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23 FRIDAY Before he died in 1997, Chicago imagist Roger Brown willed his studio and home–and the contents therein–to the School of the Art Institute. Among other things, the Roger Brown Study Collection at 1926 N. Halsted boasts an impressive array of artwork (including imagist, folk, and outsider art), furniture, textiles, and travel souvenirs, plus an archive of Brown’s work and personal effects, including his ’67 Mustang (in the garage). Brown and the building’s previous inhabitants are the inspiration for the new exhibition 1926–The History of the Space Before the Space, which includes site-specific work by Lisa Stone, Garrett Eakin, John Kurtich, Sarah Feinstein, Jeanne Lambin, Mary Richards, Rebecca Targ, Steven Juras, and Steven Hendricks. The free opening reception is tonight from 6 to 8 at 1926 N. Halsted; call 773-665-4802.
24 SATURDAY In his autobiography, Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor, Jerry “the Iceman” Butler says that he was originally slated to sing “Moon River” at the 1961 Academy Awards. But in the end it was white performer Andy Williams who did the honors and wound up with the more enduring rendition of the old standard. “We did not set out to write a book about race relations in America,” writes Earl Smith, Butler’s brother-in-law and collaborator, in the book’s introduction. “[But] it definitely is unavoidable when discussing or writing about America’s musical heritage.” Butler, now serving a fourth term as a Cook County commissioner, will discuss the book today from 2:30 to 4:30 at African American Images, 1909 W. 95th (773-445-0322). It’s free.
Between Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, and the killing of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969, Chicago’s black community was under siege, says journalist Sisi Donald Mosby. He says his research shows that over 100 people were slain by the police during that period and links their deaths to COINTELPRO’s effort to squelch the black power movement. Mosby, whose audio book The Fred Hampton Murder Case: A State of Siege in 1969 is due out this fall, wants the Hampton case reopened. “The evidence points to the fact that the police shot first and they did not announce their office when they entered the apartment,” he says, pointing out that there’s no statute of limitations on murder in Illinois. He’ll discuss the book today at 3 in the Chicago Authors Room on the seventh floor of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. It’s free (312-747-4600).
Johnny Meah started painting sideshow portraits on the carny circuit when he was nine, but he further distinguished himself by becoming one of the few banner painters who also performed, doing such stunts as eating fire and swallowing swords. Only about 200 of his 2,000 giant, vibrant banners of freaks and geeks have survived–and they’re hot collector’s items now. “In the 40s and the 50s they used to stick banners under trucks to catch old oil drippings,” Meah recently told Raw Vision magazine. “I literally remember doing it myself….I never really thought about the life span of a banner.” Now 63, he paints custom living-room-friendly banners at his Florida home and does the occasional lecture-performance. He makes his first local appearance in six years tonight at 8 at Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $10; call 312-243-9088.
25 SUNDAY Israel’s Law of Return, which allows anyone of Jewish descent to settle in that country, seems simple enough. But the traditional matriarchal descent laws directly conflict with Reform Judaism’s acceptance of patriarchal descent–which can make definitions of Jewishness murky. Today Menachem Kellner, author and professor of Jewish religious thought at the University of Haifa, will discuss contemporary Jewish identity at a free lecture called Contemporary Crisis: Who Is a Jew? According to Whom? It’s at 2, following a free reception that begins at 1:15 at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 618 S. Michigan (312-322-1769).
26 MONDAY Spike Lee says painter Michael Ray Charles is “a kindred spirit…a natural born filmmaker who so far has never made a film.” New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has dismissed his work–which explores stereotypical African-American images from Sambo, Buckwheat, and Aunt Jemima to the pimp and the basketball star–as “clever, stylish calculations.” Folks can decide for themselves tonight at 6 when Charles discusses his work as part of the School of the Art Institute’s “Attack of the Killer Animation” lecture series. It’s at the SAIC auditorium, 280 S. Columbus. Admission is $5, $3 for students, teachers, and seniors; call 312-443-3711 or see www.artic.edu for more information.
27 TUESDAY Gallery owner Paul Waggoner had to forgo his annual carnival party last year because he’d been evicted from his Cottage Grove home and was living “in near seclusion” in southern Indiana. It was the first pre-Lenten bash he’d missed since he started throwing them in 1976. This year he’s back, having relocated his International Arts Club gallery to a former parsonage in Logan Square. The $20 admission at tonight’s Carnival ’01 gets you Caribbean food, punch, Haitian art, paintings by Peter LoCascio, music by Rafo’s International Combo and Tomai Hiroki, a costume contest, and more. It starts at 7 at the IAC, 2101 N. Humboldt (entrance is on Dickens). Call 773-862-5142 for information.
28 WEDNESDAY “It has intergenerational and interracial qualities that reflect the way the world is,” says Lydia Diamond about her new play, The Gift Horse, which centers on Ruth, a straight African-American woman, and Ernesto, a gay Latino man–soul mates who meet in college and go on to “have their own love interests.” It was developed in the Chicago Dramatists Workshop and won the 2000-’01 Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwriting; previews start tonight as part of Columbia College’s weeklong “Art of Columbia College” multimedia showcase, which includes 25 performances and exhibits. It’s at 6:30 at the school’s New Studio Theater, 72 E. 11th; tickets are $5. For more info on this and other festival events call 312-663-1124 or go to www.colum.edu/artofcolumbia.html.
1 THURSDAY Darryl Maximilian Robinson’s one-man show A Bit of the Bard had its original run in 1987, when its Reagan-era commentary was more timely. The premise is still fresh, though–Robinson’s character, 17th-century actor Sir Richard Drury Kemp-Kean, gets struck by lightning and catapulted 327 years into the future, landing in contemporary Washington, D.C. He gets a job serving as the double for the Senegalese ambassador, and whenever things get rough he pulls out the Shakespeare. Robinson’s new, improved version of the Jeff-winning show includes swipes at the Clintons and the Bushes elder and younger. A Bit of the Bard: 2001 opens tonight at 7:30 and runs through April 22 in its “Chicago area farewell engagement” at the Harrison Street Galleries Studio Theatre, 208 Harrison in Oak Park. Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors. Call 773-533-0285.