Artists, community seek alternative to public art funding

Justus Roe Mural: 5625 N. Clark St. (photo/Demetria Mosley)
Justus Roe Mural: 5625 N. Clark St. (photo/Demetria Mosley)

By Demetria Mosley, Dylan Fahoome and Sadé Carpenter

In the city home to the Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and numerous galleries, finding art in some Chicago neighborhoods can be as easy as walking a few blocks.

But in others, this isn’t always the case.

General admission to the MCA ranges from $7 to $10, and tickets to the Art Institute are even pricier, at $17 to $23. For an individual making a trip to the Art Institute alone, tickets may be very affordable. Yet, a family of four could spend $80 for the same trip.

“Art in galleries is really great and it’s a great place to find art when you know to go there to look, but I think the idea of putting it out in the public brings it to everyone and makes it really accessible,” said Matthew Hoffman, a Chicago-based artist and designer.

While the Art Institute and MCA provide free general admission to residents on certain days, public art installations provide a budget-friendly alternative to museums and galleries. Depending on the neighborhood, some Chicagoans have more access to public art than others.

Data from the City of Chicago Data Portal shows an abundance of public art located in Chicago parks in the Loop or surrounding area. Further north in Andersonville, city-funded public art is scarcer.

 

Locations of public art in Chicago parks. Source: City of Chicago Data Portal. (map/Demetria Mosley)
Locations of public art in Chicago parks. Source: City of Chicago Data Portal. (map/Demetria Mosley)

When public grants and private donations fall through, some artists – also grappling with a 2015 budget of just $146 million for the National Endowment for the Arts – have turned to crowdsourcing as a means to fund public art projects.

Matthew Hoffman is one of them. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Hoffman’s “You Are Beautiful” project is making its way to Andersonville.

"You Are Beautiful" sticker in Andersonville. (photo/Demetria Mosley)
“You Are Beautiful” sticker in Andersonville. (photo/Demetria Mosley)

“The notion of crowdfunding is really great because outside of writing grants or private donations, this is a way that sort of everyone can have a hand in it and have a role in it,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, 35, lives on the North Side of Chicago. He will soon begin construction on the project, which overreached its goal of $5,500 by almost $2,000.

Hoffman teamed up with eco-Andersonville, an initiative of the Andersonville Development Corporation (ADC), which is a non-profit responsible for long-term economic development and planning in the neighborhood. Eco-Andersonville addresses social, economic and environmental sustainability issues.

Eco-Andersonville previously commissioned artist Justus Roe, who created an outdoor mural located on Clark Street.

“Sometimes you do these types of initiatives and you’re not sure if you’ll get any support because a lot of this stuff is challenging and you don’t know if it’s going to connect with people,” said Brian Bonanno, sustainability programs manager at ADC. “It feels good to know people think it’s a good idea.”

The “You Are Beautiful” project began in 2002 as a way for Hoffman to mail out his stickers with the aforementioned phrase on it to people who requested them. The project grew to reach 81 countries and every single continent, including Antarctica. It can now be curated on social media with the hashtag #YouAreBeautiful.

Hoffman said the goal of the project was simply to make people feel better.

“Some people aren’t going to get it; some people are going to overlook it; some people aren’t going to even notice the stickers,” said Hoffman. “[It] won’t change the world, but it does have the power to change someone’s world.”

This map highlights public art and peacemaking locations in Andersonville.  http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/107407ec9e8fffd2466822f33bb0ec20/placemaking-in-andersonville/index.html  (Map/Sadé Carpenter)
This map highlights public art and placemaking locations in Andersonville.
http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/107407ec9e8fffd2466822f33bb0ec20/placemaking-in-andersonville/index.html
(Map/Sadé Carpenter)

Bonanno said eco-Andersonville partnered with Hoffman to spread a message of positivity. He also wants to show other communities the importance of public art.

“It has a value in any neighborhood,” said Bonanno. “There are some neighborhoods in Chicago that could really use the improvement, but might not have the tools or the resources or the people to get something like this funded or off the ground.”

“A lot of people don’t know…they look for grants or things like that to do this and you have the resources within your community if you get people and can put together a Kickstarter,” he said. “We wanted to show it doesn’t take the city or it doesn’t take grants necessarily to fund or make positive changes.”

