Arts & Life

Arts and lifestyle coverage from around the globe and Illinois.

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In mid-September, a delegation of high-ranking officials from Kenya met with representatives of the Illinois State Museum in a ceremony marked by many speeches and group photographs. Center stage, displayed in a lined box, was the kigango, a decorated wooden post that was part of the museum's collection before officials there learned last spring it originally had been stolen from a Kenyan family. 

When he took that right turn off Halsted Street to 18th Street back in 1988, Paul D'Amato thought he was about to take his last pictures of Chicago. 

D'Amato, now a photography professor at Columbia College Chicago, had plans to take a teaching position in Maine. But what he found in Pilsen, then the city's largest Mexican neighborhood, caught his attention and held tight. "I had been to a lot of different neighborhoods in Chicago, but this one had an aura to it,'' he writes. "It was dark and colorful, full of texture, energy.''

Chicago/Chicago sorrows 
ways/So blue. Empty pockets/Every day/Friday
the rent is/Due. Chicago/Chicago. 
Big Shoulders/Bronzeville 
where/Lay my spirit. Lord/Knows
 . . .


from Eighteen
in Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth
by Sterling Plumpp

Julian Ambros Malaga wore his red-striped soccer jersey for good luck.

Mario Castillo had crossed before. He once spent eight months living and working in Galena, Ill.

Enrique LanderosGarcía wanted to make a better life for his wife  Octavia and their son Alexis.

In the end, Reymundo Barreda Maruri had to hold up his boy Reymundo Jr. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I take the scenic route to work every morning. I walk up three flights of the Illinois Capitol's grand staircase that lead to a towering piece of art above the Press Room door.

It's a 20-foot-by-40-foot painting of a 1778 peace treaty with George Rogers Clark and Native Americans at Fort Kaskaskia, and it almost looks small compared to the impressive depth and ornate detail of the stained glass dome soaring above the Capitol rotunda.

It wasn't music to their ears. For the second time in three years, Republican fiscal worries were shouted down by the Democratic legislative majority. There was little Republicans could do, so they sounded off about "pork" projects greasing the skids for a $54 billion state budget. 

A visitor enters an eerie dining room and sees a meticulously set table, including place settings for six, wine glasses and a centerpiece composed of a ritual loaf of bread covered with a prayer cloth. The traditional Jewish Passover dinner, or Seder, celebrating the escape of the ancient Israelites from their Egyptian captivity, is seemingly about to commence. 

Question & Answer: Shirley Madigan

Dec 1, 2005

The 2005 recipient of the Motorola Excellence in Public Service Award is Shirley Madigan. She has been the chairman of the Illinois Arts Council for more than two decades. Madigan received the Motorola award to honor "her passionate advocacy and record of achievement in the arts and human services." 

The award is co-sponsored by Motorola, NORBIC, an economic development and technical assistance organization serving manufacturing firms in Northeastern Illinois, and Illinois Issues

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We began with a question. What could capture readers' attention in this busy time between Thanksgiving and New Year's? Ten years later, Illinois Issues' December arts issue has become a tradition, popular with subscribers and staff alike.

Over the years, these issues have been visually appealing, as we meant them to be. But here's the surprise: Reporting on the relationship between culture and politics is a challenge, as intellectually demanding in its own way as any form of public affairs journalism. 

Pat Guinane
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Chicago preserved a piece of its history, while Springfield erased part of its past.

In both cases, these communities were reacting to public art that was created to portray the lives of working people, a message -- and a medium -- almost always guaranteed to garner an emotional response. After all, public murals, statues and sculptures ask an entire community to embrace an issue that may be indefinable, even to individuals. And this is especially difficult when the subject itself is political.

For Chicago, it took time -- 118 years to be exact. 

Illinois’ Poet Laureate Kevin Stein

Feb 1, 2004

Kevin Stein, a professor of American literature at Bradley University, is Illinois’ poet laureate. The position has been vacant since 2000 when Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks died. 

“He has translated his life experience and put it into rhyme, rhythm and verse,” said Gov. Rod Blagojevich when he named Stein. “He was wise enough and brave enough to know that poetry can have as much of a place on the factory floor as it does in the lecture hall.”

Imagine this scenario at the local Wal-Mart. A young mom, toddlers in tow, wheels her cart into the book aisle. Momentarily ignoring the kids, she scrutinizes the eye-catching titles and brightly colored dust jackets of the 2003 titles.

The term “clear channel” refers to the dominant station on a particular AM radio frequency. A high-power, wide-service-area clear channel station takes priority, and other stations must use directional antennas or reduce power to avoid stepping on that station’s signal. The term also refers to the company that dominates the radio industry — and defines the debate over the future of radio. 

