled. The artists were asked to reference this work to an orange steel sculpture that will sit outside the station. They were also specifically asked not to create a baseball/Cubs theme. 

The crowd, aged 7 to 70, enjoyed viewing large illustrations representing ideas from the six artist finalists. Each individual idea was carried through the room while Ms. Kelley read the artist's inspirations and intentions, so all present were easily able to see each idea. The audience were not given artist's names, and later, artists in the audience were asked not to comment.

It would be foolish to describe the art, because words would not do it justice. The six entries included sweet cartoons, fantasy images, abstract thoughts, and even classical references. More than one included samples of finished mosaic tiles. 

When solicited for their opinions, various audience members spoke in favor of all but one of the six. The vast majority of comments, however, praised the work of David Csicsko, whose work had been seen in the old station. His mural presentation, showing wonderful characters on a train car, had a life and energy that wowed. Close up, his sample tile revealed multi-colored striped faces with raised eyes that seemed to pop. He also proposed a mosaic of three giant stylized eyes on each pillar -- a perfect image for their placement. 

When the audience was asked for opinions, particular attention was paid to two small girls, each of whom spoke up in favor of Csiscko's ideas, because those were the citizens who would be using the station for the next 20 years. Noteworthy was the audience member who remarked that while all of the entries would work for several of the CTA stations, only Csiscko's was perfect for Belmont. A common audience theme was that his entry embodied the essence of the Lakeview neighborhood.

No decision was made at the meeting. The final decisions will be made by the Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.

katherine of chicago uploaded this photo of fans paying tribute to street artist Solve, who was murdered in Logan Square this summer. For more on his work, read this interview Gapers Block conducted with him and other street artists in 2007.

Patrick Skoff, who you might have seen painting Obama portraits behind the anchors on CBS 2 Chicago weeks before the election, is now selling his 36" x 44" cardboard Obama portraits on Facebook for $20 each. The purchaser gets to pick the two-tone color combination.

Skoff has gained a following via Facebook and Craigslist with his "free art hunts." He deposits above-the-couch-size paintings in public places in Chicago, then lists their location for fans to seek and acquire, free of charge. All he asks in return is a picture of the artwork in your place. He also sells plenty of affordable art, and has been on a bit of an Obama kick lately. Ah, but who hasn't?

Fourteen years ago Flora Doody, a teacher from Lane Tech High School, made a call to the Chicago Conservation Center (CCC) about a school mural that was detaching from a wall. What CCC head conservator Barry Bauman found when he arrived to examine the painting was not just a damaged fresco, but a massive collection of Works Progress Administration and pre-WPA-era murals -- 67 in all -- many of them badly in need of repair.

After a conservation proposal was made to restore three of the northwest side high school's murals, Doody began fundraising to conserve the remaining 64, conducting student docent tours and bake sales. Her grassroots effort paid off: the CCC launched a sweeping campaign to track down, analyze and restore many of the city's WPA and pre-WPA-era murals, beginning with works that had been whitewashed -- literally buried under two layers of white paint -- at Lucy Flower High School, and eventually expanding to 38 additional schools.

AREA Chicago recently connected with dozens of mover/shaker artists in Chicago to discuss socially engaged art, and pinpoint where art and politics collide to form action. Check out in-depth interviews with folks from Mucca Pazza, Theater Oobleck, threewalls, Experimental Station and more.

The MCA upped the hip a notch recently by adding folktronica duo The Books to its Spring 2009 performance schedule. The May 3 concert, co-sponsored by the Empty Bottle, is part of the ongoing MCA Stage program, which expands the museum's reach beyond visual art and into the realms of theater, music, dance and other media. The Books' multimedia performance includes an Artists Up Close pre-show talk with members Nick Zamutto and Paul de Jong.

Your $20 ticket gets you one free museum admission on the performance date or any day during the following week. And heads up students: tickets are $10 with valid ID.

Maybe you've seen these wheat paste faces grinning out at you as you grab a Red Eye or pass a doorway. You're not the only Chicagoan to take notice. There is an entire Flickr group dedicated to capturing and collecting the work of this prolific graffiti artist and speculating on his identity.

"I dig the the goons. They are like off-brand, Third World Sesame Street-like characters from a show that you could only pick up on a scrambled channel." -- jugheadjones, via Flickr

It's not all bad news about Chicago museums. The Art Institute is offering free general admission again this year during the entire month of February. You still have to pony up for the special exhibits, but 10 dollars gets you in to both Edward Hopper and Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light (both open Feb. 16). All additional special events and gallery talks in February will be free.

There's a great opportunity at the Museum of Contemporary Art for some stitching, bitching and conversation with the great artist Karen Reimer.

From 5:30 to 8pm at the MCA's Puck Café, knitters and hookers (crocheters) will be getting together with guest artist Karen Reimer to share techniques and stories and some good wintery bitching.

Check out more of Reimer's conceptual fiber art including embroidery here, here (LOVE the Equal packet and crossword puzzle) and here.

Design firm gravitytank commissioned local artist Cody Hudson to create an installation for their reception area. FoGB Craig Berman, who works there, made this video of the process:

The overpass at Grand Avenue and the underpasses at North Avenue, Sacramento Boulevard and Logan Boulevard and 90-94 have some new residents: dozens of piñatas stuffed with emergency blankets. They're part of "a one-time community based sculptural installation organized in collaboration with arts organizations throughout Chicago, a high school art classroom on the South Side, and a number of Chicago artists."

It aims to draw attention to the issue of homelessness in Chicago and the spaces that used to act as shelter before they were fenced off/in. The piñatas are the output but are far less important than the community and awareness brought about by the process of manufacturing. Over 60 Chicago area youth, more than 30 community members, and numerous artist volunteers provide a large scale and social context.

The piñatas are made of materials reclaimed from the Center for Green Technologies dumpsters and trash piles alike throughout Chicago. The paper mache pinatas are %100 biodegradable and are stuffed with emergency space blankets in case some of the underpasses are inhabited. Production began at the factory nearly two years ago in a makeshift workshop on Chicago's West Side. Demand increased as the fences went up and now we are out of space.

In this collapsing economy the factory could no longer afford the high cost of storing the piñatas or feeding the volunteers. Labor conditions also began to deteriorate as temperatures fell and it became evident that it was time to release these recycled beasts to the streets from which they came. So come on down to your nearest underpass to see if the menagerie is in your neighborhood (bring a plastic bat and a ladder if you need a blanket).

