Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood has its roots in African-American history. As the only area in the city where black people were allowed to live after the Great Migration, Bronzeville became a cultural and political hub, often called the Black Metropolis, and the site of the Black Chicago Renaissance in literature and music.
Award-winning African-American poet Margaret Walker described the neighborhood in her poem, “For My People”: “For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and land and money and something—something all our own;”
Many great landmarks from the neighborhood’s past were neglected after racial restrictions on housing were lifted in the 50s and African Americans left the neighborhood en masse.
Other landmarks have taken on new identities over the years. Meyer’s Ace Hardware on 35th Street used to be the famous Sunset Cafe jazz club. The hardware store continues to attract jazz enthusiasts from around the world. “I always want to get one of the registers they have at hotels to get people to sign in,” says manager Dave Meyers. “We have people from Europe, Asia, Germany visiting the store. Tomorrow at one o’clock, I’ve got a guy coming in from France who’s coming in to see the store.”
The glory of what used to be Grand Boulevard—what is now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive—is still apparent in the facades of the majestic greystones lining the street.
But foreclosure has hit the neighborhood hard, and many homes remain boarded up. Foreclosures have particularly affected condominiums in the area, said Zeke Morris, managing broker at Bronzeville’s Keller Williams Realty. “Bronzeville is trying to recover, but we’re still saddled with foreclosures,” Morris said.
Despite the struggles it faces, Bronzeville remains vibrant thanks to residents’ efforts. In the spring, the Bronzeville Community Garden provides a venue for residents to grow food for the community. “Everything we grow is free for the community,” says garden manager Latrice Williams. “The crops we have in our garden, they’re all planted and maintained by our staff, which is mostly volunteers.”
At 47th and King Drive, the Harold Washington Cultural Center was opened in 2004 on the site of the former Regal Theatre, where jazz greats like Count Basie and Duke Ellington regularly performed. The Cultural Center was named after Chicago’s first black mayor.
The Chicago Defender was the first black newspaper to have a circulation over 100,000, and remains a force in media at its new location on King Drive and 45th Street.
Keeping history alive, the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center promotes tourism and redevelopment in Bronzeville in the Supreme Life Building, which was once the headquarters of the first African-American owned and operated insurance company in the northern U.S.
Gallery 19, a 600-square-foot modernist art space in Ravenswood, celebrated its one-year anniversary with its seventh show of the season on March 14. The show featured work by artists Patrick Manning, Jennifer Murray and Nicole White. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the science of opening a gallery show.
Gallery 19 owner Tommy Reyes (right) and his husband Doug Reyes (left) prepare for the gallery’s first anniversary show on March 14. The show, which featured work by artists Patrick Manning, Jennifer Murray and Nicole White, was the gallery’s seventh show of the year.
Doug installs a wire tracking system on one of the gallery’s walls a few days before the show’s opening. The Ravenswood gallery features three artists — two mid-level and one emerging — every six weeks or so, each on a separate wall. The 600-square-foot modernist gallery follows the 1950s Clement Greenberg definition of modernism: “The essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence.”
Tommy and Doug, both artists, examine a line up of Jennifer Murray’s series “Home”, trying to determine an order for the seven pieces. “I try to make sure there’s something for everyone,” Tommy says. “People are intimidated by galleries. With a gallery at this level, you really have to believe in the gallerists taste.” Doug specializes in ceramics while Tommy works mainly with photography.
Doug hangs the first of Murray’s “Home” series on the newly installed tracking system. Murray primarily photographs interiors, and what she calls “the imperfect details” of a space. “I’m interested in the way that we project the home as this place of perfection to prepare when we have guests coming over,” Murray says, “but nothing gets rid of that lived-in quality.”
Tommy and Doug make sure Murray’s work is level and at a standard gallery height of 60 inches at the middle of the piece. “It’s both an art and a science,” Doug says. “There are the technicalities of hanging the work, but then there’s an art to making it look good.”
Tommy and Doug unwrap and prepare to hang Nicole White’s piece “A Thousand Plateaus.” As the show’s emerging artist, White has one piece featured in the show, which they are displaying on the back wall of the gallery. “My work is primarily about how we see and understand photographs,” White says. “My work always takes a different form. Continuity is not a thing.”
Tommy puts out the gallery’s sign the day of the anniversary show on March 14. He typically sells two or three pieces from each show. “You buy art because you love it,” he says. “Art purchasing at this level is very personal, and if you can connect with that artist, it’s even better.”
