By Philip Vidal
One of my favorite paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago is “Mrs. George Swinton (Elizabeth Ebsworth)” by John Singer Sargent. The full-length portrait, painted in 1897, shows Mrs. Swinton dressed in a shimmering swirl of silk and crowned with a tiara of garnets. With her chin up, she stares at the viewer as if to say “Don’t mess with me.” Sargent was a favorite of the Gilded Age’s 1%, so you never know where you might see one of his portraits. Last fall I was at Kenwood House, on the edge of London, to see the gardens and the Vermeer and VanDykes. I turned a corner and there was another full-length painting by Sargent, “Portrait of Daisy Leiter” (1898). Ms. Leiter was a Chicago heiress who married into the English aristocracy. You can see this painting, too, at the Art Institute in the exhibition entitled “John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age,” which runs July 1 through September 30.
In the portrait, Mrs. Swinton’s hand rests on an elegant French bergère upholstered in white and pink silk, complementing the colors of her dress and complexion. Because it is French, I do not expect a chair of that type to be in “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design,” but I nevertheless look forward to seeing that exhibit at the Driehaus Museum before it closes on August 11.
“Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela” is an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (through October 28) about the New York architect who designed some of New York’s most elegant pre-war apartment buildings. To my knowledge the only building Candela worked on in Chicago was in collaboration with McNally & Quinn at 1500 North Lake Shore Drive, built in 1930. A beautiful building, to be sure.
1930s Chicago is the setting for First Folio Theatre’s “Shrew’d!,” the world premiere musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” at the outdoor stage at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook, July 14-August 19.
The Midwest premiere of Olivier Award nominee Penelope Skinner’s “Linda,” about a cosmetics mogul, is at Steep Theatre in Edgewater, July 12-August 18.
Steep Theatre has advertised opening a new lounge/bar/cabaret in the storefront next door sometime in July. That will be a welcome amenity, though as anyone who’s been through a renovation knows, completion dates often slip. Fingers crossed that the lounge opens on time. Also in July, after a $15 million renovation, the Illinois Executive Mansion, now called the Governor’s Mansion, will reopen on to the public. Check dates before driving down to Springfield.
Johnson Publishing moved out of its headquarters at 820 South Michigan in 2012, but items from the impressive art collection, as well as glamorous 70s décor, can be seen at “A Johnson Publishing Story.” The show, organized by Theaster Gates of the Rebuild Foundation at the Stony Island Arts Bank, runs from June 28 to September 30. The exhibit is part of Art Design Chicago. One of my first tasks, when I joined R.R. Donnelley, was to work on the team that wooed Johnson Publishing to print their “Ebony” and “Jet” magazines.
I want to see the play “Wild Women of Planet Wongo,” which I understand is based on a 1958 low-budget movie. The immersive musical spoof of 50s and 60s sci-fi movies runs through July 14 at the Chopin Theatre. The plot about two hapless male astronauts marooned on a planet controlled by women sounds remarkably similar to the plot for the 1958 B movie “Queen of Outer Space” starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. Hard to believe there was a demand for two such movies, even in 1958.
A subject closer to home, there is a play about the 1886 Haymarket labor protest on the west side of Chicago at the Den Theatre entitled “Haymarket” that is getting rave reviews, through July 22. The Haymarket protest is now commemorated worldwide on May 1 as international workers’ day.
The 54th Chicago International Film Festival isn’t until October (October 10-21). But as a prelude to the festival, we can all celebrate Michael Kutza’s 55 years of service to the festival at the Loews Chicago Hotel on July 14. Making a great film in 48 hours is a tough challenge. If you are a local filmmaker you can submit your work by July 15 or just watch the final product at the 2018 Chicago 48 Hour Film Festival July 29 and August 2 at the Music Box Theatre.
Notable competitions this month include the Wimbledon Championships (July 2-15), the Tour de France (July 7-29), and the FIFA World Cup in Russia (through July 15). But there are also many competitions this month in Chicago. Pokemon Go Fest is in Lincoln Park, July 14 and 15. The Special Olympics returns to Chicago’s Soldier Field, July 17-21, where it was launched 50 years ago by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Anne Burke and Mayor Richard J. Daley. Eunice Shriver and Mayor Richard J. Daley are no longer with us, but Judge Anne Burke is, and she must be very proud. The 110th Chicago Yacht Club’s “Race to Mackinac” (aka “the Mac”) on July 19 is the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the world.
Summer wouldn’t be summer in Chicago without block parties, outdoor music, street festivals, food festivals, and fairs. The Art Institute of Chicago hosts its inaugural Block Party, part of Art Design Chicago, on July 21 from 10:30 am to 10:30 pm.
Celebrate Independence Day at the Independence Day Salute and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in Grant Park, July 4. Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band, with special guest Boz Scaggs, come to Wrigley Field on July 13. Chicago-born Chaka Khan performs on July 22 as one of the headliners at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, July 20-22. One of my guilty pleasures is ‘80s music – soulful or loud, doesn’t matter. So I will probably be at Ravinia on July 29 for “Lost 80s Live,” featuring A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Naked Eyes, and other blasts from my past.
I normally don’t like to eat ribs in public, as my shirt and everyone around me is at risk. But I will make an exception at Naperville’s Ribfest, July 4-7. Taste of Lincoln Avenue at Lincoln and Fullerton, July 28-29, is just one of the many street festivals in the city.
Just outside of Chicago, at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, is the 90th annual Lake County Fair, July 25-29. The 34th annual Newberry Library Book Fair is July 26-28 and is the perfect place to pick-up a beach read, or something to set aside and break open in the fall.
I visited Vienna last month. I didn’t have time to go to the Hofburg’s Spanish Riding School, home of the magnificent Lipizzaner white horses. But I can head north to Tempel Farms in Old Mill Creek. The 60th-anniversary gala celebration of the Tempel Lipizzans is July 21, and they ask that you wear traditional Austrian attire. Horses and riders from Chile’s Escuela Clasica Lipizzan, South America’s first and only Lipazzan herd, will also be appearing. If you can’t attend the gala, the 60th season continues with dressage performances through September 2.
The North Dearborn Association’s annual Dearborn Garden Walk is also turning 60. I have never been on the walk, but have always heard great comments, so this year I plan to attend. The walk is July 15.
Finally, football season will soon be here. To get in the mood, how about a musical about Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne? “Something in the Game: An All-American Musical” plays at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, Wirtz Center at Northwestern University, July 20-August 5.
Dates, times, and availability are subject to change.