All posts by nicolestock2020

Jeff Sessions prompts protests as he speaks at Northwestern

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Huddled outside a performance hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus Nov. 5, a group of students banged on the glass panes of the wooden door at Lutkin Hall.

“F…k Jeff Sessions!” they chanted, pounding their fists. Many students and community members gathered to protest the invitee of the campus’ college Republicans group, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Sessions, 72, spoke at 7 p.m. on “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda,” according to the Northwestern University College Republican’s advertisement for the event. 

Trump fired Sessions a year after the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation of the President that Trump hoped Sessions would oversee.   
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Open House Chicago brings visitors inside Chicago’s skyline icons

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Tourists and locals alike enjoy the vista of Chicago’s skyline,  often lauded as one of the most beautiful in the country.

But for one weekend in fall, Open House Chicago let’s people see the skyline from the inside out. This annual tradition benefits both visitors and the building owners, as it shows people the interiors  of the buildings in and around the city that they so often just bustle past.  

Susan Bedard, assistant chair of House and Grounds for the Women’s Center in Evanston, one of the places participating in the weekends event, said that the open house gives the community a chance to look inside the buildings they often wonder about, but don’t get a chance to stop in.

The Women’s Club of Evanston at Chicago Avenue and Church Street. (Nicole Stock/MEDILL)

“It’s very gratifying to see so many people who are interested in seeing inside this really lovely building,” Bedard said. “They’re curious – it’s an unusual building type that you don’t see so much anymore” 

Bedard explained that volunteers greet every visitor, give a short tour, and then invite them to explore the building. Though many only stay inside for 10 minutes or so, some visitors walk away with plans to use the space as a wedding venue, or even leave inquiring about membership, Bedard said.  

Just a few blocks down the street, at the gin and whiskey distillery Few Spirits, 918 Chicago Ave, Evanston, Katherine Loftus greeted guests at the business for the fourth time.  

Loftus, who describes herself as “the girl of all things at Few,” became  involved with the collaboration between the distillery and Open House Chicago once the event  started including Evanston locations. Every year, this building draws in about 1,000 visitors, she said. 

”it’s interesting to see how people plot out their plans for Open House Chicago, doing it mostly, from what we hear, is area of the city by area of the city,” Loftus said.

It’s not just Chicagoland residents stopping by, she added, noting that tourists  from neighboring cities such as Minneapolis and Milwaukee often make the trek. And sometimes, visitors come from even farther away. 

“We had a couple from Switzerland that comes to Chicago for every Open House Chicago weekend because they just want that to be part of their tourism experience,” Loftus said. 

Katherine Loftus speaks in the tasting room at Few Distillery. (Nicole Stock/MEDILL)

Open House Chicago is organized by the Chicago Architecture Center. The event launched in 2011 and has featured over 650 unique sites since.

“The most salient impacts are that about 60% of our audience tell us that, each year in OHC, they visit a neighborhood they’ve never been to before,” said Eric Rogers, manager of Open House Chicago and Community Outreach,

Citing a survey following last years’ event, Rogers added that “93% of attendees who identify as Chicagoans tell us that the event makes them proud to be Chicagoans.” 

Above all, Bedard said the event is a way to foster awareness of the architecture and organizations in the Chicago area. 

“We’re trying to be involved with the community and one of the things about Open House Chicago that I think is great is it’s a chance for us to just say ‘come in,’ see who we are, see what we’re about, hear about us,” Bedard said. “That’s what we’re here for, for the community.” 

Although the next Chicago Open House won’t happen until October 2020, the Chicago Architecture Center hosts events and architectural tours throughout the year, including a gingerbread making festivity on Dec. 7. More information can be found here.

