Get to know the only biplane pilot in the Air and Water Show

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago Air and Water show may be famous for its display of high powered state-of-the art aircraft, but one airplane featured this year is not like the others. 

Chicago-based pilot Susan Dacy’s biplane is a throwback to pre-war piloting, to a time before jet engines, but her performance is no less technical and it is no less thrilling. 

Dacy, one of the pilots featured at the Chicago Air and Water Show Aug. 17-19, is one of the few female pilots in the U.S. performing in a bi-plane. But this isn’t her first Air and Water show. Dacy is a commercial pilot and, when she’s not doing tricks during her day job, she tours the country performing rolls, spins and other acrobatic tricks. She said she started in the 1990s and her decades of acrobatic performances is the realization of a goal she’s had since she was a kid and went to her first airshow.

“Of all the performances what impacted me was the biplane that flew,” she said. “It had the smoke trail and it was loud and it really excited me. I always remembered that.”

The early inspiration is reflected in Dacy’s plane, a bright red, 450 horsepower Super Stearman named Big Red. Although biplanes are among the earliest planes, the Super Stearman is a WWII-era plane, developed as a reliable craft for young pilots to learn to fly. Because of their reliability and their ubiquity, Dacy said quite a few planes were retired after the war and they flooded the civilian market.

“This type of plane trained bunches and bunches of cadets,” she said. “They made Army and Navy versions so they had gobs and gobs of these airplanes after the war. A lot of bombers and things like that were crushed up melted down and repurposed but a lot of the Stearmans luckily survived because it was determined they were good for crop dusters.”

It’s a Stearman crop duster that chases Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

Dacy’s plane was used in air shows before she bought it. Aside from a new engine, a new “skin” and some aileron flaps, it’s the same plane as the cadets would have piloted in training.

“It’s been a plane that’s pretty much worked its whole life,” she said. “It’s never been in a shed collecting dust.”

Later this month it will be at it again. Although the pilot schedule isn’t set until the day of the show—weather affects what planes can perform—Dacy offered a behind-the-scenes sense of what audiences can expect. Like all the other pilots, Dacy will take off from Indiana but Big Red is the only bi-plane scheduled for the day.

Dacy said audiences can expect “barnstormer-type moves,” including some twists and circles, shooting her craft high into the sky, trailing environmentally-friendly smoke before tumbling back down to earth and ending in a barrel roll.

While her performance may shock, surprise or even make audiences anxious, the one person who won’t be wowed is Dacy.

“Of course, we know what to expect, so it’s almost everything seems routine,” she said. Dacy said she’s got an exit plan in case of the worst, but said she doesn’t worry about it.

“You’re always thinking that stuff and it’s not being fatalistic but it’s just common sense,” she said. “But my airplane is so reliable, and of course I make sure maintenance is performed regularly”

Sticking with the queen of tape

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Anna Dominguez is the queen of tape. It’s a self-proclaimed monicker but it’s also something she can back up. 

Not video tape nor audio tape. Sticky tape. The sort of stuff people use to seal packages and paint walls. She is a tape artist; at once the inventor of a medium and a leader in the Chicago arts scene. 

Dominguez, a Gold Coast resident, has a piece displayed in the St. Jane Hotel in New Eastside. St. Jane owner Carrie Meghie said she’s glad to work with local talent. 

“We are thrilled to support an up and coming artist who is unique, innovative and extremely talented,” Meghie said. 

This is the second work Meghie’s bought from Dominguez. 

“I first saw Anna’s work when she created a piece for me and my husband for our charity (the Jackson Chance Foundation) a few years ago,” Meghie said. “I was impressed, not only by her talent and creativity, but also by her generosity to create such a special piece for us personally. When selecting the artists to work with at St. Jane, she immediately came to mind.”

Dominguez has been creating art since she was a girl. Following graduation from the arts program at Dominican University, she delved into the tape designs—a style she invented. 

“It’s really cool to see that this has become a form of art,” she said. “A lot of us that create with tape call it ‘tape art’ and I refer to my work as ‘tapings.’ When I started this nine years ago, no one was doing what I was doing as far as I know. In the last two years it’s really picked up as a form of art and more people are creating with tape now.”

