Best of Arts 2023-24

With coverage as sweeping as the term “Arts” itself, the section covered everything from a local nudist colony, to Rogers Park’s LGBTQ+ media archive, to Lollapalooza. This year, the section placed special emphasis on feature pieces highlighting student life and happenings within the neighborhood.

This year, the Arts section ventured into new territory. New hole-in-the-wall restaurants. New art galleries. New student productions. New Rogers Park initiatives to spotlight. 

With coverage as sweeping as the term “Arts” itself, the section covered everything from a local nudist colony, to Rogers Park’s LGBTQ+ media archive, to Lollapalooza. This year, the section placed special emphasis on feature pieces highlighting student life and happenings within the neighborhood. We told stories of local business owners displaced by Loyola, student fanfiction writers and those pursuing their undergraduate degree later in life. 

This section wouldn’t be what it is without our body of passionate student writers, who offered critical reviews of albums, movies and TV shows — alongside personal column reflections — in addition to regular storytelling. 

This collection of works, before anything else, is an acknowledgement of their efforts. It’s a tribute to the 17 faces behind the bylines. From your editors, we thank you.

Here’s to telling more stories.  

The Sand-Sational Scope of ‘Dune: Part Two’

Originally published Feb. 28, 2024

“Dune: Part Two” climaxes half a story — with no half-measures.

Directed and co-written by Denis Villeneuve, “Dune: Part Two” continues the operatic story of House Atreides left hanging by “Dune,” released in 2021.

Inspired by the latter half of Frank Herbert’s eponymous novel, “Dune: Part Two” follows the prophetic Paul Atriedeis’ ascension to power. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Paul mobilizes the native Fremen to avenge the death of his father and the destruction of his House.

“Part Two” demands theater viewing. The sense of scale of Arrakis’ vast desert coupled with composer Hanz Zimmer’s electric score produces an otherworldly experience on screen. Bombastic battles elicit feelings of amazement and dread. The immense sandworms, in their horrifying simplicity and unimaginable size, produce utter shock whenever displayed.

“Part Two” picks up immediately where the former left off, sewing up loose threads and fleshing out Herbert’s most fantastical elements. Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) fills the near three-hour runtime with gorgeous cinematography, gripping drama and enthralling action. 

Read the rest of the article by Brendan Parr here.

Flair for Fanfiction: Students See Their Work as an Art Form

Originally published March 27, 2024

Susana Ciuperciuc’s stories can’t be found in a library or a bookstore. Their books don’t have covers, blurbs or a publishing house. They don’t profit from a single word they write — because they write fanfiction.

Fanfiction is fiction based on pre-existing media, including movies, TV shows and podcasts. While writers have been elaborating on each others’ works for centuries, the modern concept of fanfiction stemmed from the 1960s and ‘70s when “Star Trek” fans started making and mailing stories from their own homes, according to The Guardian.

“I really enjoy writing for characters that you wouldn’t see in a romantic setting,” Ciuperciuc said. “I want to understand how they respond to something like romance, or how a character might respond to something like losing their loved ones or having a divorce.”

Ciuperciuc, a second-year English major, mainly writes about the fantasy role-playing video game series “The Elder Scrolls.” They started playing the games at 6 years old and latched onto the franchise’s characters and intricate worldbuilding.

Read the rest of the article by Mao Reynolds here.

Preserving Queer Voices: One Night of Art, 42 Years of Activism

Originally published Oct. 18, 2023

There’s another world hiding on the second floor of the Howard Brown Health building, situated at 6500 N. Clark St.

Stacked above a Walgreens, the Gerber/Hart Queer Library and Archives appears a liminal world of stories past, present and future. Only accessible via a tucked-away elevator, the sprawling rainbow decor and wall-to-wall bookshelves create an air of invitation, as if to say welcome everyone who enters. 

The Gerber/Hart Queer Library and Archives is a small — but growing — non-profit organization dedicated to preserving LGBTQ+ stories across the Midwest since 1981. Their most recent project, an art exhibit titled “This Archive is Queer: Art from the Archives,” was unveiled Oct. 13 at Gerber/Hart’s fall benefit. 