Tommy and featured artist Patrick Manning (left) play the waiting game the day of the show after opening the gallery a few minutes early. Manning, a photography professor at the University of New Mexico, has been featured in galleries across the U.S. and internationally in China and Guatemala. His featured series “Grim Sleeper,” is based on the Los Angeles serial killer responsible for at least 10 murders in the area between 1985 and 2007. “This series comes out of a long interest in looking at how photographs exert power,” Manning says. “I’m interested in the relationship between photography and violence, and issues of power and race.”
A gallery viewer checks out Manning’s “Grim Sleeper” series. The oversized works range from $2,500 to $4,000.
Manning discusses his work with a gallery goer at the show’s opening. “All galleries have different cultures,” Manning says. “If you have a lot of work in a show, there’s usually more focus on you. You usually only end up talking more about your work if you’re the featured person.”
Paul Knudston, 40, right, leader of American Legion Post 623, checks the group’s social media pages often. He’s attempting to revitalize the post to adapt to modern times and calls it a “cyber post” because they do not have a building or office space. With him is veteran Peter Kalenik, 29.
For in-person events, Post 623 often rents space from Post 414 in their building in Forest Park. “At the end of the day, you can’t replace this wooden bar. Face-to-face socialization,” Knudston said while socializing at a Friday night hangout event. “You can’t do that on Facebook.” From left, Peter Kalenik, Paul Knudston and Byron Watson.
Neil Scarpelli, a member of American Legion Post 414 for the past 40 years, keeps a watchful eye on the building while the younger veterans use the space. ‘We use to meet down here and have coffee,’ said Scarpelli. ‘I remember a time when there were hundreds of us. Now if you get 20 people together you’re lucky.’
Paul Knudston, left, and Byron Watson, discuss ways to engage young veterans. Watson says not having an official post building has been beneficial “because sometimes when there is a post home, the focus is mostly on paying the bills … instead of focusing on the veterans.”
Built by veterans of WWI, Post 414 has been in Forest Park since in 1921. Photographs line the walls of the first floor recreation room, including a flag raising at the dedication of the Memorial Hall on May 7, 1922, in Forest Park.
Knudston checks out a dedicated space for the oldest memorabilia in Post 414’s building. Behind him is a memorial to the men and women of Forest Park, who served in the armed forces during WWII.
The space upstairs serves a dual purpose, housing the various artifacts along with providing more meeting space for the veterans in Post 414. Scarpelli says he is concerned about the post’s future once his generation of veterans from WWII is gone.
Carl Kmiec, another member of Post 623, takes pictures of some of the oldest items, including flags from the Civil War. He says updating his post to reflect modern times is essential to attracting young veterans and adequately providing services for them.
Knudston, center, says that even though the emphasis is on creating a “cyber post” for his group to engage young veterans, in-person contact is still important. Many of the veterans at the Friday night hangout event work as advocates for veterans in several organizations.
Knudston, who enlisted in 1995 and served in Korea and Afghanistan, now works for National Louis University as director of armed service relations. He has a long family tradition of service: His great uncle, grandfather, and father were all veterans, and his grandfather ran American Legion Post 623 for many years.
At the end of the evening, Watson and Scarpelli settle the account for renting the space. Scarpelli says he can understand why Post 623 is trying to redefine the meaning of community and create a new sense of belonging for young veterans.
A pair of lions at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While the numbers of lions in the wild has dropped dramatically in recent years, the population of captive bred lions in American zoos is thriving.
A harbor seal braves the cold at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Harbor seals give birth to only one pup at a time, while other animal species, such as some frogs, have offspring in the hundreds. Each situation presents unique challenges in population management.
Sarah Long, Population Management Center director, addresses the crowd at “The Science Behind Zoo Sex.”
Some animals, such as these turtles at the Lincoln Park Zoo, need very little encouragement to breed. Others, however, simply won’t get along. One male armadillo could not get along with a female until he was in his 30’s.
Chimpanzees, such as this one at the Lincoln Park Zoo, are part of the Species Survival Plan. Thirty-four zoos across the U.S. take part, planning to ensure healthy populations of chimpanzees in zoos and the wild for years to come.
A flock of flamingos looks out of place on a cold day at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, showing just how far from their natural habitats some of the species are. Transportation and the logistics of breeding animals is a major challenge for the Population Management Center.
Breeding some animals, like the caiman at the Lincoln Park Zoo, can be treacherous – for both zookeepers and the animals. If left in the same enclosures for too long, some potential mates may injure or even kill each other.
Many species of birds are conserved through the work of the Population Management Center. Some, such as the Puerto Rican Parrot (not pictured here), have been saved from the brink of extinction. In 1975, only 13 Puerto Rican Parrots remained in existence.
Guests mingle between the gorilla and chimpanzee enclosures at the “Science Behind Zoo Sex” event.