Tangible World has created some great gocco prints, as well as t-shirts and posters, worthy of giving to your Chicago-obsessed friend this holiday season. I'm a fan of the simplicity of this one.

And speaking of holiday shopping, Blue Buddha Boutique is hosting a holiday show tonight from 5pm to 9:30pm, featuring its own chainmaille designs as well as art, jewelry and crafts from a variety of local artisans, including the Chicago Craft Mafia. Worth checking out.

Red Tape Theatre is sponsoring a gathering of fringe artists in January. Artists of all media are encouraged to submit a proposal. The goal: conversation and networking amongst artists -- it's lonely out there on the fringe.

Photographer Daniel Shea recently moved to Chicago from Baltimore and would like to learn more about the city by checking out Chicagoans' photography. If you have something you'd like to send him, let him know.

The Contemporary Art Workshop mounts its final exhibition this Friday, Dec. 5, with a reception from 5:30pm to 9pm celebrating the opening of "The End" by Matt Davis and John Lyon, and honoring CAW's 60-year history. The exhibition runs through Jan. 23; the Workshop remains open until April 30.

32nd and Urban, a street art gallery at 3201 S. Halsted in Bridgeport, is closing due to the down-turning economy and the opening of a new police station across the street. "Our new neighbors are making it difficult for us to continue what we do," owners Peter Kepha and Lauren Pacheco said in an email. They are searching for a new space, but in the meantime will be throwing a $5 fundraiser/closing party this Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10pm to 3am, with DJs and live art installations. Should be a fun, bittersweet time.

There will be a memorial show for artist Patrick W. Welch this Saturday from 6pm to 9pm at 1407 E. 54th Pl. in Hyde Park. The show will exhibit his micromentalist paintings from 1997 to 2007. Call 773-363-5935 for more information.

Each year, the art education nonprofit Marwen produces a set of holiday cards based on paintings and drawings by its students, such as Dusk on Michigan Avenue by Danielle Scardina, shown here.

The cards can be purchased either blank or with a personalized greeting inside, and are available in bulk as well as in assorted sets -- so if you're thinking about what cards to use for the company greeting card mailer, here's a good place to start.

The Criterion Collection releases an expanded version of Wes Anderson's debut film, Bottle Rocket, next Tuesday, Nov. 25. The packaging features artwork by Chicago illustrator/artist Ian Dingman. "Which, as a lot of people know, is a departure for Anderson since he has always used his brother to create the art," GB reader Bryan Barker notes. Love the hand-drawn Futura.

From November 22 to December 6, Scott Projects presents new and previously unseen works by web-based art collective gOODdraWERs. This online community was created to accommodate the free exchange of Internet-based drawings and dialogue.

Now various Good Drawers are displaying works in the real (not cyber) world. Showing video, photographs, painting, sculptures, and "kinds of installations that don't work on the Internet," contributing artists include: Korey Vincent, Justin Swinburne, Maxfield Hegedus, Mikie Poland, Natalie Labriola, Sarah Elliot, Billy Kang, Arvid Wretman, Jake Sheiner, Johan Stenbeck, Maggy Vincent, and Pierson Vincent. Additionally, Michael Thibault presents a new publication of writings, ANTI-MUSIC.

Works Not on the Internet goes live on Saturday, November 22, with an opening reception from 6 to 10pm. Come and browse.

gOODdraWERs: Works Not on the Internet / November 22-December 6 Scott Projects (next to Heaven Gallery) / 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., #3

Our Editor and Publisher Andrew Huff uploaded this picture of artist Kate Hoyer putting the finishing touches on her work.

The Trubble Club is a group of local artists -- Al Burian, Lilli Carre, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Anya Davidson, Lucy Knisley, Rachel Niffennegger, Burnie McGovern, Onsmith, Laura Park, Aaron Renier, Grant Reynolds, Becca Taylor, Jeremy Tinder, Marco Torres and others -- who get together once a week to create collaborative comics, with each one contributing one panel. The result is often beautiful and almost always utterly surreal.

The Trubble Club recently produced a comic book collecting a bunch of their strips. It's available at Quimby's for just $3.

The Chicago Humanities Festival co-presents Train Time: A Sound Installation at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The installation evokes the lakefront's former life as a train yard and incorporates the sounds of past, present and future railroading. The clank of wheels over rail ties, the hiss of boilers and diesel engines, and the call of train whistles are just a few elements of this sound portrait by Experimental Sound Studio. Composed by Olivia Block, Shawn Decker, Ryan Ingebritsen and Lou Mallozzi, Train Time: A Sound Installation ran last weekend and will be on schedule for November 8th and 9th from 10am to 10pm. It's free to the public.

Coconut Bill uploaded this photo of The Grocer's local street art. Maybe it's a pumpkin dressed as an orange for Halloween? Or maybe it's just an orange. Anyway, stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!

There's a cool video about the Busy Beaver Button Company on a Sun-Times blog this month. Busy Beaver makes custom buttons on demand and also places gumball-style button vending machines around town at places like Atomix Cafe and The Neo-Futurists theater. Their headquarters, tucked away in the basement of a Logan Square walk-up, is a button-lover's paradise, and the video gives a quick tour of all its indie glory.

In the last few days, a photograph by Amir Normandi that was located in the window of the Pilsen Together Chamber of Commerce became involved in a controversy that included threats of violence. It was consequently removed from the exhibit but ultimately reinstalled, albeit in a less visible location.

Brilliant fall colors and amazing textures. Thanks to Tiffany Gholar for uploading this photo of her work.

On October 15 at UIC's Gallery 400, art puts biology under the microscope. As part of a group exhibition called Biological Agents: Artistic Engagements in Our Growing Bioculture, three artists--Brandon Ballangée, Caitlin Berrigan, and Natalie Jeremijenko--take a closer look at what it means to be human, to be animal in an increasingly complex world.

Curated by Christa Donner and Andrew Yang, these works explore biological agency in a time of genetic modification and climate change. But the curators assure that the creative approaches to these issues aren't all serious. Rather than (according to a press release) "simply reinforcing the fear and fetishization of biology found in many popular conceptions of science," the works are playful and constructive.

Biological Agents opens October 14 and runs through November 22. An opening reception will be held on October 15 from 5-8 p.m.

