Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People
Architectural History Tours of Chicago with SAH
January 22, 2015 by Amanda
Architecture geeks of Chicago are drooling over the agenda for the Society of Architectural Historians conference in Chicago this April, including a special Chicago seminar and 30 very special architectural history tours of Chicago.
Like any academic conference, the SAH brings together scholars to present their papers of new research. Within 36 paper sessions, around 180 architectural historians will discuss their topics in the grand history of the built environment from antiquity to the current day. Speakers include architecture critic Blair Kamin, as well as “History Detectives” host Gwendolyn Wright.
Unlike a regular academic conference, the SAH opens up possibilities for the public to stir up their curiosities of Chicago topics in architectural history. A half day seminar, “Magnitudes of Change: Local Sites and Global Concerns in Chicago’s Built Environment,” will have two panel discussions with representatives from a variety of local organizations, including architecture firms, educational institutions, and non-profits. It is funded in part with a grant from the Graham Foundation, which is always up to cool and progressive projects in architecture.
The architectural history tours of Chicago will showcase Chicago neighborhoods and downtown architecture, and these are available to the public with registration beginning on February 16. Architectural historians, authors, and architects will lead these tours. As a tour company ourselves, this is the part of the conference that we are most looking forward to. “Cutting-Edge Adaptive Reuse: The Chicago Athletics Association Hotel” will visit this beautiful building that has been boarded up for years and will reopen as a hotel. “Recent Skyscrapers on North-South Wacker Drive” will showcase the incredible building activity in this part of downtown. And neighborhoods tours will explore the historic and contemporary architecture of Pilsen, Pullman, Uptown, and the new 606 Urban Park. Tours will also addresses features of the built environment that to many would be a gray area for their definition of architecture, such as “Chicago’s Moveable Bridges,” as you see pictured above. Many other options are available.
This is the 75th anniversary of the conference, so a grand birthday party will be held on April 17 at the Rookery. The Society of Architectural Historians, which is based in Chicago, has their conference in different cities each year, so this is a special opportunity to connect with the study of buildings and how they reflect changes in the forces of politics, culture, social uses, engineering, and technology.
Registration is available now here.
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director
Three Cool Architectural and Historical Holiday Things to Do
December 22, 2014 by Amanda
5700 South Lake Shore Drive. – through January 4, 2015
FREE with museum admission
This special exhibit is a 73-year-old Chicago tradition in the historic structure of the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the great holiday things to do in Chicago. A visit to this behemoth building with its historic detail is such an experience. Originally the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the building was faced in limestone for its 1920s conversion into the Museum of Science and Industry. The adaptation retained the Beaux Arts look with columns and ornate ornamentation, which gives the feeling of stepping back in time as you enter. Instead, high-tech exhibits abound, and this special holiday exhibit includes a towering 45-foot holiday tree within a contemporary interior space. For the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit, volunteers from Chicago ethnic communities create more than 50 trees and displays. This year a Disney theme unites the displays Disney-inspired ornaments on the tree, and a special exhibit called “Treasures of Walt Disney Archives.” Go there through January 4, 2015.
5850 South Woodlawn Avenue. – Wednesday, December 24 at 4:00pm
On Christmas Eve the breathtaking architectural space of the Rockefeller Chapel becomes the setting for a traditional candlelit Christmas service. Carols will be sung by the adult and children’s choirs for this University of Chicago institution, along with the congregation joining in. With its stunning gothic facade, beautiful stained-glass windows and grandly tall nave, this Neo-gothic structure, funded by John D. Rockefeller and designed by architect Bertram Goodhue, will bring an architectural experience into a religious one.
