Streeterville author tells history through the cemetery

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Streeterville photographer and author Larry Broutman knows a little about cemeteries.

His newest book about the city’s cemeteries, “Chicago Eternal,” in April was awarded a silver award in the regional book category by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association. 

For Broutman, cemeteries aren’t maudlin but rather are instructive.

“The history of Chicago can be quite well told by walking through the cemeteries and looking at Chicagoans who have passed away,” he said.

His previous book, “Chicago Monumental,” focuses on the city’s monuments. After that book was published, Broutman said he began thinking that many monuments are in cemeteries. So, he went searching.  

“Some of the monuments were done by world famous sculptors,” he said. “I had been in a couple of cemeteries when I realized, ‘Wow there are some pretty incredible stories there.’”

So, he began to tell those stories.

His research took him to more than 30 cemeteries across Cook County and when he wrapped up, he had 300 stories.

“It’s a hefty book and a time consuming one, but I am retired,” he said.

Before going into a cemetery, Broutman checks with the keeper.

“I always was careful about the respectful aspect of it and first I consulted the cemetery staff and told them what I was doing, and I asked them if photography was OK,” he said.

Broutman said nearly every cemetery was fine with the project as he took photos of grave markers, monuments, tombs and war memorials.

Streeterville residents might recognize Broutman’s work from the walls of the Lurie Children’s Hospital. Broutman said he’s been a photographer for years and has travelled through Africa taking nature photos.

Several years ago, the Lurie Hospital asked him to take photos of Chicago scenes, so he mixed them together with his African photos. The result included  a tiger lying in the flowers along Michigan Avenue and he replaced the horses on a horse drawn carriage with zebras.

The project also sparked another interest, photographing the city.

“Once I did that I couldn’t stop,” he said. “I spent another year taking Chicago scenes all over the city.”

Then he moved on to the grave yard.

“Chicago Eternal” is available at Amazon.com.

Death cafes remove mystery from the end

By Jesse Wright

Talking about death isn’t easy, but Rebekka James tries to make it painless.

James guides Death Cafes, discussions around the end of life, aimed at older people who need to plan for the end. In September she hosted a discussion in Streeterville. She will host a cafe anywhere, for free.

The Death Cafe provides a safe, confidential forum where people are invited to discuss thoughts about death, dying, and mortality freely and openly,” James said. “While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea (though tea is served), many people have questions, feel fear, suffer loss, and simply wonder about the future.” 

James usually hosts the cafes in a public space, such as a library, though she’s also done private Death Cafes. She said a variety of people of all ages attend. The cafes were started by Bernard Crettaz and Jon Underwood, and to host an “official” cafe through the deathcafe.com website, James said a leader needs to follow certain guidelines.

The guide states, ‘The Death Café model is an agenda-free discussion, with topics determined by attendees,’” James said. “Facilitators are there to move the discussion if it stalls.”

She said each cafe is different. The best maximum is 10-12 people and the conversation moves according to who is present and what they want to discuss.

“That’s the beauty of this forum,” she said.

Generally people talk about familiar topics, including power of attorney information, health care information and how one even begins talking about death with family.

James is also a registered celebrant with the Celebrant Foundation, an institution that trains people to officiate weddings and other celebrations. It’s at the foundation that she first heard the term death cafe.

I attended my first one in June of 2018, led by Sheryl Barajas. Sheryl had done a great deal of work promoting and establishing Death Cafes at numerous Chicago-area libraries.”

The schedule is at deathcafe.com. James said she regularly hosts cafes at the Wilmette and Arlington Heights libraries.
“Also, the cafe part is important—there will always be coffee, tea, and sweets to comfort the soul,” she said.

Chicago Bird Collision needs help collecting injured, dead birds

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

Each year nearly one billion birds die in collisions with buildings, according to a study in “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment” and the study considers Chicago to be the most hazardous city in America for birds.

Chicago sits in the center of a major migratory corridor. Birds, confused by office lights or the glow from a window late at night, become disoriented and slam into windows and fall to the street, dead or injured.

The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) patrols downtown Chicago to find injured and deceased birds from sunrise to 9 a.m. Injured birds are brought to wildlife centers outside the city while dead birds are taken to the Field Museum for collection and study.

Ben Marks, Head of Zoological Collections and Collections Manager of Birds, estimates the Field receives nearly 5,000 specimens from about 140 different species of birds each year.

