Artist Talk: LaToya Hobbs, August 18

Thursday, August 18, 6:30 p.m.

Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second Street, Davenport IA

A Baltimore-based talent renowned for her large-scale portraits of Black women will be the showcased guest in an August 18 Artist Talk at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum, with LaToya Hobbs discussing her works including The Everyday, a portrait acquired for the venue’s permanent collection earlier this year.

An artist, wife, and mother of two from Little Rock, Arkansas, Hobbs received her BA in Painting from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and MFA in Printmaking from Purdue University. Her work deals with figurative imagery that addresses the ideas of beauty, cultural identity, and womanhood as they relate to women of the African Diaspora, and Hobbs creates fluid and symbiotic relationships between her printmaking and painting practice, producing works that are marked by texture, color and bold patterns. Her exhibition record includes several national and international exhibits in locations such as the National Art Gallery of Namibia in Windhoek; the Prizm Art Fair in Miami, Florida; the Community Folk Arts Center in Syracuse, New York; the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago; and the Sophia Wananmaker Galleries in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Hobbs’ work has been featured in Transition: An International Review, a publication of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and is also housed in private and public collections such as the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the National Art Gallery of Namibia, the Getty Research Institute, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Other notable accomplishments include a 2019 Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council; a 2019 Artist Travel Grant awarded by the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore; a 2020 Artist in Residence award at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans; and receiving the 2020 Jane and Walter Sondhiem Artscape Prize. Additionally, Hobbs devotes her time to teaching and inspiring young artists as a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and she is a founding member of Black Women of Print, a collective whose vision is to make visible the narratives and works of Black women printmakers past, present, and future.

In her Web site’s artist statement at, she says, “As a painter and printmaker, I use figurative imagery to facilitate an ongoing dialogue about the Black female body in the hope of showcasing a more balanced perception of our womanhood, one that dismantles prevailing stereotypes. Through portraiture I explore the themes of beauty, spirituality, motherhood and sisterhood. My practice incorporates the production of mixed-media works that seamlessly marry traditional painting and relief printmaking techniques on a single surface. Through these explorations the print matrix functions as an art object rather than mere production tool. These hybrid works employ the use of pattern, color, and texture to provide a visceral experience that is both universal and specific.”

The Artist Talk with LaToya Hobbs will take place in the Quad City Bank & Trust Grand Lobby on August 18, admission to the 6:30 p.m. event is free, and more information is available by calling (563)326-7804 and visiting

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Levitt AMP Music Brings Blues to One West State Street

Underneath the painted fixtures and the mid-century lighting, three Jazz groups performed for the Levitt AMP Trenton Concert Series at One West State Street.

The first was Big Mike Blues Band, performing old blues with quick rhythm and a raspy sound. “It’s got guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, it’s blues. You gotta look it up. I can’t describe it. Other than it’s blues,” said Richard McPherson, the guitarist in the band.  

The Big Mike Blues Band rocked out as the crowd enjoyed the air conditioning in the old bank building on W. State Street. Douglas Dowell-Jefferies, is the manager of booking services DLJ Communications Group, who helped book the musicians for a concert on Saturday and the funk concerts the previous week. 

“We played last week over here outdoors in the heat,” Dowell-Jefferies said. “We’re all about promoting the arts. We primarily focus on straight ahead classic jazz as opposed to the contemporary smooth jazz.”

“The Andy Lackow Band is an outstanding blues band; they are locally based, and they do a lot of festivals in the area,” Dowell-Jefferies added.

Based out of Northern New Jersey, The Andy Lackow Band is mainly blues. However, they also play an eclectic mix that includes blues-rock, roots-rock, soul, funk, New Orleans R&B, and a little country. 

“Pretty much what we perform tonight besides blues, was soul, funk, and roots rock and roll, like Chuck Berry or Little Richard. So we put our best foot forward when it comes to a diverse kind of African American music, which I thought was appropriate for this event.” 

The band is comprised of bassist Curtis Fowlkes, keyboardist Steve Skinner, and drummer Paul Levinsky.

Andy Lackow said that he feels different emotions as he performs. “The emotion is a combination of joy, excitement, and some angst that comes out in the blues and also trepidations that I’m going to screw up and forget lyrics and what key I am playing in,” Lackow said. 

The main act was Newarks’ Pride and Joy Madame Pat Tandy. She was introduced to the crowd after her band warmed up: “Sweeter then candy and more intoxicating than any top shelf Brandy.” Widely known as the “First Lady of New Jersey Jazz,” Madame Pat Tandy has been singing professionally since the 1970s. She has performed in Trenton clubs for more than 50 years. 

 “I used to perform over here all the time, and a lot of the clubs that we did perform are close down now,” Tandy said. However, she noted concerts and venues like the Candlelight Lounge keep jazz in Trenton. “It’s the roots. It’s been here all along because we really jam over here with the jazz and blues. So to keep it going, that’s what we got to try to do.”

Overall, Trenton residents had a fun time at Levitt AMP over the weekend. Diane Turner, Trenton Resident, has made every single concert. “I have tried to make all of them. I do this every summer when they have it… This is a good lineup. The bands are excellent. The music is nice; it’s upbeat; I like the blues,” Turner said.  

