Arts & Culture

What I’ve learned: Nina Manavello

By Nicole Girten
Medill Reports

Nina Manavello, 35, is a Miami based jewelry designer and runner-up on the 2011 “Project Runway” spin-off “Project Accessory,” who recently rediscovered her craft and became a new mom in the last year.

When I first started making jewelry — like, let’s be honest — I drove a hand-me-down car that was literally falling apart that had a hand-crocheted steering wheel cover from my grandmother’s best friend because it was her car. I was sleeping on a couch in my studio and shopping at Goodwill.

I stumbled into being a jewelry designer when I was quite young, and I didn’t know too much about it and I just knew the creative and I didn’t know anything about the business. I started making jewelry for fun and it grew quickly and I had amazing experiences that launched me to levels I previously didn’t think I could get to without design school. So I hit a really high creative point when I was able to be on “Project Accessory” and get validation in that sense. When I was back in the real world I realized I didn’t know much about the business. Things kind of went in a different course. Continue reading

High school seniors ‘devastated’ with graduation cancellation

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

For seniors Brina Taylor and Brejona Hutchinson, June 10, 2020 was marked in their calendars as one of the best days of their lives.

The two students at George Westinghouse College Prep, located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, were devastated to learn that their graduation was no longer happening as planned due to the global pandemic.

Instead, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in a statement that there will be a virtual graduation for all graduating Chicago Public School seniors.

When the girls aren’t busy with cheerleading or working as a teacher assistant, they are actively involved with Breakthrough, a program in East Garfield park that partners with those affected by poverty. The program builds connections, develops skills and opens doors of opportunity.

While there is no set date for the virtual graduation, the mayor’s office has said it is for mid-June.

Photo at top: George Westinghouse College Prep Class of 2020 Seniors. (Courtesy of Brejona Hutchinson)

Preserving a coffee lifestyle in the ‘notable’ cafés of Buenos Aires

By Xinyi Zhang and Yilin Xie
Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES — Fifteen years ago, Nestor Pichelli decided to change careers and found himself helping preserve a mainstay of life in this capital city: the café notable, or historic coffee shop. “The coffee culture in Argentina is a lifestyle,” he said, as he sat among tables full of patrons at Café Tortoni, one of the city’s oldest “cafés notables,” and a magnet for tourists. “It is a mode of how people interact and talk about life.”

The ornately decorated Café Tortoni — with dozens of artifacts hanging on its walls — has a history going back more than 160 years. Before it became a destination for international tourists, it had long been a social meeting place for artists, writers and politicians in Argentina.

Café El Banderín is another of the city’s classic neighborhood coffee bars. Its history is told through the wall of pennants and pictures from soccer teams given to owner Mario Riesco over many decades.

Riesco isn’t betting his bar on the lure of its history. He is seeking a younger clientele, with original and novel drinks and specials. He hired Agustina Sarni to help bring in a more diverse, neighborhood crowd, many of whom have become regulars at this cozy coffee bar.

Photo at top: In the afternoon, almost every café is full of customers. They come here to unite, to chat about things that have been going on, or just relax and enjoy the coffee. (Yilin Xie & Xinyi Zhang/MEDILL)

Detroit all-girls school offers Biomedical Science and Veterinary program

By Bre’onna Richardson
Medill Reports

Detroit International Academy for Young Women is the only all-girls public school in Michigan. The school has partnered with The Detroit Zoo and The Michigan Humane Society to develop a Biomedical Science and Veterinary Medicine career pathway. The program provides students with college credit, internships and scholarship opportunities. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, students are now forced to take all classes online.

Photo at top: First and second graders are amazed by the new chicken at Detroit International Academy. (@diayoungwomen/Instagram)

Festival canceled for first time since WWII

By Allegra Zamore
Medill Reports

The annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival takes place each Spring in Winchester, Virginia. Due to COVID-19, this was the first year since WWII that the festival was canceled. That didn’t stop local community members from celebrating from a distance.

Photo at top: Winchester residents paint their property to celebrate Apple Blossom. (Emmy Kappler/Winchester)

Into the lives of Chicago’s modern magicians

By Mackenzie Evenson
Medill Reports

During the pandemic, magician Jeanette Andrews is casting a few spells through a toll-free, magic telephone line. Shelter-in-place callers hear a voice give instructions and choices on the other line, resulting in what seems like a real trick. “The ongoing faith in me and my work is one of the only things keeping me going right now,” Andrews said.

The 30-year-old sensory illusionist learned much of her craft from generous mentors who spent their time and knowledge helping her succeed and grow. “Magic is one of very few fields that is still genuinely handed down from person to person,” she said.
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Patrick Brower builds a community around comics

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

Two sleeves of superhero tattoos make Patrick Brower, 51, look like a comic book. Twelve years ago, he and co-owner Dal Bush, 41, opened Challengers Comics and Conversation in Bucktown. Then last November, they opened a second store in River North. They also curate a selection for Chicago Board Game Cafe, which opened near Challengers’ first store in February.

Brower’s childhood love of comics inspired him to study art in college. Though he didn’t expect to go into retail, he found his first job after earning a bachelor’s degree in art history and illustration at his local comic shop. He never left the industry. Nearly two decades ago, he started mentoring Bush, who, as a teen, spent three hours a week selling comics with him. Seventeen years later, the friends opened a store of their own. The two wanted to remove the stereotype of their field as “only being for Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.” Brower recently discussed how they designed Challengers Comics and Conversation to be a welcoming space and a community center. Continue reading

You’ve Got Mail: How to Save a Kid’s Birthday During a Pandemic

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

The COVID-19 quarantine has forced many people to find new ways of doing old things. Working, shopping, going to school and celebrating milestones are all different now. Young children like 5-year-old Greta Schalk can’t fully grasp the dangers of the world outside. When the time came to celebrate her birthday, Greta’s parents decided to make the day memorable by using the mail.

Photo at top: 5-year-old Greta Schalk and her sister check the mailbox outside their house (Courtesy of Stephanie Schalk)

Easter in the time of coronavirus: Memories of hope and togetherness

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

Despite changes to Easter celebrations across the globe due to the coronavirus, Rev. Chris Wadelton of Columbus, Indiana, hopes his parishioners will remember Easter 2020 as a time of hope.

Wadelton, the Pastor at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, sees silver linings in the health crisis both with charitable acts and increased family time.

“Sitting here in my office, I have huge windows to look out on the street and I see tons of people going by with their families on bikes and walking, more than I would’ve seen a month ago,” Wadelton said. “So I think there’s been some beautiful rays of light coming out of this, and I hope that that continues.”
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A California couple’s big day postponed due to COVID-19

By Michael Thomas
Medill Reports

High school sweethearts Jenae Torres and Bobby Carrington spent a year planning their dream wedding. The COVID-19 pandemic and California stay-at-home orders forced them to postpone everything.

The 27 year old bride was crushed. “I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t cry a little bit,” Torres said.

With social distancing orders in place, churches closed and event venues shut down, saving the wedding date seemed unthinkable. “It really did not seem like it was going to be a possibility.” Torres said.
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