Thursday, September 8, 6 pm
Film Screening #1: Chicagoland Gridded/Revised
Gene Siskel Film Center / 164 North State Street, Chicago
$9 general/$7 student/$5 member/$4 SAIC student or staff
Co-presented by Conversations at the Edge/Department of Film, Video, New Media, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

These experimental and non-fiction films and videos, culled from different decades, all examine the urban landscape of Chicago, but each employs different tactics towards observing the landscape and the forces that transform it. James Benning’s Chicago Loop (1976) emphasizes the sequential, gridded nature of the photographic filmstrip with brisk pans and cuts of downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville. The Kartemquin Film collective’s direct cinema-inspired Now We Live on Clifton (1974) follows two Lincoln Park children as they ponder their future in a neighborhood beset by gentrification. Also on the program: Halsted Street, Conrad Friberg (aka C.O. Nelson)/Film & Photo League of Chicago (1934); White Blight Manifesto, Paul Lloyd Sargent (2003); The Presence of Absence, Brandon Doherty (2002); other titles TBA. TRT: 70 mins. (16mm and video).


Friday, September 9, 5 pm
Exhibition Opening
I space Gallery / 230 West Superior Street, Chicago


Saturday, September 10, 2 pm
Tour of Stearns Quarry with A. Laurie Palmer
Halsted Street between 27th and 29th Street in Bridgeport
Meet at I space, 230 W. Superior, at 1 pm to arrange carpooling to the site

Please bring boots or closed toed shoes, pants, and a helmet (a bicycle helmet will do)...

What became known as Stearns Quarry opened sometime in the late 1830s and supplied lime and crushed stone for concrete, fertilizer, and roads until it closed in 1970, at a final depth of 350 feet below street level. The City of Chicago bought the giant hole in 1970 for 9 million dollars to use as a dump for construction and demolition debris (CDD) and for ash from the Northwest incinerator on the West Side which burned Chicago’s garbage for 26 years. Incinerator ash stopped being accepted in 1987, but CDD continued to come in, much of it made, of course, of lime and crushed stone, in shapes. The Chicago Park District is now reconstituting the site as an unprecedented type of urban park, with dramatic topography, a fishing hole, a sledding hill, a “natural” amphitheater, and an elaborately engineered water management system. This system includes an underground pump to remove existing leachate draining toxins from the buried incinerator ash, and an overground sequence of ponds that collect and filter surface rainwater and prevent it from contributing to the leachate below. Much of the engineering will become invisible when the park opens next June; this tour, with the Project Manager of the Park, Claudine Malik, offers a never-to-be-seen-again glimpse of the site while still in construction.

< Tour Photos >


Thursday, September 15
Free Walking "Midwest Migration Pt. 1" arrives in Mahomet, IL


Saturday, September 24, 3 pm
Seed Collection walk with Nance Klehm
Meet at Racine Street and the Kinzie tracks

The strips of open land along the Kinzie tracks support a diverse and useful community of wild plants. These wild plants build and stabilize soil, support urban wildlife and can be used for food, medicine, and even building materials! Come with empty pockets and enjoy a casual seed collecting and dispersal walk along the tracks.


Thursday, September 29, 7 pm
Film Screening #2: The Town and the City
I space Gallery / 230 West Superior Street, Chicago

These non-fiction and experimental videos examine how the policies and pursuits of institutions like governments and corporations shape the land, how it functions and who benefits from its value. These videos explore and question how communities in Chicago and small, Midwestern towns experience and resist shifts in landscape and livelihood.

Supermax, Jim Finn, 2003, video, 13 mins.
Voices of Cabrini: Remaking Chicago's Public Housing, Ronit Bezalel, 1999, video, 30 mins.
Invisible Hand: The Deindustrialization of Southern Illinois, Greg Boozell, 2001, video, 29 mins.


Saturday, October 1, 3 pm
I talk: a conversation with the artists and curators of “Urban, Rural, Wild”
I space Gallery / 230 West Superior Street, Chicago


Saturday, October 1, 4:30 pm
Walking the North River Corridor with Melinda Fries
Meet at I space Gallery, 230 West Superior Street for a 2.5 mile walk ending at dusk

Chicago has twenty-two industrial corridors, designed to maintain a manufacturing base in the city. The North River Industrial Corridor is loosely bordered by Clybourn Avenue and the North Branch Canal to the east; the Kennedy Expressway to the west; Chicago Avenue to the south; and Diversey Parkway to the north. The Corridor is surrounded by the neighborhoods North Town, Lincoln Park, West Town and Lakeview. A brief examination of the historical and current land use of one of the first Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) in Chicago, the tour will cover approx. 2.5 miles and end at dusk at the corridor’s most striking landmark.


