Today In The Culture, September 6, 2022: New Leadership at Smart Museum | Poetry Opens The Door | Negroni Week

“Le Râtea,” from Venteux for Negroni Week


Vanja V. Malloy Named Director Of Smart Museum Of Art

Vanja V. Malloy, a museum director, curator and scholar, has been appointed as the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art, effective October 1. She will lead the University of Chicago’s fine arts museum and its exhibitions, public and arts education programs, and student and faculty collaborations. Vanja joins the Smart Museum from the Syracuse University Art Museum, where she was appointed director and chief curator in 2019. More here.

A Portrait Of Martine Syms

Martine Syms “is the sort of ‘new media’ artist who antiquates the term.” She had turned “media around to interrogate what society expects of Black women, and Black artists in particular,” writes The New York Times. “Syms studied cinema at the Art Institute of Chicago, co-founded a book store called Golden Age and started an artist-book imprint called Dominica. She racked up tags: artist, writer, musician, publisher, teacher, filmmaker; D.J., influencer, brand. Throughout her art, her moving images feature avatars of herself that she endows with a vital mixture of ego and exhaustion, cupidity and love… This fall brings her a triad of institutional coups, and a movie in theaters. Each stars dramatized, extrapolated versions of Syms… A gonzo sitcom called ‘She Mad,’ 2015-2021, in which Syms often stars, appears at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago until February 2023. The most recent episode routes the artist’s real-life ups and downs through a cover of the ‘Life Story’ TikToks posted by the rapper Lil Nas X.” (Here’s Newcity’s 2011 profile of Syms as Golden Age closed.)


Park District Adding Fifty More “Pickleball” Courts

The Chicago Park District announced plans to add at least fifty more pickleball courts across its park system over the next three years, reports the Sun-Times. “The announcement came a few hours after the Chicago Sun-Times published a story on how the city’s pickleball fanatics claimed Chicago is light years behind other cities around the country that have invested in infrastructure and host multiple dedicated pickleball facilities.” Block Club: “The new perks for pickleball include three facilities capable of hosting tournaments…The remaining individual courts will be newly built or converted tennis or basketball courts in neighborhood parks.”

Renovations On Former Viceroy Hotel In Uptown Resume

“The Lorali, 1039 West Lawrence, announced its plans to convert 161 SRO units into eighty residential apartments plus ground-floor retail in 2019,” reports Uptown Update, “but the age and condition of the building made it hard to get the project off the ground. The owner got the red tape and permits sorted out late in August.” The $5 million project “will include interior and exterior renovations, which will include a lounge and a retail space. Ten percent of the units will be classified as affordable housing and former residents of the Lorali will have first choice to return.”

“Additional Dwelling Units” Mostly In Gentrified Wards

“The city launched an experiment in 2021 in the housing market that carried many hopes. It was a test in prescribed areas to see if the supply of residences could be… ‘gently’ expanded without disturbing neighborhood character,” reports the Sun-Times. “This involved allowing additional dwelling units, or ADUs, typically basement or attic apartments or coach houses… The affordability argument assumes that because of the size and location of the units, rented units would command a lower price than the neighborhood standard. The city’s Housing Department ran the data and found… the program is working in some ways but is challenged in others. It might just be adding expensive units in already expensive neighborhoods.”

Invest South/West Will Live Past Election, Says City Planner

“Mayor Lightfoot’s Invest South/West plan to rebuild ten neglected neighborhood commercial corridors has a ‘sense of permanence; that will live on no matter who wins the mayoral election,’ Chicago’s head planner Maurice Cox said late last week,” reports the Sun-Times.

Forecast: Institutional Investors To Own Over Forty-Percent Of Single-Family Rental Units By 2030

“Institutional investment in rental single family rental homes is on the rise and expected to grow dramatically over the next eight years,” writes Yardi Matrix in a release. “Institutions have committed more than $60 billion to buying single-family homes.” (Such groups are estimated to now hold about five percent of these properties.)

Duchossois Farm Sold For $10 Million For Restoration By Conservation Group

Citizens for Conservation “closed a $10 million deal to buy the 246-acre horse farm that belonged to the late Dick Duchossois, the former owner of Arlington International Racecourse,” reports the Trib. “The site, at Lake-Cook and Ridge roads near Barrington Hills, will retain its signature white-fence border, but will be restored to prairie, wetlands and savanna.”

Amazon Closes, Abandons Plans For Dozens Of U.S. Warehouses

Analysts estimate that Amazon “has shuttered or killed plans to open forty-two facilities and delayed opening twenty-one new locations around the country,” reports Bloomberg. “The e-commerce giant also has canceled a handful of European projects, mostly in Spain… The moves are a striking contrast with previous years, when the world’s largest e-commerce company typically entered the fall rushing to open new facilities and hire thousands of workers to prepare for the holiday shopping season. Amazon continues to open facilities where it requires more space to meet customer demand.” While in New York, “Amazon’s attempt to overturn the union election victory at [Amazon’s] JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island has been rejected by the NLRB’s hearing officer. The officer formally recommended that Amazon Labor be certified as the bargaining representative for JFK8 workers,” posts More Perfect Union.


