Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nik Burkhart: Buy Art Not People

Nik Burkhart is one of two artists living in the Kaio community. This is his second year at Kaio. Nik takes his art very seriously. His abstract paintings may be found throughout our apartment and the Ministry Center. I am beginning to have an appreciation for abstract art that I simply did not have prior to my sabbatical.

Nik is not simply interested in his own art. He regularly attends the opening of art shows, he visits galleries and he reads about current events in the art world. Nik is increasingly involved in the larger Chicago art world. He is also passionate about helping people who are being sexually exploited. So it should not come as a surprise that he was one of the central organizers for a local Chicago happening known as “Buy Art Not People.”

Buy Art Not People set up

Nik and former Kaio member Josh McFarland were two of six organizers of an event focused on increasing public awareness about human trafficking. Along with 20 other artists their goal was to have an art show that highlighted the need for action related to human trafficking, They also wanted to make money that would be used to not only increase public awareness of the issue but also to help those who needed help. Well, Nik did a great job.

Nik worked on this project for a long period of time. It required working with sponsors, folks to lend out the space, coordinating artists, and film recorders. It required a focus on increasing public awareness of the event. The event required procuring food, a band and a movie about human trafficking. This was not the art world’s equivalent of a lemonade stand, this was an impressive event to help people who were hurting. I have to be honest, I had doubts about how well BANP would turn out. I am so glad I was so wrong!

Interviewing Nik Burkhart for BANP

I was not able to attend the event. I did however visit the site and interview Nik the night before the show. The space was huge, the art impressive. However, I thought there was too much space and too many chairs. I though it would dwarf the small turnout. In fact over 150 people showed up. They had to get more chairs. Each event was popluar. The auction made money. Nik is not just a dedicated artist. He is man who can turn ideas into action, who can see a need and find a solution. I am proud to have lived with Nik in Kaio for the last four months. I look forward to seeing where his journey takes him.

Buy Art Not People from thePROP on Vimeo.

Buy Art Not People by Marianne Bach on Viemo

Chicago in the Snow

Well, the first big winter storm has hit and it is not officially winter yet. It rained ye3sterday, froze last night and it began to snow. Today the snow continues to fall and the wind is picking up. However, it is not the first snowfall of the season. That occurred last week and it was beautiful.

First Snowfall in Chicago

So I took my trusty video cam and walked over to Montrose Harbor. There was activity everywhere I looked. Families were sliding down the hill at Wilson Avenue. The Fire Department’s SCUBA team was performing drills in the harbor. There had just been a foot race and park officials were putting up tape to mark the trails for a bike race the following day. All of this was happening as the heavy, wet rain continued to fall.

Snow, Montrose Park and Football

One of the activities was a Chicago land-wide touch football championship. The snow began to fall more as the players continued to struggle to become this years champions. They told me that it seems to snow every year for the championship tournament.

Snow and Still More Football

I walked to the lake and could not see where the horizon ended and the lake began. The sky was heavy with grayness and new snow. When I finally found the waves rolling to the shore I noticed over 25 dogs playing on the snow-covered beaches. They all looked happy.

Snow Near Lake Shore Drive

As I walked home the snow became heavier and wetter. It was great packing and children were making snowmen and snowballs. It was a winter wonderland. So, I am enjoying today’s winter storm but it certainly is not the first!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Slice of Mexico in Chicago

Pilsen Chicago

I had plans to go to St. Xavier University and support Saint Francis in the NAIA football play-offs. I was so excited I awoke at 5 AM. So I figured I might as well see some more of Chicago before the game. I first drove to Pilsen. I lived in Chicago 36 years and had never been there. It is great. It is a Hispanic, gentrified, hipster neighborhood. It has plenty of churches, huge churches, to visit. It has murals all over the place. It is an area of wonderful urban landscapes. The “el” cuts across the horizon. To the east is Sears Tower (I know Willis Tower) and everywhere there are colorful restaurants.

Pilsen Murals

When I say there were murals all over the neighborhood I am not exaggerating. These are large, proud pieces of community art. They celebrate family, tradition and identity. They come out of a tradition of mural painting in Mexico. In fact, they influenced the public work projects of FDR during the Great Depression. When you go into a bank and view the murals from the 30’s know that they were influenced by the public murals south of the border.

Hector Duarte Paints As You Watch

The churches were all closed and it was too early for lunch. However, the National Museum of Mexican Art was open. The museum is in the hart of the neighborhood. It is a large, open museum. It is free! I found myself getting lost in t he history exhibits. They did an excellent job of tying together the history of Mexico with the history of Chicago. I appreciated their collection of rt objects, over 6,000 though I am sure I only saw a fraction of them. There was ancient, pre-Columbian art, Spanish art, Mexican modern art, murals and crafts.

By far my favorite was the exhibit on the Day of the Dead. It made the holiday stand out. It placed it in context, of the family and community. I found myself deeply touched by the exhibit on Haiti and the Day of the Dead.

Out of the Loop-Little Village

After the visit to the museum it was time to visit one more neighborhood before the big game. I was going south and west to Little Village. It was a somber ride because past Blue Island you drive right past Cook County Jail. This is a large, run down fortress with secutiry towers and high walls. It just looks like a world of sadness and pain. However, the drive gets better as you proceed west. You know you have entered Little Villge when you driveunder a large banner welcoming you.

Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade 2007

There is no doubt you are in a Mexican neighborhood. This is not the arty, gentrified neighborhood of Pilsen. Still, it is a colorful neighborhood full of wonderful smells and great music. Like Pilsen it is an area of large public murals. However, this does not feel like a destination neighborhood tht one visits to see historic churches or participate in art gallery openings. This is a well-lived in neighborhood. I am familiar with the Hispanic neighborhoods on the north side of the city. However, this neighborhood felt like a slice of Mexico. I would like to visit it again someday.

And what about the game? Well, I ended up having to miss the game. That was OK. I would have liked to support our guys but I was OK not seeing us lose. I am in Chicago so I might as well say it, “there is always next year!”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Faithing in Chicago: Taize Services

Taizé - Nada te turbe

Our community has participated in a variety of forms of prayer. We have attended retreats where we were taught contemplative prayer. We have a monthly Day of Prayer in which we close down the office and ministry center and pray together. We are ecumenical and therefore bring to our working culture a rich tradition of individual and corporate prayer. We attended the World AIDS Day service which was a structured liturgy with speech choir. I have attended Pentecostal churches in which prayer is a full body experience. At the Chicago Islamic Center I observed men pray individually while among many and also pray as one corporate body. However, by far my favorite new form of prayer is attending Taize Worship services.

Madonna del Strada Chapel Loyola University

I have been attending Taize services at Loyola University. These are abbreviated services. They last a half hour. Still, the setting is wonderful, a white art deco church with gold Stations of the Cross. The sanctuary pulls your eyes forward toward the altar. However, should you walk out the back door you finding yourself looking down at Lake Michigan. It is a wonderful setting for prayer and contemplation.

I love the simple chants of Taize, the repetition, and the use of sound and light. I love that it is an ecumenical service. At Loyola I find that while the setting with its stain glass windows, Stations of the Cross and candles are breath-taking, I have a difficult time keeping my eyes open. I am not sleepy at all, it is just, as soon as the music begins to play I close my eyes and focus on the chants and the feeling of unity. I must appear as conditioned as a Pavlovian dog!

After attending four services at Loyola Bethany and I went with Laura from Emmaus and her friend Joel to Oak Park to attend a much larger Taize Service. The service was at the Ascension Catholic Church. The church was full. It was incredible to realize that there were so many different Christian traditions represented in the room. When the alleluias were song for the Gospel reading and the candles were all lit the room glowed. So many people, so many voices and so many points of light. I loved when everyone proceeded to the front of the church and placed their candles in the clay pots. I appreciate experiencing something in a concrete manner and this night the Body of Christ was visibly present.

Taize at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park Illinois

This has been a sabbatical focused on working with homeless men who participate in prostitution. I have learned a great deal of risk factors, typologies, medical considerations and exploitation. I have become familiar with a large body of literature on various forms of prostitution.

However, this has also been a time of personal growth, of pilgrimage and contemplation. I have loved being exposed to a variety of prayer forms, even if I would not choose to use them. The experience that integrates all of my experiences and that nourishes me is Taize worship. I view human behavior holistically and I am learning that being grounded spiritually has a strong impact on my ability to serve others. Now the challenge will be to find Taize services in my little part of the world.

Faithing in Chicago: a Visit to a Croatian-Franciscan Church

Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Croatian Church Chicago Outside II

When Cathi and I were undergrads at Northeastern Illinois University Cathi took a photography class. This required that she take outdoor photos. I still remember a heavy snow covered cemetery and church, the old St. Henry’s next to Guardian Angel Orphanage. The church looked spectacular with its tall steeple and guardian gargoyles. I hoped to one day see the inside of the church. I never guessed that would happen 30 years later. Nor would I have guessed it would be a Croatian, Franciscan Church. Last week I attended Mass at Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Croatian Church, same church building, different congregation.

I had also been interested in Croats for a long time. I use to drive by the Croatian cultural Center and wonder what it would be like to ago inside. Our superintendent of our building in Chicago was a Croat. He along with some other men took over the German Consultant General’s office and it required the active negotiations of Mayor Bilandic, ano0ther Croatian to end the crisis.

So I attended Mass. This was the beginning of the English Mass, a new initiative of the church. I was glad to be at the English-speaking service. I understood I was missing out on some great music and probably a much larger group of attendees. Still, I had been to so many services in other languages that I opted out for simple. I am glad I did.

I had time to look at the beauty of the church.I had time to appreciate the Franciscan stain glass windows. Afterward I met with the priest. He had noticed my Tau and identified me as a fellow Franciscan before I ever introduced myself to him. He told me the church had been built by Germans but was always meant to be Franciscan, again, the evidence was the windows. The congregation than became part of Guardian Angle Orphanage. In the middle of the last century it then became a Croatian church and in the last transformation, a Franciscan Croatian church. The priest said this was the center for Croatian Franciscans and that there were 30 friars.

There are a number of Croatian Catholic churches in Chicago. At one time Chicago was referred to as “the second capital of Croatia.” I have been to many ethnic churches since the beginning of my sabbatical. However, this is the first church had direct ties to. I was glad to finally step inside this beautiful building. I was grateful for the warm welcome. If I had time I was visit Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Croatian Church again.