On October 10, an exhibition called You Rule Me: A Show of Power opens at Scott Projects, a new art space adjacent to Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park. Curated by Brieanne Hauger, this show features work that questions authority (or at least the concept of authority), namely: Who or what rules whom?

Artists speaking truth to power include: Kelly Allen, Lucas Blair, Scott Cowan, Melissa Damasauskas, Christa Donner, Rob Duarte, Grant Ernhart, Maggie Haas, Michael Hunter, Katy Keefe and Frank Van Duerm, Thomas Macker, Todd Mattei, Mollie McKinley, Tristan Perich and Kunal Gupta, Montgomery Perry Smith, Robert Snowden, Margaret Taylor, Andreas Warisz, Sarah Beth Woods, and Nicholas Wylie.

The opening for You Rule Me happens Friday, October 10 from 7-10 p.m. Hauger gives a gallery talk at 6 p.m. The show will close on October 30 with a reception (also from 7-10) featuring performances by Margaret Taylor and Doug Rosenberg.

The Bridgeport art scene has been called many things--e.g., "fledging," "emerging," and "the community of the future." In 2006, the New York Times Travel section described the scene as "art where you least expect it." But regardless of how developers and residents and journalists depict it, the neighborhood is home to plenty of new and established art spaces worth checking out.

In celebration of Chicago Artists Month, Bridgeport is showcasing some of these venues as part of a free, self-guided art walk. On October 24-26, a variety of galleries and artist studios will be open to the public, including: Zhou B Art Center, 32nd & Urban, The Co-Prosperity Sphere, MN Gallery and Studio, East Bank Artist Lofts, 33 Collective Gallery, Mutherland Gallery, and Bridgeport Coffee House. These spaces will be open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the art walk, and on Friday, DeLaTorre Fine Arts will be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Rotofugi has one of the cooler things I've seen in awhile: Frank Kozik's "Ludwig Van" bust. They've got the fluorescent yellow version (only 50 of each colorway have been produced) for $200.

In further Playboy news, the venerable men's magazine is auctioning off 17 illustrations from the archives. Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas will auction off pieces from "Playboy: The Art of Beauty" on October 15th but bids are already being taken online. Some of the artists include Patrick Nagel, LeRoy Neiman, Erich Sokol, Harvey Kurtzman and pinup master Alberto Vargas.

The 77th edition of New American Paintings, a juried exhibition-in-print, is all about the Midwest, and features twenty-one Chicago and Illinois based artist including installation artist Michael Genorese, currently MCA Chicago's Winter Artist in Residence and most recently of the Pedway Project. Other artists of note include Steve Amos, Molly Briggs, Sari Maxfield and Jeff Mueller.

Adding to their weekly Saturday tours of the River North gallery district, the Art Dealers Association of Chicago (CADA) is now adding a new tour of the West Loop gallery district to their docket. CADA's new tours of the West Loop gallery district are scheduled for every 6 to 8 weeks, with the next tour slotted for Saturday, September 27 from 1:30 to 3:00pm.

Thomas McCormick, who is the director of the McCormick Galleries, will lead the River North tour through the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Walsh Gallery, Carrie Secrist Gallery and to the McCormick Gallery. Both the River North and West Loop gallery CADA tours are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. For more information visit CADA's website or call 312-649-0065.

DvA Gallery is closing its Lincoln Park location after five years, and merging with Rotofugi Toy Store & Gallery. David van Alphen will be taking the position of Gallery Curator at Rotofugi in order to devote more time to caring for his son Jack, diagnosed with Down Syndrome. David's other venture, Slingshot! Press, a source for limited edition affordable prints, will continue to bring top notch underground artists to your collection. DvA Gallery's Going Away Party will be held Saturday, September 13th from 6-9pm, and the last official day will be Sunday, September 28th. Be sure to stop by and say hello and goodbye to one of the more interesting underground artist galleries in Chicago.

DvA Gallery is located at 2568 N. Lincoln Ave. Rotofugi Toy Store & Gallery is located at 1953-55 W. Chicago Ave.

Spread your own version of holiday cheer this year, and create a Christmas tree that says more than "I bought these cheap-ass decorations at Target". The Neo-Futurists, the Chicago theater company best known for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind needs your help to decorate its lobby for its holiday show, A Very Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol. They're looking for three visual artists to create unique trees that speak to a theme of Dickens' famous tale. The show's creator, ensemble member Kristie Koehler Vuocolo, says the show is "equal parts deconstruction of the Dickens story, new and political takes on the original, and gripping personal tales that relate to its themes."

When not performing music under the name Lucky Dragons, Los Angeles-based artists Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Anderson run a drawing collective called Sumi Ink Club. Wielding brushes dipped in ink, they lead group art-making sessions to create intricately detailed, collaborative projects (drawings, murals, wearable art). Anyone and everyone can attend these meetings. According to the collective's official website, Sumi Ink Club is non-hierarchical--open to "all ages, all humans, all styles"--and uses group drawings "as a means to open and fortify social interactions that bleed into everyday life." In other words, pick up a brush and you might just keep, keep bleeding love.

On Sunday, August 31, Sumi Ink Club will host a free group drawing meeting at Golden Age in Pilsen. The lazy Sunday afternoon art session starts at 1 p.m., and Golden Age encourages interested participants to bring "friends, brushes, brains, ears, eyes, and positive attitudes." Afterward, you can catch a Lucky Dragons show at Berry UMC in Lincoln Square. Visit the Lucky Dragons website for more info.

Walking by St. Paul's Cultural Center on North Avenue, it's hard not to notice the steady stream of bike messengers decked out in brilliantly pink attire flowing in and out of the cathedral basement. Ducking in, a voice booms out from the back:

Created by Austin artist Jaclyn Pryor, Pink: A (Love) Courier Service is a community-based, interactive art installation that encourages Chicagoans to share their love with one another through hand typed, hand delivered love letters delivered around Chicago by an army of pedaling volunteers.

"I wanted to create something that engaged people in an unexpected way," says Pryor, who first began the service as a public art project in 2006. "People go to museums and decide they want to see this or that, and it's very one-sided. I wanted to get people involved without their knowing it, as well as to encourage communication and expression."

The expressions are loud and clear: participants sending off their love letters hook their messages up to a revolving clothesline and, with the aid of a jumpsuited "Lovefactory" worker, scream out "LOVE ON THE LINE!" as their typed letter is sent down to be bottled, bowed and biked out to its lucky recipient.

