Chicago - An Arts City Unlike Any Other

2015-09-18 15.56.45 2015-09-18 16.43.00 2015-09-18 16.13.59 2015-09-18 16.55.33 2015-09-18 15.56.20 2015-09-18 15.56.54 2015-09-18 15.47.54Chicago is undeniably a great arts city and it is too hard to keep up sometimes.  This weekend was a prime example with EXPO Chicago, great documentaries and movies playing and the premier of “Disgraced” at the Goodman Theater.  Also did you catch of the launch of the Facebook Page “Black Art Chicago?  Well, you better ask somebody.

EXPO Chicago

I visited Expo Chicago at Navy Pier on Friday afternoon and was immediately struck by the diversity in the body of work on display from diverse artist across the county.

I’d barely walked in the EXPO when I spotted noted photographer Dawoud Bey strolling the floor.  We talked about the best way to approach to seeing the abundance of art at the show.  We parted ways and I immediately walk into the Kavi Gupta Gallery featuring the amazing photos of Mickalene Thomas.  Her photos have this 70’s black lights in the basement vibe and I know, from a lecture she gave at the Art Institute, that her mother was the subject of many of her photos.  I make a turn and walk into the Yancey Richardson Galley to encounter the provocative black and white photos of Zanele Muholo. The woman subject in her shots has piercing eyes, the whites of which are a stark contrast to her beautiful dark skin.  He twitter page @MuholiZanele says she is A Visual Activist mapping and archiving a visual history of black Lesbians in post-Apartheid South Africa and worldwide.  Arresting images!

I turn another corner and see a large group assembled for the ‘Dialogues” series sponsored by the School of the Art Institute and without knowing the topic yet decide that with this big a crowd I better find a seat.  And it didn’t take log to find out why.  The discussion entitled “Museum Models:  The Global Impact of Public Collections featured Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum of Harlem and Franklin Sirmans, former curator at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and newly named director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami.  They shared insights on building collections, curation and bridging the past and the future in their institutions’ exhibits.  Of course my burning question was on Golden’s role with the Obama Presidential Library.  She demurred saying that was not the topic for today and later in a sidebar that there was no news to report.  Oh well, you’ve got to take a shot.


Saturday I headed to the Landmark Theater on the city’s north side to see “Rosenwald” the Aviva Kempner documentary about the Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who rose to hear Sears and his partnership with Booker T. Washington that led to the building of more than 5400 hundred Rosenwald Schools in the Jim Crow South in the early 1900’s.  Rosenwald Grants also funded the work of noted African American artists like Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes,  Gordon Parks and Langston Hughes.  Featured in the documentary are Rosenwald School alumni including Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, Maya Angelou and director George C. Wolfs, Rosenwald relatives and civil rights leaders including Julian Bond and Ben Jealous.  Additionally, Rosenwald was the driver behind building housing options in the Bronzeville neighborhood, most notably the soon to be refurbished 239 unit Rosenwald Courts.  It won’t be there long so take advantage to learn some seldom told African American history.


Sunday night was media night at the Goodman Theater where “Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar debuted in the Albert Theater.  The Pulitzer Prize winning production follows the story young, upwardly mobile Wall Street attorney Amir Kapoor, a lapsed Muslim and his white, idealistic artist wife Emily as they throw a dinner part for a similarly successful couple, a Jewish curator Isaac and his African American wife Jory who works in Kapoor’s law firm. Rounding out the cast is Kapoor’s nephew Abe, who still adheres to his Muslim faith and is a reminder of all that Kapoor has left behind.  As scotch fueled theoretical discussions morph into personal revelations and private concerns the engaging and successful friends find their fears and isms unearthed.  The produced was nuanced, in your face and complicated.  Dealing with perceptions, misconceptions and deception it was a character study of the America we live in today. It’s a must see.

Did you Hear!

Swann Galleries’ NYC September 15 Auction of the collection of beloved American cultural icon and renaissance women Maya Angelou drew record crowds and sold 98%, more than doubling pre sale estimates.  The sale set an auction record for Artist Faith Ringgold’s Maya’s Quilt  of Life, 1989, which was acquired by the  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Other records were for John Biggers, whose Kumasi Market, 1962, sold for $389,000, and Melvin Edwards, whose welded steel sculpture OWWA Maya, 2011, sold for $40,000. See the results here

Not to be Missed and Shared


The Facebook page is just one part of a new not-for-profit initiative to increase audiences for African American arts and cultural events throughout the city. Learn more about what's going on and join others who share your interests in music, theater, dance, art, film, photography and the written word. Stay in the know on hundreds of events by sending your e-mail address and zip code to Be sure to LIKE us, share them with your friends, and check back often for updates. Follow them at ‪#‎BlackArtsChicago, and on Twitter @blackartschicago

Project Gentleman - Created by Jermaine Lawrence Anderson, Will L. Lewis IV and Corey Carr, these well-dressed gents are working to provide 1,000 young men graduating from high school in 2016 with 1,000 suits to help them launch the next phase of their lives.  The group got a great boost when Windy City Live featured them on their 1,000th episode and provided them racks of new and gently used men’s suits.  Want to help these dapper dudes, they are collecting suit, shirts, ties and shoes until May 2016?  Visit and see the WCL clip here.   Adopt Lewis’ mantra “Dress the way you want to be addressed!”

Coming Soon and Very Soon

UniverSoul Circus

Ok it may not be art & culture - technically! But people, the new Ring Master Lucky Malatsi of Johannesburg, South Africa is worth checking out. The 26 year old has been performing in front of an audience since the age of four  and I personally can’t wait to see what’s new with this 20-year-old organization.  Opening night for the UniverSoul Circus is September 22 in Washington Park.

Literacy Chicago

Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa at Literacy Chicago’s Well Read Ball October 16 at the Union League Club. Visit

Harlem Fine Art Show

The Harlem Fine Art Show - October 29 - November 1 at the Merchandise Mart.


A birthday party for the South Side Community Art Center.  In our best Stevie Wonder voice let’s celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this arts institution on Chicago

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