Andersonville Dala Horse replica. (photo/Demetria Mosley)
Andersonville Dala Horse replica. (photo/Demetria Mosley)

Bonanno said eco-Andersonville is partnering with the Lawndale neighborhood and potentially Englewood. He plans to share art installations and fundraising strategies.

Brother Mark Elder, the muralist behind the “We Are DePaul2” mural on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus, said public art could tell you a lot about a community in which it resides.

“The power of public art is where the artist is serving a community,” Elder said. “The artist basically works with the community to bring out what is important, visually…so that anybody can see it and get an idea as to what the community is about.”

 

Advertisements

Small-business owner creates new twist on popular dessert staple

Guilty Pleasurez cocktail cupcakes - vanilla vodka, hypnotize me, Bailey's chocolate and caramel, apple martini and cognac. (Photo/Sadé Carpenter)
Guilty Pleasurez cocktail cupcakes – vanilla vodka, hypnotize me, Bailey’s chocolate and caramel, apple martini and cognac. (Photo/Sadé Carpenter)

 

By Demetria Mosley and Sadé Carpenter

With the emergence of cupcakes as a mega-trendy dessert in recent years, cupcake shops and food trucks have become a dime a dozen in Chicago. Whether you prefer your sweets from Sprinkles or Swirlz, a tasty cupcake is easy to come by. Although the competition is fierce, one small business owner is making her mark with a boozy new twist on the old classic – cocktail cupcakes.

“We’re not selling alcohol, we’re selling alcohol in the cupcake,” said Tracey Glover, owner of Guilty Pleasurez Cocktail Cupcakes.

Glover started Guilty Pleasurez out of her home in suburban Bolingbrook. She says she wasn’t really taking her business seriously at first, and eventually upgraded to a commercial kitchen. She now rents space from Kitchen Chicago, a shared-use kitchen on the near-west side.

“I consider myself a pastry chef…but I consider more myself as an artist,” Glover said. “I don’t want them [the cupcakes] all perfect because they’re supposed to be works of art…It should smell good, it should taste good and it should look good.”

Glover works full time at an online university (she did not wish to disclose the name) when she isn’t working on her cupcakes. Because of her tight schedule, running Guilty Pleasurez is truly a family affair. Her 13-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son help with deliveries and cake preparation. But, no one in her family can make one of her cupcakes from start to finish because only she knows the full recipes. Glover says one of the reasons she started her business was to provide a secure future for her children.

“I like working for myself and I want something to leave for my children so they will…I will have a legacy,” Glover said. “They don’t have to depend upon other people to give them a job or decide whether they’re going to keep their job. This is something that they can grow and we can possibly franchise out.”

Guilty Pleasurez Cupcakes at America's Baking and Sweets Show. (Photo/Demetria Mosley)
Guilty Pleasurez Cupcakes at America’s Baking and Sweets Show. (Photo/Demetria Mosley)

Glover initially promoted her business by word-of-mouth. She started out going to hair salons, baby showers, weddings and networking events. She says people were initially skeptical, but once they heard “alcohol-infused,” they became more interested. They’re called cocktail cupcakes for a reason, but if you’re expecting them to be as strong as a martini, think again.

“I can’t get anymore alcohol in there. If you want more alcohol you might want to just get a shot,” Glover said. “It’s still a cupcake – it has to have presentation, it has to look delicious. I can’t just pour liquor all over your cupcake and hand it to you.”

While she isn’t shy, Glover says she at first had a hard time going up to people to sell her cupcakes. She handed out many cupcake-decorated business cards, and says they get more exposure than anything else.

“It was challenging for me to promote my cupcakes,” she said. “I felt so insecure and I felt like I was hustling people.”

So far, Glover’s hard work appears to be paying off. Guilty Pleasurez participated in America’s Baking and Sweets Show last weekend, and Glover and her crew will make another appearance at the One of a Kind Show in December.

Glover says the next part of her business plan is to switch to e-commerce so customers can purchase cupcakes online instead of calling or emailing to place orders. She says she would love to make Guilty Pleasurez her full-time job, but the company is still in the growing process.

“Even though we’re bringing in money, it goes right back out.”

