Old is OK in Skyline Village Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At 76, Phyllis Mitzen is — in her words — an old woman. Others might use words such as elderly or mature but Mitzen does not.

Old is OK, she says, and so is aging, provided people have the right resources and this is where Skyline Village Chicago comes in.

As president of Skyline Village Chicago, an organization for older adults, Mitzen spends a lot of time thinking about aging. According to Village to Village Network, the concept of a “Virtual Village” is simple—an organization for older adults that provides access to services, fosters community relationships and does “anything [its] members need to age safely and successfully in their own homes.”

The Village model began in Boston over 15 years ago and has been spreading since. These organizations not only connect to other villages, but also connect members to each other.

Skyline Village Chicago is open to residents of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, River North and New Eastside. Mitzen said other villages in the Chicago area focus on providing access to services and transportation, the neighborhoods that Skyline Village covers tend to be “resource-rich,” meaning they have resources for the elderly.

Because of this, the Village focuses on socialization, so neighbors can get to know each other, Mitzen said. Through Skyline Village’s newsletter, residents find out about local news, event dates and life updates from members.

Mitzen’s favorite village event is the Women’s Salon, which meets monthly to talk about “what it means to grow old in our society.” She said it’s not a therapy group, but a place to share information, talk about ageism and come to an “active understanding of our aging selves.”

The village also has an advocacy group, Mitzen said, which advocates for senior issues. For instance, the group is working with the park district to discuss installing equipment for all ages in the city’s playgrounds, Mitzen said.

She added that “owning old” is something that comes up often in the Women’s Salon and something she tries to do every day.

“There are frailties, and people do become disabled when they grow older, but it shouldn’t mean that their voices aren’t as strong,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’m doing at age 76, and if I can’t do it when I’m age 80, I’ll still be an old woman who deserves respect.”

Streeterville activism might make Chicago a little quieter in 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year—and every year thereafter—should be a bit quieter for Chicago residents due to a noise ordinance that goes into effect Jan. 1.

In August 2018, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a noise ordinance allowing ambulance drivers to use their sirens only when necessary to warn pedestrians and drivers or in the case of medical emergencies. The law only applies to Illinois cities with populations greater than one million, so it applies in no other cities outside Chicago.

Before the new law went into effect, ambulances drivers were required to use sirens on the way to and from calls, regardless of traffic or pedestrians or whether it was a medical emergency. The law passed because of the efforts of Streeterville residents and Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), who sponsored the bill.

The representative said the law is a win for residents. “This bill is a critical measure addressing quality of life and safety for downtown residents, where excessive siren noise can cause erratic driving patterns and permanent hearing loss,” Mitchell said in an email. “The new law allows first responders the discretion to turn off their sirens on occasions when the patient or situation has stabilized.”

Residents, too, are excited. Debby Gershbein, president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, said the law is the result of SOAR activism. While she praised Northwestern as a world-class medical institution and for a time the only level-one trauma center in Chicago, she said the medical facility also led to a lot of noise. “The ambulance drivers were putting their sirens on even if it wasn’t an emergency and we decided we really had to do something about it,” she said. “We worked with the government and the fire department, and SOAR did surveys with other neighborhoods, and we found that the number one problem with noise for residents was sirens.”

Gershbein said the problem was near constant. “This is a quality of life issue where people were being interrupted 24 hours a day with the siren noise,” she said. “I think we’ve come to a good solution with the new law.”

Gershbein praised Mitchell as well as neighborhood aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly for their support. She said noise is more than a nuisance, and excessive noise can damage health.“There are physical impacts that occur when you’re exposed to loud sirens all the time. It wakes people up, and disturbed sleep is a really big health problem,” she said.

Gershbein said the SOAR group will continue to work for quality of life improvements, such as an ongoing greening effort, to improve the health of trees in the neighborhood. “In an urban environment it’s important to make sure we have as many trees as possible,” she said.

For more information, visit the group at soarchicago.org.

Joffrey Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ wows audiences, wins documentary award

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer


Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker premiered Dec. 1 at the Auditorium Theater.

The production is an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, but with a Chicago twist. The ballet takes place in Chicago during the building of the World’s Fair in 1892. The story follows the same plotline as the original Nutcracker, as the protagonist—who is named Marie—is led through a dreamland adventure.

The ballet maintains a dreamlike visage throughout. The production features eccentric dancers like The Great Impresario and the Rat Catcher, who both leave a lasting impression on the events of the play. The Great Impresario joins Marie’s family and the rest of the immigrant workers of the fair for a Christmas celebration, gifting Marie a Nutcracker. The juxtaposition between the simple family celebration in 1892 again an elaborate fantasy sequences amplifies the otherworldly grandeur.

