Arts & Culture

Homegrown Residency spotlights local Chicago musicians

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

Every Tuesday night, Uncommon Ground’s Live Intimate Listening Rooms spotlight artists who might otherwise be plugging up to amplifiers in their garages and basements. Here, they get their chance to perform in front of a room filled with friends, family, and other Chicago local music fans.

Artists such as Danielle “Miss Jones” Jones – who has been singing since she was 10, but never really considered herself as a performer – are provided the opportunity to debut their material live and uncut. Jones, 21, is an Indiana native who moved to Chicago right after she graduated high school. She now deems herself as an amateur pianist and a practiced vocalist.

She will be performing Tuesday night, romancing the audience with soft ballads about her life. Continue reading

After-words bookstore owner shares how she got started

By Areeba Shah
Medill Reports

Beverly Dvorkin, owner of After-words in River North, discovered her love for stories as a toddler. At 15, she got her first job at a bookstore and edited her high school newspaper. She spent a semester abroad in London during college and wrote for City Limits, a feminist magazine.

After living in Boston, Washington, D.C., and London, Dvorkin returned to Chicago at 25 to fulfill her dream of opening her very own bookstore in May of 1997.  Over two decades later, After-words remains one of the few independent bookstores left in Chicago.

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Two comedians discuss their journey from Northwestern to Twitter stardom

By Alex Schwartz
The Daily Northwestern

Twitter may be a fiery hellscape most of the time, but seeing a side-splittingly funny video makes scrolling through the pain worthwhile.

Never longer than a minute or two, comedians spend these short, short films depicting an absurd character or bit. They’re often recorded selfie-style and feature amateur production value. No one knows their origins, and the Twitterverse hasn’t quite decided on a name for them. Nevertheless, behind some of the Evil Bird App’s most popular examples of the art form are two Northwestern alums: Nick Lehmann (@NickStopTalking) and Eva Victor (@evaandheriud).

The two are basically making TikToks, except they’re not teenagers — though Lehmann does call his clips “stupid little funny videos.” I fired up my own front-facing camera to FaceTime them to ask about their lives as Wildcats — and the wild rides that came afterward.

Read the full story in The Daily Northwestern.

Photo at top: Nick Lehmann and Eva Victor have earned millions of likes and retweets on their short, comedic Twitter videos. (Alex Schwartz/MEDILL)

Meet the woman building a community for Latinx parents at Evanston Township High School

By Paola de Varona
Medill Reports

Evanston Township High School’s Latinx pride can be found tucked away in Mercedes Fernández’s small office in the welcome center. Peruvian and Latin American textile art line the walls, photos of Latinx ETHS families pepper her bulletin boards and a rendition of the Rosie the Riveter poster reimagined with “¡Sí se puede!” written across it hangs proudly behind her desk. With dark-rimmed glasses perched on her nose and a desk littered with paperwork, Fernández is an unassuming activist. As the Latino liaison for families at ETHS for over seven years, she interprets and translates, spanish-speaking families and school staff over the phone, through Individualized Education Program meetings or through encounters with faculty. Often, it means translating every academic document sent out to families. Born in Peru, Fernández later moved to the U.S. and became a reporter for Hoy and La Raza, where she learned to interpret on the fly when conducting interviews in English for a Spanish-speaking audience.

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Wushu master brings martial arts and Chinese culture to Buenos Aires

By Carolyn Chen & Tianqi Gou
Medill Reports


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)

Aaron Rabkin just wants to perform

By Trina Ryan
Medill Reports

Aaron Rabkin can’t stop moving. The Chicago’s Boystown magician has less than an hour to prepare for his show—a one-man act he performs four nights a week at his small, storefront theater called Trickery. Bustling from room to room, he takes mental inventory of what needs to get done. He starts by running a vacuum over an oriental rug in the waiting area, his arm moving back and forth at a brisk clip. At 29, he is boyishly handsome: large brown eyes, dimpled cheeks, a mile-wide smile. He’s dressed, as he often is, in a solid-colored T-shirt, black skinny jeans and sneakers. A self-proclaimed introvert, he performs alone and runs his business alone. He would rather shoulder all responsibilities himself, he tells me, than entrust them to someone who doesn’t share his same enthusiasm and intensity.

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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