Downtown Chicago – Morning, afternoon and evening tours Wednesday through Monday (check availability)
$26-34+ per person, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED
A great holiday activity with family and friends is to join Chicago Detours on one of our walking tours that stay mostly indoors. Available six days a week, our Loop Interior Architecture Tour is a warm walking tour of Chicago that takes you on a creative route that weaves through buildings and secret short-cuts. The Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour explores Chicago’s entertainment history of prohibition, jazz, theater, vices, and social clubs. This tour also has a very cool architectural element to it, and of course we stop for drinks and appetizers, too. Both walking tours are fun and educational, and make for cool bonding experiences for family and friends looking for holiday things to do in Chicago this winter.
If you have a group of eight or more, both these walking tours may be available to be scheduled for around your plans as private group tours.
And p.s. if you need any last-minute holiday gifts, we now have an online store with cool architectural gifts such as the architectural wall art pictured here. We offer holiday gift cards for our public tours in various denominations. Gift cards you can easily get via email for quickest delivery, too!
- Chicago Detours Staff
Carbide and Carbon: Skyscraper Capped In Gold
December 17, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
As the home of the skyscraper, Chicago has all types of architectural styles from boxy steel and glass high-rises of the modern International Style as well as lavish stone Art Deco towers. One of my favorite art deco skyscrapers of Chicago, and perhaps one of the most unique, is the Carbide and Carbon building, now home to Hard Rock Hotel Chicago among other businesses. In addition to housing one of Chicago’s best hotels on Michigan Avenue, the building is topped in real gold!
The Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation built this skyscraper on Michigan Avenue in 1929. Carbide and Carbon was a chemical company that had found a more economical way to produce ethylene gas. They were most known for their innovation of the dry-cell battery. Over its history, the company has held the brand name for both Everyready and Energizer batteries along with other well-known household products such as Glad bags and wraps and Prestone antifreeze.
The company grew as they acquired related chemical producers, my favorite of which was the Bakelite Corporation. Bakelite made one of the first-ever synthetic plastic products used for toys, jewelry, telephones, radios and even electrical insulators. Many mid-century modern buildings took advantage of the product, such as the Farnsworth House. This iconic Mies van der Rohe building used Bakelite for some of its home’s electrical panels.
When the Carbide and Carbon building was built in the 1920s, the era was known for the luxurious style of Art Deco, and still today it is one of the most unique art deco skyscrapers in Chicago. Sons of the prolific Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, aptly named Daniel and Hubert Burnham, designed the Carbide and Carbon Building for the company’s regional offices. It was the first skyscraper to extensively use color in its exterior facade. Instead of the drab grey limestone finish of its predecessors and contemporaries, the building employs the use of dark granite at the base, deep green terra cotta on the tower, and real 24-karat gold leaf at the top. The addition of real gold expresses the grandeur of the times and the luxury the building was intended to, and still does, exude.
The exuberant style also effectively acted as a marketing tool for attracting clients to purchase their chemicals and products, and also for other companies to rent office space within. A rental brochure from the 1930s for the building read, “The effect of such beauty in a building upon the morale of the people employed in it is unquestionably beneficial and inspiring; and to clients, business associates, and visitors, it is constant assurance that the organizations they are dealing with are of the highest calibre.”
The building received city landmark status in May of 1996. When the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago came into the Carbide and Carbon in 2004, they underwent a major renovation and restoration to the building. The renovation cost $106,000,000 and included the replacement of 7,700 blocks of terra cotta from the exterior. And true to 1920s luxury, the polished gold interior is quite the grand entrance to any Chicago stay. In short, the architecture embodies rock n’ roll. It’s a perfect fit with the Hard Rock Hotel.
Thankfully, the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago executed extensive work to keep the 1920s art deco luxury of both the interior and exterior. So whether you have the opportunity to stay at the hotel or you pass by and just step inside for a look, I highly advise you to take notice of this flashy addition to the Chicago skyline. And there’s even a rock n’ roll gift shop!