Thursday, October 20, 8 pm
Film Screening #3: The Boulevard
Ice Factory, 526 North Ashland, $5
The Blvd, Deborah Stratman, video, 60 mins.

"An experimental documentary about the street drag racing scene on Chicago’s near West Side. This is a rambling, textured film about obsession. It is about the mythos of speed for its own sake, and it is about waiting. While waiting, The BLVD exposes community, inner-city landscapes and nomadic experiences of place. The film treats storytelling as a living medium for determining history. And it commands respect for those who transform cars, or anything else, through passion." (DS)


Saturday, October 22, 5pm
Exhibition Closes



In The Weather, a collaboration between Bonnie Fortune and Melinda Fries, is seeking self-guided tours, walking directions, and long-distance treks for an online database, currently under development at www.intheweather.org. Please send written, drawn, or photographed directions to either submit@intheweather.org or 1958 W Walnut Chicago, IL 60612


NOT UNRELATED > Upcoming events not associated with "Urban, Rural, Wild" but within the scope of our inquiry...

Revealing Chicago / Terry Evans / Millenium Park / 06-10-05 - 10/10/05
Farm Aid 2005 / 20th Anniversary / Chicago / 09-18-05
27th Annual Prairie Festival / The Land Institute / Salina, Kansas / 09/23/05 - 09/25/05
Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art / University of Chicago / 10/06/05 - 01/15/06
Groundworks: Environmental Collaboration in Contemporary Art / Carnegie Mellon University / 10/14/05 -12/11/05
The 2006 Meeting of The Association of American Geographers / Chicago / 03-07-06 - 03-11-06

Revealing Chicago / Terry Evans

June 10 - October 10, 2005 / Millennium Park / Chicago


Terry Evans’ photography has been about prairies, their ecosystems, land and people for the past twenty seven years. Photographing from the air, on the ground, in rural towns, on the open plains, and in the storage areas of The Field Museum where she photographed plant and bird specimens collected on the prairies in the 19th century, her work has been an exploration of how we live on the prairie. Revealing Chicago is her first work about the urban prairie.

In recent years, Evans has photographed other landscapes on various commissioned projects for The Nature Conservancy and other organizations and individuals. Her work can be found in many museum collections such as Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Hirschhorn Museum, and many more. She has had numerous one person shows including exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Evans teaches part time at Chicago’s Columbia College.

Farm Aid 2005 / 20th Anniversary / Chicago

September 18, 2005 / Tweeter Center / Tinley Park, Illinois


The mission of Farm Aid is to keep family farmers on their land. Family farmers are our only guarantee for fresh, local food. Our goal is to bring together family farmers and citizens to restore family farm-centered agriculture. Family farmers ensure safe, healthful food, protect natural resources, and strengthen local economies.

The Beginning / September 22, 1985 / Champaign, Illinois

Farm Aid started as an idea at the Live Aid Concert when Bob Dylan said on stage, "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?" Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp agreed that family farmers were in dire need of assistance and decided to plan a concert for America. The show was put together in six weeks and was held on September 22, 1985 in Champaign, Illinois before a crowd of 80,000 people. It raised over $7 million for America's family farmers. Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and many more.

27th Annual Prairie Festival / The Land Institute / Salina, Kansas


Guest speakers will include Strachan Donnelley, Sue Halpern, Craig Holdrege, David Kline, Carl McDaniel and Bill McKibben. Others will be announced soon—check back for updates. California chef Donna Prizgintas, who led preparation of the 2003 and 2004 festival's Saturday supper, will return for the same next year. The Land Institute's scientists will give a research update and founder Wes Jackson will present his annual inspirational. You'll enjoy the homegrown tunes of Ann Zimmerman. And you'll not be alone in the wilderness: People who celebrate The Land Institute's Prairie Festival share a caring about sustainable living and our land, and they say these warm people are the best thing about attending. We invite you to be part of it, the 27th Prairie Festival, September 23-25, 2005.

Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art

University of Chicago / Smart Museum
October 6, 2005 – January 15, 2006


Balancing environmental, social, economic, and aesthetic concerns, sustainable design has the potential to transform everyday life and is already reshaping the fields of architecture and product design. Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art explores the resonance of this design philosophy with an emerging generation of international artists who combine a fresh aesthetic sensibility with a constructively critical approach to the production, dissemination, and display of art. These artists use strategies of sustainable design for metaphoric, practical, critical or even playful ends.  Contributing artists and artists’ groups from the United States and Europe include Allora & Calzadilla; Brett Bloom, Julio Castro, Rikke Luther, and Cecelia Wendt; Free Soil; JAM; Brennan McGaffey in collaboration with Temporary Services; Nils Norman; People Powered; Dan Peterman; Michael Rakowitz; and WochenKlausur. The exhibition includes existing works, commissions, and previously presented work that has been “recycled,” spotlighting ways in which artists are building paths to new forms of practice.

Curator: Stephanie Smith, Smart Museum Curator. This exhibition is co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art and Independent Curators International.

Exhibition Catalogue will be available at the Smart Museum Shop, 773.702.0528.

The exhibition, exhibition catalogue, and related programs are made possible in part by the Smart Family Foundation; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; the Chicago Architecture Foundation; and iCI Exhibition Partners Gerrit & Sydie Lansing, and Ken Kuchin & Bruce Anderson. Additional support provided by the Arts Planning Council, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Green Campus Initiative, University of Chicago.

Groundworks: Environmental Collaboration in Contemporary Art

Regina Gouger Miller Gallery / Carnegie Mellon University / Pittsburgh PA
October 14 - December 11, 2005


We live in an era of unprecedented environmental transformation. Unfortunately the vast preponderance of this change is negative: from the relentless decimation of animal species to the ravages of a global warming so dire that even the Pentagon has admitted it as a real threat. It is not surprising, then, that artists have sought to address ecological concerns in their work. Artists throughout the modern period have turned to natural themes (often through the rhetoric of landscape), and have also claimed a special affinity with the world of nature. What is more unusual in recent art practice is that this essentially representational relationship to nature has been supplemented by a commitment to direct intervention. Building on the tradition established by earth art pioneers such as Helen and Newton Harrison, Agnes Dennis, and Alan Sonfist, artists over the past decade have developed a remarkable range of projects that offer concrete solutions to specific ecological problems ranging from brownfi eld reclamation to the survival of family farms. Groundworks: Environmental Collaborations in Contemporary Art will provide an overview of recent projects, bringing more established practitioners into conversation with emerging groups in the United States, England, Africa, Austria, Japan and Argentina. This generational dialogue will overlay a set of geographic exchanges, in which artists working in western Pennsylvania will be exhibited in the context of a growing national and international environmental art movement. The exhibition is being supported by the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. It will also feature documentation from a series of long-term residency projects in which national and regional artists will work collaboratively with the residents of communities and neighborhoods in the Monongahela river valley.

Over the last two decades the field of environmental art practice has become increasingly diverse, with works ranging from traditional sculpture and public art to performance and new media. Groundworks will focus specifically on two, often interrelated, areas of current practice. First, we will present works that are generated through a collaborative or participatory approach in which the inhabitants of specific sites are actively involved in a process of physical and creative transformation. Drawing inspiration from the history of performance art as well as the traditions of radical planning, these projects seek to replace the mastery of the conventional planner or artist, with an openness to the specific realities of site and subjectivity embodied in a given environment. We will also focus on projects that seek to directly engage the mechanisms of policy and planning that govern the use of a given eco-system. These may include professional planning agencies, government officials, activist organizations and NGOs. In each area of work the artist helps to craft an interface: between the contingencies of place and the abstractions of space, between the needs of inhabitants and the survival of complex eco-systems, and between the agency of man and the autonomy of nature. In many cases these two tendencies, collaborative process and direct political engagement, are combined in a single work.