The set design features a combination of real elements and projections, creating elaborate and believable scenery. The staging is especially breathtaking during a frozen scene with a company of dancers in ice blue costumes, as snow falls from above, both digitally and physically. Once The Great Impresario takes Marie and to rescue her kidnapped brother from The Rat King, they are transported to The Dream Fair. There, the Queen of the Fair and groups of dancers from around the world are introduced. The audience was particularly impressed by the complex pas de deux with Arabian Dancers. The Great Impresario’s elegant and precise dance with The Queen of the Fair also received great praise. Child dancers were also applauded as mini Nutcrackers and mini walnuts.

Award winning design

Cara Marie Gary with The Joffrey Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann

The design is so good, it is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Making a New American Nutcracker, produced by WTTW and The Joffrey Ballet.

The documentary was honored in November with a 2018 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award in the category of Best Documentary, Cultural.

Making a New American Nutcracker—which premiered in 2017 on WTTW11 and the companion website—was also offered to PBS stations nationwide for the upcoming holiday season.

“It was an unforgettable and inspiring experience to work with the talented people at the Joffrey on this unique production, which preserved the magical quality of the original story while also shining a spotlight on the vital role that local immigrants played in the creation of the Fair,” said Andries.

The documentary will return to WTTW11 and WTTW Prime during the holiday season beginning Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. The documentary can also be viewed at any time through the PBS/WTTW video app or on wttw.com.

All alone on Turkey Day with so much to do

In Chicago there is plenty to do on Thanksgiving, even if you are alone. Between the parade, the games, the shopping and movies, there is a full day of activities waiting.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

At one time, Thanksgiving was a day for families to come together over food and enjoy each other’s company. These days, that’s not necessarily true for everyone. The holiday can be fun for the solo celebrant because Thanksgiving Day is as much a public holiday as it is a private holiday.


If you are alone, Thanksgiving could be a great opportunity to spend time catching up on reading, binging TV shows, going for a nature walk or doing whatever else you might want to do by yourself. But, for those who want company, you don’t have to spend the holiday alone.  These days, plenty of restaurants, bars, movie theaters and retail stores take advantage of the holiday and open their doors, so you will really only be as alone as you want to be.


First, if you have friends you know will be free, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t be afraid to set up a day for you and all your friends who couldn’t—or didn’t want to— leave the city to see their families.


Or don’t. Feel free to pamper yourself with a solo self care day; it is, after all, a holiday.


If you’re the athletic sort, join the flock and do the Turkey Trot, Chicago’s annual five or eight kilometer race. To avoid late fees, register as soon as possible www.turkeytrotchicago.com.


If standing still is more your style, don’t miss the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The parade winds its way along State Street from Congress to Randolph. If you plan to see it live, get there before 7 a.m. to find a good spot and expect to stay through 11 a.m. if you want to catch the whole thing.


Once the parade ends, you will have several options for turkey day fun.


If you’re a sports fan (well, a football fan to be precise) then you have one goal—catch the game. There’s no need to sit at home and watch television,  as plenty of bars will be available for the Bears versus Lions game at 11:30 p.m. ET. In the afternoon, stick around for the Cowboys versus Redskins, and if you want to make a whole day of it, don’t miss the Falcons versus Saints, kickoff scheduled for 7:20 p.m.


Not a sports fan? Entertain yourself by dining out. Plenty of restaurants will be open the day of Thanksgiving, so if you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, don’t sweat it. For a full listing of what is available, check out the website www.opentable.com.


By the time the afternoon rolls around, you might be feeling ready to relax. Good news! Hollywood typically releases some of its most anticipated offerings in late November, and this year is no exception.


Opening the week of Thanksgiving, get ready for Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet or Robin Hood, an action movie based on the famous legend of English folklore. Want something a little subtler than a big blockbuster? How about The Front Runner, Jason Reitman’s chronicle of Gary Hart’s doomed presidential campaign, or Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book, the highly anticipated period drama set in the Jim Crow-era South. Finally, if Thanksgiving kicks off your Christmas spirit, check out The Christmas Chronicles, the first Christmas film of the season, opening Thanksgiving Day.


And of course,there is always retail therapy. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for someone else, there are plenty of opportunities Thanksgiving Day. Want something traditional? Check out the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, open Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Grab a glass of Gühwein and browse handmade wonders from around the world. Want something a little more name-brand? Wander down the Mag Mile and enjoy early Black Friday sales on your favorite merchandise.


