Spertus to honor Justice Ginsburg in song

(Published May 6, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, will honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the musical “Notorious RBG in Song.”

The musical will be performed once, May 19 at 2 p.m.

Ginsburg has served on the high court for 25 years and in recent years Ginsburg has become a pop-culture icon known to fans as Notorious RBG, a wry nod to fellow Brooklynite, rapper Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G.

Ginsburg’s life and work are celebrated in this one-act dramatic concert featuring soprano/composer Patrice Michaels, who has been called “a formidable interpretative talent” by “The New Yorker” with her collaborative pianist Kuang-Hao Huang and their guests, soprano Michelle Areyzaga, tenor Matthew Dean, and baritone Evan Bravos.

Justice Ginsburg, this concert and the accompanying CD are personal. These songs about her life are presented (and in many cases, written) by her daughter-in-law, Michaels, and produced by her son, Cedille Records founder James Ginsburg.

James Ginsburg will sit for a post-show question and answer session and an accompanying CD will be for sale at the post-program reception.

Performance is 75 minutes long and there is no intermission. Tickets are $18, $10 for Spertus members and $8 for students and Spertus alumni. They’re available at spertus.edu.

GPAC elects new leaders, even as former GPAC group announces it’s not going anywhere

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In April, the Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) that is officially recognized by the Chicago Park District elected a new board, even as the ousted Grant Park Advisory Council continued to meet.

The GPAC advises the city on park usage and programs and takes input from the public.

Leslie Recht, a founder of the original GPAC, is the new president, Jim Wales is vice president, John Talbot is secretary and Richard Ward is the treasurer.

“As the four newly elected officers (recognized by the CPD), we are learning and listening, so that we can be as knowledgeable and transparent as possible into the future,” Ward said in an email.

The original GPAC board came under scrutiny a year ago by the Chicago Park District over impropriety allegations against its former president Bob O’Neill. The CPD removed O’Neill and in February the CPD inspector general’s office released a scathing report that accused O’Neill of using the nonprofit Grant Park Conservancy he heads as a personal piggybank by illegally re-selling park permits at an exorbitant rate.

O’Neill disputes the allegations. He added the conservancy is overseen by a board the includes several attorneys and the board and the CPD were aware of how he was managing the conservancy.

O’Neill has agreed to step away from the GPAC group he once led. Council spokesperson Omari Jinaki said Roman Sanders is the new president. He added the group will continue to meet because the CPD ignored the GPAC’s bylaws when it removed O’Neill and the  recent GPAC election was also illegal because it violates bylaws.

“With very little notice, the CPD proposed an April 10 election, which is also outside of the GPAC election period. Moreover, the CPD never held a valid February 2019 meeting which is the requisite meeting timeline for the nominations for GPAC officers,” Jinaki wrote.

In the meantime, Recht’s group is planning a redesign of the website with a new domain name. Recht said she hopes attendees will go to her group’s GPAC meetings.

“Everyone who has been going to the Bob O’Neill meetings is welcome to come to the GPAC meetings. We welcome them,” she said.

Recht said she wants the community’s input on a framework plan of what the park needs. One urgent need is an updated dog area.

“The dog friendly area is really behind the times,” she said.

Recht said besides house pets, some TSA security dogs live in the area and use the park as well.

“It’s not just residents; there are a number of people who need space to run their dogs,” Recht said.

Recht said the first meeting will be May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Maggie Daley field house and this will be an organizational meeting.

Grant Park still has two advisory councils, though the city recognizes only one. Photo by Jesse Wright

May the fourth celebrations to include free lightsaber ‘fight’ at 360 Chicago

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

For millions around the world, May the fourth isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s a day to celebrate one of the most beloved films of all time — Star Wars.

May the fourth plays on the phrase “may the force (be with you),” the popular farewell among the film’s rebels. In this world, May the fourth is an international day to celebrate Star Wars and all things Jedi.

And that goes for downtown Chicago, too.

Chicago Jedi, one of the largest fan groups in the city, will demonstrate lightsaber fight techniques at 7 p.m. May 4 on the observation deck at 360 Chicago, 875 N Michigan Ave. Entry will be free for anyone who wants to see the Jedi battle.

Ross Greenberg, the second in command at Chicago Jedi, said everyone is welcome to stop by and take pictures or even participate in the fun.

“We usually do a freeze mob or a force battle,” he explained.

In a freeze mob, participants pose in a fighting positions. Greenberg said this is safer than public battle recreations.

“We don’t want people to get whacked and get hurt so we came up with the idea that we do what’s called a freeze mob,” he said. “What we do is we have everyone get together and play some music and when you hear the musical cue, everyone freezes in place.”

The group has done this at Millennium Park near Cloud Gate, but this year 360 Chicago offered their space to the group.  

