Lake Forest College’s Digital Chicago Fellows

Lake Forest College’s Digital Chicago Fellows

Welcome to Chicago: a city rich with arts,
culture, and history. And meet five Chicago-area professors from
Lake Forest College who are turning the analog into the digital, bringing the city’s previous
centuries into the 21st. These five faculty are Chicago Fellows with
Digital Chicago: a four-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support research into forgotten, or at-risk of being forgotten, aspects of Chicago’s history
and culture. Chicago is always on the make, and it has
been–Chicago’s religious landscape has been changing. Great architectural monuments, churches, and synagogues were really turn of the century, which is just such a great era in terms of the architecture, the innovations. This summer I have been working on First Presbyterian
Church in Lake Forest. We went in there and we got 360° images and
were able to put them together into this sort of digital walk-through. Because it’s actually really important to
look at the story of the place. What does it matter that a space is right
there as opposed to somewhere down the street. All of that I can tell through digital technology. As you look around you can click on things,
and you can navigate through them, and it tells you ok- this is what this room is about,
this is why the church is where it is, this is what the iconography means when you
look at it. So it is in some ways almost better than real. I am working on a history and a handbook of
ensemble-generated theater in Chicago. A group of people come together and collaboratively create the material that then gets performed. That kind of theater-making has a really strong
history in Chicago. So most people are familiar with Second City,
which is widely considered the birthplace of improvisational comedy in the United States. But the methods that were developed at Second
City, going back to the 1950s, actually have their origin in work that was being done at
the Hull House in the very early part of the 20th century—basically, theater games for
children. We are going to have an online resource where
people can watch exercises that are being taught today and also we re-staged some of
the work from the early part of the 20th century. The fact that there can be this resource that
really honors that history and makes some of those ideas widely available is really
exciting. My project is to produce a kind of digital online exhibit about Kenneth Sawyer Goodman. He is the guy after whom the Goodman Theatre
is named. And he was a big figure in what was called
the Little Theater Movement in the years leading up to World War I. Those Little Theater plays were stageable
by both professionals and amateurs, short little one-acts, in some cases they were three-minute
plays. “The Wonder Hat” is this kind of whimsical
fairytale that the artist captures very nicely, and “Back of the Yards” is gritty and
realistic. He was trying to do something that was spoken
in real, unfaked American voices. I think Chicago is often presented as the
place that spells your destiny for you. The drama is: can we become something other
than the city wants us to be? We are working on a comprehensive investigation
of housing discriminatory practices. Restrictive covenants creates a language that says this property cannot be sold under any condition to what is then called Negros, or
African Americans, or Asian Americans. If anyone who owns the property transfers
that property to a minority or someone that belonged to any of these racial or ethnic
categories the person did face legal action by the state. We plan to put all the information we have
in layered maps that run across decades that represent all the subdivisions that were
found with racial restrictive covenants. And on each of those maps there will be pins
that are hyperlinked to additional summaries. We are also thinking of a virtual reality. People should be able to see what was happening
and what the neighborhoods look like as much as possible in each of those decades. The Columbian Exposition was the big World’s
Fair. Chicago was trying to proclaim itself as a major metropolis in the aftermath of the Great Fire. The fair was actually very important musically. It was the first time that Americans were
exposed to Indonesian gamelan music, Hawaiian hula music, the early stirrings of
jazz. On the Midway there was pavilions of different
musical cultures. People commented that it was cacophonous. The newspaper reports talked about the strangeness
of the sounds— how it didn’t seem like music, and just
sort of noise. What I’m trying to do is to reconstruct
the souvenir music that was written for the fair and most of
this music has not been recorded so I’m trying to kind
of reconstruct it and present it on this website. My favorite movie set in Chicago is probably
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I think it would actually be “Barbershop 2.” I like “The Matrix.” “Stranger than Fiction.” It’s with Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal. “The Untouchables.” It’s the great bit where Sean Connery says, “They come at you with a knife; you come
at them with a gun; “they put one of yours in the hospital;
you put one of theirs in the morgue. “That’s the Chicago way.” I love that picture, I love that bit.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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