If service is more your speed, there are homeless shelters and food pantries all over the city that need volunteers. Go online, find a nearby venue and spend your turkey day doing good.

Navy Pier art warns of human-sized asteroid

By Jesse Wright |

Staff Writer

Published October 1, 2018

Of all the art celebrated in EXPO CHICAGO, the Navy Pier’s annual international arts event, perhaps none is as relevant and as chilling as Justin Brice Guariglia’s We Are the Asteroid II.

The eponymous asteroid refers to two things—first, the literal asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and three-quarters of plants and animals on earth—and it refers to the current mass extinction event precipitated by mankind, the second and proverbial asteroid.

Guariglia lived for years in Asia and while there he spent time as an artist and photojournalist documenting environmental change there as developing countries lurched into the modern era complete with carbon pollution and environmental havoc. Over time, Guariglia said his work began to focus on environmental issues and his latest piece, which will remain near the Ferris wheel through the end of November, is a stark warning of what mankind has wrought.

Guariglia has set up a series of sandblasted highway LED signs that remind visitors “Don’t eco shop, eco vote,” and “Triassic weather ahead.”

“We need to think ecologically about what we’re doing. And that’s what the project is about,” Guariglia said.

But thinking ecologically, Guariglia adds, is more than recycling and buying a Prius. It means thinking about a world that will soon be radically different than it has been for millions of years. It means looking at the whole earth and what humans are doing to it. This isn’t an easy thing to do, and Guariglia said it’s not something most people are well equipped to do.

“There’s a 110,000 year old ice sheet in Greenland,” Guariglia said. “What the hell is 110,000 years? There is a very large ontological gap. There’s a disconnect between us and the natural world which is also all around us. And we’ve dislocated ourselves from around it. The goal of this project is for us to think ecologically.”

Guariglia might be the only artist in EXPO CHICAGO who uses the term athropocene, but it’s a common term among climate and earth scientists who use the word to describe the modern geologic epoch—a time period noted by human impact over the climate and the earth. This impact is the asteroid, Guariglia believes, and most people are ignoring it.
His highway warning signs are meant to be taken literally.

“We’re in the middle of the sixth extinction,” he said. “Whether you believe humans are doing it or not, that’s fine. The reality is, it’s happening. … it has to be discussed. It was left out of all the presidential debates and its something that’s convenient to ignore. Unless you live in North Carolina or Hong Kong or Puerto Rico, unless it’s coming down on you, it’s easy to think someone else has to deal with this.

“We’ll go and eco shop, but it’s almost the equivalent of jumping up and down in front of the television while our sports team is trying to score a goal on TV. It has the same effect. It’s a moot point.”

Guariglia’s art can be seen for free along the Navy Pier.

EXPO CHICAGO brings top international art to Navy Pier

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

September 4, 2018

Artists, critics, collectors and connoisseurs will converge on Chicago this month for the seventh annual EXPO CHICAGO at the Navy Pier.

The international Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art will run Sept. 27–30 and will showcase the work of artists from 63 cities in 27 countries.

The international work was chosen by world-renowned gallerists including Chicago’s own Kavi Gupta, Rhona Hoffman, John Corbett and Jim Dempsey. Eleven Chicago galleries will be included, along- side art from cities like Seoul, Cape Town, Paris, Athens and Singapore.

“With over 3,000 international artists represented, there will be a wide variety of artwork for sale at EXPO CHICAGO this year,” said Tony Karman, President and Director of the EXPO.

The annual EXPO CHICAGO will unveil hundreds of top art pieces for audiences at Navy Pier. Photo courtesy of EXPO CHICAGO

“Most importantly, the artwork is always provocative. Whether it is evocative of sheer beauty or challenging in its content, the artwork presented at this year’s fair will do what contemporary artwork has always done—capture the moment and reflect what is happening in the world today,” Karman said.“That is what I always look forward to.”

This year, the EXPO will feature four sections of exhibits.

The “Exposure” section will give new artists a chance to shine with exhibits that will feature presentations from galleries that have been around for eight or fewer

The “Profile” exhibits will focus on more established galleries and will present solo booths, focusing on major projects artists. The “Editions and Books” exhibit will showcase limited editions and publications by established and emerging artists. The “Special Exhibitions” will focus on non-profits based locally, nationally and internationally, including 11 Chicago-based organizations, like the Hyde Park Art Center and the University of Chicago Department of Visual Arts.

Karman said the Profile section of solo artists projects will be a definite highlight this year, along with the curated programmatic sections In/SITU and EXPO Video.