Dominguez focuses on sports figures, most recently the tennis champion Serena Williams, with the kinetic energy illustrated with various shades and textures of different tape.

“I’m a huge sports fan and athlete myself,” she said. “To me sports and my art relate so much. It’s like you work towards this goal, it’s grueling sometimes, you laugh, cry, mentally push through some of your biggest obstacles. In a way, art is both physically and mentally enduring for me like sports. I could be up for 21 hours straight working on a piece I’m really into and it does take a toll on your body. But a lot of it is mental for me. At the end you find out all the hard work you’ve put into that one piece was worth every emotion and physical obstacle you’ve hit.”

To check out her work, visit www.queenoftape.com. 

Ryan Evans has his eye on the pie

(Published May 21, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, Managing Editor

Ryan Evans has pie-in-the-sky dreams. Well, pizza pie-in-the-sky dreams.

Evans is the executive chef at Streeterville Pizzeria and Tap and in May he unveiled the neighborhood eatery’s new menu complete with some ambitious new flavors he hopes will rake in awards—and maybe national attention.

Evans should know pizza.

“My grandfather and I used to make pizza when I was a kid,” he said. “My very first memory is pouring water into the mixing bowl.”

He’s long since graduated from his home kitchen and, at almost 33, he’s been making pizzas professionally for more than 17 years (he had to get a waiver to begin his kitchen work as a minor) and last year he won his first award at a Las Vegas pizza competition wherein he placed third in the mid-America pizza classica division.

“I prepared for a couple of months,” Evans explained. “That was in 2018 and I went out to Las Vegas and met some really good people and did pretty decent. I really used that as an opportunity to meet the higher ups in the pizza community.”

One of those people was Leo Spizzirri, a master pizza instructor at The Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli in Lisle. The Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli is one of two such pizza schools in the United States, and it is affiliated with the oldest pizza schools in Italy. Evans, of course, signed up for a course.

“It’s five days, 40 hours and it teaches fundamental dough chemistry, the physicality of working in a pizzeria and a whole bunch of hands-on chemistry,” he said.

After the course, Evans said he worked with Spizzirri as an assistant for another six months, where he dove into dough chemistry and worked out what he believes is the best blend of dough for Streeterville Pizzeria. His dough is part fermented whole wheat dough, sourdough and high-gluten King Arthur dough for a crust that’s slightly sour and sweet and it takes five days to make as sourdough requires time for fermentation.

Besides the dough, Evans has spent his time at Streeterville Pizzeria tinkering away, redeveloping the whole pizza menu, with emphasis on a Detroit-style pie that is simple and also delicious. He tries to follow the Italian rule for pizzas—the toppings can at most include five ingredients, and two are sauce and cheese.

“So Detroit-style pizza is a rectangle or square pizza,” he said. “It’s an inch of fluffy focaccia bread with a golden crown of cheese baked around the side. It’s delicious and it’s pretty unique in Chicago.”

But he acknowledges Chicago is a hard city for pizza chefs. Everyone is a critic and, with a wealth of renowned pizza spots, it can be hard to stand out. But Evans is confident he’s got what it takes to win in Chicago and, he hopes, in Italy.

“Chicago is a very tough city, and we don’t have a huge foot print here,” he said. “We can’t do quantity so quality will have to be our mark.”

Streeterville man’s new book tells history through the cemetery

(Published April 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Streeterville photographer and author Larry Broutman knows a thing or two 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 they 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 over 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 explained he talked with the keeper first.

“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 almost every cemetery was fine with the project as he set about taking photos of grave markers, monuments, tombs and war memorials.

Streeterville residents might already be familiar with Broutman’s work as it adorns some of the walls of the Lurie Children’s Hospital. Broutman said he’s been an avid photographer for years, and he 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. Now these photos decorate the Lurie’s walls.

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, of course, he moved on to the grave yard.

“Chicago Eternal” is available at Amazon.com for $43.25.

MCA exhibit offers up Midwestern sensibility in Western setting

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

In November, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened a new exhibition, “West by Midwest,” showing works by a collection of artists from the Midwest who migrated West in order to develop their artistic vision.