This summer Glover hopes to open a food truck that would travel within Chicago and nearby suburbs like Oak Park. She says the majority of her customers live in the city, so the food truck would save them a trip to the suburbs.

Starting a business has been challenging, Glover said, but facing them head-on will ultimately benefit the business.

“You can continue to be uncomfortable and hungry, or you can get out of your comfort zone and try to grow this business.”

DePaul Hula hoop trouper dances with GoPro

DePaul Hoop Troupe member Angela Verish participated in 100 Drums, an instructor-led drum circle on the DePaul quad. When she wasn’t beating the bongos, she showed off her hoop dancing skills while wearing a GoPro camera to give viewers a first-person perspective.

(Video/Demetria Mosley and Sadé Carpenter)

Peace after war

Tim Sanders, 32, with his chihuahua Mommy. Sanders completed two tours of Iraq while in the Army.  “The greatest things about dogs man, is they don’t care who you are, what you do -- they’re going to love your regardless.” Photo/Sadé Carpenter
Tim Sanders, 32, with his chihuahua, Mommy. Sanders completed two tours of Iraq while in the Army.
“The greatest things about dogs man, is they don’t care who you are, what you do — they’re going to love your regardless.” Photo/Sadé Carpenter

By Sadé Carpenter

On Sept. 11, 2001, Tim Sanders was learning how to rappel out of a helicopter. Stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., Sanders, then 19, had enlisted in the Army a mere 11 months before. It was a typical day in air assault school until his teacher began shouting.

“Everybody in the classroom right now!” he recalls hearing the teacher yell. Once in the room, they turned on the news and saw planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

They were, his teacher said later, about to go to war.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

In 2000, Sanders was a senior at Romeoville High School in Romeoville, Ill. A genial, outgoing teen, Sanders says he struggled with English but did well in math, gym and lunch. He remembers watching an Army commercial junior year, but at this point was unsure about his future career path.

“I ain’t gone lie to you…I kind of panicked my senior year,” Sanders said. “I was like, ‘man I’ve been messing around all this time, what am I going to do?’ I was more of a ladies man, always trying to get at the honeys.”

Born in Gottlieb Memorial Hospital to parents Dean Sanders and Rhonda Renfro, Sanders says he had a happy childhood. While he did not always have the latest video games or shoes, his family was not poor. His parents divorced when he was young, and Rhonda later remarried William Renfro, who would raise Sanders and his younger sister, Laconia “Penny” Renfro. The family moved to Bolingbrook, Ill. in the early 1990s, where Sanders says he had a relatively strict upbringing.

“I couldn’t do NOTHING…couldn’t be on the phone too long, couldn’t be outside in the driveway too long…couldn’t go hang out with my friends,” said Sanders. “It was so bad that when me & [my friend] Jon would be up at the [basketball] courts, she would come down there and get me to come home and take out the trash.”

“Like Ma, we’re in a heated basketball game, hitting them threes, baby, hitting them threes!” Sanders said, animated, before imitating his mom with a slight southern drawl. “Here she comes – ‘Tiiiim!’ Like man are you serious?”

Sanders says he now appreciates how his parents raised him, but at the time, he and his parents did not always get along. His mother says she doesn’t think she was that strict, but she did everything she could to keep Sanders out of gangs and out of trouble.

“It seems like he only joined the army to see if he could get away from me,” Renfro said in a phone interview.

She was right. When Sanders graduated in 2000, he quietly took the steps necessary to enlist. He failed the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) twice, but finally passed on the third try. If his memory serves him correctly, on Oct. 1, Sanders told his family he was joining the Army. His day of entry was Oct. 4.

“At that time I knew I got to get out this house, I got to do something, I got to get out of the neighborhood,” Sanders said. “I wanted to be proud of myself and I wanted people to be proud of me.”

FIGHTING TWO BATTLES

Sanders arrived at Fort Sill, Okla. for basic training. He would stay here four months, before moving to Fort Campbell, Ky. in February. A 13B cannon crew member, he says he was mentally excited, but his body was tired. The long days of physical exertion broke him down, but he says the drill sergeants never intimidated him because his mother yelled at him at home anyway. Sanders formed friendships and enjoyed the camaraderie basic training brings.

