Stories by Marc Vitali

New Documentary Explores Life, Legend of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali talks with the press after winning back the Heavyweight Championship for an unprecedented third time by beating Leon Spinks at the Super Dome in New Orleans, LA. Sept. 15, 1978. (Courtesy of Michael Gaffney)

At an early age he identified himself as “The Greatest” and backed up his words inside and out of the boxing ring. Filmmaker Ken Burns joins “Black Voices” to discuss the sweeping new four-part documentary “Muhammad Ali.”

Ken Burns Talks About His New Documentary ‘Muhammad Ali’

On Sunday, PBS airs part one of a sweeping new four-part documentary on the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali. (PBS / Florentine Films)

He was bigger than boxing and larger than life — a true icon of the 20th century. Filmmaker Ken Burns and Donald Lassere of the Chicago History Museum join us to discuss the sweeping new four-part documentary on the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali.

New Pop-Up Gallery and Museum Electrifies Audiences With Neon, Light

The Neon and Light Museum just opened at 325 W. Huron St. in River North. (WTTW News)

Neon combines craftsmanship with design and a bit of science. We visit the Neon and Light Museum in River North to find out if it’s truly lit.

Pitchfork Returns, Chicago Artists Prepare to Hit the Stage

After a one-year hiatus, Chicago’s homegrown Pitchfork Music Festival returns. (WTTW News)

After a one-year hiatus, Chicago’s homegrown music festival returns this weekend with a typically eclectic lineup of new music and some legendary artists. We meet a few performers with local ties as they prepare for a moment in the spotlight.

Jeff Tweedy on Wilco, Oversharing and the Creative Process

Jeff Tweedy appears on "Chicago Tonight" via Zoom, Aug. 24, 2021. (WTTW News)

Grammy-winning rock band Wilco hit the road this month for the first time since the pandemic shutdown. We caught up with Tweedy from the Wilco tour bus before the sound check for Tuesday’s show in Boston, and ahead of the band’s return to Chicago for a show at Millennium Park on Saturday. 

Meet the Cartoonist Who Now Creates Mad Magazine’s Signature Fold-Ins

Cartoonist Johnny Sampson showcases an issue of Mad Magazine on Aug. 6, 2021. (WTTW News)

Since 1964, a signature feature of Mad Magazine has been the “fold-in” – a cartoon riddle that is solved when the picture is folded. These days, the fold-in is conceived, written, sketched and painted by cartoonist Johnny Sampson.

Photographer Explores Abandoned Places and Finds Beauty in Decay

Some photographers explore cities through their neglected places. At personal risk and sometimes legal jeopardy, they look for beauty in forgotten and faded locales. (Credit: Jerry Olejniczak)

Some photographers explore cities through their neglected places. At personal risk and sometimes legal jeopardy, they look for beauty in forgotten and faded locales. Meet Jerry Olejniczak, one such photographer in search of “Abandoned Chicagoland.”

Chicago’s Original ‘Hamilton’ Returns for Rare Solo Show

Actor Miguel Cervantes appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. (WTTW News)

Miguel Cervantes joins us in conversation ahead of a performance this week at The Metropolitan Club and the reopening of “Hamilton” on Broadway next month.

Chris Ware Explores the Place ‘Where Comics Came to Life’ in New Exhibit

Frank King created the masterpiece “Gasoline Alley,” which captured the ineffable passage of life in an impermanent medium, its characters aging at the same rate as its readers, many of them based on King’s own family. His best work focused on the quiet, tender and poignant moments of life, especially those between parents and children. (Courtesy Chicago Cultural Center)

We check out a new show at the Chicago Cultural Center that makes the case that the comic strip was born and raised in Chicago. Our tour guides? Artist Chris Ware and cultural historian Tim Samuelson.

Chicago Painter Captures Beauty in Gritty Parts of the City

A painting of a fork in the Chicago River by Andy Paczos. (Photo by Dimitre Photography, Chicago)

The tradition of artists painting outdoors brings to mind pretty landscapes of lakes and gardens. We meet a Chicago artist who paints on location and finds beauty in unexpected places. 

Hedy Weiss Returns to ‘Chicago Tonight’

Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

From Grant Park to Ravinia, music and dance are returning in a big way this summer. Theater critic Hedy Weiss is returning, too, to talk about some recent live shows.

Peruvian Percussionist Makes Modern Music with Traditional Drum

Chicago-based musician Juan Pastor, left, plays the cajon with his band Chinchano. (WTTW News)

Juan Pastor plays a traditional instrument in a modern jazz setting. How many drummers do you see who actually play the seat they’re sitting on? We meet the Chicago-based musician to learn how he imports South American rhythms to the Northern Hemisphere.

