For the cover of our last print issue of 2022, we wanted to capture the spirit of the year, as we see it, in our own Reader way. We asked photographer Carolina Sanchez to see if she could find a street musician who was being ignored, a situation which many can relate to as the essence of this year: lots of work, not a lot of respect. Sanchez found the musician, Kaliq Woods, at the corner of State and Randolph, where he “usually plays the clarinet but because of how cold it was his keys froze and got stuck, so he opted into playing the drums instead.” Sanchez added, “[Woods] had a man next to him dancing most of the time, who randomly came up while he was playing the timbales and sang ‘Merry Christmas’ over and over again.”
From “Rescuing the legacy of Dancin’ Man” to our cover model’s festively dancing friend, it’s been a turbulent and surprising year for us all. Here are just a few of our favorite images that Reader stories begot this year. We look forward to bringing you more glimpses into our unique Chicago world in the next.
In April, contributor Amy Qin spoke to local Starbucks baristas working to build support for a union (“Brewing solidarity”). As of August, workers at six Chicago-area stores had voted to unionize, following the wave of support for labor unions that emerged nationally in 2022.
Reader staff writer Katie Prout’s “Searching for the Pigeon Lady” (February) started as interest in a particularly legendary downtown ornithologist but swiftly grew into a series of larger questions about resilience, centered in private moments in public spaces.
Beau O’Reilly, a fixture in Chicago’s theater and music scenes since the 70s, continues to perform and create opportunities for other artists. Contributor Mark Guarino talked to O’Reilly in April about theater work on the fringes for “Beau O’Reilly keeps the folk cabaret alive.”
In January, contributor Sarah Gelbard spoke to unhoused people and their allies (“Homeless in a pandemic-stricken Chicago”) about the conundrum of hundreds of Chicago public housing units sitting empty when there is obvious need.
Contributor ThoughtPoet shared “#SadBoyEnergy (The Prelude)” with our readers in February: a photo essay examining what it means for Black men to suffer from depression and related stress. Multimedia journalist, host, and speaker Dometi Pongo is pictured above.
For July’s “Something magic’s growing at Back of the Yards Algae Sciences,” Reader senior writer Mike Sula discovered an unlikely team of bioprospectors experimenting with algae and more. Scientist Leonard Lerer is pictured next to a spirulina photobioreactor.
After a tumultuous series of events, the Reader was able to move forward in May with its preconceived plan to shed itself of private ownership and embrace nonprofit status. The transition was not without challenges. In Apri, Reader union members led a protest outside a now-former Reader owner’s home, which ultimately helped push the process along. The demo attracted fellow journalists, longtime Reader readers, and labor comrades from other guilds. (“‘Free the Reader!’” by Elly Boes, Grace Del Vecchio, and 14 East Magazine, April)
19-year-old Austin resident Indya Pinkard was one of several teens that writer Justin Agrelo interviewed about safety, gun violence, the expansion of the city’s curfew for young people, and more, for July’s “Young people dream up a safer summer in Chicago,” a publishing collaboration with the nonprofit newsroom The Trace.
Culture editor Taryn Allen spoke to members of OnWord Skate Collective this summer about plans for a film about their work (“Welcome to the skate park,” July). The group embraces skaters of all ages and abilities, and prioritizes women, trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people.
In May, contributor Irene Hsiao took in the public and interactive art of southeast side native Derric Clemmons and his South Worx Art Group (“Reshaping the landscape on the southeast side”), who built structures as part of a city initiative to revitalize the area near 89th and Commercial.
Over the course of the year, Reader staff writer Kelly Garcia covered the concerns surrounding large festivals taking resources from public parks, specifically festivals in Douglass Park preventing residents from being able to use the park’s resources.
Garcia’s subsequent series of articles looked at the story from several angles: uncovering contracts that revealed financial donations from Riot Fest to influential alderpersons (“Donations, violations, and fees,” September), a timeline of community organizing around the issues (“Riot acts,” August), an interview with Douglass Park youth soccer coach Ernie Alvarez (“A promise worth keeping,” July), and reporting about the People’s Fest, a public event that galvanized support for the neighbors (“A performance for the people,” September).
Contributor Zinya Salfiti visited Central Camera in August to find out how the century-old downtown camera store has weathered fire, floods, and pandemics (“Central Camera Co. stays focused”).
Mike Sula continued his coverage this year of innovative local food purveyors who are unjustifiably under the radar, with stories like September’s “Pastry chef Ollyvia Putri’s 20-layer cakes are legit.”
For August’s feature “Black Chicago dance culture shines at Art on the Mart,” Reader senior writer Leor Galil gifted us with histories from local Black dancers about their experiences with the famous Bud Billiken parade. Galil talked to the filmmakers and subjects of the short film Billiken, which was projected for the public as part of the Art on the Mart series.
Reader senior writer Deanna Isaacs writes about a variety of subjects for her regular culture column. Isaacs tackled the near-total upheaval of reproductive rights that the U.S. experienced this year, including a “secret draft” of a Supreme Court ruling that was uncovered this spring (“The end of Roe,” May).
Our music section’s regular Chicagoans of Note series allows our writers to interview local people who play in, work in, or otherwise inhabit Chicago’s music communities. In October, Leor Galil talked to Jason Deuchler (DJ Intel), who co-owns the horror-themed coffee shop The Brewed.
Contributor Yolanda Perdomo talked to Albany Park resident Adam Carston about Windy City Ballyhoo, his pandemic lockdown project turned social media archive of Chicago’s moviegoing past (“Now Playing: Chicago’s history in movie ads,” October).
Reader staff writer Debbie-Marie Brown immersed themselves in the fandom of R&B artist Kehlani and found a community of mostly young, mostly LGBTQ+, and all very passionate fans (“Blue water road to Chicago,” September).
In October, Debbie-Marie Brown found another passionate community—kids who love chess and compete nationally with the help of the Chicago organization A Step Ahead Chess (“Making good moves”).
For November’s “What Paul Moses Taught,” contributor Hannah Edgar talked to Mike Moses, who brought his father Paul Bell Moses’s archives to the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library, which then blossomed into a moving exhibition of family history and art.