Monday, July 17, 2017

The Chicago Cultural Center – Formerly Chicago's Central Public Library

The Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897, is a Chicago Landmark building that houses the city's official reception venue where the Mayor of Chicago has welcomed Presidents and royalty, diplomats and community leaders. It is located in the Loop, across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park. This building is a favorite cold weather location for Urban Sketchers Chicago.

The following interior sketches of the Chicago Cultural Center are by Alex Zonis

Originally the central library building, it was converted in 1977 to an arts and culture center at the instigation of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg. The city's central library is now housed across the Loop in the spacious, post-modernist Harold Washington Library Center opened in 1991. The building was designed by Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge for the city's central library, and Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) meeting hall and memorial in 1892.   

This is the Harold Washington Library. With the conversion of Chicago's former central library into the Chicago Cultural Center in 1977, a long-term temporary central library was opened in the Mandel Building at 425 North Michigan Avenue and much of the library's collection was put into storage.

A highly publicized design competition, the winning design was awarded to the most overtly traditional approach in the midst of some very diverse proposals. The building recalls neoclassical institutions, but is not literal in all its details. Anyone who walks past this solid red brick structure is compelled to look up when a strong sense that you are being watched overcomes you. It is one of four10 foot tall owls situated at the corners of the roofline.

With the support of then Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and Chicago's wealthy 
Pritzker family, ground was broken at the chosen site at Congress Parkway and State Street, covering an entire block. Upon the building's completion in 1991, the new mayor, Richard M. Daley, named the building in honor of the now-deceased former mayor Harold Washington, an advocate of reading and education among Chicagoans as well as an advocate of the library's construction.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Suggestions for passing Border Control and Customs

O'Hare airport - Alex Zonis

USk Chicago welcomes all our guests to our city for the 8th International Urban Sketchers Symposium.

Given the level of stress about passing the Border Control on arrival, we collected information from official websites and suggestions from our friends in legal profession. We also included some observations from personal travel experiences.

Disclaimer: We are sketchers and not lawyers. The suggestions we share with you are our understanding. They are not legal or official recommendations. We hope that our international guests will find them helpful, but they are not a guarantee.

During an interview with a Border Control officer, please keep these in mind.
  1. Emphasize your trip is a visit
  2. State that the purpose of your visit is to participate in Urban Sketchers Symposium
  3. State period of time you plan to stay in United States
  4. Have a receipt of payment for the Symposium
  5. Have proof of a return ticket
  6. Have hotel reservation info or info about where and with whom you are staying  
  7. Have a proof of a job back home, if it applies to you. A letterhead with company name stating your return date to work, if possible.
  8. State that you have family back at home, if it applies to you
  9. If traveling to additional destinations before or after the Symposium, have a copy of your itinerary
  10. If asked about your health, answer that you are generally healthy
  11. The Border Control officer may ask you to unlock your phone and/or give access to your laptop. Allow the officer access to your device. If you have private or sensitive data on your device, make a backup copy of your drive at home and delete this data from the device. You can restore it back at home or download from cloud/network after you passed border processing.
  12. Do not carry questionable items, meats, seeds
During Border Control and Customs process, please be patient and polite, follow all of the directions asked and supply any documents to give the Border Control a clear idea that you are only visiting. Answer all questions truthfully and concisely; long explanations may create more questions. Humor does not work well with border officers, the border entry officers are generally focused on their jobs and are not chatty. Keep in mind: border agents are overworked, underpaid and sometimes stressed because directions they receive can change quickly and unpredictably.

We wish you safe and easy travels and cannot wait to welcome everyone in Chicago!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Eats and Drinks for Symposium

USk Chicago after sketching in Chinatown

Chicago is a foodie town! We have everything: from food trucks to 5 star restaurants, from hotdogs to every cuisine in the world.

We love to eat and we love to eat well. And we want our Symposium guests to eat well too. We prepared a selection of eating and drinking establishments close to the Symposium and tried to have something for every budget and every taste. 

Bon Appétit!