Greenberg said he hopes kids and families come, because everyone is welcome.

“The event is BYOL, bring your own lightsaber,” he said.

Greenberg said the event is a good introduction to the group, if residents want to join.

“If people come to one of our events to become an active member, they have to show up to six or seven meetings, not in a row but just to show they’re serious, then after that, they’re a member or a Padawan,” Greenberg said.

Group founder and leader Gabriel Calderon said they offer a unique community for “Star Wars”-obsessed fans.

“On the surface, people gain an immediate sense of community—connecting with others who have a shared interest in all things Star Wars,” Calderon said. “As you get to know one another, you realize how deep and varied the life of each member really is, people you may not have met in traditional settings. We have writers, doctors, teachers, gamers, professionals, and so on.”

Greenberg said members can take Jedi fighting courses.

“I am a 40-year veteran of martial arts and I’m a martial arts master and a six-degree black belt,” he said.

Get to know Rep. Kam Buckner

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

After State Rep. Christian Mitchell accepted appointment as deputy governor in January, he left his seat open with two more years to go in his term.

Democratic committeemen from the 10 wards in Illinois House District 26 appointed Kambium “Kam” Buckner to the position. Buckner is a former college football player who holds a law degree. He has worked for a number of politicians though had never held political office. Buckner will be up for election in 2020 in the Democratic primary and his term ends in 2021.

How has the session been going? What are you proudest to work on this term?

This session has been highlighted by the desire to tackle some very big ticket items. The raising of the minimum wage in the very early days of the session set a tone of ambitious legislative action that addresses policy issues, much of which are long overdue. I am most proud of my work this session on consumer protection. I have filed legislation that addresses predatory lending that unduly affects our elderly residents. I am also very proud to have worked to create a better atmosphere for Chicago Public School students by co-sponsoring bills to create an elected school board and increase bargaining rights.

More generally, what issues are important to you and what would you like to work on?

As a Chicago Public School alum and the son of a 30-year CPS educator, education is of the utmost importance to me. I think Springfield has to do a better job of supporting school districts. I also am very focused on transportation and infrastructure. Illinois has underfunded our roads, bridges and tunnels for far too long.

You were appointed rather than elected. With the lack of a mandate, does that make it harder to pass legislation?

In my situation, it was important to hit the ground running. It was helpful that I already had a pretty good understanding of the workings of the legislature and the things that I wanted to accomplish.

What inspired you to get into public service?

My parents. My mother was a teacher and her penchant for working for others trickled down to all of her children. My father spent decades as a police officer and the dedication and passion that I saw him exhibit through his work, made it very clear to me that your life’s work should exist in that nuanced spot where your passions, skills and experiences converge with the needs of others.

Looking forward to 2020, do you expect to run for re-election?

Over the years we have seen a major decline in our infrastructure, education and innovation while we have seen increases in people fleeing the state and we have an opportunity, not to make Illinois the state that it used to be, but to give it a chance to be the state it has always deserved to be and I want to be a part of that solution.

Finally, what’s some trivia that’s not well known about you?

Most people are aware of my background in sports, as I played football at the University of Illinois, but they don’t know about my affinity for the performing arts. I took ballet for a number of years as a child and still occasionally sing with a blues band.

Summer fun for all: Parents have plenty to choose from in local summer camps

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With summer around the corner, schools, museums and even watersport companies are offering summer camps for kids.

At Camp GEMS, kids can explore the city through a six-week program that mimics the school’s curriculum, although the program is open to all kids, even non-students. Through the camp, kids explore the whole city and the build and design the city features. Each week is $475 or $2,700 for six weeks. Camp Gems is open to kids 3-12.

Taneal Sanders, a GEMS teacher, said Camp GEMS aims to benefit the entire student.

“We focus on keeping the kids’ minds and bodies active,” she said.

Each week has a different theme, and students learn lessons based on each theme. The first week is “who we are,” the second weeks is “where are we in place and time,” the third week is “how we organize ourselves, the fourth week is, “how the world works,” the fifth week is “sharing the planet” and the final week is “how we express ourselves.”

Throughout the camp, kids explore the city, design model cities, visit a theater and visit various markets and festivals in the city.

“On Fridays, we do a share-out where all age groups come together and we kind of have a little assembly where we share what we learned during the week,” Sanders said.  

Last year, kids took a water taxi to Chinatown and on another day they visited the Field Museum.

“We don’t just stay right in the neighborhood,” Sanders said. “With the younger campers, we stay close to school, but for the older kids, we venture out on public transportation.”

In addition to the cultural diversity, Sanders said Camp GEMS is staffed by GEMS teachers and the ratio is five students to one teacher, ensuring the kids are learning as well as enjoying the city.