Next on the list is Malidelphia, a folkloric performance-art ensemble of African and African American artists, singers, dancers, and folklorists. To learn more, head over to  

The Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series is supported in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which partners with towns and cities across America to activate underused public spaces through the power of free live music, creating welcoming, inclusive destinations. Local presenting sponsors include NJM Insurance Company, along with the support of the City of Trenton, the Mercer County Park Commission. Greater Trenton and TrentonDaily.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Living Rooms

click to enlarge Baba/Father, 2022. Stoneware with dried rose petals by Ghazal Ghazi. - BERLIN GREEN

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  • Baba/Father, 2022. Stoneware with dried rose petals by Ghazal Ghazi.

Oklahoma Contemporary – Destination Oklahoma

As America’s crossroads as well as originally being considered “Indian Territory” until 1907, Oklahoma is a unique cross-section situated inside the nation’s larger melting pot, which results in some fantastic cultural juxtapositions. Black artist Skip Hill returned from traversing the globe to call the state — specifically Tulsa — home once again and has reimagined Dust Bowl-era imagery through his own prism. Indigenous artist America Merideth combines her heritage with pop culture. Ghazal Ghazi mixes traditional Persian styles with modern portraits and September Dawn Bottoms presents her own generational trauma through photography that is both evocative and eerie after calling the West Coast home for many years while Đan Lynh Phạm combines her experience of being born in Vietnam and its traditional folk art with her own assimilation into the country that she now calls home. Destination Oklahoma provides a glimpse into the diverse meaning of what it means to be both an American and, more specifically, an Oklahoman, whether by birth or adoption.

Also, John Newsom’s Nature’s Course closes Aug. 15 in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery.

click to enlarge Sports Illustrated cover by Walter Iooss Jr. - BERLIN GREEN

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  • Sports Illustrated cover by Walter Iooss Jr.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art – The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography

Even if you don’t recognize Walter Iooss Jr. by name, you’ve almost certainly encountered at least one of his sports portraits over the years unless you’ve been living under a rock (Iooss’ work is so iconic that you’re likely to recognize at least one image from this curated gallery even if you’ve never witnessed a sporting event live even once in your life). In addition to his well-documented relationship with basketball legend Michael Jordan and the resulting book of photographs Rare Air, Iooss (pronounced “YŌS”) has documented Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, Joe Namath and Arnold Palmer among many other icons over his more than half a century shooting for Sports Illustrated. This exhibit closes Sept. 4, so these are your last few weeks to experience it before it’s gone.

Also, One Hundred Years of Revolution: French Art from 1850 to 1950 opens Aug. 20 and will be on display until Feb. 19. From the Golden Age to the Moving Image will also be on display until the end of the year.

click to enlarge BERLIN GREEN

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If you must go outside…

Downtown Edmond now has 31 new murals thanks to the Sunny Dayz Mural Festival held earlier this month. Stop by and take in an eyeful of 42 freshly-painted works from female and non-binary artists from Oklahoma and beyond.

Oklahoma Contemporary recently installed Breve historia del tiempo (2020), or Brief History of Time in the Campbell Art Park facing Broadway Avenue. On loan from La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, the piece is a suspended Plymouth Duster that appears to be on the verge of breaking the surface of the water’s surface immediately beneath it. The first of a Guadalajara art exhibit arriving late September in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery, it has to be seen in person to be experienced fully.

click to enlarge Breve historia del tiempo (2020) - BERLIN GREEN

  • Berlin Green
  • Breve historia del tiempo (2020)

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7 things to do in Milwaukee this weekend (besides going to the Wisconsin State Fair), including the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival

The Morning Glory Art Fair returns to the Deer District outside Fiserv Forum Aug. 13-14.

1. Milwaukee Black Theater Festival  

The third annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, the biggest ever, takes place on five stages around the city Aug. 10 through Aug. 14. Programming includes the world premiere of “Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence” by the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at Wilson Theater in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Admission is free to nearly all events in the festival, which is presented by Black Arts MKE. Info (including a full schedule of events): 

RELATED:What you need to know about the mostly free Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, Aug. 10-14

The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival is staging events in five venues around the city Aug. 10-14.

2. Center Street Daze Festival

The 25th Center Street Daze Festival brings eight (yes, eight) eclectic stages of live music, a classic car show, carnival games and “art cart” races to the Riverwest neighborhood from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 13. The doings take place along Center Street from Humboldt Boulevard to Holton Street. Admission is free. Info: Center Street Daze Festival Facebook page.  

3. Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival 

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival returns to Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13.

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival, showcasing dance, folk music, martial arts, dragon boat races and other Chinese cultural traditions, returns to town at Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13. At least 40 teams have signed up to take part in the races, which start at 8 a.m. Info:   

4. Morning Glory Art Fair 

The Morning Glory Art Fair brings more than 130 juried artists and their creations to the Deer District in front of Fiserv Forum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13-14. The 47th annual art fair boasts artwork in 15 categories, from sculpture and jewelry to digital art. Admission is free. Info:

5. Bronzeville Week’s final days 

Bronzeville Week activities continue through Aug. 13 in Milwaukee’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Among the weekend’s highlights is the Bronzeville ArtWalk and Afro Caribbean Cultural Celebration, with live performances, art demonstrations, traditional cuisine and more from noon to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13 on North King Drive from Garfield to Meinecke avenues. Info: Bronzeville Week Facebook Page. 

RELATED:What to know about Milwaukee’s Bronzeville Week, from entertainment and art to culture and commerce

6. Luxembourg Fest 

Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five is performing at Luxembourg Fest Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County.