The 85 volunteers who keep Pink running work in full view of the visitors, hand sewing tags and mapping out routes as the Lovefactory churns along. "I wanted people to see the process behind the product," says Pryor, who is known as Heffi McHefferson while on duty. Core members work about five days a week, though residing at the Cultural Center can make it difficult for factory workers to remove themselves from the environment. "We checked out sixty poetry books from the Chicago Public Library," says Pryor, "but now there are only fifty-seven...we really needed to get ourselves some movies."

"It's pink everywhere, always," says messenger Tuesday, nee Emily Jantzen, part of the core Austin group working and living at the Lovefactory. "I love it, though. I've gotten some interesting reactions from people, going out in my jumpsuit trying to find local businesses willing to support us. Riding in elevators in these outfits has been particularly fun. Chicago's been pretty receptive to us, though. It's been great."

With only one day left before the Lovefactory closes up shop, Pink was still taking on volunteers, training newbie Untitled 2008 (Whitney) at 5:00pm on Thursday afternoon. "They found me at the farmer's market in Logan Square," she says, pulling on a hot pink vest and smiling for her courier headshot. "All I could think was, oh, I want to do this."

Pink: A (Love) Courier Service will be open from 11am - 10pm tomorrow, after which it will close its doors to Chicago - but not before a massive potluck dinner, to which any and all are invited. Bring a dish, open your heart and share the love as fast as you can - Pink is here to help you put your love on the line.

Pink is stationed at the St. Paul's Cultural Center, 2215 W North Ave. Hours at 11am - 10pm. Potluck dinner will take place on Friday, August 15th. Bring a dish, share the love.

Local artist Jeff Zimmerman's Living Art series adds a rare element of audience interaction at the Ravinia Festival's annual summer concerts. Zimmerman's specialty is in interactive art----specifically in murals that require observers to actively influence the art itself. Tanishq, a jewelry retailer in Schaumburg, sponsors Zimmerman in the next two events of the series. Tanishq and Zimmerman hope to meld their creative spirit with that of the concertgoers by communally creating a mural before the concerts begin. The first communal event featuring Zimmerman and Tanishq takes place on Saturday, August 16th from 5pm to 7:30pm. Their time together continues during the Tony Bennett concert on August 23rd.

While the final nail isn't yet laid in the Polariod coffin, a group of Chicagoans and New Yorkers are contemplating its and our demise in "Death + Extinction: A Polaroid Exhibition" at the Chicago Art Department. A selection of 250 of the 300 photographs taken for Before I Die I Want To, a project by Nichole Kenney and K.S. Rives, will be on display until the end of the month.

Earlier this year, Finestra Art Space -- a 125 square-foot exhibition and installation space that overlooks the elevator lobby of the fifth floor in the Fine Arts Building -- invited artists to conduct "visual research" by posing a hypothesis, then responding to it. Finestra's featured artist for August, Barbara Koenen, came up with Muse: an installation in which she explores what she perceives as the "sudden and simultaneous popularity of pomegranates in the U.S., and the declaration of the War on Terror."

Pomegranates, Koenen points out, are an ancient symbol of fertility, as well as the source of the word "grenade." ("The word for 'grenade' and the word for 'pomegranate' are the same in Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian, and Russian," she adds.) They're also native to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran -- all countries with whom the U.S. government has had "issues" in recent decades. Koenen's installation includes imagery involving both the flavor-bursty fruit and its body-bursting namesake, in an effort to to attain her hoped-for result: "I hope I'm wrong."

On a related note: The War on Terror isn't the only newsworthy connection between pomegranates and conflict. Last month, POM Wonderful won a $1.5 million verdict in its suit against Purely Juice Inc., whom POM had accused of false advertising and misleading marketing. According to the opinion handed down by the U.S. district court in Los Angeles, Purely Juice had been trying to pass off impure (i.e., sugar-sweetened) pomegranate juice as "pure."

Opening reception 5-9 p.m. Through Aug. 30. 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 500. Open Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday 2-6 p.m., and by appointment.

Lakeview has a new place to shop for interior accessories, Homeboy. Promoting only Chicago-area artist and designers such as SODA by Amy, Circa Ceramics and Susan Volk, this is just the place to find that unique one-of-a-kind item for any home.

Homeboy is located at 3327 North Broadway Street, and is open daily 12 noon to 7pm Monday thru Saturday, 8pm on Thursdays and 5pm on Sundays. 773-472-0548

ThreeWalls just announced a talk with sculptor Michael Jones McKean on Saturday, August 1 at 3pm. Hey, if he's asking "What is the proper tenor between dissonance and harmony?" and "What lies amidst the physically experienced and that which our brain grasps and calls knowledge?," that sounds pretty good to me. His show "Brown gold braid and field and plant life" closes on August 2, so if you've been wanting to see it, seize the day.

Photography fans, take note: From now through Aug. 8, the Co-Prosperity Sphere hosts Hic et Nunc_(Here and Now) A Survey Of New Guard Photography, a show featuring work by Columbia College graduates. Photogs Nathan Baker, Jon Gitelson, Jason Lazarus and Brian Ulrich are the "veterans" of the bunch, having attended Columbia at the turn of the millennium. The four are friends, and have all gone on to have their works featured in galleries and museums, or sold to buyers. Meanwhile, Claudia Burns, the team of Terttu Uibopuu and Sarah Mckemie, Sean Fader, Aron Gent, Mandukhai Kaylin and Tealia Ellis Ritter have all just recently graduated from art school. The show is supported by the nonprofit Public Media Institute. 3219-21 South Morgan St. Hours by appointment.

Walk into Three Walls Gallery right now and you'll wonder if the insurance agent has been by yet. A fallen oak tree with a treehouse in it fills the space, seemingly dropped there by some magical tornado.

The installation is the work of Material Exchange, entitled The way things drag their futures around. Although it looks like the tree is intact, F News' Untitled blog reveals that it was brought in in pieces and carefully reassembled, with bark hiding the seams. The piece is on display through Aug. 2.

The Art Sign Project is one man's quest to erect 1,000 "ART" signs along Logan Blvd. In addition to raising awareness of the presence (or absence) of art in our lives, and promoting a community dialog, project coordinator Gene Pellegrene is challenging the literal meaning of the word "art." To participate, either make an 8x10" sign out of Lucite or Lexan and send it to Pellegrene, sponsor a sign for $30, buy a sign, or help out with the installation, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 20.

