Friday 6

Woodcut artist Pelle Engman hails from northern Sweden, and his prints reflect the landscapes and folk traditions of his homeland. These prints, which have been widely exhibited, will be on display through January at North Park College and Theological Seminary’s Carlson Tower Gallery, 3225 W. Foster. There will be a free reception for the artist tonight at 7 at the gallery. The show is sponsored by the school’s Center for Scandinavian Studies. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM. Call 583-2700, ext. 4137.

Saturday 7

In Chicago–the city with the world’s second largest Polish population (after Warsaw)–polkas are always hip. January is particularly cool because it’s National Polka Month, and those rolling rhythms pump all over Milwaukee Avenue and the southwest side. You can warm up today with a visit to the Polish Record Center of America at 3069 N. Milwaukee, which has one of the largest selections of polka records in the country. The store’s open from 10 to 4; 539-9898. Then you can head down to where it’s really hot: the International Polka Association, 4145 S. Kedzie. The Chi-Town Express will play from 9 to 1 tonight. Admission is only $2. The IPA sponsors dances every Saturday this month. To find out more call 254-7771.

January brings with it Mystery! A Winter Festival–a full schedule of literature, lectures, and films that pay homage to detective fiction–at the Sulzer Regional Library. The fest kicks off today with a talk at 11 AM by FBI agent Roger Nielsen, who will describe “Profiles of Modern Day Criminals.” At 1 PM, Donald Duck’s Crimes will be screened just before Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The 39 Steps. It’s all free at 4455 N. Lincoln. For a full schedule call 728-8654.

Barbra Streisand first drew attention with her performance in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, a funny and powerful story about assimilation at any price. Now the National Jewish Theater presents the first Chicago-area professional production of Jerome Weidman’s tale, with performances through January 15. Curtain times are Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 PM, and Saturday at 8:15, There’s a Sunday matinee at 2. Tickets are $14 and $18 and are available at the theater, 5050 W. Church in Skokie. For more call 675-5070.

Sunday 8

Arun Gandhi, who was born and raised in South Africa, is the grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and a civil rights worker in his own right. An author, journalist, and lecturer, he is now conducting a study of antiblack discrimination in Mississippi. Gandhi will visit Saint Sabina Church, 7800 S. Throop, today to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and to give the sermon during a mass that begins at 10 AM. It’s free. Call 483-4300.

Ballroom dancing was staid until the turn of the century, when young people turned to dances inspired by South American and black American rhythms. Even those dances now seem a little quaint, but they’re still fun, as Peter Maxwell demonstrates with his Ballroom to Broadway show today at Triton College. Four performing couples will show off the Mingo, the Quick Step, the Continental, and some of the smooth moves that Fred and Ginger used to do. Show time is 3 PM at the school, 2000 Fifth Ave. in River Grove. Tickets are $9. For more call 456-8383.

A few years ago the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago threatened to close down Holy Trinity Church, which, having been established in 1873, is one of Chicago’s oldest churches. But when local Polish-Americans protested, the archdiocese gave in and made it a Polish mission. Now the church offers Polish-language masses. This makes it a perfect setting for the Lira Singers, the nation’s only professional fine-arts performing group specializing in Polish music. Today’s concert features Polish carols and hymns, and will be narrated in both English and Polish by Lucyna Migala, the group’s artistic director. It starts at 3 PM at 1118 N. Noble. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids and seniors. A freewill offering will also be taken for the church’s restoration fund. For details call 585-1140 or 561-9197.

Monday 9

The Piano Lesson, a new play by Pulitzer prize winner August Wilson, tells the story of Boy Willie Charles and his sister Berniece, owners of an ancient upright piano. Their great-grandfather carved into the piano’s case the faces of relations who were separated from the family during slavery. Boy Willie treasures the piano for its cash value; Berniece for its sentimental worth. Richard Pettengill, director of the arts-in-education program at the Goodman Theatre, where Wilson’s play will premiere on January 16, talks about this production of the drama at 12:15 PM in the theater of the Public Library Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. The lecture is free. Call 346-3278 for more.

Every single declared mayoral aspirant–including the nine Republican kamikaze candidates–is invited to tonight’s mayoral forum, which is sponsored by the Old Irving Park Association. Acting mayor Eugene Sawyer and aldermen Lawrence Bloom and Juan Soliz will be there for sure. It starts at 6:30 PM at Carl Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee. The candidates will make brief statements and answer prepared questions from the association. Schurz’s auditorium seats 2,300, and the circus is free. Call 286-5852 for more.

Tuesday 10

When completed, the Harold Washington Library might well be the largest municipal library ever built in the U.S. It’s destined to have 750,000 square feet and cost about $140 million. Find out the details when the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois sponsors a lecture on the Harold Washington Library Center. Jim Stefanski, project manager, and Ludwig Stainer, chief structural engineer, will discuss the project today at the Como Inn, 546 N. Milwaukee. There’s a cash bar at 5:30 PM and dinner at 6:15; the lecture follows. Tickets are $12 for students, $14 for associate members, $16 for members, and $18 for nonmembers. Call 372-4198.

Wednesday 11

When the Steve Cokely affair flared up in City Hall, Luis Gutierrez was one of the first aldermen to release a statement calling for Cokely’s ouster. As the lone Hispanic voice in the fracas he didn’t get much attention in the mainstream media, but Jewish community activists noticed and invited him to speak on Jewish-Hispanic Relations. “I see this as an important way to educate,” Gutierrez says. “I’m going to talk about Hispanic issues and what we’re doing in our neighborhoods. I’m sure that in the process I’ll get new insight into the concerns of the Jewish community.” He’ll speak tonight at the Florence G. Heller Jewish Community Center, 524 W. Melrose. The program begins at 7 PM. Admission is $2 for members, $3 for others. For more call 871-6780.

Music of the Baroque’s concert tonight at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman in Evanston, will feature Handel’s secular Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day and Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art–chosen for the church’s intimate acoustical space. The performance will be repeated Friday, January 13, at Notre Dame Church, 1336 W. Flournoy in Chicago. Both concerts begin at 8. Tickets range from $13 to $32, and there are student and senior discounts. Call 461-9541 for more.

Thursday 12

The Blue Rider Theater in Pilsen, where Donna Blue Lachman has served as artistic director since its inception, has garnered a reputation for brave and original work. Most of that work has been developed through improvisation, and much of it came from personal experience. Today’s talk by Lachman, Respectable Voodoo, concerns her adventures in Haiti, which were the inspiration for the group’s work in progress, The Voodoo Show: Stories, Memories, and Dreams. Lachman will talk about trances, possession, and out-of-body experiences at 5:30 PM in the auditorium of the Public Library Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It’s free. Call 346-3278 for details.