Arts & Culture

Palette & Chisel serves art community for 120 years

by Jingnan Huo

Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts was started in 1895 by a group of Art Institute night students who needed a place to paint during the day. Each Sunday, the students would hire a model they could draw or paint in natural daylight.

In 1921, the artists bought a run-down Italian mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast and named it their home. The Academy remains in the mansion, thanks to the non-profit property tax exemption granted by Cook County.
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The Remedy brings smiles to ‘L’ riders at the Lake Stop

By Manasi Kaushik

The Remedy, a Chicago-based musical group from the South Side, performs at the Red Line’s ‘L’ stop to bring hope, happiness and joy to the lives of people.

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Photos: Is the tattoo parlor the new barbershop?

By Grace Austin

Tattoos have become near ubiquitous, with 3 in 10 Americans now having them, according to a 2015 Harris poll. As tattoos become more mainstream, so do the number of tattoo parlors and the kinds of people getting inked.

Chicago’s Deluxe Tattoo has a reputation for easy rapport and detail-oriented artists, similar to a barbershop or a nail salon. Here’s a glimpse into a day at the tattoo parlor in Uptown.

Photo at top: Artist Jason Vaughn works intently on a customer. Tattooing requires intense precision and care. Most artists study for years before striking out on their own. (Grace Austin/Medill)

Millennials look to traditional music to help preserve Puerto Rican culture

By Alissa Anderegg
Translation of Luís Lace Melecio interview by Yarilet Perez

In the beachfront Puerto Rican community of Piñones, the vibrant music of bomba fills the breezy air, as duelling drummers beat in rhythmic unison.

The sounds come from Corporación Piñones Se Integra, an organization that teaches locals and tourists the art of bomba as a way of passing on the music to future generations.

One of Puerto Rico’s traditional Afro-Caribbean musical forms, bomba is considered a rhythmic dialogue between the dancers and the drummers. Puerto Ricans hope this musical dialogue will turn into actual dialogue that will be a key part in preserving the Afro-Puerto Rican culture.


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From South Side to Sinatra: Mike Smith still embodies Chicago jazz

By Mike Davis

Mike Smith still remembers the first time Frank Sinatra yelled at him.

“He’d turn around and give you this look that went right through you…” Smith said. “One time Sinatra yelled at me that it was too loud. So, I brought everybody down and we played softer. The next night he came up to me and wanted it louder.”

This came with the job description of saxophonist and music contractor. As a saxophonist, Smith’s job was to play loud or soft, but always well. As a music contractor, his job was to hire the musicians he and Sinatra shared the stage with. His first exposure to the contracting process was in high school, when he put together the school’s first jazz band.
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Second City student prepares for the main stage

By Stephanie Rothman

Second City is a Chicago institution, yet you may not understand what it takes to make it on the main stage. Before being allowed to audition to become a fully contracted Second City comedian, students must go through six levels of the Second City training program.

Carly Glenn was two shows away from graduating and making her way upstairs.

Photo at top: Carly Glenn performs onstage at one of her last Conservatory shows at Second City. (Stephanie Rothman/MEDILL)

Video: Poetry café in Old San Juan draws in locals and tourists

By Grace Austin

The Poet’s Passage is an arts and spoken word café in Old San Juan. It brings together local artists and visitors to listen, socialize, work, and buy goods with inspirational poetry emblazed on them. Owner Lady Lee Andrews prides herself on creating an arts space that continues to make money, even after 10 years, disproving the “starving artist” myth. Andrews also says The Poet’s Passage is a place for those who feel misunderstood to express themselves.

Dario Irizarry performs music and describes memories of his time in India. (Grace Austin/MEDILL)

Video: Chicago folk-music school helps memory loss via music

By Grace Austin

In the United States, 5.5 million people suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia. Music therapy for those with memory loss has been touted by medical professionals, studies and journals as a particularly effective way to counter the effects of the debilitating disease.

Studies have shown that music memory is in a part of the brain unaffected by Alzheimer’s and memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, “rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues.”

Thus, a person’s ability to engage in music remains intact late into the disease process because engagement with music does not require cognition.

A new music program in Ravenswood at the Old Town School of Folk Music is helping some people cope with Alzheimer’s and other forms of early memory loss. Called the Memory Singers, the weeks-long pilot program is helping people who have memory loss and their caregivers recall old memories and create new connections.

The Memory Singers grew out of a sing-a-long program at senior centers off-site in Chicago. It was inspired by a MacPhail Center for Music program earlier piloted in Minnesota that also had a dual enrollment for caregivers and those experiencing memory loss.