Secrets Underground, Nature Above: Maggie Daley Park
December 11, 2014 by Vicki Rector
New walking spaces and recreation are coming to the Chicago Loop and lakefront with the redesigned Maggie Daley Park. The Park District will be opening some attractions as early as December, while others we can look forward to enjoying when the Spring and nice weather return. Even better news for fans of the Pedway (Chicago Detours is): The project will help expand the Pedway’s reach through the lakeshore, too. Let’s get ready to welcome the new Maggie Daley Park – a project so much more complicated than simply one level of parkland – to the Chicago Lakefront.
Maggie Daley Park History
The soon-to-be Maggie Daley Park is on the north end Grant Park, just east of Columbus Drive and Millenium Park and backing up to Lakeshore Drive. This was just lake water here back in 1836 when when the first decision was made to keep the lakeshore “forever open, clear, and free” of buildings and businesses. After the fire of 1871, debris from the charred downtown was piled between the shoreline and the railroad causeway, gradually expanding the park to the east. In the late 1880’s, Aaron Montgomery Ward began his campaign to save the lakefront: known in his lifetime as the “watchdog of the lakefront,” Ward sued the city twice to keep buildings off park grounds. In a battle that pitched the catalogue-millionaire against the department-store-millionaire, Ward succeeded in forcing the Field Museum (so called for its chief donor, Marshall Fields) to relocate south of the park. In the early 1900s, addition of more landfill grew the park further.
In 1976 a parking lot on the current site of Maggie Daley Park was torn apart and rebuilt underground. They also added a Field House and renamed it Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Now it dons the name of the wife of Mayor Richard M. Daley, known for her charity work, who died in 2011 after a 9-year-battle with cancer.
Down Below Maggie Daley Park
Secrets lie underneath this area of North Grant Park. Not least is the East Monroe Street Parking Garage, which has been aching for renovations for years. It is part of a complex of four parking garages under Millennium Park and North Grant Park, and it’s the biggest piece of the biggest underground parking system in the United States. It’s well hidden in the park by Frank Gehry’s first and only bridge design, the beautiful BP Pedestrian Bridge. Next time you walk this bridge, look out for the cluster of white ash, elm, and sycamore trees. Next to it are grates resting at the top of a hill. Those grates provide air to garage underneath, and what you thought was a hill is a covering over 4,000 parked cars.
Also tucked under the visible Park area? Access to the McDonald’s Cycle Center, where you can lock your bike, take a shower, leave your clothes in a locker, and enjoy the Loop even after a lengthy bike ride into it. Everything from the Harris Theater to the the residential areas by Aqua will be linked by the Pedway.
Also below the surface: portions of the new Field House: a modern design whose visible elements will be glass and clean white lines, replacing the old brutalist brick structure.
The completion of this park project will hopefully improve the functionality of all these pieces, and make the area more attractive to commuters and tourists – no matter what the weather throws at us!
Just Below the Grass of Maggie Daley Park
One more level of this layer cake needs to be mentioned before we even get to the park itself: the geofoam providing light-weight topography for the park’s soon-to-be-winding paths. Since the park itself is like a giant green roof over the parking garage, keeping the overall structure light in weight is a requirement. And geofoam is strong and provides the possibility of creating interesting shapes and contours.
Street Level of Maggie Daley Park
Besides the bright, modern new Maggie Daley Field House, a rock-climbing wall, viewing platforms, thousands of trees, and a skate park, the new parkland will boast a skating rink that meanders through pine trees like a man-made frozen river. Crews have been finishing some of the landscaping and lighting that will work in tandem to create a more wild, natural look. (A wild natural look supplemented with views of skyscrapers, the climbing wall, and the lake, of course.)
Almost 900 trees were removed from the park space, both to allow for construction and because without a diversity of species, many were getting sick or damaged. They will be replaced by thousands of plantings of a wider variety. A few will come back, as benches or as fill for the children’s playground which will open in 2015. And it’s due to open …..
Lights meant to replicate moonlight surround Maggie Daley Park. Once the landscaping has matured, plants and branches will hide their white poles so that they appear as floating orbs.
The project is described, pictures and updates provided, and even more information can be found with the Chicago Park District.
