From pop-up shops to permanent storefronts

By Mallory Hughes

All of those empty storefronts that plague the city of Chicago will be no more. That’s the goal at least, as pop-up shops spring up in neighborhood after neighborhood.

Storefront, a San Francisco-based company that launched in Chicago in July, specializes in helping retailers, designers and artists nail down short-term leases in prime shopping spots.

The business has been the gateway for about 100 pop-ups in the Chicago area and more than 1,000 in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Pop-ups are a way to test the market, different neighborhoods in a city, and a chance to get offline,” said Bryan Steel, a member of the Storefront marketing team. Continue reading

Art by Attraction – The Andrew Bae Gallery

By Lee Won Park

As the doors of the Andrew Bae Gallery opened, the crisp sound of bells disturbed the loud ambiance of the city outside.

Located in the busy gallery district on West Superior Street, this gallery carries a surprisingly comforting vibe. A soft, yet very pervasive scent of herbal tea whirled as the entrance door shut close. The light walls are pale, typical of art galleries but the room’s scattered oak pillars echo the look of a traditional Korean household.

“This gallery is 25 years exactly” said Andrew Bae, founder, owner and namesake of the Andrew Bae Gallery, gesturing fondly at the art work.

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VIDEO: Chicago neighborhoods clean up streets after historic storm

By Rachel White

Ten residents have died while shoveling snow in Cook County since the fifth largest winter storm hit Chicago on Jan. 31,  leaving 19 inches of snow across northeastern Illinois.  According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, nine of the ten residents who died were men.

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VIDEO: Study weighs the benefits and disadvantages for children using mobile devices

By Tanni Deb

Many parents introduce smartphones and tablets to their children as a teaching tool. However, a recent study says the educational benefits of mobile devices may come at a hefty price, affecting a child’s social and emotional skills.

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Wolves prepare for season-high seven-game home stretch

By Sara Romano

It’s not every day that a minor league hockey team has the opportunity to star in a romantic comedy alongside the likes of Alicia Silverstone.

But that was exactly the case Tuesday morning with the filming of Silverstone’s latest movie “Who Gets the Dog?” in which her co-star Ryan Kwanten plays a goaltender for the Chicago Wolves.

While the Wolves players enjoyed the opportunity to be extras in the film, there was one person who was less than pleased to have his team’s practice routine interrupted.

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VIDEO: West Suburban PADS offers long-term solution for Chicago’s homeless

By Joe Musso

The windy city is known for its unrelenting winters, and the past month has been no exception.  One west-suburban homeless shelter is providing services that go far beyond a blanket and a warm bowl of soup.

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Education advocates split over elected, appointed school board

By Phoebe Tollefson

Roughly two weeks before citywide elections, education advocates debated the merits of a mayor-appointed and voter-elected school board, while noting issues such as conflicting interests and political pressures.

“I do have a concern about inserting more politics into school board operations,” said Jesse Ruiz,, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, during a panel discussion Monday at the City Club of Chicago. “Well, you may laugh, but again, I don’t have to raise a dime from anybody.

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Puppets — not just Muppets

By Jessica T. Gable

On Jan. 22, a crowd descended on a small, intimate theater in Links Hall, a shabby studio caught halfway between Lakeview and Logan Square. They encountered a tiny bar complete with worn wooden countertops and rickety stools inviting them to indulge in a libation before the performance. And when the lights rose in this warm and fuzzy atmosphere, the definition of puppetry was challenged and expanded.

Nasty Brutish and Short Puppet Cabaret held several shows as part of the festival.
Vanessa Valiere performs during Nasty Brutish and Short’s Puppet Cabaret. PHOTO: Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

 

Poduced by Nasty, Brutish and Short, a puppetry company born of and bred for Chicago, “A Puppet Cabaret Program B” took the audience on a somewhat dreamy, psychedelic ride through various worlds. In this case, however, as in many productions that were part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival which ran Jan. 14-25, the term “puppet” is applied liberally.

“The definition of puppetry is way broader than anybody gives it credit for,” Mike Oleon, the show’s co-curator, said. “It’s not just marionettes, it’s not just Muppets, I mean there was supposed to be a dude stacking rocks. Like, the whole performance was stacking rocks. I don’t know what that means, but it’s puppetry.”

This year marked the first installation of the biennial Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, which offered puppeteers from nearly 50 companies the chance to sample each other’s work in a concentrated, festival format. They also connected with the puppetry community in Chicago and those who traveled from outside the city to perform.

“As far as puppetry communities go, it’s huge,” Oleon said, laughing. “As far as any other community goes, it’s very intimate. It’s my hope that this festival will raise awareness that there’s phenomenal puppet work happening in Chicago and that there are several incredibly talented potential collaborators who are already doing great puppetry.”

The idea for the festival came to its artistic director, Blair Thomas, because there was no major puppet theater festival in the U.S., let alone Chicago, despite the city’s distinguished history in puppetry. In the early days of TV, Chicago’s “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” show featuring a full cast of puppets drew huge audiences. Thomas had been a fixture in the Chicago puppetry community for three decades, and he founded his own puppetry company, Blair Thomas & Co. in 2002. With the Chicago Puppet Fest, Thomas said he hoped to capture the atmosphere of the Chicago International Theater Festival, which began in 1988 and ended in 1998. According to Thomas, it “changed the face of Chicago theater.”

Blair Thomas founded the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.
The Festival’s founder, Blair Thomas, hoped it would give puppetry communities a chance to explore and sample each other’s work. PHOTO: Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

Similarly, Thomas hoped the festival’s various performances and symposiums would expand the horizons of not just the audience, but also the puppeteers, themselves.

“There’s a language of the puppet that is the connection from shadow puppetry to performance with a mask to traditional hand puppetry. The language is reliant on objects,” Thomas said. “It’s an object-centered world rather than a human-centered world.”

In Nasty, Brutish and Short’s production, those objects included extra limbs for the puppeteers, projected images and screens lit from behind to create shadows. Performers not only controlled their puppets, but they also interacted with them as actors. It was far from children’s puppet theater, and definitely a far cry from the Muppets. But, for Oleon, the techniques are nothing new.

“It’s the same thing,” he said. “It’s been the same thing since forever, which is exciting because it’s such a relatively small thing. When people discover it, it feels like they’re discovering something completely new.”

The festival ran from Jan. 14-25 and featured nearly 50 performances across Chicago.

Photo at Top: In a scene from A Puppet Cabaret, screens are used alongside human actors and puppets. (PHOTO: Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.)

Restaurant Week challenges proprietors

By Alysha Khan

Restaurant Week can be a boon for some establishments trudging through the slow winter months but for others, it can be a costly burden.

This annual winter culinary event, now in its eighth year, allows Chicagoans to dine for cheap at more than 300 restaurants, including some of the city’s best spots. Diners can order from prix fixe three-course menus starting at $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner, not including beverages, tax and gratuity. The event runs January 30 through February 12.

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Facing the supernatural – fact or fable?

By Ramsen Shamon

When Minnie Wilson, 64, was a child growing up in Bassfield, Miss., she grew accustomed to seeing things she considered supernatural.

The retired factory worker who now lives in LaGrange usually kept quiet about her otherworldly experiences, fearful that no one would believe her.

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