This is an exhibition about the environment, but it is also an exhibition that explores the boundaries of new art practices. The projects on display reflect back critically on normative assumptions about art—what form it might take, what effects it might have—as much as they do on our perceptions of the natural environment. They embody a relationship to nature not as something to be mastered, transformed, or turned to our advantage, but as an interlocutor and agent speaking to us in a language we are not always equipped to understand. At the same time, they suggest a critical relationship to notions of authorship, expressivity and immanence in art practice, embracing instead the uncertainty of collaborative interaction. There is, in fact, an underlying synchronicity between this collaborative approach (in which the work of art is less an a priority construct than an open-ended process of exchange) and the ethical relationship to the land that is implicit throughout these works. These questions will be explored in an accompanying catalog, with essays by leading figures in the fields of art and architectural history and environmental philosophy. Groundworks will feature project documentation, images, drawings, wall texts, diagrams and maps, transforming the exhibition space into a visually rich Chautauqua; a site for dialogue over new developments in art and environmental activism. The following list includes brief descriptions of artists and groups included in the exhibition as well as participants in the residency projects.

Text by: Grant Kester, Curator / University of California at San Diego

The 2006 Meeting of The Association of American Geographers / March 7-11 2006 / Chicago, IL


A Decade of Urban Change: AAG Returns to Chicago

The AAG is pleased to be holding its next annual meeting March 7-11, 2006, in the world-class city of Chicago. The AAG last met in Chicago in 1995, and in the newsletter issues leading up to the 2006 meeting, the Local Arrangements Committee (co-chaired by Mark Bouman of Chicago State University and Jon Kilpinen of Valparaiso University) will provide articles that highlight some of the more dramatic changes in Chicago since then. This article provides an overview of six areas of dramatic change, each of which will be presented in greater detail in coming issues.

The Greening of Chicago

Movements to improve and expand upon Chicago’s rich heritage of city parks and greenways have gained momentum since the AAG last met there in 1995. Preserving and enhancing public open space in northeastern Illinois since 1963, the Openlands Project (www.openlands.org/) has made tremendous progress in the past decade. In 1997 the group revised a northeastern Illinois regional greenways and trails plan to identify 4,300 miles of greenways and almost 2,000 miles of trails for the region and in 1998 they initiated an effort to identify and coordinate a 480-mile water trail plan for northeastern Illinois. In 2005 Openlands published a fourteen-county mapping project called “Natural Connections: Green Infrastructure in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana” (www.greenmapping.org/), which identifies the interconnected network of open spaces and natural areas that serve wildlife habitat and recreation across a tri-state region. AAG meeting attendees will be able to link up with this vast network of greenways just two blocks from the conference hotel in Millennium Park, which is the newest created parkland within historic Grant Park. The Millennium Park project transformed twenty-five acres of abandoned railroad tracks and parking lots and turned the area into a magnificent park space that includes world-class art, architecture, and landscape design. The AAG is already working on field trips that will visit other components of the greenway system of Chicago.

Lake Michigan and other Regional Water Resources

Though Chicago sits adjacent to the vast reservoir of Lake Michigan, regional planners are increasingly concerned about the potential for future water supply shortages. The growth of the metropolitan region’s population and area combined with international laws with Canada that limit lake withdrawals (www.nipc.org/environment/slmrwsc/mission.htm) prompted the 2002 organization of a tri-state Southern Lake Michigan Regional Water Supply Consortium to promote a comprehensive regional approach to sustainable water supply planning and management in the greater Chicago metropolitan region (including southeastern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana). Chicago and many of its inner suburbs are already withdrawing water from Lake Michigan to meet their needs, and as the outer suburbs speculate about their own future shortages from dwindling local ground water supplies, they are being warned that Lake Michigan water may not be available. In addition to the growing concern over future population growth and water supply, the Chicago area is doing pioneering work on other water related resource issues. One of these is in the area of urban flood prevention and the AAG is working on the development of a field trip to showcase this and other regional examples of innovations in water resources management. Views of Lake Michigan are a close walking distance from the conference hotel and just a little further, approximately fourteen city blocks, is Navy Pier which puts visitors slightly above and out onto the lake.