Performance and installation artist Sara Schnadt -- whom we featured in a March 2008 Q&A -- has been invited to show her piece "Connectivity" at the Sea Arts Festival at the Busan Biennale, held Sept. 6-Nov. 15 in Busan, South Korea. Schnadt will install and perform her piece during the first two weeks of September.

On Friday, July 25, those non-elitist kids at the Country Club Chicago play host to GLOW, a show organized by local button makers Busy Beaver and featuring glow-in-the-dark buttons for their Button-o-matic button vending machine. Contributing artists include Bird Machine poster artist Jay Ryan, pattern designer Julia Rothman, Angry Youth Comix artist Johnny R., Chicago painter Derek Erdman, California painter Jacob Magraw, artist Alex Jovanovich, illustrator Kevin Hooyman, L.A.-based design collective Quietlife, Chicago rain-cloud street artist Sonny, and Milwaukee poster makers Little Friends of Printmaking. This show only lasts two days, so don't be lackadaisical in planning to attend. 6-10 p.m. 1100 N. Damen.

The Art Institute of Chicago, in a press release, has announced that the opening day of the Modern Wing will be May 16, 2009. The addition, designed by Renzo Piano, will allow the Art Institute to greatly expand its display of Modern and Contemporary artwork. Admission will be waived for one week following the opening which will not only welcome the new gallery space but the Nichols Bridgeway, Griffin Court and several other public and education facilities. Paired with the new installations from the museum's permanent collection will be the inaugural exhibit Cy Twombly: The Natural World, Selected Works 2001-2007.

The mammoth 264,000 square foot, three story addition will feature works from European artists after 1900 on the top level. The second floor will house the permanent collections of Contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and others. Additional second floor space will be given to Institutes collection of architecture and design. On the lowest floor will be photography exhibition spaces as well as a space for new media works, referred to as a "black box".

Wed., July 30 marks the kick-off for the BCD Collaborative's Atomic Sketch Event: a new, monthly evening of live art-making by both established and emerging artists of various disciplines, held at Wicker Park nightspot Evil Olive. As the evening passes, finished works go up on the sale wall and remain there until the next Event. And even if you're not in the panel of six-eight artists featured -- this month's panelists are Melanie Lieb, Thomas Sinnamond, Ethan Hutchinson, David Johnson, Kyle Francis Harter and Ivan Mihov -- you can still drop by with your art supplies and make items to hang and sell.

"With Atomic Sketch, we're hoping to help demystify the art-making process for beginner artists as well as collectors," says BCD Collaborative co-founder Brian Hofmeister. "We're also interested in building a community in the Chicago art scene that's based on having fun." Fun indeed -- most pieces will cost for less than $100, which means you can buy some art without breaking your beer budget. 6-9 p.m. 1551 W. Division St.

Somehow all images look more nostalgic on Polaroid instant film. Yet, with digital cameras and the age of live blogging, Polaroid's instant isn't quite up to snuff. Now that Polaroid is ceasing production on their instant film by the end of 2008, it’s time to commemorate this special kind of celluloid before it’s history in its own right. “Death + Extinction: A Polaroid Exhibition” is a collaboration between six Chicago artists and six New York artists who came together one weekend this past June to create a Polaroid project addressing “Death/Extinction.” The exhibition, which is to be held at the Chicago Art Department, opens August 2nd and runs through September 1st. Call KS Rives at 773-852-1717 for more information about the show.

The world needs peace. You need a haircut. Artist Genevieve Erin O'Brien will give free buzz cuts during a "Peace Salon" at the Museum of Contemporary Art this week to folks who want to show their commitment to peace. O'Brien also designed a postcard you can download and send to George Bush himself, where you state your own personal pledge of what you're willing to do for peace. Stop by the MCA on July 18th and 19th from noon to 4pm, rain or shine, for your own buzz.

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of its installation, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs has announced that it will be restoring the sculpture located at the triangle intersection of Ohio, Ontario, and Orleans. The work, entitled "Being Born," was moved to that location in 1996 from the corner of State and Washington. It was the first piece of public art installed as part of the Chicago Gateway Green program which aims to spruce up the oft-ignored gateways and expressways into the city.

The Ukrainian Village art gallery Medicine Park needs a new home, after resident and co-owner Amy Cargill received an eviction notice over the weekend. The gallery's receptions -- the most recent was Friday night's opener for painter Ruth Ann Borum -- have stirred up a few complaints about noise from neighbors, making the current site at 2659 W. Chicago unsustainable as a commercial venue. Cargill and Med Park co-owner Jackie Keothavy aren't ready to call it quits on the gallery, however -- especially given that they have shows booked through the fall. "If anyone knows of anything, any space, any wealthy patrons of the arts, or grand ideas of collaboration, let's talk!," Cargill says.

The School of the Art Institute (SAIC) announced that its fourth president will be Wellington "Duke" Reiter, an internationally recognized architect and artist who has taught at MIT and Harvard. Also in the "not too shabby" department, his urban drawings are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and San Francisco MOMA. School spokespeople say that Reiter's appointment will strengthen the SAIC's attempts to reach across all disciplines -- and keep making waves nationally and internationally.

The Stone Summer Theory Institute, a week-long seminar on contemporary art, comes to the School of the Art Institute from July 13-19. Each year the series brings more than 30 top scholars, critics and artists to the city, and the entire event is transcribed and published in book form. This year, the institute asks participants to dwell on the bedrock of art-making: "What makes visual objects different from written ones? What are images? What are pictures? The art world depends on these ideas, and yet they are rarely theorized."

Several lectures and roundtable discussions are open to the public, so art-smarties should get out their calendars and pencil in talks like, "What Does Seeing an Image Mean?" More info here.

Pilsen's very own National Museum of Mexican Art kicked off a new exhibit on Independence Day, entitled "A Declaration of Immigration." The thought-provoking exhibit features work by more than 70 artists who address immigrant issues through everything from traditional narrative quilts to contemporary multimedia installations. The museum is open 10am - 5pm Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

Thirty-four teams have been selected for this year's Red Bull Flugtag, a competition in which mechanically inclined quirkyfolk design, build, and fly human-powered aircraft. Visit the official Flugtag Website to scope out the blueprints for this year's designs, including a wok (Stir Fly), a piece of deep-dish pizza (Pie in the Sky!), and an ear of corn (Team Iowa). Or, for more detailed description of the preparatory process, check out Red Hot Flyer II, which documents the construction of local designer/developer/artist/technician gReGo's 28-foot, hot dog-shaped biplane. Five years ago, gReGo built the Red Hot Flyer I, which came in at a respectable fifth place. The Flugtag takes place Sept. 6 at North Avenue Beach.