The art in the collection spans much of the middle part of the 20th century and the early parts of this century, and the media varies from sculpture and photography to painting and knitting. In total, the exhibition includes 80 pieces from artists like Billy Al Bengston, Andrea Bowers, Judy Chicago, Anna Halprin, David Hammons, Mike Kelley, Senga Nengudi, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Ed Ruscha.

This exhibit represents a diverse crowd creating over a long period of time, and Charlotte Ickes, a post-doctoral student and MAC Curatorial Fellow for the exhibit, explained that viewers should avoid being reductivist in looking for common themes when visiting the collection.

“[The exhibition] can mean many different things because it’s many different artists,” she said. Not only did the artists work in different media across different times, but some were expressly political, and even that political emphasis shifted throughout the decades.

Ickes said the only real connective through-line in the exhibition is the constant attempts by each artists to do innovative work in whatever medium they’re working in.

“Those are the shared concerns you’ll see throughout the show,” she said.

Rather than emphasizing any sense of shared aesthetics or point of view of the Midwestern artists, the collective exhibition illustrates how regional artists impacted the national art scene—or at least the California scene in response to their individual concerns and aesthetics.

For a deeper dive, don’t miss a talk on Dec. 9 led by artist Barbara Kasten. Kasten will lead a walkthrough of the exhibition with Ickes and will talk about her work, as well as the work of her favorite fellow artists. This begins at 2 p.m. and it is free with museum admission.

The exhibition is on display now through Jan. 27, 2019 at the MCA. The MCA is located at 22 E. Chicago Avenue and is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.,Wednesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Disability Summit focuses on benefits from disabled workers

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Business leaders from across the city met in October for the fourth annual Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit, a daylong meeting of breakout panels and discussions on how to better include disabled workers into the workplace.

The Chicagoland Business Leadership Network and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce presented the summit, bringing together hiring professionals to discuss things like mental health in the workplace, online accessibility and best practices for disability recruitment.

Rob Hitchcock, the president of government and consumer solutions for the Health Care Service Corporation welcomed attendees and said there are ample opportunities for disabled workers.

“We’re struggling to fill open positions,” Hitchcock said. “We view this as a wonderful opportunity to recruit and get talent into our organizations, and I know many of you feel the same way.”

The summit did more than focus on employers and their needs. At one point, the conversation turned to the disabled employees themselves.

“We’re going to talk about the power of owning your identity and the power of the beauty that exists within us.” said Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability: IN. “One in five of us have a disability. And it’s cool.”

Houghton said disabilities have workarounds and disabled people don’t need to be labeled as differently abled or special because there is nothing wrong with being disabled.

Suhail Tariq, one of the panelists, echoed this sentiment with his own experiences at work. He said he can compete with coworkers who are not disabled because he is willing to work hard.

“I am no different than any of you guys,” Tariq said. “We’re no different than anyone else. It’s just hard work. I like my mantra to my executive committee, which is, ‘You may through a certain way get to the end goal, but I’ll get to the end goal too, the way I am comfortable doing it, and if I need any help because of my disability, then I will raise my hand.’”

Panelist Ben Lumicao, an attorney for Allstate, said open dialog about abilities is welcome because the days of ignoring a disability are over—and that’s a good thing.

Another panelist, Shannon Maher, a recruiting programs specialist with Exelon, said the challenge is two-sided, as disabled workers need to own their disability and recognize it, just as much as employers do.

“We bring many talents to the table because of our disabilities,” she said.

Bertha’s scissor services a cut above

By Jesse Wright |

Staff Writer

 

 

Bertha Moreno poses in her hair salon with a caricature one of her fans drew and an award from Yelp, the online review site, that recognizes her positive reviews. Photo by Jesse Wright

Bertha Moreno knows hair.

For over 30 years, she’s been cutting, coloring and combing hair on heads from around the world and while she is not the most talkative hair stylist in Chicago, she might be one of the most talked about.

For 18 years her salon was based in on the ninth floor in Tribune Tower. Over the summer, tenants of the tower were kicked out—including the Tribune employees—and Moreno has relocated to 230 Ohio Street. Yet at her new second-floor digs, Moreno is still snipping away, Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. into the evening, same as ever.

Over the years, she has cut the hair on the heads that influenced Chicago. In 2007, while John Edwards was on his doomed presidential bid, ensnared by a hair care scandal after he paid $1,250 haircut, the Tribune name-checked Moreno in an editorial.