Chicago is still the largest container-moving port in the United States and in the last decade the amount of freight volume moving in and out of Chicago has dramatically increased due to an overheated global economy. The growth in freight flow is beginning to test the capacity of the region’s transportation infrastructure, especially when more containers appear to be entering than exiting in the short term. A recent study by Metropolis 2020 found that the current number of 37,500 railcars moving daily through the Chicago area (at an average speed of nine miles per hour) is expected to increase to 64,000 railcars by 2030 (www.chicagometropolis2020.org/10_40.htm). Almost all of the container freight on these railcars is transferred to and from trucks which take up twice the road space of cars on the region’s highways. To affirm this, a recent national study of traffic congestion, the Chicago region came in as the third worst in the nation. The typical Chicago driver can expect to experience fifty-six hours of delay annually due to traffic congestion. On top of the container-freight issue, the Chicago region is grappling with a host of other transportation issues, including the goal of expanding public transportation services. The edge cities toured during the last AAG meeting in Chicago have matured and exhibit both traditional and reverse commuting patterns. The Loop is still the dominant job center of the region and the peak commuting flows reflect this; however, there is a growing gentrifying population that works in the suburbs but lives and consumes in the city, which only adds more complexity to the pattern. New retail configurations in the suburbs like ”lifestyle centers” are adding to non-work related trips and suburban gridlock is commonplace on the weekends. The AAG is working on field trips that will showcase some of the problems identified here as well as some of the measures that are in place to alleviate the problems. The conference hotel is also directly accessible to public transportation, particularly the “L”, and extensive bicycle paths are within walking distance toward the lake.

Geographic Technologies

The Chicago region is home to a number of geographic technology companies and organizations and their presence has grown stronger since the last AAG meeting there. The Chicago region has early roots in geographic technologies, dating back to the 1856 founding of Rand McNally in Skokie, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. Today’s mix includes companies such as NAVTEQ which specializes in database designs for vehicle navigation and fleet management systems. A Chicago organization that has a prominent role in the development and use of geographic technologies is the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) whose mission is to invent and implement new tools and methods to create livable urban communities. CNT (www.cnt.org/) began its work in the Chicago region and has since expanded into other urban areas, including South Florida, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. The AAG is organizing a field trip to visit some of these and other organizations that are employing geographic technologies in unique ways.

A Booming Downtown Residential Real Estate Market

The 2000 census was the first since the 1950 census to show an increase in Chicago’s population. This population growth was just one sign of the prosperity that the city has experienced from 1995 through 2005. Recent population growth has been paralleled by a residential housing boom that has included the conversion of former downtown office spaces to residential units and new high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums that have sprouted up in and around downtown. The boom has been especially dramatic in the South Loop a neighborhood in the Near Southside Community Area. One example of this type of construction is the Central Station redevelopment project that occurred on former Illinois Central rail yards. This expansive real estate boom has coincided with gentrification and it is difficult to find neighborhoods in the city where prosperous newcomers have not invaded. Meanwhile, the city’s poverty areas have contracted spatially as a result of this new real estate investment, but also because of the demolition of Chicago’s notorious high-rise public housing buildings that began in 1996. The AAG is planning field trips that will explore the full variety and context of this real estate boom. A gentrification field trip will highlight the spatial magnitude of the process as well as the displacement issues that have occurred as a result. Evidence of the remarkable real estate boom can be seen on a short walk from the conference hotel as well.

Immigration and Ethnicity

To suggest that immigration and ethnic diversity is new to Chicago since 1995 would be to ignore all of the city’s history. However, a subsequent newsletter piece will articulate some of the changing dynamics and patterns of Chicago’s ethnic makeup since the AAG’s last meeting there in 1995. Topics to be covered will include the degree to which multiethnic neighborhoods have expanded or contracted and the question of whether classic patterns of segregation have reemerged. The piece will examine the tension that gentrification has brought some of the city’s more stable ethnic enclaves. The geographic dimensions of the growth in new immigrants (Latino and Asian) will also be described as well as the continued growth in the more firmly established immigrant groups. The AAG already has plans to visit Pilson, a Latino neighborhood that has seen new pressure from gentrification, and many other field trips are sure to emerge that will show that Chicago is still a city of neighborhoods. So as you plan your trip to Chicago, save time to explore these and many other facets of a fascinating city. Bring your walking shoes, and depending on the weather, you may even consider renting a bicycle to tour the greenways of Chicago that begin two blocks from the conference hotel. You can also venture into some of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods for unique dining experiences, or even plan a journey from downtown to the edgeless exurbs (but if it is during rush hour, definitely consider taking one of the Metra rail lines).

Text by: Rich Greene / Associate Professor of Geography / Northern Illinois University