A diverse array of programming is on tap for this year’s Luxembourg Fest from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County. The festival, part of four days of activities sponsored by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, starts with a Main Street Parade at 11 a.m., followed by a performance by popular Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five before and after what’s billed as “the World’s Largest Treipen-Eating Contest” (treipen is a Luxembourgish blood sausage) at 1 p.m. Info:  

7. Waukesha Rotary BluesFest 

Duke Robillard is one of the headliners at this year's Waukesha Rotary BluesFest.

Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield is again home to the Waukesha Rotary BluesFest, bringing 12 blues acts Aug. 12-13. Headliners include the Duke Robillard Band and Sue Foley. Tickets at the gate are $30 for a single day and $55 for a two-day pass. Info:  

Contact Chris Foran at Follow him on Twitter at @cforan12.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The ‘post-pop’ artist stars are rushing to collect

Written by Natalie Kainz, CNN

In Dennis Osadebe’s “Nigerian Dream,” two figures clad in fuscia and mustard yellow stare out of the painting. Their facial features are obscured by a traditional tribal mask and a futuristic space helmet. The piece parodies the 1930 Grant Wood painting “American Gothic,” but exchanges a rural farmhouse for a modern home, and a pitchfork for an electric fan — a staple for beating the heat in Nigeria.

The 31-year-old Lagos-based artist wants to challenge assumptions about African art, visualizing the continent’s future by reaching into the past.

“I always want to use my art to educate people about Nigeria by making them understand that we’re already future-thinking,” said Osadebe, whose work fits into the movement known as Afrofuturist art combining African heritage with technology. “We are … sophisticated and complicated. [We] can participate in art at any level.”

“Nigerian Dream” is an example of “Neo African” art, a term Osadebe said he coined to describe work that rebels against stereotypes around African art. His style has captivated audiences around the world, and even won the approval of tennis champion Naomi Osaka.

Osadebe poses in front of "Knowledge Seeker" (2022), part of his series of self-portraits.

Osadebe poses in front of “Knowledge Seeker” (2022), part of his series of self-portraits. Credit: Yusuf “Buch” Sanni

Using surrealism and “post-pop” to transcend expectations

Instead of focusing on Nigeria’s shortcomings, Osadebe said, including inconsistent access to electricity and poor health care, his work celebrates the future by showcasing Africa’s potential.

Osadebe describes his art as “postmodern surrealism,” and “post-pop.” His everyday scenes, anonymous faces, and imagery of common household objects are designed to help people visualize their lives in his art.

“When people look at this piece, I want them to reflect and ask themselves: ‘do I see myself in this piece and why?'” said Osadebe. “I want to convey the feeling of us as human beings … having shared experiences [by celebrating] the most mundane, simple things.”

Research is key to his artistic process. He starts by identifying features of existing images that excite him. He has borrowed horses from Renaissance paintings, David Hockney’s reverse perspective, and René Magritte’s playful obstruction of faces. “It’s similar to collage in that sense,” he added.
In "Dismantle" (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes.

In “Dismantle” (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

Next, Osadebe starts to build a digital image around that feature. When the digital rendering is complete, he prints it on canvas and paints it using acrylic. For him, combining digital and traditional mediums gives him creative freedom.

Capturing a global audience

Osadebe said art is about developing a visual language that transcends geographic boundaries — a “universal language that everybody can connect to.” His work has captivated viewers in galleries all over the world, including Berlin, New York, Tokyo, Miami, London and Hong Kong.

He said learning about people’s perspectives on his art fuels his confidence to create. During his first exhibition in Lagos — 2017’s “Remember the Future,” inspired by the Nigerian space program — he was nervous about his work. “I was like, what have I done? These are all cartoon characters,” recalled Osadebe.

That anxiety went away when he had a discussion with the first person who walked into the gallery. “He [said] ‘as a Nigerian, this is something I felt like I needed to see — this was a perspective, a way of representation, that made me feel and see my potential.'” Osadebe said it was validating to hear that his art started a dialogue that he himself had struggled to put into words.

"Exercise Indoors" (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home.

“Exercise Indoors” (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

More validation came from Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka. The four-time Grand Slam champion purchased several of Osadebe’s pieces after coming across them in 2020. Her management team reached out to Osadebe, he said, and told him Osaka was drawn to a painting of a woman sitting on a horse in a living room.

“She was like ‘this evokes the energy I feel when I get into a room,'” he said. While he never spoke to Osaka directly, he speculates that she liked the piece’s message about controlling one’s own narrative.

Last year, he painted a cover for a Racquet Magazine feature about Osaka at her request. It features a figure standing in a living room clutching tennis equipment.

Turning heritage into inspiration

Osadebe’s references to his Nigerian heritage infuse his art with nostalgia. The tribal mask that often appears in his paintings was inspired by the official emblem of the Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture — a replica of the royal ivory mask of Benin.

Osadebe grew up in Festac Town, the federal housing estate in Lagos that was designed in 1977 to house the festival’s participants. Despite living in a place associated with the arts, he said there wasn’t enough representation of young and relatable artists in Nigeria when he was growing up. “I never knew that [a career in art] was a possibility,” he added.

He is the first artist in his family. His father’s career as an entrepreneur inspired Osadebe to study business management at Queen Mary University of London. He completed a master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship, before returning to Lagos to work for a boutique finance firm. He started painting as a way to vent his frustrations — then realized he could turn his passion into a career.