“Man, [those were] good times, good times…when you meet that next man or next woman…you don’t look at them as a stranger anymore, you look at them as your brother or your sister,” he said. “That’s a lifetime commitment, that’s a lifetime partner, that’s a lifetime friend no matter where you are in the world.”

Those good times would soon come to an end. Sanders says he joined the military partially because he wanted to travel the world. He didn’t actually think he would end up fighting in a war.

“It never dawned on me how significant those towers were in New York,” Sanders said, reflecting on the events of 9/11. “Shit didn’t start getting real for me until we locked down the base.”

Sanders received orders in November 2002 to report to Iraq. He was excited to go out of the country and says he was not scared.

“When you look at movies, different events that go on in the world, you never expect those things to happen…you never expect to be in those types of situations,” Sanders said. “A lot of times you kind of laugh about it, you kind of push it off…but then when it actually happens, in your face – that’s when it starts getting real for you.”

What he didn’t know while preparing for war in Iraq is that his stepfather, William Renfro, was fighting a battle of his own at home. A man who never got sick, never had to stay in the hospital, was gravely ill. Renfro never personally told Sanders he was sick, and Rhonda didn’t want to burden Sanders by sharing the severity of Renfro’s illness.

“I didn’t want to put extra weight on him while he was trying to dodge bullets and fight for his life,” she said.

Sanders knew something was wrong with his stepfather, but didn’t realize how sick he was. Once, while visiting home, he saw Renfro in bed eating vanilla ice cream and apple pie. It was the middle of the day, and this was unusual behavior for him.

“I think I finally realized he was sick when he came downstairs and had these green “coochie cutter” shorts on…he was going in the kitchen getting a cup of water…he didn’t have a shirt on; stomach was big as hell…I said ‘wow, look at you with those shorts on!’’ Sanders said. “I was just going in, straight up making fun of him and this was like the first time he actually laughed, laughed so hard…[the first time in] my life that he laughed that hard and that much. That’s when I realized he was sick. That’s when I realized something was wrong with him.”

Despite a diagnosis of dementia, Rhonda says the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with Renfro. Sanders was deployed to Iraq in January or Feb. 2003, but was able to return home in July. His stepfather’s condition was deteriorating.

“When I came home from Iraq…he didn’t know who the hell I was,” Sanders said. “He just looked at me with that blank face…I thought at least he would recognize who I am, but he didn’t.”

One day, Renfro stopped breathing. His funeral was held Saturday, August 9, 2003. Sanders said he felt lost after his death.

William Renfro, Sanders' stepfather, died in 2003 of dementia and unknown causes. Photo/Sadé Carpenter with permission of Tim Sanders
William Renfro, Sanders’ stepfather, died in 2003 of dementia and unknown causes. Photo/Sadé Carpenter with permission of Tim Sanders

“I still feel like I got robbed, I really do,” said Sanders. “It was like, ‘you’re sick, I don’t even know you’re sick, then all of a sudden you’re in that stage where you’re a vegetable and don’t know me anymore, and now you’ve passed away? Really?’”

After the funeral Sanders returned to Fort Campbell, Ky. His initial term of service ended Oct. 2003, and he returned home and started work as a forklift driver for Mohawk Industries through the end of 2004. Sanders completed a second tour in Iraq from 2005-2006, where he says he was introduced to a new war and lost a lot of friends.

Sanders, now 32, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and describes a horrific scene that he believes contributed most to his trauma. As he relieved a group of soldiers of duty, they joked about beating each other later in Madden NFL, a video game.

“10 minutes later man, they were gone,” he said. “[They] got hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]. The explosion was so strong, it caused the ammunition inside the tank to go off… all I saw was body parts. Fingers, toes, legs arms…just everywhere. The only thing I could do was stare.”

QUEST FOR NORMALCY

Today, Sanders works for Chem-Wise, a pest control management company. He earned an associates degree in computer networking systems from ITT Technical Institute, and hopes to find work in that field soon. He is coping with his PTSD – he feels anxious in large crowds and suffers from nightmares – and is working on feeling normal again.

“If you haven’t been to where he was, then you don’t understand what he went through,” said Darla Jackson, his fiancé. “I didn’t want to give up on him because he’s a good, he’s a great guy…I didn’t want to give up on him.”