“It just clicked. This is what Chicago needs; we were inspired by the work they were doing in Minneapolis, and wanted to bring it here to Chicago. So, it took about a year to pull all the resources together to find the right personnel, and to activate the networks of people in service of this population, and it proved to be very successful,” said Scott Lundius, education director at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

And that success comes from a basis in science.
Music is also tied to particular events and memories, which can evoke emotions. Emotions can be important, as those with memory loss lose connections to their loved ones, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

“Music memory center is located just inside the ear, and it’s the last place to be affected by the progressive plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease. And since it’s free of that disease, it can actually allow people to tap into the present moment in a way they have little other opportunities to,” said Lundius.

“Our favourite songs transport us largely by conjuring surrogate emotions: the neural apparatus of emotion, reward, autonomic and motor programmes is hard-wired into our experience of music and this may have been the very point of music, in evolutionary terms,” said Camilla N. Clark and Jason D. Warren in a July 2015 Brain article.

The Memory Singers’ songs capture points in the participants’ life, such as youth and young adulthood, like “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag,” music from the Sound of Music, and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The class uses only familiar songs, since unfamiliar songs are shown to have little to no effect on those with memory loss, according to a 2005 study about music recognition and Alzheimer’s.

Representatives from the school hope to move forward with more classes and programs around the city.

“I hope that more people come as they hear about it, because as people hear about this program and they find out how truly rewarding it is, that they will come and join us and that the program will keep growing,” said Mary Grimes-Kelley, Memory Singers teacher. “ … It can go to another location and have memory choirs for the caregiver and for the people with early stages of memory loss. My hope it expands because it is so rewarding.”

Photo Caption: The Old Town School of Folk Music is piloting a program for those with memory loss and their caregivers. (Grace Austin/MEDILL)

Wildcat fans go out in crazy costumes to end the last game in arena

By Alexis Wainwright

Students and fans said goodbye to one of the homes for Northwestern University’s sports on Sunday as Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston hosted its last game and long-planned renovations will soon begin.

Part of the farewell: crazy costumes for the regular basketball season home finale.

Two fans stole the show with their onesies. “We’re two goofy guys just trying to have fun at the game,” said Matt Zients, a first-year student at Northwestern. Zients had never worn a costume to a basketball game until that final game. (See photo below).

Students typically wear face paint, school colors and anything with the words “Wildcats” or “Northwestern” on it, but for this weekend there was cause for more creativity.

“This is to celebrate the last game here at Welsh-Ryan, our last game of this historic season,” said freshman Jeremy Lamstein, seen below with Zients. “We figured we go all out, have some fun with it.”

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Existentialism in traditional Japanese tea ceremony

By Urvashi Verma

The Japanese tea ceremony, called “Chanoyu” “Sado” or “Ocha,” is a traditional ritual that dates to 9th century Japan. For both the host and guests, it is less about drinking tea and more about having an existential experience, or preserving the sanctity of the moment.

Japanese teahouse in the ancient city of Kamakura, 50 miles southwest of Tokyo. Teahouses are often beautifully landscaped and created for contemplation and connecting with nature, or “shizen”. Guests walk through the “roji,” or small garden that leads to the teahouse and is designed to create a connection to nature as guests enter the house.
The relationship between the guests, or “kyaku,” and host, or “teishu,” is a sacred one. “Aisatsu” means greeting in Japanese and is deeply rooted in the culture. When the guest enters the teahouse, greetings are exchanged.
Japanese tearooms have shoji screens. These screens are found in traditional Japanese homes to provide privacy and light. Moveable sliding doors give guests a view of the Zen garden outside.
The ceremony begins with the host serving traditional Japanese sweets called “wagashi” to balance the slightly bitter taste from the tea. The host will sit in front of the guest and place the dish in between them. The host will bow and verbally indicate when the sweets are ready to eat. Guests are expected to bow back and with both hands demonstrating their gratitude prior to eating.
The preparation ritual of tea appears very simple. However, every step is intricately designed and predetermined. A special mat called “tatami” is used to prepare the tea and utensils are placed with precision at prescribed locations.
The “koicha matcha,” or thick tea, is made by mixing hot water and macha green tea. While sipping the tea the guests are instructed to remain in the moment and consider that they may never experience it again. Oftentimes the tea cup is shared between guests. Guest should drink about three medium sips and wipe the rim before passing the cup to the next recipient.

The proper way to drink koicha matcha is to place the cup in the palm of the left hand, holding it above chest height. The cup should be turned clockwise two times so that the “shomen,” or front of the cup, is to the left. Then the chief guest, or “shokyaku,” must nod and acknowledge gratitude toward the host and drink the tea.
When the chief guest asks the host to finish, the host acknowledges the wish with a small bow in recognition. The host then properly bows and announce that he or she will finish the tea ceremony.
Kyakus departing the teahouse after the ceremony has been completed.