"Composure" (2022) was part of Osadebe's most recent exhibition "MODERN MAGIC" at König London. It's part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it.

“Composure” (2022) was part of Osadebe’s most recent exhibition “MODERN MAGIC” at König London. It’s part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

His personal journey as an artist was part of the inspiration behind his recent series of self-portraits. In “Composure” (2022), furniture, plants, and paper swirl through the air in a living room. A figure stands motionlessly before the objects — calm amid chaos.

“I really wanted to reflect myself as an artist today [and] speak on my findings, my struggles, my frustrations,” said Osadebe. Under immense pressure, there is an expectation to retain composure, he added.

For Osadebe, “optimism is critical.” It’s the phrase he lives by when addressing serious themes in his art — like Nigeria’s long history of military rule from the 1960s into the 1990s in “General (Shoots a fake gun),” or police brutality in the video game he designed called “Playful Rebellion.” He said his art uses “optimism as a source of protest.”
Osadebe painted "General (shoots a fake gun)" in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders' lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. "For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people," he said, adding that the book beneath the figure's foot symbolizes education taking the last priority.

Osadebe painted “General (shoots a fake gun)” in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders’ lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. “For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people,” he said, adding that the book beneath the figure’s foot symbolizes education taking the last priority. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

That mentality fuels his continued experimentation with new mediums. He has already made 3D sculptures and interactive graphic interfaces. While he can’t give away any spoilers just yet, he said his next series will celebrate Nigerian identity.

“With optimism, there’s hope,” he explained. “It’s what drives me to want to create, [to] try out new mediums, because it makes me feel like there’s more possibilities.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Today In The Culture, August 10, 2022: Festival au Cinéma | Taste Of Greektown | Music Institute Of Chicago Season

Music Institute Artist-in-Residence Tammy McCann/Photo: Mary Rafferty


“Questioning the Place of Black Art In A White Man’s Collection”

“Isaac Julien’s installation at the Barnes Foundation highlights the museum’s African sculptures even as it questions the ethics of their acquisition,” writes Arthur Lubow at the New York Times. Barnes “started acquiring African sculpture in 1922, the year he set up the foundation, because it had inspired Picasso, Modigliani and many other artists in France he supported. ‘When the Foundation opens, Negro art will have a place among the great art manifestations of all times,’ he wrote to his Parisian dealer in 1923…With a commission by the Barnes for the foundation’s centenary, the Black English artist Isaac Julien created a five-screen black-and-white film installation, ‘Once Again …(Statues Never Die),’ that looks at the place of African art in the Barnes and other Western museums… Julien chided Barnes for limiting his support of Black art to the work of African civilizations and not collecting the output of his own African American contemporaries… Julien’s installation puts a spotlight on the Barnes’s estimable trove of African art—and on the long shadows that it casts.”


Renewable Energy Coming In Three Years To Airports, Harold Washington Library

Mayor Lightfoot aims to move city-run buildings to one-hundred-percent renewable power, the Tribune reports. “The city of Chicago has reached a deal worth up to $422 million to partially power some of its biggest buildings with solar energy starting in 2025… As part of a contract with retail electricity supplier Constellation, the city will buy solar energy that will partially power Chicago’s airports, the Harold Washington Library Center and the Jardine Water Purification Plant.” Adds the Sun-Times: “Governor Pritzker, whose Climate and Equitable Jobs Act laid the groundwork… called the power supply contract that will make clean energy the standard for buildings a ‘model’ for the nation… City-owned buildings that consume the most energy [will draw] a healthy chunk of their power from a new solar farm under construction in Sangamon and Morgan counties.” (The city just awarded over $200 million in airport maintenance and security contracts with ABM Aviation and Lincoln Security Services, reports Crain’s.)


Chicago Staffing Challenges Persist For Restaurants

Avondale’s Eden is the example Eater Chicago cites as challenges persist in staffing restaurants around the city: “Delays aren’t anything unusual for restaurant openings… For Eden, staffing posed a serious challenge. The labor climate has rapidly changed and [the co-owner] says jobs that were once $15-$16 per hour now require wages of $20 or more per hour. Right now they staff about sixteen… But for dinner, they want to add ten to twelve more.”

Taste Of Greektown Returns

Greektown Chicago’s popular Taste of Greektown festival returns for its thirty-second year. It’s the city’s largest celebration of Hellenic cuisine and culture, and runs Friday, August 26-Sunday, August 28 along Halsted Street from Adams to Van Buren, highlighting the neighborhood’s Greek restaurants with live music and entertainment, Greek dancing and unique shopping and retail. The neighborhood’s Greek restaurants include 9 Muses Bar & Grill (315 South Halsted), Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora (306 South Halsted), Athena Restaurant (212 South Halsted), Mr. Greek Gyros (234 South Halsted) and Spectrum Bar & Grill (233 South Halsted). An optional $7 donation is suggested. More here.


Shorts Festival At Haven Theatre

Haven Chicago has announced its Festival au Cinéma, “the company’s new platform for visionary and innovative filmmakers and media artists staking their claim in the future of digital storytelling.” The three-day-three-night event features over twenty short films plus events including conversations with the filmmakers, an opening night cocktail mixer, a “boozy brunch” featuring an iconic movie screening and a closing awards party. The weekend ends with the Made in Chicago Gala, Haven’s second annual fundraising event on Sunday, August 28, which includes a sneak peek at Haven’s inaugural film project. Festival au Cinéma, August 26–28 at Haven’s resident home The Den Theatre. Schedule and more here.