Tim Sanders (right) with fiancé Darla Jackson (left). Both army veterans, they served in Iraq together. Photo/Sadé Carpenter
Tim Sanders (right) with fiancé Darla Jackson (left). Both army veterans, they served in Iraq together. Photo/Sadé Carpenter

Jackson says Sanders has a hard time getting over things – losing his stepfather, his time in Iraq – and he uses drinking to cope. An Army veteran herself, she says there have been times their relationship almost didn’t make it, but she doesn’t plan on leaving him anytime soon.

Sanders is currently waiting on a decision from the Army on whether he is fit to return to duty or eligible for permanent retirement from active duty. Meanwhile, he is still adjusting to life as a civilian and wrestling with words unspoken to his stepfather.

“I believe I would’ve started out simple by just telling him when he didn’t think I was listening, I was listening,” he said. “I really just thank him for the opportunities he gave me to be a better man.”

Professional stunt performers hone craft in Chicago

Professional stunt performers Chris Nolte and Rebecca Vickers perform a scene in "WaterWorld" at Universal Studios Singapore. (Photo/Facebook)
Professional stunt performers Chris Nolte and Rebecca Vickers perform a scene in “WaterWorld” at Universal Studios Singapore. (Photo/Facebook)

Usually when a person gazes at his image in a photograph, he recognizes the face looking back at him. For Chris Nolte, this isn’t always the case — He once mistook himself for actor Steve Martin.

“I had taken photos of myself with a disposable camera,” Nolte said in a phone interview. “When I got the prints back, I remember looking at a particular photo thinking, ‘when did I take a photo of him?’ only to realize that it was of me. Truth be told, I even fooled myself.”

As a professional stunt performer, it is often Nolte’s job to fool an audience into believing he is someone else. In the 2001 film “Novocaine,” his work as Steve Martin’s stunt double was so convincing, even the producers and director were fooled. Nolte, 43, has been a stunt performer since 1995. He auditioned for a show at Six Flags in his hometown, St. Louis, while studying theater and working as a bartender and waiter. There, he learned sword fighting, general stage combat and gun play for a role in “Robin Hood.”

Because of his size (6’2” and 200 pounds), Nolte is often cast in tough-guy roles – a thug in “Prison Break,” one of the Joker’s henchmen in “The Dark Knight” – for which he won a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance in an Ensemble in a Motion Picture.

“It’s very nice to be recognized for that,” Nolte said. “It’s probably going to be one of the classics…so to have that be the one to win an award on is a proud moment.”

With the recent increase in movies and TV shows filmed in Chicago – “Batman Begins,” The Dark Knight,” “Divergent,” “Chicago Fire” and its spinoff, “Chicago P.D.,” to name a few – local actors and stunt professionals have more opportunities for work. An industry with so many nuances, Nolte said, is ideal for stunt performers with diverse backgrounds and skills. One job may require specialists in rigging or martial arts, while another utilizes wheelmen with expert driving prowess.

“I wouldn’t say I do everything and I wouldn’t say I specialize,” said Nolte. “Everyone’s got their own story. There aren’t two stunt men that have the same story.”

Though their stories aren’t exactly the same, Nolte’s story is deeply intertwined with another professional stunt performer’s, Rebecca Vickers. After first meeting at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan, they met again while working at Universal Studios, Singapore. The job was for “WaterWorld,” based on the 1995 blockbuster.

When they initially met in Japan, Vickers and Nolte became friends, but were dating other people. In Singapore, they were both single and the timing was right to begin a new relationship. A few years later, they became husband and wife. In April, they moved to Naperville.

“I can’t see it being anything other than destiny,” Nolte said, while Vickers, 34, laughed in the background. “I didn’t marry her because she’s a stunt performer…my wife is many things, she just also has a background in stunts.”

Vickers, who grew up in New South Wales, Australia, started dancing at age 3. At 17, she left high school to attend the David Atkins Dynamite Dance School of Performance Arts. She was working professionally as a dancer and actress at Universal Studios Japan when producers approached her about doing stunt work after another performer was injured.

