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‘Youth spectacle’ transforms nature museum

The Redmoon Youth Spectacle, a massive “spectacle art” installation created by hundreds of Chicago students, takes over the south gallery and terrace of the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum for four nights this week.

Some 750 young people, including CPS students and residents of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, worked with Redmoon‘s Neighborhood Arts Program to design, create, engineer and perform a series of interpretations of their experience of Chicago’s urban ecology.

Redmoon shared the tools of the spectacle art for which it is known, including puppetry, gadgetry, surreal contraptions, acrobatics, sound installation and shadow animation, said Sean Kaplan.  Kids love it, he said.

Installations that were constructed at community sites are being transported to the museum, and about 60 kids are participating in performances which will transform the installations into a “living exhibition.”   Performances take place hourly between 6 and 9 p.m., Wednesday May 18 through Friday the 20th.  A 6:30 p.m. performance on Tuesday, May 17 is followed by a panel discussion by artists and educators.

Admission is $10, $3 for students, $25 for a family of five.  The Notebart Museum is at 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park.

DuSable celebrates Burroughs; archives go online

Tomorrow, DuSable Museum features a day-long celebration of the life of Margaret Burroughs, the artist and institution-builder who died November 21. At the same time, the University of Chicago unveils a project to improve access to archives at South Side cultural institutions, including two founded by Burroughs, DuSable Museum and the South Side Community Art Center.

Dr. Margaret Burroughs: In Her Own Words is a day-long celebration of DuSable’s founder featuring storytelling, children’s workshops, musical and spoken word performances, and symposiums on Burroughs as educator, institution builder, social justice activist, and poet and artist.

Tours of the museum’s new exhibit, “Phenomenal Woman,” dedicated to Burroughs’s work, will also be held.

The free event starts at 10 a.m. (Saturday, December 11) at DuSable, 760 E. 56th, and concludes at 4:45 p.m. with a reception featuring Maggie Brown and Kelan Phil Cohran.

Friday night, U. of C.’s Uncovering New Chicago Archives Project unveils a website that will allow researchers to search the contents of collections from DuSable, SSCAC, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Review, and the Vivian Harsh Research Collection at the Woodson Regional Library.

UNCAP grew out of a project at the university to identify and process archives related to African American history in Chicago, according to the University of Chicago Chronicle.  Graduate library students were trained to sort and inventory a range of archives, creating descriptive “finding aids” to help researchers locate materials on the website.

UNCAP includes collections from musician Sun Ra, poet Paul Carroll, and Defender political cartoonist Chester Commodore, as well as the Chicago Jazz Archive and the contemporary poetry archive at the University of Chicago Library.

Gropius – Chicago, New York

The destruction of Gropius buildings at Michael Reese Hospital, which Blair Kamin calls “ongoing cultural vandalism,” continues with a third demolition, the Serum Center.

“It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Serum Center,” according to the Gropius in Chicago Coalition.  “It represents one of the fullest and most extraordinary of Gropius’s contributions to Chicago.”

The coalition will rally in protest on Tuesday, November 24 at noon at Daley Plaza.

Meanwhile, Gropius and his Bauhaus colleagues are featured in an exhibition that recently opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

An Ofrenda by Sandra Cisneros

“Camino a Casa: Coming Home” is the theme of the 23rd Day of the Dead exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art, and author Sandra Cisneros is returning to Chicago to create a traditional altar in memory of her parents at the museum.

It’s also the 25th anniversary of the publication of Cisneros’s acclaimed first novel, “The House on Mango Street,” based on her experiences growing up in Humboldt Park. It was the first novel by a Mexican American woman to be published by a mainstream publisher.

Speaking in Chicago this spring (as reported at Latina Voices), Cisneros recalled how teachers at Josephinum High School worked with her to develop her literary vocation, and how she treasured the quiet she found at the Humboldt Park library.

Cisneros graduated from Loyola University and taught at Latino Youth Alternative High School in Chicago. She now lives and works in San Antonio, where she founded the Macondo Foundation to support literary artists whose work is “part of a larger task of community-building and nonviolent social change.”

She is creating an ofrenda, an altar with offerings to the spirits of the departed, as part of NMMA’s Dia de Muertos exhibition.

In addition, a community ofrenda is being constructed in memory of long-time civic leader Arturo Velasquez Sr., who died in April at the age of 93. The exhibition also features works of art and ofrendas by local and international artists.

An opening reception takes place Friday, September 25 at 6 p.m. at the museum at 1852 W. 19th Street. The exhibition runs until December 13.

Related events in coming weeks include demonstrations of the traditional art of sugar skull making; Mexican artisans demonstrating traditional folk arts; a community night on November 1; children’s art classes and a holiday market.

‘One Night Stand’ for Radio Arte

It’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s Friday the 13th (but we’re not superstitious) — Radio Arte supporters will “take a stand for Latino public radio” at an event featuring music, dance, food, drink, an auction, and awards, hosted by Vincent Serrano of Telemundo Chicago at National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th, Friday, February 13, 6 to 11 p.m.

Jane Addams Day/Gay Day

An interesting conjunction of events -a nationwide protest against California’s recent vote against gay marriage falling on Jane Addams day, December 10, the state holiday marking the date that Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Gay rights advocates including the Gay Liberation Network protest at the Cook County Marriage License Bureau, 118 N. Clark, at 11 a.m.; Mirian Wright Edelman of Children’s Defense Fund speaks at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, at 4 p.m.

Historians debate whether Addams had a lesbian relationship or a “romantic friendship” with her companion Mary Rozet Smith; talking to Newstips in 2006, when the state holiday was inaugurated, Addams Museum director Lisa Yun Lee said Addams and her colleagues at Hull House “redefined domestic space and intimate relationships” in ways that supported women as public actors.

As Lee pointed out, Addams’ work is incredibly relevant to today’s struggles — she led efforts for labor organization and immigrant rights and against war, while experimenting with domestic politics, providing sex education for youth and advocating for legalizing birth control.

A civil rights activist and attorney in the South in the 1960s, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. She’ll be reading from her new book, The Sea Is Wide and My Boat Is So Small, described as “a series of letters to a variety of audiences—educators, faith leaders, youth, mothers, elected officials and concerned citizens nationwide—that reflect on the social and economic progress as well as the setbacks since [Martin Luther] King’s death 40 years ago.”

Support for Chinatown Museum

The National Museum of Mexican Art is holding at fundraiser (pdf) for the Chinese American Museum of Chicago Rebuilding Fund, with Chinese and Mexican food and entertainment, Wednesday, October 29, 6 to 9 pm., at NMMA, 1852 W. 19th. 

The three-year-old Chinese American Museum sustained a devastating fire on September 19, and the Chinatown Museum Foundation Board is working to rebuild the 1895 building that houses the museum — with a benefit dinner also planned for November 1 at Furama Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown. 

Declaration of Immigration

On July 4, the National Museum of Mexican Art opens “A Declaration of Immigration,” a new exhibit that launches a three-year commitment by the museum to immigrant-centered programs.

Featuring the works of over 70 artists, the exhibit is intended to “help visitors increase their understanding of this complex issue by providing immigrant perspectives that are seldom included in the national debate.”

In a statement, NMMA says it “has a responsibility to take a proactive stance and provide a platform from which many immigrants can speak out — especially at a time in our history when, once again, countless immigrants are being scapegoated and blamed for many of the nation’s problems.”

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