The EXPO will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 27–30 and and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 30.

Chicago Gourmet gets set to sizzle

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

With September comes Chicago Gourmet, a multi-day celebration of food, the city and, new this year, music.

This year’s event, set for Sept. 26–30 and themed Rock the Fork, is pairing music with the food, said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, and founding producer of the event.

“What goes better with food than music?” Toia asked.

Chicago Gourmet will offer the usual days of cooking demonstrations and tastings, all of which will be set to the sounds of DJs, blues, jazz, rock and other musicians.

“From blues to rock to you name it, we’re going to have it,” Toia said.

But, of course, front and center will be the food.

Toia said he expects Chicago Gourmet to again be the premier food and wine show
in the country.

Toia said Chicago Gourmet has gotten bigger each year since its start 11 years ago.

“When we originally started it was kind of a smaller event, and each year it keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more ancillary events,” he said.

Typically, Chicago Gourmet draws more than 16,000 people.

Toia said, “We’re just very happy.”

The event this year will feature 250 restaurants and chefs, along with premier wines. Area restaurants to be represented include III Forks, The Columbus Tap and Mariano’s.

Much of the action will be outside, in and around Millennium Park, and Toia said the setting is what makes the event popular.

“That’s one of the reasons we chose the last weekend in September, because historically it’s a very, very nice weekend,” he said.

For information about food, the events and tickets, go to chicagogourmet.org.

Heartbreak Hotel offers a look at early Elvis

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Published August 30, 2018

As the name might imply, the musical Heartbreak Hotel, isn’t always happy.

Yes, a young man realizes his ambitions. Yes, he gets a Cadillac. And yes, Elvis Aaron Presley, a truck driver from Mississippi, becomes ELVIS.

But he loses his girl.

He loses his mentor.

He loses his band.

He loses his friend.

In exchange, he gains a manipulative weasel, Colonel Tom Parker who makes the man a god.

The musical is not a sob story. Presley was the first pop star, after all and Heartbreak Hotel never lets its audiences forget it: This is the story of ELVIS. And it’s a fun story.

Edding Clendening as Elvis in the musical Heartbreak Hotel. Photo courtesy Broadway in Chicago.

The star of the show is Eddie Clendening, a musician who first took up the role of Presley in the hit Broadway musical The Million Dollar Quartet. That musical tells the story of one December day in 1956 when Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Presley got together for a jam session at Sun Records. By then, Presley had signed to RCA for a year and he was already ELVIS.

Heartbreak Hotel is a prequel, and it tells the story of Presley’s early days.

Clendening said the run so far has been great, and he’s had a good time with the character over the course of two musicals.

“I grew up loving music from the ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s,” he said. “Elvis is always what I loved.”

Besides the music, Clendening said it’s no surprise the story still resonates.

“His is the quintessential rags-to-riches a self made man American tale,” Clendening said.

Clendening added that the celebrity cult that developed around the marketing of ELVIS is still relevant. He was the first rock star, and that’s still interesting to audiences.

“That’s the fun thing about Elvis, at least, what I like, is that he’s still a human being and he’s turned into this character,” Clendening said. “But at the time there was no sort of road map on how to navigate that sort of stuff. He wasn’t the first person to be treated like a product. The Hollywood studio system had been doing that for a while; but he was the first one to get to that level … The climate was totally new and these record labels were trying to squeeze every penny out of every product.”

The musical will continue through Sept. 9

Individual tickets for Heartbreak Hotel at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) are on-sale now. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at 312-977-1710 or emailing GroupSales@BroadwayInChicago.com. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.


City backgrounds make social media users Insta-winners

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

From the iconic “Greetings from Chicago” graffiti to three blocks of murals in the West Loop, we scoped out the most Insta-worthy street art that is sure to earn the most likes on your next post.

Tucked behind a building in a parking lot at 2226 North Milwaukee Ave. is a bright blue wall with the city’s name written in big bubble letters, filled with colorful renditions of our city’s most celebrated icons like Chicago-style hot dogs, the Willis Tower and the so-called “Bean,” A.K.A. “Cloud Gate.” Rep your city with a post in front of this not-to-be missed Palmer Square spot and make sure to take all your visitors to see “Greetings from Chicago” so they can show off their travels. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While our beaches are lovely, they don’t exactly offer Caribbean blue waters. Instead, if you do want to add a pop of turquoise to your feed, check out the mural of a bright pink flamingo in River North. On the wall of the Flamingo Rum Club at 601 North Wells St., the tropically colored wall has a bright flamingo that will tower behind you, topped with a tiny crowns to add a regal touch.  

