J.E. Luebering

Director, Core Reference Group, Encyclopaedia Britannica, visited:

Before the Pyramids” at the Oriental Institute: Like Hyde Park generally, the Oriental Institute is a sleepy place during the summer; on the day I visited, the front-desk attendant was drowsing over his portable DVD player. But “Before the Pyramids” rewards wakefulness. It’s a tidy exhibit in the museum’s small temporary-exhibits space that’s been running since March, which means I’m a bit late. Shame on me. Two big-deal objects are on loan from the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford: the Battlefield Palette, deemed “one of the masterpieces of Predynastic art” by its accompanying text, and a statue of King Khasekhem, identified as “the earliest known inscribed royal statue from Egypt.” The remainder of the objects are the museum’s stock in trade: pottery, fragments of writing, tools, religious offerings, all dated from roughly 4000 to 2600 BCE. Scattered throughout are flashes of imagination, in the form of everyday objects that incorporate animals: a tilapia-shaped disk used to grind cosmetics, a bird-shaped stone jar, another disk that melds bits of a bull and a fish. Perhaps they’re ancient kitsch, but they’re a welcome distraction from the era’s dull mass-produced pottery.

Julia V. Hendrickson

Writer and visual artist, author of the recently published book of poetry

Grow No Moss, is gearing up for:

The opening of the arts season: September always marks a renewed flurry of activity on the visual arts scene with the launch of openings that have been quietly percolating all summer. Friday, September 9, is staggering under the weight of anticipated events. At the School of the Art Institute, comics and cartoon art will have a welcome spotlight in the 60-plus big-guns group show, “Cartoon Ink!” (33 S. State, seventh floor). Shows “for the people” seem to be making the rounds: the Post Family presents “Public School,” an Austin-based design collective (1821 W. Hubbard, #202); Public Works shows off a new Wicker Park gallery space with the third annual “Public Works” art and design series (1539 N. Damen, second floor). In the West Loop the always provocative Stan Shellabarger reminds us to walk a little more in a new solo show at Western Exhibitions (119 N Peoria, second floor). In Pilsen, Rar Rar Press boasts a new print shop and is celebrating with a pre-Renegade Craft Fair party (2201 S. Halsted, fourth floor) featuring Movable Type, a mobile letterpress studio from Portland, Oregon.

Richard Cahan

Program officer for the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the coauthor of

The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Land Beyond, due out in November, craves:

Credit: Richard Cahan

Re-Thinking Soup: I shared soup, bread, and conversation on Tuesday at Re-Thinking Soup in the residents’ dining hall of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. The free lunch (donations accepted) starts at noon most Tuesdays during the school year on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. About one hundred people attended the first lunch of the new year. Allison Stout, of Hoosier Mama Pie Shop, made mushroom soup, and Nicole Bergere, of Nicole’s Divine Crackers, made bread. The food: delicious. But my favorite part is the spirit of the place. Studs Terkel eats here, maybe at the next long communal table. Or so it seems. Most weeks feature talks on “food justice issues,” according to Lisa Lee, who has transformed the once sleepy Hull-House into a vital outpost of thinking and dialogue. And eating. Jane would be proud.