“It was new world for me,” Vickers said. “I’d never trained with weapons or done any sort of high falls or fighting…you never really stop learning, you never stop training. Every day I go to work I learn something different, either a new stunt, a new way to fall or a new way to get hit by a car.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Vickers is currently filming episodes of “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.,” which premieres January 8 on NBC. She said the most challenging thing about her work is not the actual stunts, but the exhaustion after filming all day.

“In a perfect world it would be so good to be in and out in three or four hours, but sometimes they are 14-15 hour days,” Vickers said. “There’s a lot of waiting around. Stuff that we’ve been doing takes 15 hours to do one scene…you watch it when it airs, and it literally takes 20 seconds then it’s over.”

Despite the long days, Vickers said she loves her work and would love to say she’ll never stop taking stunt jobs. Emmanuel Manzanares, a 27-year-old stunt performer, shares her passion. He said he’d like to work for as long as he can walk.

“I’d love to perform as long as I could perform safely and adequately and then beyond that, I’d love to keep filming and creating until my body says no more,” Manzanares said in a phone interview. “To me, the biggest gift I can hopefully give is to help other people get to where they want to be, and help the community learn and grow as much as the community has helped me.”

Nolte recently got Manzanares a job working on “Chicago Fire” under veteran stunt coordinator Rick LeFevour. Manzanares, who specializes in Okinawan Goju-Ryu karate, Muay Thai kickboxing and general fight choreography, founded LBP Stunts Chicago in 2006, and now splits his time between Los Angeles and Chicago. He said being a stunt performer is much more than knowing how to fight.

“Let’s say you have a black belt; it means you’ve mastered the basics,” Manzanares said. “So, you should have a fundamental background and you should be able to control what you know. But, let’s say you only know how to fight and you only take that mentality onto a production, that’s not necessarily how it’s going to work…you have to learn how to adapt that training to what’s necessary for the production.”

Manzanares said one of the things he loves most about the stunt profession is the art of creation and getting to work as a team. He feels positive about the rise in job availability in Chicago.

“I think it’s a great-looking city…it’s a market that hasn’t been completely tapped,” he said. “It’s clear that the movies and TV shows that have been well done and shot in Chicago look great…the city just has a really natural look that you can’t get in the studio…It definitely gives a lot of the locals work to look forward to and it gets to show everyone else in the industry that we have something to offer.”

Full-figured burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree muses on self-love and female empowerment

For D.D. DuPree, the art of burlesque is more than shedding clothes in front of an audience – it’s stripping away fear and learning to feel comfortable in her own skin, flaws and all.

When she isn’t exuding sensuality on the Vaudezilla stage, she is Draenna Jackson – wife, freelance video editor, receptionist and full-time graduate student, studying Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul. She spoke to me about the transformative power of performing and believing in herself regardless of naysayers.

Burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree, whose husband came up with her stage name as a cheeky nod to her curvaceous figure. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/DuPree.DD
Burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree, whose husband came up with her stage name as a cheeky nod to her curvaceous figure./Photo: https://www.facebook.com/DuPree.DD

SadéTell me about the Vaudezilla Burlesque Troupe and how you got involved with it.

D.D. – They were looking for what they call vixens [stagehands]. They dress us up as cigarette girls in a corset and fluffy skirt and we are scenery at the show…I “vixened” with them for two years and the owner of the troupe, Red Hot Annie, asked if I would like to take advanced classes for free because they were putting together a JV squad.

Sadé Before Red Hot Annie came to you about taking free classes, had you done any training for burlesque dancing?

D.D. – I never did any dance training. I did a lot of theater training when I was young.

Sadé What kind of skills do you need to be a burlesque dancer?

D.D. – Well, having some rhythm helps (laughs). I think having a lot of confidence in yourself, your stage presence and the effect you can have on an audience…I think that’s what makes all the performers really something special.

http://vimeo.com/74244642

SadéAre there only full-figured women in the troupe, or is it open to all sizes and shapes?

D.D. – It’s open to all sizes, all shapes, all sexes…we have two “boylesque” members of the troupe; they’re male dancers who are both incredible.

SadéWhen you Google “beautiful women,” the majority of the results show thin, white women. Is it difficult to be a full-figured woman of color in entertainment in a society that still seems to prefer the western ideal of beauty?