At a counter - Don Colley

Goddess and the Baker and Peaches and Greens 
33 S Wabash Ave 
all day cafes of baked goods, salads, soups, beer and wine

111 W Jackson blvd (closet to Roosevelt, but has several locations
health conscious menu of salads, soups, burritos and more

Naf Naf Grill 
28 S Wabash. 
Modern middle eastern; quick bites, schwarma, falafel

Good Stuff Eatery
22 S Wabash 
creative burgers with vegetarian options

Potbelly Sandwich Shop
several locations, 300 S Michigan location is the same building as the American Academy of Art
Counter served soups, sandwiches and salads

Mariano’s Lake East 
333 E Benton Pl (upper Randolph)
Unique Grocery store with many prepared food stations

The Walnut Room
111 N State st. 7th floor
Macy's building is a Chicago landmark from 1907

108 N State St
Mexican, Latin American. A food court with many stations.

Moderate prices:

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta
864 N State St 
Pizza Restaurant

Brightwok Kitchen
21 E Adams St
Asian Fusion, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian

Nandos Peri Peri
22 S Wabash
South African inspired cuisine 

74 W Illinois
Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisines with a Californian influence 

RPM Italian 
52 W Illinois 
Italian small plates 

Ramen San
59 W Hubbard 
Ramen & Asian style small plates

Hub 51
51 W Hubbard
Diverse menu from sushi to burgers

The Gage 
24 S Michigan ave  
Inventive American eatery with a long list of beers

The Berghoff 
17 W Adams
117 year old Chicago icon serving traditional German and Contemporary cuisine

Cochon Volant
100 W Monroe St
French, Breakfast & Brunch, American

Mercat a la Planxa
638 S Michigan Ave, Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel
Sushi and small plates

Sofi Restaurant
616 S Dearborn St

730 S Clark St
Japanese, Sushi, drinks

McDonald's - Harold Goldfus


Trattoria No. 10
10 N Dearborn St

Everest Room
440 S Lasalle in the Chicago stock exchange building . 
French prix fixe menu and stunning views of the city

Terzo Piano
159 E Monroe. Tucked away in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago 
Italian, Mediterranean

Russian Tea Time
77 E Adams St
Coffee & Tea, Russian, Vegetarian

122 W Monroe St
Cocktail Bars, Argentine, Peruvian

10 s Wabash
Latin contemporary with gorgeous decor

Outside the Loop

Magnificent mile : 835 N Michigan Ave
Foodlife food court - lower level Water Tower Shopping center, 15 food stations to choose from - one bill

Little Italy:
Tufanos 1073 Vernon park circa 1930
old School Italian, delicious food in large portions (budget to moderate priced)

Pilsen (artist's studio area) :
Pleasant house 2119 S Halsted
Rustic cafe with a British twist. The meat pies are the best!

Ming Hin 2168 S Archer ave
Famous for their Dim Sum available 8am-4pm and 9pm - 2am late night bites!

Greek Islands on 200 S Halsted. So many great restaurants in this area! Hard to choose!

West Loop:  
This area is a huge corridor of restaurants that attract foodies day and night so it is generally very busy


Bars / taverns
At a bar - Adriana Gasparich

Designated tavern hangout for our Symposium is:
Exchequer Restaurant and Pub
226 S Wabash (steps from Roosevelt!).
Serving cocktails, pizza, ribs and more
Open 11-11pm and 12am on weekends
Discount with Symposium Badge!

Buddy Guy’s Legends
700 S Wabash Ave
Jazz & Blues, Music, Sandwiches. Go there for an excellent blues scene, very Chicago.

The 95th Floor
875 N Michigan Ave - Hancock center
Good drinks and best views of the city. Go there for drinks and views, but go somewhere else to eat – touristy and overpriced for what you get.

Drawing Room
12 S Michigan Ave
Coffee, cocktails, American fare

Three Dots and a Dash
435 N Clark St
Asian Fusion, Tiki Bars

Plymouth Rooftop Bar & Grill
327 S Plymouth Ct

Cavanaugh’s in Monadnock Building
53 W Jackson Blvd
Amazing chance to be in the one of the first skyscrapers ever built. It is constructed entirely from stone. Historic landmark and architects' dream.