“Comics Attract People Who Have Anxiety,” Says Nick Drnaso

“Nick Drnaso finds himself in a disconcerting position. His hobby has become his job. He is still struggling to get used to a world in which it makes more financial sense for him to sit at his drawing board from the moment he wakes up until 2am,” writes Sam Leith in a Guardian profile. “He feels, he admits when he speaks to me from his home studio in Chicago, like an ‘impostor.’ Until 2016 he was working behind a pressing machine in a factory that made tin badges. ‘You would kind of assemble the pieces. It just felt like cartooning… problem-solving and repetitive motion and working delicately with your hands. So I loved it.’ … Discovering the Midwestern cartoonist John Porcellino’s work–’It pushes minimalism pretty much as far as it can go while still telling a coherent story’–was ‘a huge revelation.’ Drnaso learned the lessons of that minimalism in his debut collection, ‘Beverly,’ and refined it in ‘Sabrina,’ the breakthrough 2018 work that established him–and that has put him in the relatively rare position of earning a full-time living making literary comics.”

New Graywolf Press Publisher Looking For Talent In New Places

The New York Times reports that Carmen Giménez is now “the executive director and publisher of Graywolf Press, one of the nation’s most venerable independent, nonprofit publishers,” which is located in Minneapolis. “Her goal, she said, will be to cultivate the next generation of public intellectuals, whoever and wherever they might be, and to widen the press’s audience… Writers ‘might not be coming from the same traditional academic backgrounds.’ … The search for new talent will encompass ‘any number of places where people are talking or thinking, or being creative or having a voice,’ including TikTok, where Giménez believes there is probably a public intellectual waiting to break out.”

The Books That Made Sara Paretsky Want To Be A Writer

“By six or so I was already writing little stories, but I never imagined myself as a published writer. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, reading Raymond Chandler at the same time that my life was being turned around by second wave feminism, that I started trying to write for publication,” Sara Paretsky tells the Guardian. “I was tired of reading books in which women used their bodies to try to get good boys to do bad things. I wanted to create a female detective who was a person, someone who could solve problems without using her body, and someone who could have a sex life that didn’t define her moral character. My series of novels featuring detective V.I. Warshawski came out of that wish.”


Lollapalooza Gets Restrictions On Other Grant Park Fests

“The deal to keep Lollapalooza in Chicago for at least the next decade includes a complete revamp of how festival producers will pay the Park District, tighter restrictions that keep competing music festivals out of Grant Park and no provisions for investment in the grounds except a $100,000 tennis court renovation,” reports the Trib. A draft agreement obtained by the paper states that “CPD and [Lollapalooza owner] C3 shall collaborate as necessary to avoid similar activity (multi-day music festivals) as characterized by type of entertainment, number of days and number of stages in Grant Park. In no case shall CPD, without the written consent of C3, permit a music festival in Grant Park to allow more than 20,000 daily attendees or to run more than two days.” Writes the Trib, “That appears to mean another C3-run festival, the two-day Sueños Music Festival, would be allowed to go forward.”

Motown’s Lamont Dozier Was Eighty-One

Critic Carrie Rickey posts: “In the 1960s, the three standards of hipness were Mary Quant, Yardley of London, and Holland-Dozier-Holland. Lamont Dozier passed away at 81, and his life is every bit as great as his many Motown hits.” The New York Times obituary: for “the prolific songwriter and producer who was crucial to the success of Motown Records as one-third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team.” “In collaboration with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Mr. Dozier wrote songs for dozens of musical acts, but the trio worked most often with Martha and the Vandellas (‘Heat Wave,’ ‘Jimmy Mack’), the Four Tops (‘Bernadette,’ ‘I Can’t Help Myself’) and especially the Supremes (‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ ‘Baby Love’).” From 1963 to 1972, “the Holland-Dozier-Holland team was responsible for more than eighty singles that hit the Top forty of the pop or R&B charts, including fifteen songs that reached No. 1. ‘It was as if we were playing the lottery and winning every time,’ Mr. Dozier wrote in his autobiography, ‘How Sweet It Is.’”

Music Institute Of Chicago Announces Nichols Concert Hall Season

The Music Institute of Chicago’s season at Nichols Concert Hall in downtown Evanston features artists performing classical, jazz and gospel. “The diversity of this series connects with every part of our community. What every concert has in common is the excellence of the artists,” says Music Institute president and CEO Mark George in a release. This year the Music Institute celebrates Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) through its “One Composer, One Community” program, which focuses on the life and work of a single, underrepresented BIPOC composer. Considered the single most significant creative figure in twentieth-century Brazilian art music, Villa-Lobos’ unique compositional style synthesized contemporary European techniques with elements of national music. Villa-Lobos penned more than 2,000 orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works. Three of this season’s Nichols Concert Hall programs feature work by Villa-Lobos. Also featured: Chicago jazz favorite and Music Institute artist-in-residence Tammy McCann in “Yes, Mahalia!,” on Saturday, October 29, which offers homage to gospel pioneer and Chicago legend Mahalia Jackson, paired with the sonic power of big-band jazz. More here.