Homeless bodybuilders, high school students, heroin addicts, newlyweds: Since May 1, artist Mike Genovese has given all of them, and many others, opportunities to participate in his artistic process through his in-studio project, a program of the Chicago Cultural Center. (And you, dear reader, can also participate by stopping by Genovese's studio today for a special Gapers Block happy hour from 5-7 p.m.; 78 E. Washington St.) By working seven-to-nine-hour days, six days a week -- and accepting help and contributions from the public -- Genovese has nearly completed four projects: • Black, red and white aluminum panels coated with enamel, upon which he has engraved his own designs, then invited others to contribute their own drawings and messages. • Elotes carts that he fills with fruit, candy and snacks, then offers to a random street vendor in an intimate negotiation process that he documents through photographs. • A giant sign featuring the Zora Neale Hurston quote, "All My Kin Folks Ain't All My Kinfolk," done up in Mexican black lettering (created at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, the piece will be installed on the South Side as public art). • And, to advertise his in-studio, green "showcards" designed to look like the city's bright "no parking/street cleaning" signs. Genovese asked the Department of Streets and Sanitation's vendor to print up the signs, which he then tied to poles across the city using the same type of twine and knotting style used by city workers.

The Chicago Artists' Coalition has online galleries of some of their members' work. Searchable by artist, media, subject and technique, they're a gorgeous way to wile away an afternoon and find a few new favorite artists while you're at it.

Last October, Sighn of Multipolar Projects and the brand-new Believe Inn gallery began cutting out the word, "It's OK," from bass wood, and has since created about 2,000 pieces. In order to speed up progress toward his goal of producing a "limited edition" of one million pieces (which he estimates will take 50 years), and to "push [him]self to extremes," Sighn will embark on a 24-Hour Cut-a-Thon starting at noon on Thursday, June 26, during which he will produce about 500 ITSOKs from 1/4" bamboo.

Bamboo is an eco-friendly choice for ITSOK, which Sighn says creates a fair amount of waste. To further lessen the project's environmental impact, he has also arranged for one tree to be planted by the Arbor Day Foundation for each piece purchased. Sighn keeps the opposites of each piece, and says he will soon have to rent a storage space for them. Anyone willing to donate an empty garage to Sighn for the next five decades should give him a call.

Matthew Schommers has owned the same deck of old-timey, paper playing cards since he was a little kid. Six years ago, he began transforming the cards into a series of art works – the results of which were on display Friday night at AllRise Gallery on N. Milwaukee. The most striking aspect of the series was the variety of lines Schommers used: Some portraits were raw and choppy, while others – particularly his portraits of women, and decapitated characters of both sexes – showed smooth, rounded curves. And a few drawings drew inspiration directly from pin-up posters of the 1950s. Schommers' show was the last at AllRise’s current location; the gallery's first show at its new location at 1370 W.Grand Ave. will feature the works of Chantala Kommanivanh on Friday, July 11.

Say hello to the Believe Inn: a new gallery with a focus on experimentation and an uplifting, optimistic name. Believe Inn presents its premier exhibition this Saturday, June 21: Chris Kerr's "Neo Country," described as resembling Twitty City, the amusement park developed by Conway Twitty for his many fans. Anything that involves country music, speech bubbles and recreated gift shops has got to be a smorgasboard for the eyes, so head on over and check out Kerr's work. 6-10 p.m. 2043 N. Winchester.

It's already time to apply for the annual Around the Coyote Fall Arts Festival, to be held from Oct. 10-12 (not to mention the Oct. 9 opening party). This year's fest includes a $2,000 prize for the Best in Show. Think of what you could do with that money: Buy tons of supplies, or take a trip to Bali, or get a Gremlin electroplated in 14K gold. OK -- stop dreaming about Gremlins, and get that application in before July 21.

Those clever folks at Chicago Printmakers Collaborative are hosting We All Scream for Screenprinting!, an exhibition, open house and workshop this Saturday, from 12pm-5pm.

Artists featured include: Hiroshi Ariyama, Karl Bethke, Doug Gapinshi, Alan Lerner, Nichole Maury, and others.*

A free t-shirt printing workshop occurs from 3pm-5pm. Bring your own shirt, or purchase one at CPC for $10.

CPC is also kicking off a new class, "BLAST into Screenprinting," taught by Alan Lerner, Sundays, June 29-August 3, 11am-2pm. The 5-week class costs $195. A $25 deposit is required to hold a spot. To register, drop off or send a check made out to Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, along with a registration form. Download a form here.

The Art Institute's Modern Wing isn't slated to open until next year, but Blair Kamin got an exclusive walkthrough with the building's designer: Renzo Piano. By the way, I really want those blue foam mock-ups of the Brancusi sculptures.

Chicago ranks among the top three cities in the country for working artists, according to a new study by the National Endowment for the Arts, based on the U.S. Census. The other top cities were, predictably, New York and Los Angeles, with Washington, D.C. not far behind.

The Art Institute of Chicago opens its newly christened Richard and Mary L. Gray Wing this Saturday, June 14. The wing is the north section of the museum's original Allerton Building on Michigan Avenue, and is named after major major donors to the Department of Prints and Drawings, which is housed in that part of the museum. Richard Gray is owner of Richard Gray Gallery in the Hancock Center and is a trustee of the museum. Mary Gray is the author of A Guide to Chicago's Public Sculpture and A Guide to Chicago's Murals, and is a member of the Friends of the Parks advisory board.

The wing opens with the inaugural exhibition "Collecting for Chicago: Prints, Drawings, and Patronage," featuring works acquired for the Art Institute by various Chicago families, many of which now have galleries named after them (the exhibition is mounted in the new Jean and Steven Goldman Prints and Drawings Galleries, for instance). The new galleries were designed by Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture in Los Angeles.

"Night Sky #2," a 18"x21½" painting by Vija Celmins owned by the Art institute of Chicago, was slashed by a contract security guard while on loan for a show at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

The David Leonardis Gallery will be showing and selling a collection of hand-made postcards created by Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of Devo (yes, the "Whip It" Devo). Mothersbaugh has been creating postcards every day for the last 30 years as a sort of personal diary, hence the title of the exhibition. He estimates that he’s created more than 30,000 cards, many of which have now been scanned and made available as larger-scale limited edition reprints.