“The next time you’re in town, Mr. Edwards, stop by Tribune Tower,” the editors wrote. “Bertha Moreno runs a little salon on the ninth floor. She’ll give you a haircut for $15. If you want to leave a $1,250 tip, that’s your business. … She does a great job and she won’t talk about your hair when you’re gone.”

It’s true, she won’t talk about her customers. She has clients including WGN, CNN and NBC talent, but she won’t name names.

“I don’t like to talk about who I know,” Moreno said. “I just like to do the hair.”

Moreno said she’s proud to be able to do anyone’s hair—male or female, a formal or informal style. She said she just loves the work.

“One thing about me, I treat everybody the same,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s the person who cleans the floor or the person in charge. I treat everyone the same way.”

The same way includes plenty of silent treatment. While some stylists will chat up their clientele, Moreno said she’s not much of a talker when on the job. She’ll ask her client what they want and how they think the cut looks, but otherwise, Moreno doesn’t make a lot of small talk.

“I have to concentrate on what I’m doing,” she said. “The customer has to look good, because otherwise I look bad.”

This is also why she asks that people book appointments ahead of time.

“When someone is waiting for me, I get nervous,” she said.

Whatever it is she’s doing, she is doing it right. She has repeat business that has lasted decades and even her fans at the Tribune have been walked 20 minutes from the Tribune’s new offices on the New East Side, back to Moreno’s studio.

One of her longtime clients and friends, Yolanda Ayubi, said she visits Moreno twicie a week and she will not go anywhere else.

“I find it interesting that when she is doing my hairstyle, I feel like she is an artist. I can see her enjoying the process of doing my hair. It’s an art and science at the same time,” Ayubi said. “She keeps asking me how I like it … and she doesn’t let me go until I am satisfied.

“Let me put it this way, her clients aren’t a number. Her clients are people whom she helps with an image.”

Ayubi is far from alone in her praise. Out of 31 Yelp reviews, 29 are five star.

Moreno calls her clients her family and indeed, she gets Christmas cards from some and she has a bulletin board filled with some of the heads she’s had the pleasure to know. Some faces, children in the photos, now have kids of their own and still stop by Moreno’s shop.

Moreno said she’s grateful she’s got so many loyal customers.

“I am lucky to have them, because they are the ones who support me here,” Moreno said. “Because after only three months (in the new location), they’re coming back.”

To book an appointment, call 312-259-4150.

Cruising from summer job to boat captain

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 04, 2018

When Gabriel Argumedo was 15, he got a summer job with Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Mercury Cruises as a deckhand, taking tickets, cleaning bathrooms and acting as a lookout for the captain.

“When I started down here, I didn’t even know that Chicago had a river,” said Argumedo, who is originally from Barrington, Illinois. “That’s how green I was.”

Now 30, he has risen to the rank of captain, piloting vessels on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan for tours and private events. He also works as director of vessel operations and runs the maintenance department during the winter off-season. Argumedo’s brother, David, works as a captain as well.

A typical day for Argumedo begins around 7:30 a.m., giving him and his crew time to prepare for the first river cruise at 9 a.m. They run safety drills first and then set up the boat and check that everything is working and ready to go. Then the tours begin—three to six each per day.

Argumedo offers several tours, including a Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise and a river and lake tour, the latter being Argumedo’s favorite.

“I never get tired of that view of the city from the lake.” He said his favorite moments on the lake are at sunset or at night.

When he does private events like corporate parties or weddings, Argumedo said he sometimes works late into the night. Piloting for private charters takes more skill and is, “more involved with the customer one-on-one, and you’re doing more custom routes and making a lot more decisions,” Argumedo said.

Argumedo said he loves his job because it changes every day and he’s constantly
meeting new people.

“If you’re a social butterfly, this is definitely the job for you,” he said.

Argumedo said he just likes being out on the water. Some of his most exciting moments have involved rescuing other boats and meeting celebrities, he said.

But being a boat captain does come with challenges—namely, dealing with river traffic.

“While there is plenty of room for everybody to be on [the river], the most difficult part is just getting the education out there of how to maneuver on the river,” Argumedo said.

He said the boating industry is always looking for good people to hire.