Trib’s Chris Jones Mulls A Chicago Theater “Crisis Of Leadership”

At the end of last week, Chris Jones wrote at the Chicago Tribune on the cascade of crises in the stage community, starting with Victory Gardens, “a forty-eight-year-old bedrock of the city’s famous off-Loop scene… without an artistic director, an executive director, an announced season or any kind of functionality… Its staff, to the extent there still is a staff, is angry and unhappy… I drove past the building and saw a red, do-not-cross tape over the doors. I almost threw up through my car window… This is not happening in isolation… The House Theatre of Chicago, long one of the city’s most exciting and vibrant companies, went out of business with hurt feelings on all sides, not least from a newly hired artistic director who had not been given any chance to make her mark, just as a former artistic director had been hounded out of the door, just as other talents elsewhere have been hounded out of the city. The Royal George Theatre… was allowed to disappear for condos, ruining the chance to create an entertainment district in concert with Steppenwolf… Stage 773… became a bar… TimeLine Theatre parted company with one of its artistic associates [after] women came forward alleging inappropriate behavior on the part of an individual who had, prior to this scandal, been involved in making allegations against theater companies rather than being on the receiving end of them.”


Groupon Eliminating 500 Jobs, Mostly In Illinois

Groupon begins a wave of layoffs, reports the Sun-Times. About fifteen percent of the workforce will be let go. A spokesman “could not specify how many will be at the e-commerce company’s Chicago base, 600 West Chicago, where it already is making office space available on a sublease. With remote work common… Illinois-based positions could include workers living in another state… ‘Our cost structure and our performance are not aligned. In order to position Groupon to successfully execute our turnaround plan, we have to lower our cost structure,’ CEO Kedar Deshpande said in a message to employees. The message was posted as the daily deals provider announced a widening loss during its second quarter amid a precipitous loss of revenue.” Adds the Trib, “Once the face of Chicago’s tech startup scene, Groupon has been in decline for much of the past decade… Departing employees were notified Monday, with some asked to stay on for a period of time to assist with the transition, according to the letter. Where possible, they will be given the option to keep their laptops, avail themselves of outplacement services and submit their information to a Groupon talent list to be posted on LinkedIn.”

Police Chief: “Really Focused” On Rooftops On Bud Billiken Parade

“In light of the massacre at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced that city officials are ‘really focused’ on rooftops along the route of Saturday’s Bud Billiken Parade through the South Side,” reports the Sun-Times. “Brown said city officials have been involved in planning the parade since March and have since ramped up discussions about ‘various aspects of security,’ including the police resources dedicated to the parade. The police department is specifically interested in rooftops and ‘other high-ground areas in relation to that lesson learned from Highland Park.’”

NASCAR Gets Great Deal

“Documents obtained by Crain’s through Freedom of Information Act requests shed light on the pacts between City Hall and organizers of NASCAR and Lollapalooza. Some of the details are eye-popping… New details show NASCAR will have access to the site for longer than previously stated and the race could be extended beyond the three years announced by Lightfoot in July.” The contract, gotten under that FOIA request says that “NASCAR will pay the Chicago Park District $550,000 in 2023 and 2024 for exclusive use of much of Grant Park and $605,000 in 2025.” The event “will include two races each weekend and a fan festival that is likely to include concerts. The contract grants NASCAR access to the Petrillo Band Shell on Wednesday through Sunday of race week. Unlike the park district’s deal with Lollapalooza organizers, C3 Presents, the city is not getting a cut of any sponsorships related to the NASCAR event or a broadcast deal… The NASCAR contract doesn’t specify what repairs NASCAR will have to pay for at the conclusion of the event, but the company will lay down a $50,000 security deposit and officials from both parties will tour the site before and after the event with a third-party contractor… The company will be provided a ‘staging window’ of twenty-one days prior and ten days after the event to two areas of the event map marked as the ‘Pit Road Paddock,’” part of a VIP offering.

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Largest Milwaukee Black Theater Festival returns this week

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – This week, Black Arts MKE presents the biggest Milwaukee Black Theater Festival ever, hosting events at venues across the city Aug. 10-14.

The week-long celebration of Black arts and culture features full-production and staged reading plays, an R&B and Gospel fundraiser concert, spoken word and dance performances, and talk-back and panel discussions. All events are free and open to the public, except for the fundraiser concert, which is a ticketed event. A full festival schedule can be found on the digital program or official website.

This year’s theme is The Black Family: Generations Speak!, presented by generations of Black artists, includes events for the entire family, acknowledges community challenges, and encourages everyone to come together now to celebrate Black theater, healing, and unity.

“For the first time, the festival will be held across multiple venues in an effort to expose more of the city to rich cross-disciplinary artistic and cultural activity produced by Milwaukee-based Black artists,” says Cory Nettles, Black Arts MKE Board Chair. “We’re proud to produce Milwaukee Black Theater Festival to share more of our stories and put a spotlight on emerging young Black playwrights and professional theater organizations, including Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and Lights! Camera! Soul!.” Expanded venues include Marcus Performing Arts Center, St. Ann Center Indaba Community Band Shell, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, and The Table Vocational Center.