Review Essay: At war with the Constitution

Feb 1, 2003

Judging Lincoln 
Frank J. Williams, Southern Illinois University Press, 2002 

All the Laws But One 
Civil Liberties in Wartime 
William H. Rehnquist, Vintage Books, Random House Inc., 1998

Bush at War 
Bob Woodward, Simon & Shuster, 2002

Review essay by Aaron Chambers

The Latin maxim inter arma enim leges silent is a favorite of wartime observers. It means in time of war, the law is silent.

The workshop on the south side of Bloomington is snug, and all the surfaces are coated with a yellowish film. Shelved against the wall are strips of rosewood, hackberry, maple, walnut, sycamore, cedar and sassafras. 

“If you cut the sassafras with a saw,” observes Dale Evans, a central Illinois maker of old-time musical instruments, “it smells like root beer.”

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

They adorned big city train stations, small town post offices and neighborhood schools. Some exist still, remnants of this country’s hardest of hard times. 

They were commissioned to portray Americans at work and at play, anonymous citizens shouldering long odds, building a nation, sometimes with little more than muscle and will. They were created by American artists, many of them anonymous, too, and staring down tough days of their own. 

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We have always tried to provide our children with opportunities to be exposed to the fine arts. Unfortunately, our family usually consults the Book of Stooges for all things cultural, of which I am immensely proud because I live in a house full of women.

Still, this did not prevent us from taking a one-time family outing to the Museum of Art and to the Rodin Museum, both in Philadelphia. Among other things, we would see all types of art, as well as Rodin’s famous sculpture, The Thinker.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

We feel downright bookish this month.

Aaron Chambers delves into the literary efforts of a con-man-turned-author for his piece on identity theft (see page 14). In The Art of the Steal, Chambers tells us, reformed crook Frank Abagnale explains how to identify, and try to get ahead of, that kind of fraud. But Abagnale’s first-hand assessment that it’s easy to steal someone else’s identity is a sober sotto voce in Chambers’ already scary story about officials’ attempts to overtake this growing phenomenon. 

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Buddy the dog split New York City after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was scared and ran to Springfield for comfort.

That’s how a group of Springfield-area children first depicted their feelings about the attacks. It was four days after the incident, and the children, ages 8 to 11, thought the golden retriever would be better off in their hometown. They were gathered at the capital city’s airport to talk about their thoughts, and to put them into fiction. Their assignment: Write a book that would be illustrated and sold to other children.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

There's a bumper sticker on the bookcase at the entrance to my office that reads, "News happens."

It's a humbling thought for journalists who put out a monthly public affairs magazine. It's also what makes being in this business so thrilling. Each member of the editorial team keeps that thought uppermost in his or her mind because, after all, Illinois isn't one of those boring states where nothing ever seems to happen.

Question & Answer: Chris Young

Jan 1, 2001

He is a photographer for The State Journal-Register in Springfield. His portraits of creatures and natural places are now available in Close to Home: The landscapes, wildlife and hidden beauty of central Illinois. Jiffy Johnson of public radio station WUIS/WIPA at the University of Illinois at Springfield interviewed Young about his work for her weekly program "Living in Illinois." This is an edited version of that interview.

The ultimate symbol of money in Illinois politics is a shoe box. Even though it has been decades since the death of Secretary of State Paul Powell in 1970, and the subsequent discovery of more than $800,000 in cash in his hotel room, the image of that tattered box endures.

George Atkinson

He started simply enough. The Illinois countryside, with its fertile fields and open sky, makes for pretty drawings in pastels. But then George Atkinson had what he calls his "epiphany," when he began to see what is mostly invisible from the Interstate, and fast disappearing from the landscape. He realized his art could express something beyond rural beauty: It could document, in a sense preserve, a way of life he saw reflected in the Midwest's dwindling number of family-owned dairy farms.

They say the book is dead. Journals and magazines, too. Newspapers? An archaic remnant of the past. In their stead, we have 97 cable channels and the World Wide Web. If the written word has any future at all, it will have to survive in cyberspace, an adjunct to the explosion of color and light that will provoke the world of the mind in the new century. People just don't read anymore. Let the hand-wringing begin.

What is the future of poetry in the prairie state of Illinois?

It would appear to be doing well for now. There was a recent Associated Press story on Lee Gurga, complete with a photograph of the nationally noted haiku poet-dentist posed with his dog and axe against a backdrop of hilly woods on his 77-acre spread near Lincoln in the central section of the state.