What new park amenities are you looking forward to the most?
–Vicki Rector, Tour Guide
Chicago Events This Week In Architecture and History
December 9, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
This week in architecture and history events in Chicago we feature a lecture on servant life in Chicago, a lecture and discussion the new Jens Jensen documentary, and a holiday inspired Frank Lloyd Wright Tour.
1. Exploring the Lives of the Glessners’ Servants – LECTURE
1800 S. Prairie Ave. – Tuesday, Dec 9th, 7:00pm
$10 per person / $8 for members – reservations recommended 312.326.1480
One of my favorite memories of the Glessner House on Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue was learning the stories of the servants and how they moved about the Richardsonian Romanesque marvel. From the hidden hallways to the narrow staircase, these design elements reference a different time in Chicago’s history of which the Glessners managed to keep keen record. Executive Director William Tyre engages guests in a presentation on the lives of the home’s servants from who they were to what they did from day to day. To add some live history to the presentation, Tyre will be joined by photos and stories from the granddaughter of one of the Glessner family maids, who served the family in the 1910s.
2. “Jens Jensen The Living Green Project” – A Pathway to Action – WALTER NETSCH LECTURE SERIES
78 E. Washington St., Claudia Cassidy Theater – Thursday, Dec 11th, 12:15pm-1:00pm
FREE – reservations recommended firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Lloyd Wright might be the big name in Chicago Prairie School architecture, but Jens Jensen was known as the main guy for Prairie School landscapes. He is known in Chicago for many of his designs including Columbus Park, Douglas Park and Lincoln Park. In addition to his contributions in the field of landscape architecture, Jensen was the Midwest’s first great natural conservationist. This Thursday, Carey Lundin, well-known director, will discuss her award-winning documentary “Jens Jensen The Living Green” and how she intends to bring the piece to a national audience.
3. Holidays at the Home and Studio - TOUR
951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park, IL – Saturday, Dec 13th, 9am-11am
Curious about how Frank Lloyd Wright might have enjoyed the holidays in his Oak Park home? Join youth volunteers for a free holiday tour of the Home and Studio decorated as it was when the Wright family lived there during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The highlight of the decorations include a 12-foot, Victorian-style tree and there are even Wright history-inspired toys for kids to play with in the drafting room. This family event is also totally free and no tickets are required. Certainly a unique way to experience the master of the Prairie School.
5 Great Chicago-Themed Holiday Gift Ideas
November 26, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Each year holiday shopping gets more and more grueling and, quite frankly, more and more obnoxiously overwhelming. So why not make things a little less crazy by avoiding the brutal throngs of gift buying wack jobs and buy locally with these great Chicago holiday gift ideas from great local businesses.
1. Chicago-themed Holiday Cards
No matter what holiday you are celebrating this season, some pretty awesome holiday cards may fit your personality. Some of my favorite Chicago-themed holiday cards this year are from Rhymeswithtwee, including this Chicago Bean holiday card and, for the more hard-core Chicagoan, a Malort-themed holiday card. These cards start at $4 for a single and $12 for a set.
And for those celebrating Hanukkah, studioLISTED has designed this classic Chicago-inspired at $2.95 per card.
2. Chicago Neighborhood Art
Chicago pride is all about ‘hood. This deconstructed “map” of Chicago neighborhoods cleverly orders each from smallest to largest and creates a print that looks like a cool eye chart. This $35 holiday gift, designed by BlueIsTheLand, is perfect for any Chicagoan with neighborhood pride.
3. Jo Snow Syrups
How about some local flavor this holiday season? Jo Snow Syrups is a great gift idea for Chicago foodies that love supporting local small businesses. Our favorite product is Jo’s Fig Vanilla Black Pepper Jam. My brother-in-law freaked out about the root beer syrup. This artisan outfit specializes in flavored syrups for anything from cocktails and coffee to even snow cones! And you can get a cute gift bag of three 5oz. syrups of your choice for only $24, perfect for any Chicago fun food lover.