Multimedia Company in Chicago Connects Audiences, Artists During Pandemic

Theater seats were empty across the city in during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. (WTTW News)

When theaters across the city shut down last year, a local multimedia company took the performing arts from stage to screen. With the help of some celebrated collaborators, they kept audiences in touch with artists. 

Theater Critic Chris Jones Moves to Editorial Page at Chicago Tribune

Chris Jones appears on "Chicago Tonight" via Zoom, June 30, 2021. (WTTW News)

Broadway shows are planning their long-awaited return to Chicago. Theater critic Chris Jones has the latest, plus an update on his new role on the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune.

Renowned Sculptor Richard Hunt Creates Monument to Ida B. Wells

Richard Hunt’s sculpture “Light of Truth.” (WTTW News)

His works have been exported around the world from his studio in Chicago. We catch up with sculptor Richard Hunt before the unveiling of a monument in Bronzeville that was years in the making.

MCA Show Highlights Chicago’s Contributions to the History of Cartooning

Installation view, Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now is on exhibition June 19 – Oct. 3, 2021. (Credit Nathan Keay /  MCA Chicago)

Artists who used to be on the comics page have now earned a place in museums. A new exhibition makes the case that Chicago has long been a magnet for creative cartooning. We visit “Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now” at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Obama Portraits Launch 5-City Tour at Chicago’s Art Institute

Kehinde Wiley. “Barack Obama,” 2018. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

A portrait is a traditional way of commemorating a presidency. But the former president and first lady made a statement by choosing distinctive contemporary artists. This week, Chicago becomes the first city to host The Obama Portraits. Here’s a preview.

Historic Hall in Chicago Cultural Center Gets Restoration

(Courtesy Harboe Architects)

The historic Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall is currently undergoing a vigorous restoration. We toured the site and caught up with the city’s cultural historian to learn more.

Landscape Made of Light and Glass Joins Permanent Collection at Art Institute

Design attributed to Agnes F. Northrop (American, 1857–1953), Tiffany Studios (American, 1902–32) Corona, New York. Hartwell Memorial Window (detail), 1917. (Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago)

It is a heavenly depiction of a beautiful place on earth. It’s also a fine work of art and one of the newest acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago. We explore an illuminating landscape made from light and glass.

Military Museum Remembers the Master Cartoonist Who Was ‘Drawn to Combat’

By the age of 23 he had fought in World War II, tangled with Gen. Patton, and won his first Pulitzer Prize. Cartoonist Bill Mauldin created artwork for magazines, books and newspapers from the 1940s into the ‘90s. We explore a new exhibition of his work.

New Film ‘I Am the Bear’ Explores Racial Profiling Through Puppetry

With the help of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Jerrell L. Henderson created a one-man, one-puppet show about the consequences of “walking while Black.” (credit Elias Carmona)

When a member of Chicago’s theater community was racially profiled, he turned the experience into a short film with the help of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Here’s a look at a one-man, one-puppet show about the consequences of “walking while Black.”

Vivian Maier in Vivid Color at Chicago History Museum

(Courtesy the estate of Vivian Maier)

When she died 12 years ago, photographer Vivian Maier went from anonymous to fairly famous. Now the onetime North Shore nanny is receiving more posthumous praise, this time for a show of her mostly unseen color photographs of local people and places. 

A Banner Year for Film and TV in Chicago

(StockSnap / Pixabay)

After a big downturn last year, film and TV production in Chicago is looking up.

Art and Science Share Spotlight at Museum in Pilsen

Researchers from the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts examine works in the National Museum of Mexican Art to learn more about their history, April 23, 2021. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Scientists are exploring centuries-old paintings from colonial-era Mexico, searching for clues to find out more about the artwork. We visit the National Museum of Mexican Art for a meet-up of art and science.

Bisa Butler’s Quilted Portraits Glimpse ‘How Black People Would Like to Be Seen’

Bisa Butler. “Southside Sunday Morning,” 2018. Private collection. © Bisa Butler. (Photo by Margaret Fox)

History, music and photography are all stitched together in a show at the Art Institute of Chicago. We visit the pandemic-delayed exhibition “Bisa Butler: Portraits” to get the story behind these Technicolor textiles.

Monet Makes Impressions at Art Institute and Garfield Park Conservatory

Claude Monet. Landscape with Figures, Giverny, 1888. Private collection.

Chicago is home to more Claude Monet paintings than any city other than Paris. That’s because the works of the famous French impressionist made a strong impression on local collectors. We explore the show “Monet and Chicago.”