“I think most people are unaware that this opportunity or this industry even exists,” he said.

He said it’s possible for a boat lover to make a career out of it—and a fun one, at that.

Argumedo said that because he enjoys what he does, “it really doesn’t feel like work most of the days.”

Meet the new head of GEMS school

By Tom Conroy | Staff Writer

Tom Cangiano began in July as the newest head of school for GEMS World Academy Chicago.

Cangiano is the fourth head since the school opened in September 2014, but said he will stay a while. “I don’t take a job if I’m not completely committed to it,” said Cangiano, who has over 25 years of combined experience as an educator and leader.

“It is crucial to have leadership stability at a newer school and the only way to get things done is to stay long-term.”

Prior to arriving at GEMS, Cangiano led the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh for eight years. That experience will serve him well as GEMS prepares to add more high school classes and new facilities in its Upper School building by the 2019–2020 academic year.

Cangiano said he and his wife were happy to move to Chicago. Cangiano, a native of Massachusetts, said he enjoys living in the city and the school’s proximity to everything in New Eastside. He has two children in high school and a third in college.

Cangiano has lived overseas, teaching in Budapest and serving as the president of the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria. He said his international experience fits with GEMS and its global network of schools as well as its International Baccalaureate curriculum.

“The school is both inward and outward looking, as we encourage students to understand what is going on not just around the world, but also here in Chicago.”
– Tom Cangiano

“GEMS’ genuine commitment to global citizenship attracted me,” he explained. “The school is both inward and outward looking, as we encourage students to un- derstand what is going on not just around the world, but also here in Chicago.” He added that the school teaches students to explore and research Chicago.”

“The history person in me comes out when I encourage the kids to be part of the community so they can understand the context of what they are learning,” said Cangiano, who has a background in the humanities. Cangiano added that he hopes to strengthen the school’s global network.

He recently attended strategic planning meetings in Dubai and hopes to increase the number of joint service programs and exchanges, allowing students to collaborate with their peers at other GEMS schools.

Domestically, he will work toward growing enrollment to 100 students per grade level for a total enrolment of 1,500 students.

GEMS World Academy Chicago
350 E. South Water St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 809-8900
gemsworldacademy-chicago.com

Published August 1, 2018

Penny Pritzker speaks at 114th Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce meeting in New Eastside

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

Members of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce held their 114th annual meeting on June 5 in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Upper Wacker Drive.

The crowd included business and political leaders who gathered to hear remarks from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jack Lavin, the Chamber’s new president and CEO. Penny Pritzker, former Secretary of Commerce, delivered the keynote address.

Mayor Emanuel emphasized in his speech the importance of area businesses working hand-in-hand with city colleges like Harold Washington College, in addition to prestigious private institutions.

“If we make everybody part of that winning circle, we make one city, one future working together,” Emanuel said. “That’s our challenge.”

Lavin presented the Chamber’s new Chamber Connect program. “The idea for this came from something that’s already happening,” Lavin said. “Chamber members meet one another, and they end up doing business together.”

The Chamber will create a formal, user-friendly process to help better connect members.

Penny Pritzker, who served as Secretary of Commerce from 2013 to 2017, was joined by outgoing chairman Steve Ferrera who took part in her keynote conversation. Pritzker touched on a wide range of topics and stressed American businesses’ potential as an envoy for the state.

“Ronald Reagan used to say we’re the ‘Shining City on the Hill,’” Pritzker said. “We can’t forget … how much of the world looks to the United States as an example of providing values and examples, whether it’s around lifelong learning, whether it’s around human rights and other things. Leadership like that requires generosity. It requires us, as a country, to think not just of our own needs, but also how you provide that role.”

Lastly, the Chamber, Mesirow Financial and CIBC presented the seventh annual James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award to Cornelius Griggs. Griggs built himself and his business, GMA Construction Group, from humble beginnings.

He grew up a ward of the state, living in the Cabrini-Green housing complex and other
public housing in Chicago. He went to college and earned two master’s degrees and served overseas in the Army Reserve before co-founding GMA Construction.

In addition to running his business, Griggs teaches at Kennedy-King College and volunteers with the Council for Opportunity in Education.

 

Photo courtesy of The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

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