The Neighborhoods Project
In June 2005 as the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Open Studio Artist I began work on a series of large format postcards
(18"x12") depicting Chicago neighborhoods. My goal is to complete
one postcard for each of Chicago's seventy-four neighborhoods. My method
is to first create a digital collage that serves as a template for a
final piece. Once this is laid out I travel to the neighborhood and
collect scraps of a paper off the streets that I then overlay onto the
digital collage. In this way, the postcards have a physical connection
with each neighborhood. When completed works will be reproduced at 4
ft. x 6 ft. with additional collaging layered upon this final piece.
A more lengthy description of this entire project can be heard on an
archived edition of WBEZ's 848
with Steve Edwards that aired
on Tuesday, June 28, 2005. http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/audio_library/848_rajun05.asp#28
The building and clothing is made up of scraps of ephemera
picked up off the sidewalk and street on Wentworth Avenue in June 2005.
Scraps include ads from a chinese language newspaper, fliers, chinese
cigarette packs, a children's chinese language lesson sheet, fortune
cookie wrapper and fortune. The fortune reads: "The strong person
knows how to withstand substantial loss."
Greektown (Digital Sketch)
The Sack of Troy Taverna
Venture to the southwest corner of North Halsted and
West Adams in Chicagos Greektown and you will comes upon an
archeological dig far greater than any other in the Midwest. There,
historians, archeologists and food enthusiasts work tirelessly to
unearth remnants of a great war waged in this neighborhoods
streets many years ago. Among the more important recent finds was
a weathered paper placemat inscribed with the tale of the wars
origins. Translated from the Modern Greek, it reads:
Sing Muse of fair Helen, the hostess who launched
one thousand tips, and the battle for her that raged on Halsted Street
for eighteen days. What god was it that set Nick Alexandros, proprietor
of Troy Taverna, to lure Helen of the golden hair from her esteemed
station at the entrance of Gus Menelaoss Sparta Grille? Did
Helen of the white arms willingly return to Troy Taverna because of
Nicks charms or was it his offer of full-benefits that led her
astray? Speak then of guss loyal waiters who took up arms against
the warrior-like waitstaff of the Troy Taverna and hurled many a flaming
saganaki across the street in a drive to return Helen to her rightful
leatherette throne back at the Sparta Grille.
Today, visitors to Greektown can stand in the footsteps
of great waiter warriors and on top of calcified relics like the great
Moussaka bombs that helped secure Helens return.
Edison Park (Digital Sketch)
The Illuminated Gardens at the End of the World
Back in the 1890s pioneering Chicagoans answered the call to Go
West, Young Man, by venturing to the very edges of the city
limits to establish outposts for trading with the exotic Suburbarbarians.
Those who reached the citys far most northwest corner dubbed
the area Ebson Park in honor of the first settler, Merriweather Ebson.
Prosperity came to the area quickly as demand for the colorful golf
clothing sported by the Suburbarbarians became all the rage
downtown. Frontier trade, coupled with the successful cultivation
of cannolis, caused the areas population to surge. However,
in 1899, City Hall imposed steep tariffs on the delightful, marscapone-filled
desserts, leading to calls for secession. Ebson Park seemed poised
to break off from the city when the electrical wiring of nearby Norwood
Park resulted in reconsideration and then a dramatic reversal by local
The wiring of Ebson Park became something of a mania for area residents.
They took to wiring every inch of the neighborhood. The most breathtaking
example being the dramatic illuminated gardens. Neighbors went to
great lengths trying to outdo one another, embedding the newly created
lightbulb into flowers. As the Sun fell, the neighborhood lit up,
casting a beautiful multi-colored light over the entire area. In tribute
to the inventor of the light bulb, the region was renamed, Edison
Park. This tradition lasted for most of the summer of 1899, until
residents received their first electric bills. Thereafter, the neighborhood
was rewired along more modest lines.
Bronzeville (Digital Sketch)
The Short Reign of Brassville
Bebop Fever infected the students of Wendell Phillips High School
in the spring of 1943. Those in the school brass band were particularly
taken with it. As the school year drew to a close, band members assembled
and agreed to devote the whole of their summer to exploring this radical
new jazz form.
The students initial forays into Bebop improvisation took place
on the baseball field behind the high school. However, after several
days, members of the Bronzeville Audubon Society filed a complaint
with school administrators claiming that the atonal squawks and honks
coming from the students horns were scaring off area birds.
It came as something of a relief to the school principal, William
Howard to ask the fledgling hipsters to move their rehearsal space
The next gathering place was a garage at the corner of 41st and State
Street owned by a band members father. When neighbors complained
about the unholy racket coming from the garage the musicians
found themselves once again with no place to explore their new sound.
One June afternoon, the young men of Bebop laid claim to a patch
of sidewalk in the 4300 block of South Michigan Avenue, declaring
it the newly formed neighborhood, Brassville. Unfortunately, one Mrs.
Winifred Wilkins saw to it that the Brassville would never be. Leaning
out of her apartment window, she halted the students version
of Begin the Begeen mid note. She yelled down to the young men on
the sidewalk below that she knew each one of them and that she would
not hesitate to call their grandmothers if they did not stop immediately.
Rendered silent by this pronouncement, the musicians disbanded and
spent the remainder of the summer just listening to records.