Mary Hennen, Assistant Collections Manager of Birds, said the specimens become part of the research collection. She said it’s important to track when and where the bird specimen was found to compare years and locations.

Researchers use that data to track migratory habits. For example, Hennen said a study on white throated sparrows showed the birds’ bill sizes were shrinking.

CBCM Director Annette Prince said if a bird is injured, pedestrians can trap it in a dark paper bag or box to calm the bird and then contact CBCM. She said even if the bird seems fine, it may have injuries that aren’t visible.

If the bird is dead, pedestrians should collect it in a plastic bag and call the CBCM and a volunteer will take it to the Field. Hennen said bird collectors should note when and where it was found.

To prevent bird collisions people should close curtains or make their windows less reflective. CBCM is working on a Bird Friendly Design Ordinance to make new construction less dangerous for migrating birds.

“These birds are not local birds,” Prince said. “They are global citizens in our city and since we are a central location, we owe it to them.

Contact CBCM at 773-988-1867 to report an injured or dead bird in Chicago.

Chicago Architecture Center announces new neighborhoods, buildings to be featured in annual open house

(Published Sept 25, 2019)

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announced on Sept. 10 the full roster of neighborhoods and sites participating in Open House Chicago 2019—now in its ninth year and one of the largest architecture festivals in the world. This free two-day public event, taking place over the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. It offers behind-the-scenes access to almost 350 sites in 37 neighborhoods, many rarely open to the public, including repurposed mansions, stunning skyscrapers, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, industrial facilities, cutting-edge offices and breathtaking sacred spaces. 

The new offerings in 2019 include a trail of dozens of theater venues and related sites, literally from A (Adventure Stage Chicago) to Z (Zap Props), celebrating the City’s 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre; an expansion into the Northwest side with the addition of Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park joining communities highlighted in previous years of Open House Chicago; and an open invitation to visit the CAC at 111 E. Wacker Dr. throughout Open House Chicago weekend, free of charge, for an informative overview of Chicago’s rich architectural legacy.  

“The ninth annual Open House Chicago is our gift to this city. We’re excited for all Chicagoans to ‘choose their own adventure’ and explore new communities and experience the rich diversity that lies within the 37 neighborhoods included in OHC 2019,” said Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the CAC. “We’re also inviting people to discover the new  galleries at the Chicago Architecture Center for free on October 19 and 20. Chicago’s intrepid urban explorers who love our annual celebration of Chicago neighborhoods will discover that same authentic Chicago experience in our Chicago Gallery, home to the famous Chicago Model and skyscraper exhibits.”

Also new in 2019, Open House Chicago expands its presence on the Northwest Side with the addition of sites in the Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park neighborhoods.  Highlights in the area include Irving Park’s Irish American Heritage Center, a former public school with a restored auditorium, private club room and Celtic art throughout; Jefferson Park’s Copernicus Center in the former Gateway Theater, an atmospheric 1930s movie palace transformed into a vibrant concert and theatrical venue; and Eris Brewery & Cider House, the award-winning adaptive reuse of an imposing former Masonic temple as home to a producer of distinctive ciders and beers.

For a complete list of participating sites, visit openhousechicago.org. Most Open House Chicago sites are free and do not require a reservation, but participants are encouraged to sign up to receive event e-newsletters and last-minute announcements. Get the latest news and fun facts about Open House Chicago by following the Chicago Architecture Center on Twitter (@chiarchitecture) and Facebook (facebook.com/chiarchitecture). In addition to free access, Open House Chicago offers activities at various sites all weekend long, including cultural performances, family festivals and more. Information about these programs will be added to the website later in September.

Select Open House Chicago sites require advance registration (usually due to security or capacity constraints) and will not accept drop-in visitors. TodayTix will charge a modest processing fee for most RSVP-only site bookings. Registration for these sites and lotteries opens on Sept. 10, and full information is available on the Open House Chicago website. 

Ballet Chicago provides exceptional instruction to all ages

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

For the News

Ballet Chicago was founded by Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair in 1987. Their goal was to create exceptional dancers and people by fostering personal growth as well as teaching fundamental life skills. Duell and Blair have built a world-renowned company through their unparalleled dedication to training at the highest level, holding between them two illustrious careers as leading ballet dancers, instructors, and administrators. 

