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Chicago Art in a Warm Autumn

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A plane message designed by AndrewandAndrea flies over the city skyline.

Photo by Jan Tichy

Did you know that scientists at the National Observatory of Athens are currently
studying the skies in old master paintings, from Rembrandt to Turner, in an effort to track and determine the effects of climate change?

Now not even Rubens is safe from the great global warming debate. Certainly the topic hits home, particularly this month, as according to Mayor Daley’s decree we are currently in the midst of Green Building Month (www.earthmonthchicago.com ). Running from October 13 to November 16, activities include workshops, tours and conferences aimed at promoting energy-efficient “green” homes, highlighting small steps that everyone can take to become more environmentally responsible. Former President Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the Greenbuild International Conference from November 7 to 9 t McCormick Place West Building, Chicago.

Also of note is an artist talk by industrial landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, which takes “The Climate of Concern” as its theme this year. Burtynsky will be speaking on November 6 at Chase Auditorium, but unfortunately it will cost you $15.

A fun free event, also part of the Humanities Festival, is ARCTIC, an audio and video installation from collaborators Max Eastley and David Buckland. To be installed at Pritzker Pavilion, the work features sounds and video footage from
an Arctic island, and runs from November 3 to 11, open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Art vs. The Parks Department
Also related to Millennium Park, an interesting court ruling in September 2007 awarded artist Chapman Kelley recuperation of damages in relation to the partial destruction of his flower installation, Wildflower Works I, in Grant Park’s Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Half of the flowers were removed three years ago in the development of Millennium Park, and Kelley argued that under the Federal Visual Artists Right Act (which states that an artist will be told 90 days before any alterations are made to their work) he should be compensated by the Chicago Parks Department. The Parks Department argued that the flowers could not be protected under the Act, as they are continually changing naturally. Basically, they were questioning the work’s status as art. Ultimately, Judge David Coar deemed Kelley the winner, and he stands to gain more than $1.5 million in damages. Art wins.

Building Connections
It’s no secret that public art comes in many unassuming forms, one case in point being the New Life for Dead Spaces venture, spearheaded by the Chicago-based group, Neighbors Project (www.neighborsproject.org ). Lee Crandell, New Life’s Lakeview volunteer coordinator, stated: “The basic premise of the project is that buildings on great streets facilitate connections between people, bridging the public and private realms.” Crandell is focusing on the area around Belmont and Sheffield, and is looking for volunteers interested in speaking to community members, getting their feedback on neighborhood “dead spaces,” and working to rejuvenate these dead spaces with attention-grabbing and conversation-sparking texts and artworks.

Flying Disillusions
SAIC students AndrewandAndrea (Andrew Lochhead and Andrea Slavik) are taking on a very different kind of public art. On October 20, 2007, they rented an airplane and attached an advertising banner stating: “Is That All There Is?,” as it flew over the Kennedy and Eisenhower Freeway.

The event is part of AndrewandAndrea’s Is That All There Is? series, which strives to explore, according to Lochhead: “ways in which artists engage and participate in consumer culture.” Their work attempts to expose the structures of representation in late capitalist visual culture, altering them toward activist ends.

AndrewandAndrea’s alterations on consumerist culture have been shown at the Windsor Biennial in Canada and included an Is That All There Is? line of coffee mugs, t-shirts, stress balls, note pads and cocktail napkins. More information on the duo and their series can be found at their myspace page, www.myspace.com/andrewnandrea, and footage from the airplane event will be screened as part of the Forks, Tables and Napkins exhibition at Gallery 2.

Architects of the Future
Even if you don’t make it to Pritzker Pavilion or the airplane event, the very act of walking through the Loop is something of an artistic experience. Chicago architecture is world-renowned for good reason, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation is working to ensure that we don’t forget it. In 2002 the foundation published Schoolyards to Skylines: Teaching with Chicago’s Amazing Architecture, for kindergarten to eighth-grade students. In September 2007 they launched The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings, which is currently being used as part of the official curriculum of Chicago public schools. It will most likely follow in the footsteps of Schoolyards to Skylines, which is already being used throughout the United States and increasingly internationally. The Architecture Handbook, the first textbook of its kind, aims to provide a more comprehensive background for future architects. According to curriculum advisor Jennifer Masengarb, “After three years of drafting, most high-school students couldn’t tell you who Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe are.” Not only will students of the curriculum learn about architectural history and theory along with drafting, they will study sustainability and green architecture through a focus on Chicago’s F10 house. This structure was designed to decrease the average American home’s environmental impact by a factor of 10.

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