Arts & Culture

Wushu master brings martial arts and Chinese culture to Buenos Aires

By Carolyn Chen & Tianqi Gou
Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES —

Chen Min, a former national Wushu champion in China, opened a martial arts school in Buenos Aires 11 years ago.

In this video story, we see the ways Chen Min tries to create a special chemistry between Chinese and Argentine cultures — at her school and in her home.

Carola Fernández Moores contributed reporting from Buenos Aires. 

Photo at top: Children learn Wushu at Chen Min’s Wushu school in Buenos Aires. (Carolyn Chen & Tianqi Gou/MEDILL)

In the ‘City of Neighborhoods,’ a summer of fun

By Ebony JJ Curry
Medill Reports

Chicago is the third largest city in America and also one of the most visited. Last year, nearly 58 million people visited the Windy City, according to a projection by Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau. Those numbers peak in the summer months.

And for locals who endure the city’s notorious winters, summer is cause for celebration. Every week is filled with boatloads of activities, events and lots of food. Chicago has often been called a “City of Neighborhoods,” and many of those communities have an annual festival in the summer months — from Uptown’s Windy City Ribfest to Hyde Park’s Bantu Fest to Pilsen’s Fiesta del Sol.  Here’s a video guide to some of what summer has to offer in Chicago.

Photo at top: Several companies offer 90-minute architecture tours on the Chicago River, with hourly departures in the summer months. Most tours depart from the Chicago Riverwalk. (Ebony JJ Curry/MEDILL)

The story behind the ‘Bird City Saint’ and why the artist hopes it empowers others

By Jessy Zhou
Medill Reports

It’s common sight on murals in Chicago — a bird head on a human body, looking skyward, often accompanied by a quote. The image, called the Bird City Saint,  is a signature of Joseph “Sentrock” Perez, a muralist and sculptor who moved to Chicago from Arizona to pursue a career as a full-time artist.

Sentrock’s “birdman” appears on several murals in Pilsen, where he wants his work to empower teens in the neighborhood by lifting their spirits. “I feel like my work  gives hope,” said Sentrock in the video story below. “A lot of the characters, they’re like striving for more, they’re looking up to the sky, and they really need something to feel uplifting.”

Photo at top: Sentrock standing in front of a mural with a Bird City Saint image in Pilsen. (Courtesy Sentrock Studio)

Darting Ahead: Windy City Darters hopes to help grow the game in the USA

By Tim Hackett
Medill Newsmakers

The game of darts is changing. It’s grown into a worldwide spectator sport attracting thousands of fans, and the popularity of the sport is surging in Europe and in other parts of the world. But that surge has yet to really take hold here in the United States, where professional darts is an afterthought and amateur darts is uncommon.

But there are efforts to grow this sport across the country, and some of those efforts have roots right here in Chicago. In this episode of Medill Newsmakers, we clear up some confusion about the great game of darts, and introduce you to some players who are trying to bring this game into the forefront.

Game on.

Photo at top: Mark Gillespie lines up a throw in a Windy City Darters Open League match at The Garage on a Monday night in May.

Goat yoga: Connecting with animals, the earth and each other

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Floral incense float to the floor in a swirl of smoke. A cool breeze sneaks through the window cracks and echoes the sounds of the country. Outside, the sun is shining, but inside Blue Sky Farm’s make-shift yoga studio the low-light and metal star-covered walls elicit a feeling of serenity reminiscent of the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Much like Shakespeare’s classic comedy, things aren’t always what they seem.

Circling the women sitting cross-legged on mats are six baaing, leaping and headbutting baby goats. For the yoga students, the goats are a hilarious addition to an otherwise relaxing activity. To the goats, the yoga students are something they jump off in a flailing ball of hoof and fur. Continue reading

How to celebrate Madrid’s San Isidro Festival

Text and photos by Valerie Nikolas
Medill Reports

Madrid’s San Isidro Festival is a multisensory experience filled with music, dance, historical and religious folklore, poetry, food and drink. On May 15 and the days leading up to it, Madrileños (residents of Madrid) honor the patron saint of their city, San Isidro (Saint Isadore) with events that take place throughout the city. On the saint’s feast day, thousands gather in San Isidro Park, located in the Carabanchel district of Madrid, to celebrate a festival with origins that begin almost 1,000 years ago.

San Isidro was a peasant farmer who lived in Madrid from 1070 to 1130 A.D. Legend says that when his son fell into a well, San Isidro prayed to God that the well would fill with water. It did, and his son floated to safety. Since then, Madrileños have prayed to San Isidro to bring rain, especially during this springtime festival. The scorching 90-degree heat on the day of the fest emphasizes this point.

“According to tradition, San Isidro performed a lot of miracles, and many of the miracles were about the water,” said Margarita Gonzalez, who works at the San Isidro Museum in Madrid. “This is important because many people in Madrid believe in these types of miracles.”

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Cambodia meshes traditional and modern worlds in Khmer New Year celebration

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – Click. I duck. Click click. I take two steps back, one to the left. Click click. I lift my camera. Focus. Click the shutter once, twice more, and spin around, clutching my camera to my chest and catching a stream of cold water on my back. I’m rapidly getting soaked, but my camera is dry.

With eye-catching decorations, reverent religious ceremonies and near-constant water fights, this past week’s Khmer New Year celebration is every photographer’s dream – and nightmare. Sprinkling people with water is a blessing in many cultures, and while Cambodia’s New Year’s water fights hark back to those customs, holding a camera doesn’t give you immunity to blasts of water from the hoses, buckets and neon water guns that nearly everyone above the age of three seemed to be wielding.

Nevertheless, capturing the beauty of the city festooned in decorations, of Cambodians and foreigners alike diving into the games and water fights, is worth the certain soaking.

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Used as the new black: Environmentally conscious shoppers are choosing thrift stores

By Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

Rapidly changing fashion trends can be harmful to the environment, according to a recent analysis by a U.N. consortium. In what’s known as “fast fashion,” retailers constantly flip the floor stock to match popular styles. That has led to production facilities creating more clothing than ever before.

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Double amputee discovers new abilities through contemporary dance

By Josephine Chu
Medill Reports

Through contemporary dance, Kris Lenzo shows the world that disabled people are no different from other dancers.

Lenzo lost both legs in a work accident nearly 40 years ago but has stayed active since his injury. He played wheelchair basketball for years before transitioning to contemporary dance at Momenta Dance Company in Oak Park, Ill., in 2003. Lenzo performs in several group pieces, solo routines and partner dances throughout the year.

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59th Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival celebrates D.C.’s cherry blossoms

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Slideshow: The 59th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. (Stephanie Fox)

A few blocks from the National Mall, families, friends, dogs and anime enthusiasts crowded through a gated entryway placed on Pennsylvania Avenue to experience the 59th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival.

Some effortlessly used chopsticks to eat mango sticky rice on-the-go. Others sipped bubble tea, or stared admiringly at a newly-purchased bonsai tree while taking a selfie. Everyone enjoyed the company of a welcoming community while celebrating the significance of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the final day of Washington, D.C.’s three-week Cherry Blossom Festival. Continue reading