D.D. – No. I feel like any woman of color has to come to terms with the fact that she’s not blond and blue-eyed at a really young age, or she’s not going to be happy with herself…I perform for the people who don’t care what color I am.

Continue reading Full-figured burlesque dancer D.D. DuPree muses on self-love and female empowerment

“SHIFT” – A New Media exhibit by Luftwerk at the Chicago Cultural Center

This is "Spectrum," the second installation in the three-part work "Shift," by Luftwerk./Photo credit: Sadé Carpenter
“Spectrum,” the second installation in the three-part New Media exhibit “Shift,” by Luftwerk./Photo: Sadé Carpenter

A myriad of colors and sound collide in “Shift,” the compelling media exhibit now on display at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Created by Luftwerk, collaboration between artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero (both School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni), the intriguing exhibit features three separate installations that stimulate visitors’ senses while encouraging interaction with the piece.

Upon entrance into the first room “Spectrum,” viewers face a wall featuring a mosaic of 529 different colors, each blending and shifting to form new tones and hues. Though the colors are bright and fresh, the darkness of the remaining space and fluid color transitions provide a tranquil ambience. The panel may remind some of a painter’s palette or beautiful stained glass in a church.

Participation is central in the next area, “Synthesis,” where shadows are cast in different colors depending on where the exhibit-goer stands on a large white rectangle covering the floor. Subtle bell tones – courtesy of sound artist Owen Clayton Condon – are almost unnoticeable initially, but once heard, are reminiscent of a sweet lullaby.

“Threshold,” the final component in “Shift,” jolts the viewer out of the peacefulness of the previous installations, stripping the piece of color in its sharp display of black and white lines. This room also serves as contrast to the softer, more muted color in “Synthesis.” Two mirrors are angled together between two walls, forming a prism. The lines travel across the wall, producing shapes until suddenly they flat line, perhaps signaling the end of the experience.

SAIC Alumni Profile, Luftwerk: Sean Gallero & Petra Bachmaier (BFA 1999) from SAIC on Vimeo.

Location: Chicago Rooms Gallery, (2nd Floor North) – Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington St. Chicago, IL 60602

Exhibition date: open now through January 5th

Exhibition hours: Mon.-Thurs., 10am-7pm, Fri. – Sun., 10am-6pm

Closed holidays

Admission: FREE

Chicago area entrepreneurs plant seeds in photography, fashion

Wake up at 5 a.m. Shower, eat a small breakfast (if there’s time), then drive to O’hare International Airport to start a 7:30 a.m. shift. Clock out at 2 p.m., drive home for shower number two then change clothes and head to Verizon Wireless. Work a few hours, clock out and go to class. Get home by 11 p.m. Sleep. Repeat.

For Brian Flynn, 32, this is a typical Monday. A part-time digital photography student at Harrington College of Design (where he also works in the equipment cage), Flynn juggles three part-time jobs, school and his true passion, capturing images.

Photo Credit: Brian Flynn, B Flynn Photography
Photo Credit: Brian Flynn, B Flynn Photography

“[The challenge is] having enough energy to keep up with doing everything that I do, said Flynn in a phone interview. “I’m probably a very crazy individual at this point because I do so much, and there’s simply not enough time in the day to accomplish everything.”

If he has the weekend off from his ramp services job at United Airlines, Flynn starts his Saturday around 9 a.m. with a photo shoot or editing in his shared studio space. In his last semester at Harrington, Flynn said he is ready to focus more on his company, B Flynn Photography. Still, he is nervous about putting himself out there as a full-time photographer.

“It’s a little scary because there are so many ups and downs between how often I have paying clients,” he said. “I still need to work, still need a steady paycheck.”

Laid off from Blue Cross Blue Shield last November, Kylisha Alsberry, aspiring fashion designer and creator of online boutique Haute Sheek, knows this fear all too well. Though given the option to stay at her company, she said she opted for a severance package and invested nearly $5,000 in her own business.

“When I finally decided to step out and call my own shots…there’s nothing like it,” Alsberry said. “I was meant to be a boss; I have to be a boss.”

Continue reading Chicago area entrepreneurs plant seeds in photography, fashion