Paris between the two world wars was a storied place–a center of creativity and glamour where expats, mercurial painters, and brooding philosophers boozed it up together at the Cafe de Flore. The role of American artists like Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi in that scene is addressed in the Terra Museum’s A Transatlantic Avant-Garde: American Artists in Paris, 1918-1939, a traveling exhibit of painting, sculpture, and work on paper by American artists of the era and some of their French contemporaries. It opens tonight at 6:30 with a cocktail reception and gallery tour led by exhibit curator Sophie Levy, chief curator of the Musee d’Art Americain Giverny. Admission is $5. Tomorrow, April 17, Levy will be joined by Christian Derouet, chief curator of the Centre Pompidou, and School of the Art Institute professor Charles Stuckey for a colloquium on the complicated relationship between French and American artists of the era. It runs from 10 to noon at the museum, 666 N. Michigan in Chicago, and admission is $10 (free for students with ID). Reservations are required; call 312-654-2255.

In Barrier Device, a 26-minute film by Grace Lee, a researcher conducting a study on female condoms faces an ethical dilemma when she discovers that one of her research subjects is dating her ex-fiance. The short won a Student Academy Award and a Directors Guild of America Student Award when it was released in 2002. College of Lake County professor Patrick Gonder, who’s screening the film this weekend, says it’s a funny but subtle look at the lives of two Korean-American women, and he admires its maturity and discipline: “Unlike a lot of people right out of film school, [Lee] lets the camera watch the characters without intruding.” Lee will be on hand for a discussion after the film is shown tonight at 7 in Room A162 on the college campus, 19351 W. Washington in Grayslake. It’s free; call 847-543-2555.


Any parent who’s endured a child screeching for the sugar puffs they push between Saturday morning cartoons can tell you that advertising affects kids. But commercial culture can have far more serious effects. Today a panel of students from local high schools will talk about how ads affect them as part of Chicago Media Watch’s spring conference, Selling Desire: Ads, Our Values, Our Children. Keynote panelists Diane E. Levin of Boston’s Wheelock College and Susan Linn of Harvard Medical School have extensive backgrounds in the consequences of marketing to kids; other speakers will address topics like the role commercial culture plays in childhood obesity and diabetes. There’ll also be a screening of a video about Primedia’s controversial Channel One, whose blend of light news and advertising is broadcast in public schools nationwide. The conference runs from 9 to 4:30 at Northwestern University’s McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr. in Evanston. Admission is $35, $40 with lunch. Register at www.chicagomediawatch.org or call 773-604-1910.

Formed in 1968 by their dad–a domineering New Hampshire mill hand who pulled them out of school and made them cut a record even though they could barely play their instruments–the Shaggs have been held up as examples of pure musical naivete ever since their rediscovery by NRBQ and Frank Zappa (who in 1970 declared them “better than the Beatles”). Now the band’s artless yet oddly charming sound is being celebrated again in The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, a new musical by Joy Gregory that opens in previews at Lookingglass Theatre this week. Today at 6 Gregory and fellow Lookingglass ensemble member David Catlin will be joined by music critics Bill Meyer and Rick Reger to discuss the play and the band at a Shaggs symposium at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln in Chicago. Admission is free; call 773-728-6000. The Looking-glass production opens Wednesday, April 21, and runs through June 13; for more see the theater listings.


Before Prozac, there was meditation: besides inducing a general sense of calm and well-being, the practice can cut down on stress, strengthen the immune system, and lower blood pressure, says Stephen Nakon, director of Northwest Yoga and head of the yoga program at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Today he’ll lead a class called The Art of Meditation; geared toward beginners, it’ll focus on three aspects of the practice–movement, breathing, and the experience of meditation itself. It runs from 1 to 3:30 PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago in Chicago; tuition is $45. Call 312-397-4010 or see www.mcachicago.org to register.


You don’t have to plan to lead tours to attend today’s free training session for volunteers at Unity Temple–the merely curious are welcome to tag along and learn more about the 1909 Frank Lloyd Wright building, which he designed to embody “the principles of liberal religion for which this church stands…unity, truth, beauty, simplicity, freedom, and reason.” David Sokol, former chair of UIC’s art history department, will share insight gleaned from Wright’s papers, and longtime volunteer Peggy Lami will speak about Wright’s influences. The session will also include a detailed tour of the National Historic Landmark. It’s tonight from 7 to 9 at 875 Lake in Oak Park. Call 708-383-8873. At another training session at the same time on Monday, April 26, Keith Bringe, executive director of the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, will discuss the church’s ongoing restoration.

Long before Chicago became a bastion of alt-country, the city was a center for country music thanks to WLS Radio’s National Barn Dance, which debuted 80 years ago today. Rural and city folk tuned in by the thousands to listen to performances by Gene Autry, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden (who went on to fame, or infamy, as Amos ‘n’ Andy), comic actor George Gobel, and many others. The show enjoyed many years of popularity on regional and national radio before its last airing in 1960. Artists Jon Langford and Rob Lentz have created an installation of paintings, sculptures, and sound as an homage to the show and an exploration of its demise: The Rise and Fall of the National Barn Dance is on view through May 30 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago. Tonight at 7:30 Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts will perform in the center’s Randolph Cafe in honor of the show’s anniversary. Special guests include Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, and violinist and former Barn Dance cast member Johnny Frigo; archival footage of a live National Barn Dance broadcast will also be screened. It’s free; call 312-744-6630.


In today’s class, Everyday Atkins, chef Stephanie Oelsligle of the Wooden Spoon cooking school will demonstrate how to make spinach custard with Parmesan-pepper crisps, roasted salmon with cucumber sour cream, and Asian chicken salad with sesame-soy vinaigrette for dieters who’re getting tired of steak and eggs. It starts at 6:30 at the store, 5047 N. Clark in Chicago. Tuition is $45; to register call 773-293-3190.


John Evans, a successful physician who made a fortune investing in railroads, was one of a group of men who founded Northwestern University in 1851. Evans built a home near the lake at Clark Street, and the area around the school, which had been called Ridge-ville, was renamed Evanston in his honor. An active abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad, he supported Abraham Lincoln, who appointed him governor of the Colorado Territory. In that capacity he took the fall for the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, in which about 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians–mostly women, kids, and elders–were slaughtered by a vicious volunteer force whose formation he’d authorized. Northwestern archivist Patrick Quinn will discuss Evans’s complex life tonight at 7 at the Evanston Historical Society, 225 Greenwood in Evanston. Admission is $5; call 847-475-3410 for reservations.


Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman sought to create a living example of Jacques Derrida’s theory of deconstruction with their 2003 documentary, Derrida. The film follows the esteemed thinker around his home in Paris and on trips to New York and South Africa, catching moments in which he alternately discusses the challenges of biography and playfully avoids certain questions. The Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum said the filmmakers have “worked out a very accessible and unpretentious way of conveying both the philosophy and likable personality” of the man. It screens tonight at 7 at the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center in Cobb Hall, room 307, 5811 S. Ellis in Chicago. It’s free; call 773-702-8596.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/courtesy Gallery Marion Meyer, Paris, courtesy Evanston Historical Society.