Mothersbaugh’s website offers a preview of many of the postcards that will be on display. It’s worth checking out not only to get a sneak peek of the show but also to view some of his other work, especially the manipulated photo series “Beautiful Mutants” and his earlier postcard exposition.

The exhibit opened last week, but this Friday the gallery is hosting an encore reception from 6-11 pm at its River North location. Gallery information and regular hours can be found here. "The Postcard Diaries" will be in Chicago through July 2.

Interested in art? Revolution? Head to the InCUBATE space this coming Saturday for a conversation between Vienna, Austria-based art theorist Gerald Raunig and Chicago-based artist Dan S. Wang. The two will discuss art and activism, using Raunig’s book, Art and Revolution, as a jumping-off point.

The book was translated into English last year and reflects Raunig’s preferred areas of study (which, I must say, read like a kind of poem): art theory, political aesthetics, cultural politics, and the politics of difference. Mostly though, Art and Revolution seems like a radical call to action. Political activism! Artistic engagement!

This event is cosponsored by the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor and Continental Drift. It’s hosted by InCUBATE (Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and the Everyday), an innovative Chicago-centric organization dedicated to new models of art funding, research, and advocacy. The group has a storefront space on Rockwell—around the corner from the Congress Theater—where they host community events and an artist-in-residency program.

This Friday more than 20 Chicago-area galleries will be holding receptions to open new exhibits. Chicago Gallery News has an alphabetical list and maps of who and what will be shown across the city. If you can’t pick just one to visit, Art View in Lakeview also takes place this weekend and gives you the opportunity to be shuttled from gallery to gallery to sample art and wine all for the amazing price of nothing. Not to be outdone, Saturday and Sunday offer the 61st annual 57th Street Art Fair.

It's time for the Illinois Recycling Association's annual Illinois Recycling and Solid Waste Conference & Trade Show, and the festivities include a Recycled Art Show featuring works by local artisans and crafticians. Organizing the show is Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) Graphic Designer/Marketing Coordinator Cameron Ruen, who says artists' response to the show is not what she was hoping for, "especially from all the research and soliciting I tried to do." Ten artists are participating, including Cranky Pickle and Art Gecko, Ltd. "I hope everyone sells a lot of stuff," Ruen says.

Remember those learn-to-draw books with step-by-step instructions for sketching dogs and ducks and stuff? Lame. Artist/blogger Joel Kimmel gives the play-by-play on how he created an illustration for Time Out Chicago of hip-hop's very own Flavor Flav.

The Green Lantern, a Chicago-based gallery and press, worked with Intuit and the American Museum of Folk Art in New York to publish a Henry Darger-centric issue of its journal. I've yet to get my hands on it, but an e-mail announcement says it features original passages by Darger, essays on Darger-related topics and three different letterpress covers with lists of objects in Darger's room, courtesy of Intuit. Also, the Henry Darger Room Collection is up at Intuit through June 28, 2008.

Visual artists living in Cook County can receive up to $15,000 by applying for a grant from Artadia, a national organization that gives unrestricted money to artists in selected cities each year. (Last year, 40 Chicago artists received support.) Apply by August 29th to be considered. Cash in, eat a cheeseburger, and send everyone else a postcard from prosperity.

In April, the Cool Kids from Chicago popped into the Coat of Arms vintage streetwear shop in NYC and picked up some threads for their show—including a championship Bulls sweatshirt from back when. And now the Coat of Arms shop is popping up in Bridgeport tonight armed with a table of threads for an art show and magazine release organized by The Upset, a group of graffiti artist and photographers from Chicago and New York. You know you've always wanted an (other) old-school Starter jacket. And if you don't, go there for the reason the event is really going on: The Upset is celebrating the first edition of their magazine, which they started online as a blog.

Speaking of things being pulled, the Spertus Institute has temporarily closed the controversial exhibit Imaginary Coordinates. The Institute says the closing is due to maintenance needs, but now that the gallery is closed, they're looking at the controversy as well [wink, wink, nudge nudge].

The International Museum of Surgical Science in the Gold Coast might seem an unlikely place to attend an art show, but on Friday you can do just that, as artist Christa Donner exhibits recent works among the giant kidney stones and antique forceps in the museum’s collection. Titled “ExtraSensory,” the show is part of the “Anatomy in the Gallery” series, a rotating exhibition program featuring medically themed art.

Lest the phrase “medically themed art” makes you think of sterile skeleton sculptures and hanging mobiles made of say, IV bags (as it sort of does for me), fear not: Donner’s work is much more imaginative and much less high school biology course. Using drawing as “both her microscope and her scalpel,” she thoughtfully fuses art and science—examining, dissecting, and re-envisioning human anatomy. In particular, “ExtraSensory” explores body image and the power of sensory experience.

The show includes new works on paper and what Donner calls a “wacky sculptural drawing on the floor,” as well as zines, photographs, and collage drawings from a collaborative project with teens from rural McHenry County, Illinois. The show opens tomorrow with a reception from 5–8 p.m. and runs through July 18.

In keeping with the company's goals of inspiring "new perceptions of movement," Inaside Chicago Dance has created an evening of dancing inspired by the drip period of Jackson Pollock's artwork. In the Painting will be a "multimedia dance experience," beginning with a short film by Pedro Brenner (Inaside's photographer and award-winning film director) about Pollock's life and art, and continuing with choreographed works that include a multimedia element. May 2 @ 8:00, May 3 @ 2:00 & 8:00. Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. $20 general ($15 student/dancer/senior). Purchase tickets at the Ruth Page box office (312.337.6543).

Jay Ryan has produced a beautiful set of posters for "The Blue Planet Live," a film/concert series in the UK. Each poster, which features animals living in or above the world's oceans, is available for $50, or you can buy the full set for $300.

If you’ve been down Michigan Avenue lately, you may have noticed the return of “Communication X9,” a work by Israeli sculptor Yaacov Agam that has been undergoing renovations for the last three years. The artist, who is less than pleased with the changes, is hinting that he may file suit against both the restorer and the management company that hired him alleging that the work done was not a restoration but rather an unauthorized reproduction. The Tribune provided an update Friday on the conflict that has been going on since the fall. For more in-depth reporting on who did what to whose paint samples, check out the Reader article from November of last year which explains the dispute in detail.