4. Whimsical Candy
Or for your sweet-toothed friends and family, perhaps some La Dee Dah’s, Nifty Nougats or the peanut buttery goodness of a WowBar! from Whimsical Candy for a holiday gift. Candies range in price, which is great for any size holiday gift budget. If any of you have joined us for our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour or our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour, you may have had a chance to taste one of Whimsical Candy’s oh-so-yummy caramels. In addition to these being just totally delicious, they are handmade right in downtown Chicago.
5. Chicago Detours’ Ornaments – new this year!
We launched our new online shop this holiday season and are featuring beautifully crafted holiday ornaments. This special gift is a hand-cast architectural detail from the 1920s made by Decorator’s Supply Corporation, which has been crafting beautiful moldings, corbels and the like since 1883. We transformed them into ornaments by hand-painting gold accents and adding the ribbon. Each comes with a tag that shares the historic background of Decorators Supply. Plus, this hand-crafted piece of history won’t break the bank at only $12!
–Chicago Detours Staff
Art and History Events This Week In Chicago
November 18, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Architecture and history of Chicago are the focus of our weekly events listings, and this week we share with you a lecture on historic Chicago theaters, a lecture on Chicago neighborhoods, and a pop-up local art show.
1. Historic Chicago Theaters – LECTURE
430 S. Michigan Ave. – Thursday, November 20th, 12:15pm-1pm
Can’t help but love taking in a show at the Logan Theater? Chicago used to be chock-full of theaters like this one. Learn some history behind Chicago’s historic movie theaters this Thursday with the next Preservation Snapshot Lecture from Landmarks Illinois. Chicago Tribune theater critic, Chris Jones, will discuss the Auditorium Theater (where the lecture happens to take place) as a performance venue amidst Chicago’s great collection of historic theaters.
1601 N. Clark St. – Thursday, November 20th, 5:45pm
$25 – reservations required
This edition of the Chicago History Museum’s Urban History Seminars features Nicole Garnett from the University of Notre Dame to discuss this unique topic in Chicago’s history. As always the event includes a reception that begins at 5:45pm and dinner at 6:15pm. The program starts at 7pm and includes a presentation by Garnett followed by group discussion. The ticket includes both dinner and parking.
3. The Makers Show – POP-UP ART SHOW
213 N. Morgan – Thursday, November 20th, 5pm-9pm
Looking for holiday gift ideas from local artists? This Thursday roomTEN Special Projects is hosting a one-night only pop up show featuring hand crafted jewelry, accessories, art and home goods all designed by local Chicago artists. Enjoy microbrews from Empirical Brewery while checking out these featured artists: Anthony Zahner Design, Ducharme Jewelry, OZ-CO Studio, Leny Basa Jewelry, and Pop Top Co.
Chicago Events in November this Week
November 3, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Each week we bring you our top picks for what to do around the city that focuses on architecture and history. Our Chicago events in November this week feature a discussion of modernism in Chicago pre-Mies, a talk about a new proposed landmark, and a musical perspective of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Fullerton Hall, 111 S. Michigan Ave. – Tuesday, November 4th, 6:30pm-7:30pm
$10 members/$15 non-members/free to students with valid ID
When you think of Chicago modernism, Mies van der Rohe is often the first thing that pops into your mind with images of the Federal Center and Crown Hall in addition to his stamp that is simply all over this city. However, before Mies we had architects Holabird and Root, and Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White with the Palmolive building and the Merchandise Mart. And product designers such as John Morgan or Ivar Jepson who made sleek designs for everyday household appliances. This Tuesday Robert Bruegmann and Thomas Leslie present this revised view of Modernism in Chicago between the two World Wars at the Art Institute of Chicago.