Milwaukee Black Theater Festival events include:

  • Two theatrical world premieres produced by Bronzeville Arts Ensemble: Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence by Sheri Williams Pannell and Khloe’s Beautiful Blues staged reading by La’Ketta Caldwell
  • Theatrical production of Hidden Heroes by Shà Cage – The Black Women of NASA produced by First Stage and directed by Samantha Montgomery
  • Youth & Family Night kicks off the festival with preview performances from several collaborating BIPOC youth theater and dance organizations including First Stage, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Next Act Theatre, and Signature Dance Company
  • This Just In staged reading by Malaina Moore, an emerging young MKE-based Black playwright
  • Family Reunion Concert Fundraiser produced by Antoine Reynolds and featuring Milwaukee’s most talented R&B and Gospel artists and musicians
  • Milwaukee Black Theater Community, Let’s Talk! Including a History of Milwaukee Black Theater, moderated panel discussion, and an Adolphus Ward Scholarship presentation produced by Lights! Camera! Soul!’s Dimonte Henning
  • Healing Through the Arts Showcase performances presented by several artists and survivors as portrayed in Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence

“We’re honoring the Black Family during the third year of the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival which provides an opportunity to tell stories which entertain us while sharing our history, exploring our challenges, uniting our generations, and celebrating our beauty!,” adds Sheri Williams Pannell, co-founder Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival and Bronzeville Arts Ensemble producing artistic director.“

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In Chicago, after the segregation years, segregation continues

Every morning, Richard Hunt goes to his workshop, located in a former electrical plant on the North Side of Chicago. A makeshift heater stuggles to warm the space. At 86 and with a white beard, the African-American artist works on his latest creation, a sculpture that will be placed in the garden of Barack Obama’s presidential library. The former president is considered a child of the city even if he was not born in it. Standing beside a model of the work – a bird flying out of a book – the artist explained his project, as his slender hands traced its shape. “Reading books allows us to understand, to soar from a place where we might have stayed if we hadn’t read the book, and to explore new possibilities,” he said. Surrounded by a thousand sculptures and as many pieces of metal, Mr. Hunt embodies a myth, that the American dream is also meant for Black Chicagoans.

His parents came from rural Georgia and Illinois, and he lived with them in Chicago’s segregated South Side after World War 2. One of his teachers, like his parents, noticed his interest in the arts. Then he took Saturday classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the city’s superb art museum. Upon graduating from high school in 1953, Mr. Hunt applied for a graduate fellowship at the Art Institute of Chicago and was eventually sent to Florence, Italy, to study. Back in Chicago, he opened a studio, taught and sculpted. “I realized then that I was making more money by selling my work,” Mr. Hunt said. In 1971, the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave him an exhibition. “MoMA had been criticized for not showing enough African-American art,” he recalled. This event offered him official recognition.

Chicago would like to be the city of emancipation and glory for African Americans. It was here, in fact, that trumpeter Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) triumphed. He left New Orleans when Storyville, the hotbed of jazz, closed down after the US entered the war in 1917. Chicago is also the city of basketball player Michael Jordan, who, although he was born in Brooklyn, made the Bulls a legend from 1984 to 1998. It is also the city where Barack Obama was a community organizer and met his future wife, Michelle, who attended the same church as Mr. Hunt’s parents.

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Reverse migration

But Chicago is not limited to this beautiful story. It is also the often traumatic history of the South Side, where African-Americans are concentrated. It’s a community whose family units are often fractured, that suffers from segregation, miserable schools, industry-polluted soil and gang warfare that causes nearly 900 deaths per year. Blacks are leaving this city en masse, according to Matt Rosenberg, the author of a vitriolic essay on his city (What Next, Chicago? Notes of a Pissed-Off Native Son). He said, “The Black population has shrunk by a third since 1980, as has the White population. If the overall population is stable, it’s because Latinos have replaced them. We’re witnessing a great reverse migration of Blacks.”

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Lubaina Himid Wins Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize

The Contemporary Austin has named cultural activist and multimedia artist Lubaina Himid as the recipient of the 2024 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize. Himid will receive an unrestricted award of $200,000 and a solo exhibition of her work that will appear at the Texas institution in 2024 before traveling to FLAG Art Foundation in New York. The prize, established by collectors Suzanne Deal Booth and Glenn Fuhrman, is one of the largest and most prestigious in the United States.

“As a British artist, you don’t expect to win an American prize,” Himid told Artnews in an interview. “I know people say it all the time when they win things, but I really am honored.”

The Zanzibar-born artist, who lives and works in Preston, UK, is currently the subject of a retrospective at London’s Tate Modern. A curator, critic, and educator, she is the founder of the Blk Art Group, which profoundly influenced many British Black artists working in the 1980s. Himid won the Turner Prize in 2017, becoming the first Black woman to do so. She has in the ensuing years exhibited her work on New York’s High Line as well as at the Sharjah Biennial and the Berlin Biennale.

“Himid’s work is both content-rich and aesthetically beautiful, making her an excellent choice for this prestigious award,” said sharon maidenberg, executive director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin.

Though she mainly considers herself a painter, Himid is also widely known for her installations, and she hinted that her forthcoming prize-affiliated exhibition may center around works of this nature, as the Tate show does. Himid has said that she will treat the Contemporary Austin as though it were a theater, and that she hopes to place the audience “center-stage, as though they’re the most important people in the room and not the art.”

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Stealing Spirits in Harlem Renaissance DC: The Heist Fantasy of Leslye Penelope’s The Monsters We Defy

There may not be a better setting for a heist novel than the Roaring 20s. In the Prohibition Era, the United States was full of gangsters and speakeasies—and, if looked at through a fantasy lens, undoubtedly magic. The Monsters We Defy takes that setting one step deeper, blending gangsters with the vibrant African American arts scene of the era.