The Swedish American Museum and Andersonville Chamber of Commerce are seeking artists to create original works based on pieces in the Swedish Museum's permanent collection. Pieces go on display during Andersonville Arts Weekend in the fall. More info here.

Check out the blog of local fiber artist Marcy Sperry, who creates eclectic and striking art from repurposed clothing, found objects and the like. Her blog, thankyouforyoursubmission.com is a peek into the mindbendingly exhausting task of making it as an artist. In one recent post, she rails against a Daily Northwestern article that calls her pieces "New Age quilting". Her work is on display at Northwestern's Dittmar Gallery, displayed with another artist in a show called Domestic Sunshine.

Two Hyde Park art institutions are featuring exhibitions that make use of humor and absurdity to explore African-American identity in art and culture.

The Coffee Studio, my favorite new Andersonville coffee shop, is now accepting submissions for BIKE LOVE, a graphic celebration of the the bicycle -- a gallery of two-dimensional, cycle-inspired art that's part of Andersonville's annual Bike Week festivities. Submissions are due May 1, and accepted pieces will be displayed from May 10-June 9 at The Coffee Studio. More details.

If you're the kind of person who walks by municipal garbage cans piled high with empty Starbucks cups and winces at all the waste, then Monument, a new dance theater work by local multidisciplinary arts collective The Seldoms, is for you. The 50-minute work, which combines dance, music and video, addresses our culture's apparent addiction to consumption and waste, in which the landfill has become an "accidental social sculpture." Recently Monument choreographer Carrie Hanson took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about the performance, which runs April 10-12 at 8pm at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. (For more info, call 312-328-0303.)

The Monument project has been developing for over a year. The idea began broadly: The initial choreographic, sonic and imagistic impulses emerged from a consideration of the acts of preservation, creation and destruction. We started from several points of inquiry: in balancing concerns for short-term prosperity/survival with long-term prosperity/survival, what do we preserve? What are the economic forces and cultural ethos that influence our behavior and decisions as consumers? What tensions exist between our dual identities as consumer and citizen, and between private goods and the public good? And finally, what are the personal, social, and environmental effects of our collective and individual acts of production, consumption, and disposal?

As we began our research before going into the dance studio, we easily found a lot of information relating to consumption and waste. The facts, offering mind-blowing figures about the quantity of plastic bottles and tons of refuse, were impressive and daunting, but weren’t readily imaginable. It wasn’t until Doug Stapleton, The Seldoms’ artistic associate, found an article about the immense Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island that our understanding moved from statistics to a physical reality. The article stated that the landfill is visible from space, which helped us to grasp the scale, impact and monumentality of our collective practices of consumption and waste. The work’s title – Monument – makes reference to the landfill as accidental monument.

Through June 29, the Chicago Cultural Center hosts Dean Sharp: Photographs of the Chicago Picasso, a free exhibition of black and white photos on display at its Michigan Avenue Galleries. Curated by Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Sofia Zutautas, and organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the exhibit displays photos that Sharp took in 1967, while he was a student at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. In wrapping up his final project, Sharp paid a visit to Chicago and was struck by the facial expressions of people who passed by the then brand-spanking new Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. Camera in tow, he began photographing the faces he saw. His work both documents human nature and serves as a commentary on the role and impact of public art. On Tuesday, April 17, at 12:15 p.m., Sharp will appear at the Center for a free talk. (Viewing hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Center is closed on holidays.)

Kt Andresky, the coordinator for Press/Play, is seeking documentarians to contribute a five-minute piece on the Chicago art scene. Check out the details at Justseeds.

Wanna teach what you love while the city picks up the tab? The Department of Cultural Affairs is now accepting applications for its "Neighborhood Arts Program Teaching Artist" grant. Applications and more info are available at Chicago Artists Resource. Also, learn how to navigate the red tape of a city grant by attending the info session: Monday, April 14, 3-5pm; Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington Street - 5th Floor

Peot's sculptures are typically a combination of readily available construction supplies and highly machined, custom-designed aluminum and metal components. The last component is always light — the ephemeral shadows and light-play through the sculptures are integral in his work. I own one of his Installation Kit: Series 1 pieces, and although I haven't taken full advantage of the ability to reconfigure it, it remains a delight in my home.

The show opens with a reception next Friday, April 4, from 6pm to 9pm. Navta Schulz Gallery is at 1039 W. Lake St.

From now until June 1, the Museum of Contemporary Art is featuring Recent Acquisitions, an exhibition showcasing works by artists such as Dan Flavin, Gillian Wearing, and Gary Simmons. Several pieces are on display for the first time. This exhibition represents Part Two of a two-part presentation; Part One featured past and present Chicago-based artists. Remember -- Tuesdays at the MCA are free.

The Humboldt Exhibition is a collaboration of several young Chicago artists who organize all-night art shows for Chicagoland artists. Triplicate, which will take place on Saturday, May 17, is the third show to feature fine art, music, film projection, screen-printed t-shirts, beer, and more. The organizers invite all types of Chicagoland artists to submit their work for display in the show. Artists retain 100% of sales. Send your snappiest jpeg or pdf samples of whatever you do to humboldtexhibition@gmail.com by Friday, April 18. (Sending work-in-progress is fine as long as the work is completed one week before the show.)

Hopper and Homer would make fantastic names for a pair of hamsters. For now, they make an excellent combination in the halls of the Art Institute, which has been hosting a major Hopper and Homer show since February. On display are dozens of Homer's watercolors and sketches, which reveal his preoccupation with capturing light. Boats on the water, Civil War scenes, and landscapes form the subject matter of many of the exhibited works, all portrayed by Homer in a straightforward, unsentimental manner. Meanwhile, the Hopper exhibition marks the first time in 25 years that any museum outside New York has presented such a comprehensive display of works from his 70-year career. Hopper was a master of making the quotidian seem monumental and mysterious (what were those Nighthawks doing together, anyway?); his imagery will make you nostalgic for a time when you could visit a cafe without having your train of thought derailed by a ring tone. Through May 10.

The Museum of Contemporary Art's 12x12 series highlights the work of Craig Doty this month. Says Art Daily, "Doty's highly orchestrated, yet realistic tableaus are filled with stark color contrasts, visual disruptions in time, and stolen emotional experiences." He's a BFA graduate from the Art Institute, and went on to get his MFA at Yale University School of Art. The exhibit opens this Saturday, March 8.

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.Read this feature »

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