September Sings Negroni

The tenth Negroni Week will be observed September 12-18 around the city, “including an opalescent white Negroni from Logan Square cocktail bar The Whistler and a smoked, spicy Negroni riff on Michigan Avenue at Venteux. Among the sips: Lardon/Union features ‘The Old Sport,’ which swaps out gin for Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon and pairs it with apple brandy, Campari, sweet vermouth and a mix of bitters, both smoked orange and cherry bark varieties. The Whistler introduces ‘Angels Live In My Town,’ a bright, herbaceous Negroni riff featuring blanco tequila and notes of punchy grapefruit and wormwood mellowed out by juicy apricot liqueur. Venteux is offering ‘Le Râtea,’ made with Del Maguey Vida artisanal mezcal, French sweet vermouth, Campari and smoked cinnamon bitters, served in a martini glass and garnished with an aromatic burnt orange peel. At Chateau Carbide, the ‘Ichigroni,’ a sweet berry twist on the classic cocktail, features Sipsmith Strawberry Smash Gin, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, freeze-dried strawberry infused Campari and a few saline drops.” More here.

Negotiation For Contracts At Starbucks Locations Could Take A Year Or More

With organizing success “comes a daunting responsibility—negotiating the first labor contracts for the workers,” reports David Roeder at the Sun-Times. “Getting management and labor to agree on language for the first time commonly takes more than a year. For Starbucks workers, it could tax the patience of a young and low-paid workforce that’s prone to move on.” NY1 reports that “New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is suing Starbucks for violating the city’s ‘just cause’ protections for wrongful termination of a union organizer.” At the Guardian, Hamilton Nolan writes about why Starbucks is not a progressive company, despite its years of image-building: “Rarely in modern history have we seen a company that so exquisitely cultivates an image as a caring, progressive employer while actually acting like a bullying, union-busting gangster… To say that Starbucks has failed to live up to their progressive reputation would be far too polite.” Meanwhile, the company’s new CEO comes from PepsiCo, reports Crain’s. “Laxman Narasimhan will join the company next month and take full control in April, replacing longtime leader Howard Schultz… choosing a consumer-industry veteran to chart a new path after the interim tenure of Schultz.” Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke to John Nichols at The Nation about the unionization wave for Labor Day: “I do believe that this is the beginning of the next era of the labor movement… I hope I don’t give off any bravado in saying this—but we are very proud that we will end up being the most pro-labor administration probably ever.”


Danielle Beverly Joins UFVA Board

Filmmaker and Northwestern assistant professor Danielle Beverly [Newcity Film 50] is one of four figures newly elected to the board of the University Film and Video Association. Comprised of more than 700 members, the UFVA is the leading association in the United States dedicated to the promotion and study of moving image practice in higher education.

Catching Up With “Cooley High” Director Michael Schultz

The Criterion Collection will release a remastered special edition of “Cooley High” in December, the “coming-of-age drama set in the 1960s at a school in Chicago.” Filmmaker Michael Schultz looks back with writer Reggie Ugwu at the New York Times. “The editor of a film I’d done, ‘Together for Days’ (1972) [a kind of gender-swapped, post-civil rights-era update of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’], connected me with the producer Steve Krantz. He had met the writer, Eric Monte, and they had a script based on all of these incredible stories Eric had from growing up in the Cabrini Green [housing project] of Chicago. But the script wasn’t really a script—it was still mostly just stories. So I met with Eric for seven or eight hours a day for four weeks. Every night, me and my wife [Gloria Schultz] would cut everything down until we had the completed script… It had this perfect dramatic twist in the death of a friend that sends the main character off to pursue his dreams. That really happened to Eric. And I thought it could be a window into the lives of Black kids that had never been seen before. My theory was that if it was as culturally specific as possible, and as Black as possible, it would translate across the racial divide and people would fall in love with these kids and their humanity.”

Wall Street Journal Seeks Svengoolie

“What Are You Doing on Saturday Night? Staying Home to Watch ‘Svengoolie,’” headlines the Wall Street Journal. “Cord-cutters get antennas to watch [the] campy horror-movie anthology show on MeTV, led by a [heavily made-up seventy-year-old comedian] in a top hat offering corny jokes from an upright coffin.”