“It’s not just for GEMS students,” Sanders said. “We love that it brings in different people and different perspectives.”

A variety of other day and week camps are available for kids.

Sailing and STEM camp

The Chicago Park District is hosting its annual sailing and STEM camp in May, June and July.

Kids can learn to sail at Monroe Harbor, with no experience necessary. The camp is for 5th-8th grade students in Chicago and it requires a $250 donation, though low-income applicants can get in free. To apply for a spot, visit endeavourchicago.org.

The four day-sessions (Monday-Thursday) go beyond  sailing. Students will learn science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The course opens May 4 and meets every Saturday at 9 a.m. A June camp runs from June 24 to Aug. 1.

Visit EndeavourChicago.org for more details and to apply online. Scholarships are available.

Urban Kayaks paddle and kayak camp

Urban Kayaks summer paddle and kayak camp kicks off July 29. The camp runs weekly from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is aimed at kids ages 10 to 16. The course, at $550 per week with a 25 percent discount for siblings, is located at Monroe Harbor. For more information, visit urbankayaks.com or call 312-965-0035

Navy Pier’s Wiggleworms music program

While not a camp, Navy Pier is again hosting Wiggleworms, a free music program for children every Friday beginning June 21.

Wiggleworms, Old Town School of Folk Music’s early childhood music program, introduces young children and their families to a musical world. The program is at the Polk Brothers Park stage and it runs Fridays from 10 to 11:45 a.m.

Camp GEMS gets campers out and into the city for lessons. Photo courtesy GEMS

A look at the numbers behind the Navy Pier fireworks

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

With the warmer weather comes Navy Pier fireworks.

May 25 is the start of the annual Navy Pier fireworks and Melrose Pyrotechnics will again produce the weekly displays, just as they have for the past 15 years.

For the audience, it’s 10 minutes of fun filled with fire, smoke and dazzling colors all set to music. But the behind the scenes is real work and somebody has to do it. One of those somebodies is Jonathan Gesse, a soundtrack producer with Melrose Pyrotechnics.

Gesse said “a minimum of 30-hours preparation goes into each Navy Pier display, which includes everything from soundtrack design, choreography, labeling, packaging, setup, product testing and transportation.”

The day of the show, five technicians set up about 10 hours beforehand, including monitoring the equipment in advance of the show.

Each show is a “unique pyromusical experience,” Gesse said. “Our team of choreographers uses industry software to ‘script’ each display according to the musical soundtrack by listening to the music and building scenes of light and color.” Once the show is ready to start, Melrose sends a “coded radio signal from Navy Pier to the fireworks crew, which the firing computer receives and synchronizes itself to the music that plays through the speakers at Navy Pier.”

Melrose gets fireworks from all over the world including China, Italy and Spain. They use 500 new products each year and more than 1,400 feet of XLR cable for the shows.

Gesse said the heights achieved by fireworks depends on the diameter of the shell. Three- and four-inch shells will generally explode from about 300 to 400 feet in the sky, and 10 inch shells will rise to well over 10,000 feet in the air before they break.

“At Navy Pier, we use aerial shells ranging from two-and-a-half inches up to 10 inches in diameter,” Gesse said.

This year, there will be 31 firework performances, each Wednesday and Saturday from May 25 to Aug. 31 with additional shows July 4 and New Year’s Eve. Wednesday fireworks are at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays are at 10:15 p.m., weather dependent.

The displays last 10 minutes while the July 4 and New Year’s Eve displays last 15 minutes. Last year, CBS reported that nearly 100,000 people attended the July 4 celebration and that the fireworks performance had 2,000 firework shells go off with “300 different effects.”

Unique spring runs in Chicago include bubbles, colors and love

(Published April 30, 2019

Abhinanda Datta, Staff Writer

Although April did bring snow, it is safe to say spring has finally sprung on Chicago. Just in time for spring are healthy, fun activities to get the body in shape before beach season. If ordinary 5k races are boring, here are some weirdly fun runs:

Superhero Run 2019

Where: Diversey Event Harbor

When: 9 a.m., May 4

Wear a cape and run for a good cause. The Superhero Run, the biggest fundraising event of the year for DePaul University’s Cities Project, provides Chicago Public School students with critical mentoring and after-school support. All proceeds go toward maintenance and expansion of the program. Tickets: $35-$40.

Night Nation Run

Where: Soldier Field

When: Gates open at 5:30 p.m., May 18

The Night Nation Run is a running music festival. More than one million people have participated over the years. The run begins and ends at the Soldier Field and the course includes studded bubble zones, live DJs, light shows and black and white neon lights. As participants enjoy this unique, musical running course, the major attraction awaits near the finish line—an epic main stage after party with top headliner DJs. Tickets: $30-$60.