The school itself is as inspirational as the curriculum and teachers. Located in the heart of downtown, Ballet Chicago’s facility contains five state-of-the-art studios with panoramic views and all of the supporting amenities needed. Ballet Chicago draws over 500 young people from across the country for its annual and summer programs. Dancers participate in one of three divisions: Preparatory (ages 3 to 6), Student (ages 6 to 12), and Professional (13 and older).

Ballet Chicago’s Preparatory Division classes provide an inspired introduction to the arts with a focus on creativity, group interaction, motor skill development, and the joy of self-expression. The Student Division consists of classes for Level 1 through Level 5 and includes our special Bravo Boys! classes. All students are offered the opportunity to participate in Ballet Chicago’s annual Nutcracker at the historic Athenaeum Theater.

Ballet Chicago is where artistic excellence and content of character forge the next generation.

Learn more and register at www.balletchicago.org.

Address: 17 N State St. Suite 1900, Chicago, IL, 60602

Phone: 312-251-8838

Curiosity boxes on Navy Pier to promote ‘Carnival Row’

(Published Aug. 16, 2018)

Amazon promoters will install curiosity boxes along the the Polk Bros. Park promenade on Navy Pier to promote the Prime Original series “Carnival Row.”

The show, starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, will premiere Aug. 31. Polk Bros. Park is at 600 Grand Ave.

The experience is free and will be live Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, coinciding with the show’s debut.

The large curiosity boxes will introduce pedestrians to some of the show’s mythical creatures. Centaurs, faeries and more will be on display as guests interact with the surprises each box has in store. In addition to plenty of photo moments and show-themed gifts will also be available for visitors after exploring the pop-ups. 

Set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological immigrant creatures, “Carnival Row” explores how this growing population struggles to coexist with humans — forbidden to live, love, or fly with freedom. But even in darkness, hope lives, as a human detective, Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), and a refugee faerie named Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) rekindle a dangerous affair despite an increasingly intolerant society.

Meadows in the skies: A closer look at the growing, green rooftops in the city

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

High above the streets, there are fields through the city filled with wildflowers, grasses, trees and even crops.

A growing rooftop greening movement is transforming the downtown environment and, according to Molly Meyer, it’s also improving the buildings.

Meyer, CEO and founder of Omni Ecosystems, an organization that designs sustainable green infrastructure, said her firm has developed rooftop farms and prairies. She said the green trend gained steam about 15 years ago and it’s been going strong ever since.

“In the mid 2000s there were a huge number of green roofs developed,” she said.

Now, every neighborhood in the city has green roofs, mostly only observable from higher floors on neighboring buildings. But while they may be invisible to most people, they’re still important.

“The top of the McDonald’s headquarters in West Loop is a 20,000 square foot wildlife meadow,” Meyer said. “That’s an important habitat for native butterflies.”

Their green roof includes crops which the company hopes to deliver to the community. 

“At McDonald’s headquarters, as employees and visitors collaborate on the ninth floor open work space and outdoor terrace, they are standing directly under one of the premier sustainability features of the headquarters: the green roof,” McDonald’s spokesperson Anne Christensen said. “The green roof boasts a garden with food for harvest and is purifying the air in the West Loop. The garden includes buckwheat, carrots, wheat, radishes, as these items are good for promoting strong soil. Harvesting soon, we hope to partner with a community organization to help us share our crops.”

In Streeterville, Navy Pier got into the game a year ago, when it developed its new welcome center. The center, to the right of the entrance, near Polk Brother Park, features a roof sloping down to the sidewalk and as visitors walk along the south side of the building, the concrete facade gives way to a meadow, complete with two bee boxes, which are a permanent fixture in the meadow. 

Michael Thompson, an apiest and farm manager at Chicago Honey Co-op who manages the boxes for the pier, said in the few months since the boxes have been installed, the have already produced 30-40 pounds of honey. In just two bee boxes, Navy Pier is home to some 50,000 Italian bees. 

According to Savitha Chelladurai, the Navy Pier’s sustainability program manager, the pier will use the honey at various restaurants. She said the rooftop project makes good sense for the Pier. 

“The creation of a green roof at the People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion helps to mitigate heat island effects and create a cooler environment for our guests,” said Chelladurai. “In addition, the native plants used at the Pier lead to better storm-water management and require little fertilizer or chemical applicants.”