Gerber/Hart’s library and archives includes over 24,000 volumes and 160 collections of relics relating to queer history, including audiovisual media, organizational records, letters, diaries and other personal ephemera belonging to members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to their website.

Read the rest of the article by Hailey Gates here.

St. Jerome Parish Celebrates Día de los Muertos

Originally published Nov. 1, 2023

Decorated with an array of tangerine hues, the towering ofrenda at St. Jerome Parish at 1709 W. Lunt Ave. is a monument draped in colorful papel picado, orange flowers and framed photos of friends and family members who have died. 

The Rogers Park parish has set up an ofrenda — or altar — for the community to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday with Indigenous roots to honor deceased loved ones and celebrate death.

Francisco Marín, a deacon at St. Jerome Parish, spoke to the importance of the relationship of life and death during the holiday. 

“We don’t believe in death, we believe in life,” Marín said. “So it’s very meaningful and special, the moments we express during this time.” 

Intended to be bright and colorful to help the spirits navigate to the realm of the living, ofrendas are often decorated with colorful papel picado — a decorative paper — cempasúchil flowers and other meaningful belongings of the dead kept by family members. 

Read the rest of the article by Audrey Hogan here.

Rebuilding the Roman Empire One TikTok at a Time

Originally published Oct. 4, 2023

Julius Caesar may have died in 44 B.C., but the Roman Empire is more alive than ever.

Winning the chariot race to virality is a TikTok trend in which users ask men how often they think about the antiquarian society. The trend has revealed gladiator fights and stoic heroism are often on the minds of many men, who disclose in lighthearted videos that they think about the Roman Empire frequently. 

Dr. James Townshend, a classical studies professor at Loyola and expert on Roman history, said the trend may run much deeper than a series of social media posts. 

“What begins as almost a joke offers us a potentially much deeper look into our collective cultural subconscious,” Townshend said.

Townshend said movies such as Ridley Scott’s 2000 film “Gladiator”— which has a sequel slated for November 2024 — can paint a media image of the Roman Empire contributing to public perception of the ancient society. He believes the Roman Empire is likely appealing to young men because of its pop culture representation. 

Read the rest of the article by Natalie Pitluck here.

‘I Feel Like I’m Just Getting Started’: Students Pursue The College Experience Later in Life

Originally published Nov. 29, 2023

Media depictions of college often paint an experience lived between the ages 18 to 22. Images of 20-somethings with no professional experience and eyes unopened to the realities of adult life often come to mind as one reflects on the concept of university.

But for students who are pursuing degrees later in life, education has no timeline.

Third-year Jackie Gilbert returned to higher education at 53-years-old, pursuing a degree in applied psychology — after all four of her children had graduated from college.

“There was a little voice that said I was afraid, and maybe I shouldn’t and was I too old,” Gilbert said. “But I think you really have to go with your gut. You have to know yourself, and I think that it doesn’t matter if you’re 22 or 62.”

Read the rest of the article by Caroline Bell here.

Rev. Jerry Overbeck is Loyola’s Marriage Maestro

Originally published March 20, 2024

“Love ought to manifest itself in deeds more than words.”

This message, championed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, extends beyond romantic displays, verbal utterances of “I love you” or passionate text exchanges. For the Rev. Jerry Overbeck, who is celebrating 51 years of priesthood, the words from Loyola’s namesake signal a commitment to love through action.

Overbeck said he’s officiated hundreds of weddings, estimating about 95% are for Loyola alumni, of which he is himself. He received his undergraduate degree in classics from Loyola in 1970 and returned as a faculty member in 1976. Since then, he’s lived in Mertz, Simpson, Regis and Baumhart halls, taught in the Department of Theology and become chaplain of the School of Law. 

While he doesn’t know the exact number of weddings he’s performed, Overbeck said he’s completely booked on most warm weekends — and a few cold ones, too.

“It’s like a visible embodiment of God’s presence right here on Earth — kind of love incarnate,” Overbeck said. “I sometimes sit and marvel at how this all happened. It’s such a mystery, so many gifts.”

Read the rest of the article by Faith Hug here.