Bubble Run Chicago

Where: Bridgeview

When: May 25

Participants wear white t-shirts, and run, walk, dance and play across three miles, with groups starting every three to five minutes. At each kilometer, participants run through Foam Bogs where they get doused in colored foam from head to toe. Each of the four Foam Bogs along the course will be represented by different colored foam. Tickets: $40.

The Color Run Chicago

Where: Soldier Field

When: June 15

A race that celebrates love, The Color Run requires participants to wear white and bring nothing but good vibes. As participants run through the course, they are plastered with colors and once they cross the finish line, there is a party with music, dancing and even more colors. Tickets: $25-$50.

Stay inside and get outside through the MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ performance piece this weekend

For the New Eastside News

(Published March 20, 2019)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.


A gem on Jeweler’s Row: Hamilton Jewelry makes it special by hand

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Along Wabash Avenue, between East Washington and East Monroe, sit 350 jewelers.

This two-block stretch of downtown is Jewelers Row, Chicago’s historic diamond district, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices. Still, Kailee Swift’s Hamilton Jewelry stands out, her store a cut above the rest.

With her store nestled in the art deco Mallers Building at 5 S. Wabash St., New Eastside resident Swift has been quietly burninishing her reputation—and wowing clients—for decades by custom designing perfectly personal pieces.

Swift has been creating custom jewelry since she opened Hamilton Jewelry in 1997. Despite the Internet bringing a fundamental change in how people shop, Swift has kept with her handmade, traditional approach. It has served her well.

Swift offers a personalized, full-service experience. Due to her location on Jewelers Row, she can easily connect with goldsmiths who work nearby.

“I have more control and can oversee the projects firsthand,” she said. “Also, there is no need to ship jobs or have a messenger as retail stores do. Everything stays right here, which saves time and money.”

The hunt for the perfect piece of jewelry can seem daunting.

“Everyone’s afraid they’re going to be ripped off,” Swift said, “so I want people to trust Hamilton.”

Kevin and Allison Carnahan are longtime clients of Swift’s.

“I first used Kailee for Allison’s engagement ring,” Kevin said. “When I got there, I knew next to nothing about diamonds or bands or how diamonds were set. Kailee was able to explain the different diamond characteristics to help me design the perfect ring.”

“We love working with Kailee,” Allison added. “She is patient and she produces beautiful customized jewelry that you are excited to show off.”

Besides custom designs, Swift can also help with repairs and appraisals and help customers find a specific vintage piece.

Swift loves educating customers on just about everything jewelry-related.

“People come in so nervous,” she said, “I try to keep them at ease, provide tons of education and help them relax.”

In addition to serving her regulars, Swift is a familiar face at holiday shows, trunk shows and charity events.

“I love to give back, and [fundraising] is something that I hold close to my heart,” she said.

“We pride ourselves on quality, exceptional value and service over a lifetime,” Swift said.

Visit the store online at hamiltonjewelryinc.com

5 S. Wabash, Suite 1310

(312) 704-0404

Owner and designer, Kailee Swift, at her store Hamilton Jewelry on Jewelers Row. Photo by Angela Gagnon

The things in your home really should bring you joy

By Urban Real Estate

Winter in Chicago is the perfect opportunity to stay inside and tidy up. With the popularity of organizer-extraordinaire Marie Kondo’s Netflix hit “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” many are turning closets inside-out with the goal of finding happiness while decluttering.  

In real estate, decluttering ensures that a prospective buyer can “visualize” themselves in a space, so that a buyer is less focused on your life, and more focused on the home. The bonus is that living in a residence that looks and feels great is a win, all the way around.

Kondo’s six-step method is both a physical and emotional journey. The importance of loving your space isn’t just about the walls you live in – but also the momentos that share your home, as well. Michael Emery, senior partner and broker with Urban Real Estate, sees clients who struggle with what to do with belongings.

“When we are preparing a home for sale, all things will need to go at some point, so we recommend starting that packing process before we bring buyers in the door,” Emery said. “The goal behind bringing joy to your home is compounded with emotionally being prepared to remove a loved one’s belongings who has passed, clothes that simply don’t fit or you will never wear, or items from your children that simply need a new place other than your front closet,” Emeray adds.

As you declutter, think about how you want to use the items in your home. Some things you might want to keep, but it may not be necessary to keep them in your home.

“That’s what storage facilities are for. Think about what could go where, what you might keep for a second home or investment property, or what could be better used by someone else you know, and proceed confidently,” Emery added.

Contact us at Urban Real Estate for a consultation on the resources we have for organizing and staging, or for your next home. UrbanRealEstate.com or (312) 528-9200.

[Winter is a great time to declutter a home. Photo courtesy Urban Real Estate]

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