Chicago news roundup: Veterans find solace, new camaraderie in arts program

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 91 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 68. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 84.

Afternoon Edition

Top story

Veterans find solace, new camaraderie in CreatiVets arts program in Chicago

Nashville-based nonprofit CreatiVets is a visual arts/music/creative writing program focused on veterans.

Empowering people to explore, identify and understand their thoughts and feelings and experiences through the lens of the arts has been the mission of CreatiVets since its inception in 2013.

Utilizing everything from songwriting, visual arts, music and creative writing, veterans from across the country come together to create something inspired by the thoughts they hold deep inside.

“What we really are seeking to do is help tell a story or convey an emotion that otherwise would have been repressed,” explains Kyle Yepsen, deputy director of CreatiVets, which kicked off its latest visual arts program recently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Over the past few weeks, seven combat veterans have been in Chicago doing just that, working alongside one another as part of a CreatiVets fully accredited art class to complete their own individual projects that can offer some level of solace within their constantly swirling worlds.

“I really have been drawn to ceramics, because the clay is really soothing in your hands,” says CreatiVets participant Megan Browning, an Army retired first sergeant from Kansas who has long had an interest in all things art. “The fact that you get to transform an inanimate object into something tangible is just something really good for me.”

Having joined the Army in 2000, Browning served for 20 years, finding herself in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

“The things that we encounter are just hard things to deal with,” Browning says. “You lose friends, and you lose family, and you see just horrendous acts of violence. I think the Army does a really good job at teaching you how to compartmentalize, but what they don’t do a good job at is teaching you how to unpack it.”

She draws in a deep breath.

“I think [CreatiVets] is teaching us a new language to be able to communicate some of that stuff that we don’t have the words for,” says Browning, whose experience with CreatiVets has inspired her to consider becoming an art therapist for the United States Department of Veteran Affairs in the future.

Tricia Despres has more on the program here.

More news you need

  1. Elise Malary, an activist for transgender rights found in Lake Michigan, died from drowning but her manner of death could not be determined, according to new autopsy results. Malary’s disappearance on March 11 sparked a massive search for the 31-year-old, who was hailed as a pillar of Chicago’s LGBTQ+ communities.
  2. An 11-year-old boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver this morning in Lawndale, according to Chicago police. The child was reportedly hit by the driver while he crossed the street.
  3. Nikkita Brown, who was grabbed and forcibly detained by a Chicago cop at North Avenue Beach last year, filed a federal lawsuit today claiming excessive force. The officer, Bruce Dyker, resigned from the department last month, Last week, he was charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with the incident.
  4. Chicago Police Supt. David Brown is seeking to fire an officer who dragged a woman by her hair out of a car and knelt on her neck — an encounter that was captured on a cellphone video that went viral. Officer David Laskus came under internal investigation after the incident on May 31, 2020, in the parking lot of Brickyard Mall.
  5. The City Council’s Finance Committee today approved an ordinance that would grant surviving spouses of police officers and firefighters who have died by suicide the same benefits afforded to families of first responders killed in the line of duty. That amounts to one year’s salary, as well as access to a fund that can provide $20,000 to $40,000 for family health care, education and other permitted expenses.
  6. National groups with deep pockets are playing significant roles in the Democratic congressional primary fights between Reps. Marie Newman and Sean Casten in the 6th District and Delia Ramirez and Gil Villegas in the 3rd District. Our Lynn Sweet on what new FEC filings reveal here.
  7. A developer has offered plans for an eight-story residential building to replace the closed Royal George Theatre at 1641 N. Halsted St., the local alderperson disclosed in an email to constituents. The plan envisions 20 affordable units and housing for artists and staff working at Steppenwolf Theatre across the street.
  8. Nearly three years after it opened, “1619: The Journey of a People, the Musical” returns to Chicago tomorrow, with performances over Juneteenth weekend. Ted Williams III, the production’s creator, describes it as a rumination through the ages on what it means to be a Black American, through hip-hop, jazz and blues music.

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A bright one

Berwyn bookstore part of much-needed diversity movement in national independent bookstore landscape

Laura Romani, a Chicago resident with a background in education and library science, had been thinking about shifting to a new career.

“I was at home a couple of years ago, reflecting on all the experience I gained and how I wanted to contribute to the Latino community while also allowing myself to be on my own and make use of my love for books and passion for multilingualism,” Romani says.

The answer, she decided: Open a bookstore.

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Los Amigos Books in Berwyn. The store, launched by Laura Romani, focuses on children’s stories in English and Spanish.

Laura Rodríguez-Romaní via AP

With help from a grant and stimulus checks she and her husband received during the pandemic, Romani launched Los Amigos Books, initially online last year and now with a small store in Berwyn. It focuses on children’s stories in English and Spanish.

Stores like Romani’s helped contribute to a year of growth and greater diversity for the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstore owners. The association now has 2,010 members at 2,547 locations — up more than 300 since the spring of 2021.

That’s the highest ABA total in years even though the association tightened its rules in 2020 to include only stores that “primarily sell books” rather than just any store offering books.

The Associated Press’Hillel Italie has more on the state of the ABA here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Where’s the best place to catch the sunset in Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Earlier, we asked you: What does your ideal summer day in Chicago consist of?

Here’s what some of you said…

“A walk through Grant Park with a Chicago dog in hand. It doesn’t get much better than that!” — Erik Kirkstein

“Exploring the forest preserves.” — John Rachey

“Start off with a couple of hours of tennis, go home to shower, hit up a festival, stop by an outdoor spot for an after-hours adult beverage, then back home by 10 or 11.”—Nikki Dub

“Singing ‘Go Cubs Go’ with the crowd at Wrigley Field!” —Bill Webb

“Take the ‘L’ to Fullerton and visit Lincoln Park Zoo followed by renting a boat on the lagoon and then a visit to Fullerton Beach.” —Charles Elliott

“Hanging out at Foster Beach or Montrose Harbor.” —Mary Jones

“A walk on the North Avenue Beach, a trip to Lincoln Park Zoo and dinner at Half Shell.” —Brenda Marie Gambarota

“Sleep in, walk/jog with the hubby at the Lakefront. Shopping downtown with friends, and lunch at Joe’s Seafood on Grand. Pick up the kids and head back downtown for family dinner at Gino East.” —Melanie Mclin

“A walk by the lake. A hot dog for lunch. A cool beverage later in the afternoon. An outdoor concert at Millennium Park in the evening.” —Mark Jadwick

“Sitting at the Lake by the Museum of Science and Industry.” — Camille Austin

“All day in the water —everything else can wait.” —LaJeana Davies

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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