The Pier isn’t alone.

“Downtown we have nine bee locations and they’re all on roofs,” Thompson said. 

In addition to bees, Meyer said the greenspaces are habitats for birds and small insects like grasshoppers, likely dropped by birds. But the roofs offer more than an ecosystem. 

Green rooftops are growing in popularity because the city mandates new construction be “green” or energy efficient, she said, and rooftops help achieve that goal.

“There is a benefit to extending the life of the roof membrane and a green roof protects that,” she said. “And there’s the storm water benefit and energy saving benefit too.”

Besides the buildings, the rooftops also help the city. 

“It’s important to make sure the built environment gets more sustainable and resilient,” she said.

Over a dozen people wounded after panic when fireworks mistaken for gunshots at Navy Pier

(Published July 5, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

According to Chicago police, three people were stabbed outside of Navy Pier Thursday night and over a dozen others were trampled, fearing reports of gunfire during the Fourth of July Fireworks display.

Another victim, a 16-year-old-boy, suffered a puncture wound from an overturned table as he ran from the scene.

The three stabbing victims included a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

All four people were stabilized at area hospitals.

According to Chicago Police Sgt. Rocco Alioto, the violence erupted sometime just after 10 p.m. when someone threw fireworks into the crowd at Navy Pier and the crowd mistook the fireworks for gunfire. Some 17 people were injured in the stampede, though no fatalities were reported.

No arrests have been made and police are still looking for two male suspects.

Artfest brings diversity and art to Streeterville

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Sixty-five artists from 19 states will be displaying and selling their works during the fourth annual artfest Michigan Avenue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 19-20 at 435 N. Michigan Ave. This juried art show features artists of numerous disciplines, including traditional visual arts, photography, jewelry and ceramics.

Amdur Productions, who run the artfest along with the Millenium Art Festival, June 28-29 at Lake and Michigan, have been running art shows for more than 36 years.

Amy Amdur, of Amdur Productions, said they reached out to the Magnificent Mile Association after learning there was an opening to run the show. She had grown up seeing Michigan Avenue as “a magical street with all the beautiful stores and windows.” For Amdur Productions to run an art show on Michigan Avenue, she said “it was a full circle experience for me having grown up always idolizing Michigan Avenue.” 

Now in its fourth year, people expect beautiful art in Pioneer Court, next to Tribune Tower and the Apple store. Amdur explains, “It’s a spectacular setting with landmarks, but what makes the show really special this year is the artists,” Amdur said.

Mark Hersh, a Chicago based photographer, will be showcasing his work for the second time at Artfest. Hersh said his work “Time After Time” brings together the new and old in a single photograph. He finds 100-120 year old photographs of cities, such as Chicago and Boston, then recreates the shot exactly in the present day at the same angle. Then he merges the two photographs together. 

Hersh said he finds that the audience in areas such as Streeterville and Printer’s Row “like the history of those neighborhoods and tend to appreciate the history and preservation.”

Other artists at the fair include Ali Hasmut, a Chicago Portrait artist who has done quick portraits at past fairs; Todd Babb who creates 3-4 foot tall ballet dancer sculptures; and West Loop artist Heather Offord with giant paintings.

But the focus of the Artfest is the art itself, Amdur said. Visitors should expect to see great art and demonstrations by artists. ###

Grant Park Music Festival to celebrate July 4

(Published June 18, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Grant Park Musical Festival presents “Independence Day Salute” on July 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.

The orchestral presentation, performed by the Grant Park Orchestra and conducted by Christopher Bell, will feature classic patriotic music including “1812 Overture,” Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the “Armed Forces Salute” and more. The performance will feature Grant Park Orchestra principal flute Mary Stolper and Grant Park Chorus baritone John Orduña.

Free seats are available on the lawn or in most of the seating bowl. For those who wish to purchase reserved seating, one night member passes are available. Call 312-742-7647 or go online at gpmf.org to get a pass.

Millennium Park requires extra security for all its Pritzker Pavilion concerts and bag checks will be conducted.. No outside alcohol is allowed at this performance, but beer and wine will be available for purchase at concession stands inside the park. Lines open at 3:30 p.m.

For those that cannot make the performance, it will be broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT and online at wfmt.com/streaming. Also, a free rehearsal performance will take place at the Pavilion at 10:30 a.m. on July 3.

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