Olivia Rodrigo at United Center: A Performance With Heart and ‘GUTS’

Originally published March 21, 2024

Transforming United Center into a sea of violet, glitter and angst, Olivia Rodrigo offered pop perfection March 20 — the second of two sold-out Chicago shows for her “GUTS” World Tour.

Donning girly-grunge apparel and glittery makeup, Rodrigo fans flooded the arena as pop singer Chappell Roan began her opening set. 

Kicking the night off with “Femininomenon,” Roan proved to be a modern musical Shakespeare, effortlessly yielding rhymes to made-up words.

She continued through her set, jumping across the stage during dance tracks like “Naked In Manhattan” and “After Midnight.” As her song “HOT TO GO!” began, Roan led the audience through choreographed arm movements, acquainting herself with the crowd.

While much of her setlist focused on lively beats and playful dancing, Roan’s performances of “Casual” and “Pink Pony Club” maintained high energy despite somber lyricism and pleading vocals identical to those in her September debut album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.”

Read the rest of the article by Ella Govrik here.

Spare The Clothes: Chicago Fun Club Practices Social Nudism Through Bowling

Originally published March 27, 2024

The lights dimmed and the doors locked. A crowd of nearly 70 stirred in anticipation, shuffling about in a congested bowling alley.

“I’m not sure if you heard the announcement, but it’s time,” a voice rang.

At once, the scene whirled into a medley of flying garments. Shirts and pants were hastily tossed atop bar stools as participants took to the lanes wearing nothing but shoes.

It’s nearly an average bowling scene, except everybody’s naked. 

Led by nudist couple Steve and Katie — who asked for last names to be omitted to protect the identities of group members — the private event is one of many hosted by the social nudist group Chicago Fun Club.

Since its inception in 2009, the group has hosted hundreds of privately-reserved events at local establishments, including nude comedy shows with nude comedians, nude roller skating and nude dinners. They’re one of many groups registered with the American Association for Nude Recreation, an advocacy group for recreational nudists. 

Read the rest of the article by Hanna Houser here.

‘We’re happy to be neighbors’: The Storefronts of 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave.

Originally published Feb. 7, 2024

At the end of December, Loyola acquired the property at 1226-1234 W. Loyola Ave., impacting three local storefronts — Roman Susan Art Gallery, Edge Art and Archie’s Cafe, The Phoenix previously reported

As each business grapples with the impending reality of Loyola’s intention to tear down the building, their stories continue to reflect the enduring charm of the Rogers Park community.

Before Maggie Roche moved into what is now her Edge Art storefront in 2012, the block of 1234 W. Loyola Ave. — which had no street lighting — was entirely dark. 

Committed to enlivening the space, Roche and her son bought light bulbs for the store’s exterior to be kept on overnight — a small but effective way of brightening a community.  Soon enough, Roche was receiving “thank you’s” from locals who felt the area had become less “dreary,” Roche said. 

Read the rest of the article by Hanna Houser, Julie Soeder and Lilli Malone here.

‘An Actual Phenomenon’: Lollapalooza Days One and Two

Originally published Aug. 5, 2023

Lollapalooza opened in Grant Park on Aug. 3, featuring an inflatable sun arched above KAROL G and a solar-powered stage for Billie Eilish. The next day, the massive crowd was split between The 1975’s alternative-pop set and Kendrick Lamar’s masterclass in rap.

Emerging Latin pop singer Lesly Reynaga dazzled the weekend’s first arrivals at the BACARDÍ Stage. Performing tracks from her 2023 album “Valerosa,” Reynaga’s set exuded sultry charm, accompanied by four folklórico dancers and Northwestern University’s mariachi band, Mariachi Northwestern.

At the Bud Light Stage, pop-rock Toronto band The Beaches energized the crowd with their May single “Blame Brett” — a viral, unapologetic breakup tune.

Back at the BACARDÍ Stage, Chicago indie-rock group Ax and the Hatchetmen channeled youthful triviality with songs like “Where TF Did I Park My Car” and “Existential Crisis, Pt. 1.”

“We’re so excited to be here,” Ellis said to the audience. “This was always the festival to be at when we were growing up.” 

 Read the rest of the article written by Ella Govrik, Hanna Houser, Austin Hojdar and Angela Ramírez here.

Featured image by Hanna Houser | The Phoenix

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