Stories by marc vitali

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.” 

Mexican Printmaking Tradition Lives On In Chicago

René Arceo (WTTW News)

The Mexican tradition of printmaking is alive and well at a Chicago printing press run by a retired public school teacher. 

Chicago Independent Music Venues Look for Lifeline in Stimulus

(Free-Photos / Pixabay)

With live music events still on hold, Chicago independent music venues look forward to relief in the Save Our Stages part of the stimulus bill.

Boosting Mental Wellness in the Chicago Theater Community

Sandra Delgado (WTTW News)

Theater in Chicago shut down in March and won’t be returning anytime soon. A new effort is a reminder of the ongoing support that exists within the theater community. 

Chainsaw Sculptor Carves His Living Out of Dead Trees

Chicago-area artist Eric Widitz. (WTTW News)

He is a crafty artist who uses a gas-powered paintbrush and tree trunks as his canvas. Meet Eric Widitz, a Chicago-area entrepreneur who has been using chainsaws to make wood sculptures for nearly 40 years.

Makaya McCraven Makes International Music in Chicago

Chicago-based drummer and producer Makaya McCraven has been called a beat scientist. Two years ago, his album “Universal Beings” landed on many Top 10 lists for album of the year, so his new project comes with great expectations.

A Virtual Tour of the National Veterans Art Museum

Chicago is home to an armory of art created by members of our armed forces. With Veterans Day in mind, we bring you another look at a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum for a virtual tour.

Chicago’s Ensemble Espanol Has Exported Spanish Dance Around the World

(Courtesy Ensemble Espanol)

Behind the scenes with Ensemble Espanol as they prepare for an energetic show of Spanish dance.

Amid Pandemic and Racial Unrest, Echoes of 1920 Election in 2020

“346 Blots of Shame on the United States.” Chicago: Rand McNally and Company, 1922

In November 1920, change was in the air as the country geared up for a presidential election in the wake of a global pandemic and racial unrest. Sound familiar? We check out  “Decision 1920” at the Newberry Library.

Chicago’s Manual Cinema Animates Spooky Trailer for ‘Candyman’

A still image from Manual Cinema’s trailer for “Candyman.” (WTTW News via Manual Cinema)

A trailer for the film uses only handmade animation – not scenes from the movie – to set up the story of a supernatural killer in a Chicago housing project and his horrifying backstory. We meet the artists behind the work.