Leslye Penelope sets her story in 1920s Washington D.C., an era of thriving creativity within the African American community. While racial injustice is never far distant from the story, that’s not the point of the story. It’s the idea of building community—and the power of that same community to help a person know exactly who they are—that drives the book’s larger narrative forward. A heist is central to the plot, but the objective isn’t wealth or glory; by the end, the goal is saving the people who are in the thick of this world with them, facing the same prejudice and discrimination, no matter how rich or poor.

Brightly painted with hues and shades of magic, set against a backdrop of jazz music and drag balls, Penelope has taken a specific historical place and moment and made them feel vibrantly alive. She expertly weaves threads of folklore, mythology, and Bible stories into the tapestry of the setting, creating a texture that ties the story to this world and its history while allowing the fantastic to breathe and flow. By giving readers Clara Johnson, a seer born with sight into the Other World who is nevertheless deeply grounded in the material world, she provides the perfect guide into this alternate moment in history.

For years, Clara has pushed others away, unable to trust anyone but herself. She certainly can’t trust the spirits who have her ear, and she’s learned the hard way that she can’t trust people to come through for her. Years before the book’s central plot, during the racially charged civil unrest of 1919 (an actual historical event in which white mobs attacked both the African American community and African American soldiers returning from WWI), Clara gained infamy for defending herself against a white police officer. The texture of that event, and her determination not to think about it, keep the details of what happened hidden until late into the narrative.
\Because it occurred, Clara is well-known but kept at arms’-length, especially by the members of the Black upper class. She’s better off alone, she thinks. And yet, she made a spiritual bargain that flies in the face of that. She’s cursed to help any who come to her, free of charge, if they seek to make a bargain with the Enigmas, powerful spirits that can grant changes of fortune if the person is willing to incur a debt.

Clara is intimately familiar with those bargains, and the weight of the debt that comes with them. It’s not helping others that lies heavy on her soul,it’s the knowledge that her “help” comes with such a high cost. Despite her tough exterior, Clara is instantly a protagonist that draws sympathy, that readers will want to win—so long as she’s willing to bear the cost.

Despite her best efforts to live a life without emotional attachments, Clara has been adopted by a former circus performer determined to be her friend. Zelda, a Black woman with albinism, is a startling figure, not just because of her appearance, but because of her willingness to cast aside any pretense of social norms. A con artist, a (very talented) pickpocket, an acrobat, and a martial artist, Zelda sees Clara as a person unwilling to let others be harmed—and a lonely soul. The two are roommates, with a recurring joke that Zelda will move out “tomorrow” if Clara really wants her gone.

When one of the Enigmas, the Empress (who holds Clara’s debt), insists that Clara must retrieve a magical ring for her, she initially refuses. She’s no thief. But as she connects the ring’s power to the disappearances of impoverished people in her community, including a teenage coworker that Clara cares about, she begrudgingly hatches a plan. She’ll need Zelda’s help, but also the assistance of some of the others indebted to the spirits: Aristotle (a man who can change his appearance at will, but who is rendered invisible when he’s himself), Israel (a bandleader who’s the talk of the town due to his own magical charm, but is idolized instead of considered a friend), and Jesse Lee (who can manipulate memories, but who can never be remembered by the one woman he loves).

Together, using their powers (both magical and circus-learned), they go after Madame Josephine, a former opera singer and the wife of one of the most notorious gangsters in the District, who wears the magical ring on her finger at all times.

Of course, the Enigmas also have their own agendas. They are not to be trusted, and the Enigmas holding their debts have made sure that only Israel or Clara—not both—will taste freedom when the job is done. That fate becomes even more heart-wrenching as their attraction and admiration for each other grows (despite solitary Clara’s best efforts to deny catching any sort of feelings).

But while the fantasy heist setup sits at the core of the novel, and the story works within its confines, that label fails to capture the richness of both the story and the artfulness of Penelope’s writing. Like a jazz number that comes back to a chorus, changing the notes a bit each time, Penelope frequently flashes back to the childhood of one of the principal characters, opening the novel with the story of Clara’s birth, but featuring the early years of several others in turn. The weaving of those tales into the larger narrative gives a sense of continuity, that the present is deeply connected to the past, and that both together shape the future.

The theme of freedom is also a raw one here, for characters so close to the legacy of enslavement. When certain characters are denied their free will (and face a fate worse than death), it’s against the backdrop of that legacy. The debts carried by those who now have deals with the spirits reflect the debts that keep sharecroppers on the same land, in servitude to those who own it. Clara also struggles with the idea of what can be done with freedom—and if hers was so hard won, shouldn’t she be doing something with her life to reflect that?

The setting sparkles and sings, and Clara’s no-nonsense, prickly attitude are heightened by the wonder that surrounds her—while at the same time, they’re grounded in the realities that many of her community face, whether at the hands of the Enigmas or poverty. And though she doesn’t intend to, Clara again emerges as a hero, simply from her determination to help those in need.

It’s a curse, but it’s also her core—and the center of what makes a community. It’s people who help each other, and it’s how we know who we are.

Alana Joli Abbott is a reviewer and game writer, whose multiple choice novels, including Choice of the Pirate and Blackstone Academy for Magical Beginners, are published by Choice of Games. She is the author of three novels, several short stories, and many role playing game supplements. She also edits fantasy anthologies for Outland Entertainment, including Bridge to Elsewhere and Never Too Old to Save the World (currently on Kickstarter). You can find her online at

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