Photo at top: A sign for Open House Chicago directs visitors at the Women’s Club of Evanston. (Nicole Stock/MEDILL)

Northwestern musician joins Baha’i bicentenary performances this month

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Chaos spilled through the streets outside, but the corner of a modest apartment in Kampala, Uganda, sheltered a small pot of tea and a plate of cookies. Christopher LaMountain, a Northwestern University senior, sat on a broken couch as the host passed out  on mcookies, a cup of tea, and a book of Baha’i prayers to every guest.

“The biggest shock for me was how standard everything is across the board in Baha’I communities,” said LaMountain, who is from Westborough, Mass. “I could be in a very humble house in Uganda and witness the exact same method of devotion, as happens in Sydney, Australia, in a mansion.”

LaMountain, a religious studies and opera major at Northwestern, spent this past summer traveling the globe to seven of the eight continental Baha’i temples, learning the choral music within each Baha’i community. His trip took him to Frankfurt, Germany, Kampala, Uganda, New Delhi, India, Apia, Samoa, Sydney, Australia, Santiago, Chile.

As the recipient of the Northwestern University Travel-Study Circumnavigators Grant, LaMountain received $9,500 to travel around the world, researching and learning about the intersection between the Baha’i faith and its musical practices.

LaMountain Baha'i Temple
LaMountain discusses the different influences that play a part in the Baha’i choral traditions.

Now back in school, LaMountain will performing  in the celebration of the Baha’i bicentenary on Oct. 29-30. He will be singing with the choir at the Wilmette temple, a lakefront house of worship that opened its doors in 1953.

LaMountain noted that something that stood out to him about the Baha’i faith was how welcomed he felt in each community.

 “The choral director from the Uganda temple came and picked me up off the dusty roads of Entebbe, Uganda, and whisked me through their only highway to get to the compound I was staying at,” LaMountain said. 

He attributed this generosity to how universal the community values are, and how standard the religious practices remain in every city around the world. The one place where he did see cultural differences was in the music. 

LaMountain Baha'i Temple
The gardens at the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette.

“These faith spaces are purposefully not administratively guided on devotional music so that each house of worship can tailor the sound of the house of worship to local styles of worship music,” he said. 

Joyce Jackson, a consultant in the Office of Community Administration for the National Baha’i Center, which is Evanston,  met LaMountain through his involvement with the Baha’i choir in Wilmette. She said she saw a similar trends within music styling across Baha’i cultures. 

“Even though there’s a lot sort of ‘formal’ Baha’i music that might be a little bit more classical that they might sing in all the temples, they also have their own music traditions,” Jackson said.“They put the Baha’i writing or whatever’s being sung in those traditions.”

As LaMountain learned the choral stylings of each of the communities he worked with, he also learned music in preparation for the bicentenary, which celebrates the birth of the Bab, who is considered the prophet herald of the Baha’i faith, and Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the faith. 

LaMountain said he practiced for these celebrations both in Europe and in Chile, and will be performing in the festivities held in Wilmette at the end of the month.

LaMountain Baha'i Temple
LaMountain poses in front of the Wilmette House of Worship.

The Wilmette temple will kick off the celebrations around the world, said Joyce Litoff, a communication specialist in the Baha’i Office of Communications.

The celebrations for the bicentenary officially begin on Oct. 26, with a concert put on by the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra and the Baha’i House of Worship choir. This is followed by two days of events on Oct. 29 and 30. More information about the events can be found here.  

Although this bicentenary will be well-celebrated within the community, Litoff notes that the importance pales in comparison to the day-to-day work Baha’i members do in the community. 

Litoff said that the Baha’i community works to promote racial and gender equality on multiple fronts, ranging from engaging in social discourse to taking action. For example, she noted that the choir director from Wilmette traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, this year to host a concert in honor of the fifth anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting.

“Really what the Baha’is have been doing in the communities over the past two years is more significant than what we’re going to do in these couple of days,” Litoff said.

Photo at top:  (Nicole Stock/MEDILL) —– The Baha’i House of Worship at Sheridan Road and Linden Avenue in Wilmette, is the oldest standing temple in the world. All are welcome.