2. The Fulton-Randolph Market District: Feeding Chicago since 1850 – LUNCH TALK
224 S. Michigan Ave., Lecture Hall – Wednesday, November 5th, 12:15-1pm
The Fulton-Randolph Market is currently home to some of Chicago’s best restaurants like the popular Girl and the Goat and Little Goat diner. And this excellence in food tradition goes back 164 years when Chicago built a food market here at Randolph and Halsted Streets. Now the city wants to honor this history by designating the Fulton-Randolph Market District a Chicago Landmark. Matt Crawford, who works for the city in the Department of Planning and Development with the Historic Preservation Division, will talk about the area’s rich history and distinctive mercantile architecture.
3. Concerts in Context: American Originals - MUSICAL PERFORMANCE
875 Lake St., Oak Park – Thursday, November 6th, 7pm
$15 members/$18 non-members – reservations required
The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust kicks off its Concerts in Context series this Thursday at Unity Temple with the Chicago Philharmonic Chamber Players. The group will offer unique perspectives on the music of American composers including Charles Ives, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Aaron Copeland. This first performance explores the cultural and historical context of the time when Frank Lloyd Wright was defining his vision for American architecture and puts you into the mood of the period to consider his architecture from a very unique perspective.
Approaches to Studying Chicago History
October 30, 2014 by Amanda
As a student at North Central College I have had class with some excellent professors over the last two years. Being a history major I felt it would be appropriate to sit down with one of my professors and mentor, Dr. Ann Durkin Keating, to discuss the study and presentation of Chicago’s history. How do we learn about history and tell the story? What is missing, and what is for the future of studying Chicago history? Below you will see several of the questions and answers we discussed in our conversation.
Dr. Ann Durkin Keating has been lauded for her scholarship of urban history. She teaches classes in the Urban & Suburban Studies Program at North Central University. She is also co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, which is like the Bible of Chicago history. Her books include Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide, Building Chicago: Suburban Developers and the Creation of a Divided Metropolis, and Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age.
Q: Have there been any recent discoveries in Chicago history that have changed how Chicago history is viewed? Is the history of Chicago told differently than it was in the past?
Keating: A couple years ago the Chicago History Museum did an exhibit, Out in Chicago, about the LGBT community. This was a great exhibition as it interviewed people in the community, brought together artifacts and stories to paint the picture of their life. This exhibit was very popular.
Books such as Dominic Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography is very popular because it is a one volume history of Chicago. His work shows where the holes are in historical research and provides a complete understanding of Chicago’s history. There is a real disconnect between academic and popular historians and between them there are specific topics that are always covered. Academic historians have generally focused on race and suburbanization while popular historians have written about crime sports and politics.
Q: What are some of the valuable resources available to researchers, historians and students studying Chicago history? How have research methods changed?
Keating: Historians have really benefited from the digitization of sources into electronic databases. The Historical Chicago Tribune, Chicago Foreign Language Press and Chicago Defender newspapers have been digitized and put in searchable databases. Historians and students have also benefited greatly from the release of the Encyclopedia of Chicago. And other interactive resources from the Chicago History Museum, such as their interactive map of the Chicago fire. Those doing historic research still use the same sources, but in different ways. Primary sources are the main way in which research is done, but now it is possible to go both to the archive and access them from the computer.
While there have been many pluses for researchers, there have also been minuses. Although the amount of resources online has increased we have seen a decrease in the amount of hours archives are open to the public. The Chicago History Museum has been lowering their hours and now have extremely limited hours for their research center. On the other hand the public libraries, like Harold Washington have kept their newspaper and special collections open a fair amount to the public despite the decreased amount of funding. They have really worked to maintain their availability to the public.
Q: When looking at what is available about Chicago, are there events that you wish were covered or research that has been done that should be revisited or expanded on?
Keating: I would really like to see a second edition of the Encyclopedia of Chicago because it is a very valuable source. I would also like to see Rima Schultz’s book Women Building Chicago become digitized at some point in time. There is an infinite list of topics, but I would really like to see more work done on the twentieth century as there is a wealth of information yet to be written about. I would even like to see more written about the nineteenth century and making connections between what has occurred in both of the last centuries.