For pizza lovers, Parlor Pizza’s two locations have unique, iconic art. First, in Wicker Park, there’s the “Pizza Bear” mural, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. On the side of their restaurant, located at 1824 W Division Street is a mural of a big, yellow bear, looking super satisfied as he munches on a cheesy slice of pepperoni pizza.  

If you’re in the West Loop, another Parlor Pizza spot also has a smaller version of “Pizza Bear,” and offers visitors an opportunity to pose in front of a wall that makes them look like some sort of pizza angel. Who doesn’t want that?

On the corner of North Green Street and West Washington Boulevard, strike a pose in front of a gray wall covered with clouds to wear your golden crown and angel wings made from cheesy pizza slices.

Other photo-ops include a mural of a woman bathing in a wine glass in Lincoln Park, a series of colorful, diverse murals that makes up the Hubbard Street Murals, and a Cheshire Cat grin from Alice in Wonderland looking over Wicker Park.

Singing for their supper: Best of Mag Mile street performers

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

One of the most exciting parts of the Michigan Avenue experience is its street performers. Whether they’re playing music, miming or doing magic tricks, the street’s “buskers,” as they’re called, strive to astound, surprise and entertain—and make a little money doing it.

To find out more about this interesting career, we talked to three of the best. Jonathan Fin has been a musician for about 10 years, and a few years ago, he took his talents to the streets. On a Thursday in late July, he stood in the plaza in front of the Apple Store, 401 N. Michigan Ave., with an electric guitar strapped to his body, surrounded by sound equipment and signs that read, “Karaoke – Sing Your Song!” and “Please Help Me Feed
My Kitties.”

Fin, 42, said his original songs are “singer-songwriter stuff,” but when he’s busking he plays a lot of covers and, like his sign advertises, does karaoke.“I let people sing whatever song that they wanna sing, and I pull it up on my YouTube and try to play along with it while they sing,” he said.

The number of people who brave the microphone varies every day, he said. “Sometimes there’s 10–15 people that do it, sometimes there’s none.”

Fin got his start as a street performer when he was hired by TC-Helicon, an audio company, to make videos where people could test out the company’s vocal effects equipment.“I got a street performer’s license so I could film those videos, and I haven’t stopped playing outside since,‘cause it’s just so much fun,” Fin said.

Kenneth Stringer III, known as “The Original Chicago Tin Man,” does another kind of street performance. Wearing a suit, hat and sunglasses with his body painted entirely silver, Stringer was stationed in front of the AT&T store at Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street on a busy summer Saturday. The speaker he stood on top of blasted music, and sometimes Stringer would break his statuesque stillness, only to whip out a couple of dance moves.
His sign read, “The Greatest Mime of All Time.”

Stringer said he’s been doing this since 2002. “I was working job after job after job, and I was always making money, but the guy that was above me was always making more,” he said. Stringer decided to try out street performing, and it paid more than he made at his day job.

“I quit my job, I quit school at the time, I moved out of my parents’ house, and this has been my profession ever since.”

Stringer doesn’t only stick to the streets. “I do a lot of other stuff as a tin man,” he said, including delivering roses and doing dating consultations. “I wouldn’t call it relationship

Andreas Tsantilis prepares to wow an audience with his street magic show. Photo by Elizabeth

advice; it’s more about building yourself and then you’ll be stronger within a relationship,” he said. He also has a stand-up comedy routine.

In front of a table lined with velvet, Andreas Tsantilis stood at the entrance to the Plaza of the Americas at Michigan Avenue and Hubbard Street and made mini-soccer balls disappear and reappear beneath three brown cups he moved around the table. An astonished crowd watched his every move. Eventually, the balls were upgraded to oranges, and at the end of his show, he picked up his bowler hat to reveal a whole squash that hadn’t been there before. A black case in front of his table was painted with the words “Vaudeville Magic Show.”

Tsantilis, 41, introduced himself as being “all the way from South Africa” and said he has been doing magic for about 15 years. He came to Chicago in 2008 and started performing on the street two years later. Before that, he used to do “close-up magic” in bars and cafes when he lived in Greece.

Now, he does magic for the public on the weekends. “The street is freedom,” he said. “No one will arrest you. You do this, it’s like, an allure to get people to stop, make them watch and make them pay you.”

His favorite part, he said, is meeting people from all over the world. His least favorite part? “People that just walk away after the show and don’t even say thank you.”

Published August 2, 2018

1 2 3 4 5 6