Further Contraction Of Movie Screens Seen

“Almost everyone agrees that the 117-year-old movie exhibition business cannot keep going like this. But hardly anybody agrees on precisely the best way forward,” writes Brooks Barnes at the New York Times. “One obvious if drastic step, analysts say, is for the biggest theater companies to close thousands of underperforming screens. There are 40,700 screens in the United States and Canada, and even some theater executives concede that there should be no more than 35,000. A few think 25,000 is a healthier target.” About 500 have closed since the onset of the pandemic. More closures are expected. “About twenty-percent of screens—increasingly, experiences like IMAX that make it special and worthwhile—generate eighty percent of the business,” said Richard L. Gelfond, the chief executive of IMAX, which licenses its technology to theaters. “Except in unique cases, nobody needs a twenty-plex anymore. Period. Exclamation point.” Adds a securities analyst: “We’re going to see smaller, noncorporate screens start to disappear in greater numbers… It’s actually good for the operators that survive.”


Repression Roundup Around The Nation

“Traditional-values groups are demanding the removal or restriction of books with explicit sex education, and books that unflinchingly document LGBTQ realities and the Black American experience. The American Library Association… reports that challenges of library books have jumped fourfold, from 416 books in 2017 to 1,597 book challenges in 2021,” reports NPRArmed Idaho locals show up to library board meetings to push ban of over 400 books that they don’t have, reports CNN. “An Oklahoma school district fired a teacher because she shared a public link to the Brooklyn Public Library’s website. Now, the state of Oklahoma wants to take away her teaching license, apparently unprecedented except after criminal convictions,” reports the Norman News“A librarian at an Idaho public library has resigned, their insurance company has canceled them as too high risk, and board meetings moved next to the sheriff’s office after people continued to show up with guns and bibles threatening them to ban books,” reports CNN. While in Florida, a school district mandates removing “Safe Space” signage that supports LGBT students, to comply with the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws.

Leading The Change At Poetry

Poets & Writers profiles Poetry’s Adrian Matejka: “I want to turn the magazine into an inviting and inclusive space. It means we’re going to try to enact the open-door policy Harriet Monroe introduced when she founded the magazine with the ‘desire to print the best English verse.’ Those of us who’ve been in the game know that the ‘best poetry’ has been conflated for a while with the most Anglophile poems, by white poets, and that’s not what we’re doing [going forward]. Quality should be the arbiter, not the aesthetic, style, or nation. One of my primary agendas is to get more poets into those pages who have never been in the magazine. If we can keep it between thirty- and fifty-percent brand-new contributors every issue, that would be a good way to start to make the magazine look like our community… I’m going into the archives to figure out how to elevate poets who haven’t been in the magazine but should’ve been, not just because they’re missing, but because their poems deserve to be read. It’s about the work of people who were just very clearly marginalized because they weren’t white, people who are alive as well as people who’ve passed on. My first issue includes a folio from Carolyn M. Rogers who was a Black Arts Movement poet from Chicago, cofounder of Third World Press, a preeminent Black publisher.”


Award-Winning Investigative Journalist Janan Hanna (Also Mike Royko’s “Legman”), Was Fifty-Nine

“Janan Hanna was an accomplished musician, lawyer and award-winning investigative journalist who grew up in Long Island and spent the last four decades in her adopted home of Chicago. With a law degree from Loyola, a master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and a Civic Orchestra fellowship from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a classical violinist, Hanna was accomplished in many fields,” reports the Trib. “But of all her notable accomplishments, Hanna most loved telling stories of her experiences as a reporter for former Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko, who hired her out of the City News Bureau in 1990 and launched her career as an investigative journalist.” Her sister said “she loved working for Royko. She had a very tough skin.”


Music Tours Turn “Fire Fests” As Mercury Rises

“Extreme heat is melting the touring industry’s fans, bands, and bottom line,” reports Rolling Stone. “The business pressures triggered by climate change are mounting.” Musician Adam Met of AJR: “This summer, the temperature at twenty-three of our thirty-two outdoor shows was above the historical average. We felt it, our crew felt it, our fans felt it, and our bottom line felt it. Climate-change-induced heat waves across the U.S. and Europe are having widespread detrimental effects on the music-touring industry. In Little Rock, our contract required a sixty-minute performance. Twenty minutes into the set, we made the decision that it was no longer safe to perform. Playing music in over ninety-degree weather, under a tin roof, made the stage feel like 105, but this was not even close to the sweatiest experience. The physical strain of performing in Phoenix in 107 degree heat was nearly unbearable (even though it was a dry heat).” More details here.


Otherworld Theatre Announces Halloween Gala

Otherworld Theatre Company, “the premier sci-fi and fantasy theatrical production company in North America,” has announced details of their tenth anniversary gala celebration, “Gothic Galaween: An Evening Celebrating Ten Years of Otherworld Theatre,” on Friday, October 14 at Michelle’s Ballroom, 2800 West Belmont. The “paranormal bash” will feature live performances, a silent auction, palm readers and catering and desserts from Chicago restaurants. Details here.

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