“A young singer once described herself as ‘trying to beat my voice into submission,'” writes Patricia Martinez in Singers’ Voice (November-December), based on South Michigan. “Many artists…fear becoming happy or resolving their turmoil because they are afraid they will lose ‘the edge,’ that sharp gnawing feeling which spurs them on. They continue to operate from the belief that artists must live with unresolved conflicts, struggle, and be miserable in order to be ‘true to their art.'”

“Most mothers asked that I come back,” reports UIC social-work professor Olga Osby, speaking of her work with people in public housing in Washington, D.C. (UIC News, November 30). “It’s been a long time since social workers have gone door to door. Everything used to be centered around the home visit. That no longer happens, but a lot of mothers, to my surprise, wanted social workers to come out.”

Our reactionary senators. Jeff Faux in the Nation (December 12), responding to an Illinois reader’s request that he identify the big bankers he’d said were manipulating the economy: “When these people leave, three more will take their place. The problem is not the names we don’t know, but the names we know. In Illinois, start with Senator Paul Simon, sponsor of the malicious balanced budget amendment that will rip what is left of the social safety net to pieces in order to assure that twenty-first-century speculators will have even more cash to play with. Add Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, who also supports this absurd and destructive proposal.”

New ideas to reduce automotive air pollution from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (The Neighborhood Works, December/January): “location efficient mortgages that would make buying property near transit easier…and a kind of pollution trading program where funds would be available to low-income neighborhoods for maintaining auto repair shops where old cars (usually the worst offenders for air pollution) could be tuned and repaired.”

Nostalgia for the establishment. Cezanne, who was rejected by the artistic establishment of his day, “had one thing that the contemporary artist does not have,” writes Judy Prisoc in the Chicago Women’s Caucus for Art (Winter). “His work was judged by a set of standards that were established and widely known. This allowed him the clear option of challenging and then rejecting those standards. It is one thing for a visionary artist to step outside an established system, and it is quite another when there is no remaining system to depart from….Today, there are many hopeful aspirants who would gladly submit their work to the Academy, if such a thing existed. Instead they do the contemporary equivalent: complete graduate school, exhibit their work in juried shows, acquire grants, win prizes and after years of effort find themselves in an ambiguous purgatory wherein it is difficult to make even the most modest living.” Worse yet, nowadays “there is simply too much art out there for one organization to sort through it all.”

“Most consumers know that [the terms ‘recycled’ and ‘recyclable’] have something to do with recycling,” writes Brenda Cude in Illinois Research (Spring/Summer), reporting on a 1991 survey done by U. of I. extension staff. But they don’t know much more than that. “While some consumers correctly defined a product or package labeled recyclable as one that could be collected and processed to make a new product or package, 33 percent incorrectly thought that it meant the package could be sterilized and reused.” Actually, that’s what it should mean.

The real story of gentrification, according to First National Bank’s Mary Decker in the Network Builder (Fall): “Over the thirty years of intense demand in Lincoln Park, one-bedroom units and studios were combined into larger units, small houses were enlarged and expanded, and even untouched units were sold to families of ever increasing wealth every time they changed hands. And the majority of this activity was done not by professional developers, but by individual home-owners and entrepreneurs for whom this was a personal investment. Left to itself, the demand in a ‘hot’ community will serve to eliminate all low- and moderate-income housing units regardless of size, cost, improvement, location, or zoning.” Activists struggle to build them piecemeal in places like Wicker Park, but she says displacement by gentrification can be prevented only by widespread government and nonprofit ownership of such units, and by laws requiring a fixed percentage of low- and moderate-income units in each community.

“Architects’ reputations should rot if their buildings can’t handle rain,” writes Stewart Brand in his brilliant new book, How Buildings Learn. And yes, he’s talking about Frank Lloyd Wright. “His most famous buildings belie his organic ideal. They were so totally designed–down to the screwheads all being aligned horizontally to match his prairie line–that they cannot be changed. To live in one of his houses is to be the curator of a Frank Lloyd Wright museum; don’t even think of altering anything the master touched. They are not living homes but petrified art, organic only in idea, stillborn.”

Priorities. Getting an accurate enrollment count and the right number of teachers is difficult, Chicago Teachers Union spokesperson Jackie Gallagher tells Catalyst (December), “because parents themselves are so transient….You have so many families moving the first of September, and the last thing on their minds is getting the kids in school.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.