Arts & Culture

Chicago CTA performers bring happiness to your commute

By Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

When commuting on the L, we often find ourselves being serenaded by the musical artistry of some of Chicago’s musicians. Whether they’re seasoned musicians or still working on their craft, they always entertain in one way or another.

The life of a performer isn’t always a pleasant one, especially in the life of a CTA performer where the audience never asked you to be there. A ten-dollar license grants your permission to perform as much as you’d like at the designated performing stations that have wider platforms: Jackson Red Line station, Washington Blue Line station and Jackson Blue Line station.

This story looks at this experience from the musician’s perspective and what they get out of the experience to perform for you before your ride home.

Photo at top: CTA Performers at Jackson Station play for hundreds of commuters a day. (Nicholas Mantas/MEDILL)

Local candy store takes customers on a sweet adventure

By Loumay Alesali
Medill Reports

Customers at Windy City Sweets come for the variety of handmade fine chocolates and candies, but they also get a unique experience.

Store owner John Manchester builds strong relationship with shoppers through a welcoming customer service, making small conversations and having holiday or special-occasion-themed candy.

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Survivors of Sexual Violence Find an Outlet in Performance

By Juliette Rocheleau
Medill Reports

Rory Beckett is 4 feet 11 inches tall, but as she thrashes her whole body to headbang, the shadows from her whipping hair tower over the stage.

When Beckett arrived for her performance at the Playground Theater, she had no plan for what she would do; only that she would dance to The Cranberries’ “Zombie.”

“What feels really good right now is that I cannot think of most of the thoughts that went through my mind as I was performing,” said Beckett a few days later. “I just let my body do what it wanted.”

Beckett’s performance closed Monday night’s show “Resilient,” a monthly exhibition for survivors of sexual violence.

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ParkWhiz finds Cubs fans better parking on opening day

By Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

When heading to a Chicago Cubs home game, you might want to check to see if you’ll have a place to park before you leave. Too often fans make the mistake of waiting until they arrive in Wrigleyville to shop around the available parking.

With limited parking spots and prices starting around $50 a space, fans are in need of a different option.

ParkWhiz is an on-demand parking app co-founded by Aashish Dalal, a Northwestern graduate. It finds your affordable parking near an event or by simply entering your destination.

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Punching Back at the Crime in Chicago’s Southside

By Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

Children on the south side of Chicago are subjected to an alarming rate of violence from a very young age. Without after school activities to keep these kids from joining gangs, many find themselves in a gang before high school.

Sally Hazelgrove took it upon herself to create Crushers Club in Englewood in order to get the kids off the streets.

Her goal is to open multiple clubs like this one in order to turn off the stream of the next generation of gang members.

Photo at top: The walls are decorated with photos of Crusher’s Club members. (Nicholas Mantas/MEDILL)

One priest’s journey from the Second City to the Eternal City

By Larry Flynn
Medill Reports

Fr. Tom McCarthy is in his element. He wears the Augustinian Black Robe. He fills the immediate space around him with gestures and a Chicago accent. He faces 32 students at All Saints School in Rossford, Ohio, and plants a seed.

“How many of you here have thought about being a priest or sister?”

The question matters to McCarthy because he once had to answer it. Sister Catherine Hanlin posed the same proposition to his sixth grade class at St. Adrian’s on the south side of Chicago – in room 205, he remembers. He recalls little else from Sister Hanlin’s speech other than the question itself.

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Self-aware: Virtual Cyberslug knows how to fight for survival

Erik Alcantar
Medill Reports

“Cyberslug,” a virtual ocean predator, sets itself apart from other artificial intelligence creations with one distinct quality – simple self-awareness.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report  online in the journal eNeuro that this artificially intelligent virtual slug behaves very similarly to the living creature it is designed to mimic – the sea slug Pleurobranchaea californica.

For the sea slug, and thus the Cyberslug, being self-aware means  making decisions based on smell, memory and hunger.

“The actual sea slug, Pleurobranchaea, on which Cyberslug is modeled, is quite simple in its brain, body and behavior,” project lead scientist Rhanor Gillette said. “Its only social behaviors are cannibalism and copulation.”

Gillette, UI emeritus professor of molecular and integrative physiology, has headed the project in development for nearly two decades.

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Twitch gamers hope new community guidelines will combat online harassment

By Jourdan Kerl
Medill Reports

The live streaming video platform Twitch improved online security this March to protect professional and amateur streamers from harassment and hate speech that have plagued some users.

Twitch, a subsidiary of, updated the Community Guidelines to reflect how important community of streamers is to the platform to combat the issues surrounding hateful conduct. A statement released in February gave users a better idea of what would take effect in March.

“Conduct we deem to be hateful will result in an immediate indefinite suspension. Hate simply has no place in the Twitch community,” the statement stated. “Our goal is to ensure Twitch is a place where everyone feels welcome and we will continue to listen to you as we grow and adapt these policies as needed.”

Chicago streamers Tanya DePass, Brandon Stennis and Dennis White, Jr. share their thoughts on the new Community Guidelines in the video.

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In Evanston, a group creates quilts as a form of resistance — and therapy

By Vangmayi Parakala
Medill Reports

Over two days in February, about 20 people gathered to sew names of women, girls, and babies who died due to gun violence between 2016-2017.

Led by Melissa Blount, an Evanston-based clinical psychologist, the attendees sewed the victim’s name and age, accompanied by a motif on each of the sewing squares.

The event, held at 1100 Florence, an art gallery in Evanston, was to result in the squares making their way onto a remembrance quilt. This is the second quilt that Blount is leading, after her Black Lives Matter Witness Quilt last year, inspired by an exhibit at Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art.

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Harvest Christian Bookstore deflects internet with customer service

By Richard Foster-Shelton
Medill Reports

“In these times of online stores and books that can be delivered immediately to your favorite device, one independent bookstore on the South Side of Chicago has weathered the storm by turning to a very specific demographic: Christians.

Harvest Christian Bookstore, at 10600 S. Western Ave., specializes in Christian products. The business, which was founded in 1988 by Pastor Dorothy Jacobs of Consuming Fire Ministries, has gained a loyal following by prioritizing customer service over all.

“There were other bookstores when we opened and they didn’t have very good reputations,” Jacobs said. “The one thing that we were most concerned about was treating our customers well by serving them and ordering what they needed if we didn’t have it. We found our niche to serve the community the way they want to be served. Almost every Christian on the south side of Chicago knows about us.”

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