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Betsy Odom, artist whose work was recently on display at Women Made Gallery, is attending:

Open House Friday On the first Friday of every month, I indulge in a secret Chicago pleasure: I go by myself to the Open House Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music. During Open House the school invites the public to participate in a sampling of jam sessions, song circles, square dancing (that’s right, square dancing), and mini performances. If you play instruments (I pick banjo) it’s a great way to get some practice, but honestly, I go there for one main reason: to get over myself and just sing some good old songs with strangers.

Open House is rich with the sincere, the communal, and the bizarre. I have found myself jamming out to “This Land Is Your Land” with musicians who are all younger than eight. I have joined a song circle where I crooned inaccurate harmonies to “Hey Jude,” a song surprisingly conducive to banjo. During the December Open House, I actually performed a pretty nice ad-lib to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Regardless of whether or not you play an instrument or sing well, Open House is an amazing thing. Just don’t expect there to be a drop of “coolness” in the place: its beauty lies in its wholesome and earnest reminders of our own roots.

Stephanie Friedman, University of Chicago Graham School Writer’s Studio program director, is contemplating:

Osaka Garden With March comes the promise of spring, and warm-weather pleasures like a visit to the Osaka Garden in Jackson Park. Very few people come to this part of the park, despite the fact that it’s right behind the Museum of Science and Industry (the site, like the museum’s building, is a remnant of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition). I’ve met lifelong Hyde Parkers who didn’t know the garden existed. It has the usual Japanese garden accoutrements: winding gravel paths, a waterfall, stone lantern, teahouse, and willows reflected in the lagoon. What makes this place special is the hush and delight it inspires, just beyond the rush of traffic on Cornell Drive. On her first visit, our eight-year-old daughter exclaimed, as she leapt from one stepping-stone to another, “I can’t believe this is here!” I think the same thing, every time.

Kate Keleman,
Chicago Architecture Foundation associate curator, is examining:

“Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection” On a recent visit to the Chicago Cultural Center to peruse its latest exhibitions, I particularly enjoyed “Morbid Curiosity,” an eclectic assembly of artworks and artifacts that explore the theme of death. The objects, which are drawn from the collection of a Chicago-area antiques dealer, range from gruesome to humorous to awe-inspiring. A glittery rhinestone-encrusted skull perches on a shelf with his cousins. A chandelier made of plaster-cast bones seems to make the ceiling sag. A wretched corpse asks, “Are you still mad at me?” Family portraits of gussied-up skeletons in their wedding gowns and Sunday bests peer from gilded frames. The exhibition design—and the grand room that houses the show—makes you feel as though you’ve stumbled into an eerie and wonderful Victorian parlor. Chicago Cultural Center exhibitions are usually real gems (and often quirky) and “Morbid Curiosity” is no exception. I love to dash through on my way across the Loop—exhibition express!—or linger during especial visits. (Plus, does the drama of ascending the Cultural Center’s grand staircases ever get old? No, it doesn’t.)