~Brian Failing: Research & Collections Intern
Logan Square Special Event Wrap-Up
October 28, 2014 by Amanda
This past Sunday we had our third “Detour” one-off special event of 2014 in Logan Square in partnership with Maurene of Azimuth Projects.
Art Walk Stop #1: Autotelic Studios
We started with some delicious spicy hot chocolate at Autotelic Studios and some background on this interesting space. Inside a home on a residential block, the multiple rooms house open studio spaces. Artist Alice Feldt explained the synergy that results from working in this kind of space, explaining how seeing other artists working prompts discussion, and sparks mutual influence.
We also got to get our pictures taken in the photo booth window installation entitled “Observable Methods,” conceived by Kailyn Perry and Traci Fowler. Props such as the headphones and glasses were provided. (And all the photos here are photo credit to Maurene Cooper.)
Art Walk Stop #2: Trunk Show
Then we headed up to Palmer Square, where we met Trunk Show for the unveiling of their next limited-edition bumper sticker. Trunk Show is a mobile exhibition space, housed in the back of a 1999 forest green Ford Taurus owned by Raven Falquez Munsell and Jesse Malmed. They sell the stickers by annual subscription and a la carte.
Hearing artist Kelly Lloyd speak about digging through old books to uncover the quote really opened up a cool dimension of understanding the work. She discovered the quote scrawled in a page margin: “Perhaps God is more concerned with my availability than my ability?” Lloyd said she wants to “use this opportunity to introduce a deeply private thought into a very public form.”
Art Walk Stop #3: It’s Not a Stop – the Walk and Visual Scavenger Hunt
Then the Visual Scavenger Hunt part of the afternoon began! Everyone was given a sheet of paper with 10 photos. As we walked, they had to really look at the landscape around to match the photo with an object we pass by. The first to say “I got it!” received the prize of a work of art from the studios and galleries we visited. Some of the photos were of things we weren’t actually going to pass, just to make things a little more tricky.
After the prize was given, I then talked a little bit about the cultural and historic background of these everyday things, such as alleys or the shapes of our houses. Even lawn ornaments have a story to tell.
Artwalk Stop #4: Comfort Station
We walked up Milwaukee Avenue, past the big strip of the Mega Mall, to the Comfort Station. Artist Matt Woodward talked about his incredible weathering process with his large format pieces. The one pictured here, for example, endured a year of the elements on his roof. Curator Jessie Devereaux provided great insight as well into the ways that these works use the space of the historic Comfort Station, and also react to the changes in light throughout the day.
The group raptly listened to his background on his collaboration with J.R. Robinson’s Wrekmeister Harmonies for the exhibition. Over a year ago Matt was inspired by one of J.R.’s songs to create a drawing. For this show, the collaboration was reversed, with J.R. composing music based on Matt’s architecturally inspired works. Using tracings of mass-produced architectural decorations, which today people often romantically and erroneously admire as unique, these heavily wrought drawings disguise the commodified origins of their designs.
Art Walk Stop #5: Azimuth Projects
Then we walked on over to Azimuth Projects. After a break for wine, African rice, and butter cookies, we experienced the multimedia installation work of Sarah Beth Woods.
Sarah Beth befriended African braider Fatimata Traore, and has worked with her in her South Side salon, adding additional touches like ribbons and colored extensions. She explained her love for the tactile nature of her work, which you are encouraged to touch. She also addressed the tension between high art and craft. I admired that she spoke of the racial dynamics of her work, which so often people try to skirt around.
We had an excellent group of people, mostly from the Logan Square neighborhood, for our special event. And also one guy from San Francisco who had just hopped off a 20-hour train ride. The event was sold-out, and many people heard about it through DNA Chicago, the Daily Herald, TimeOut Chicago, and the Red Eye.
Our next one-off “Detour” special event will be in January, it will take place mostly indoors, and we will announce it soon!
Thanks for reading!
– Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director