Not to overlook:

Stan's Donuts
26 E Roosevelt Rd

Stan's Donuts - MJ Ernst

Monday, June 5, 2017

Postcards from Chicago: #5 Marina City Towers

by Wes Douglas

As we look forward to the 8th International Symposium, I will continue to take you on a virtual tour of my favorite views of Chicago which I have named "Postcards from Chicago." Each week I will post a different scene of Chicago – some may be familiar to you and some may be less familiar – and by the time I am done it should be time for the Symposium. To help me illustrate the popularity of this sculpture, I am happy to feature the work of Chicago Urban Sketchers Alex Zonis, Don Yang, Joel Berman.

The Marina City complex was designed in 1959 by architect Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964 at a cost of $36 million, financed to a large extent by the union of building janitors and elevator operators, who sought to reverse the pattern of “white flight” from the city’s downtown area. When finished, the two towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world. The complex was built as a city within a city, featuring numerous on-site facilities including a theatre, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, several stores and restaurants, and, of course, a marina.

Marina City was the first urban post-war high-rise residential complex in the United States and is widely credited with beginning the residential renaissance of American inner cities. Its model of mixed residential and office uses and high-rise towers with a base of parking has become a primary model for urban development in the United States and throughout the world, and has been widely copied throughout many cities internationally. Marina City construction employed the first tower crane used in the United States.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Urban Sketchers Are About Telling Stories Through Sketches

by Wes Douglas, Urban Sketchers Chicago

I will be part of a three-person team of sketch correspondents at the 8th International Symposium in Chicago (July 26-30, 2017) who will cover as many events (workshops, demonstrations, lectures and social gatherings) as possible, armed with only our sketchbooks, eyes and ears to record each day's activities. 

Each day we will attempt to divide and conquer by sketch-recording furiously the flavor of 36 workshops, dozens of artist demonstrations and lectures at the Symposium and by night composing, scanning sketches and blogging highlights from the day—reporting on our impressions of what we hear, observe and experience for those who were not able to attend the Symposium or could only be in one activity at a time.

As an Urban Sketcher, I am often asked if this group is just a bunch of artists getting together to draw. While it is true that we are a social group that enjoys sketching together, one of the most critical components of selecting a scene to sketch on location is whether the scene will make a great story to tell. The sketch serves as our prompt to relive the experience.

I am a big proponent of the example and here is a recent post from fellow urban sketcher  Donald Owen Colley that caught my eye because of the great story and help from the impressive visualization:

Century Pens, Chicago
Ed Hamilton, owner/proprietor
Story and sketch by Donald Owen Colley

I walked into Ed Hamilton's boutique pen shop, Century Pens located in the Loop by the [Chicago] Board of Trade, just over eight years ago, and have developed a wonderful friendship with Ed – a Prince among men – who has owned Century Pens for eleven years. 

Trained as an architect and hailing from the fair state of Indiana, Ed and I have spent many hours talking about pens, ink, penmanship, architecture, Chicago's history, politics, and tales of our wild youth. I got the fountain pen bug just before I met Ed, who recognized a potential addict the minute I walked in the store with a sketchbook in my hand and an assortment of pens peering over my vest pocket. 

Ed was every bit the enabler and fanned the flames of desire for this draughtsman whose fountain pen collection (I'm sure) passed the $11,000 mark several months ago. I recall talking to one of Ed's regulars whose collection was over 650 fountain pens. 

Century Pens has been the premier fine writing pen store in Chicago and one of my absolute favorites nationwide. Chicago lost Gilbertson Clybourne a couple years back and I fret Ed's age and the prospect that he may hang up the spurs one day. 

Today, I spent most of the day sitting in Ed's store, drawing, sharing take-out lunch, and shooting the bull with Eddie and Charlie. Online is in so many of it's convenient ways a poor substitute for the face to face, hands on, of the brick and mortar experience. Cheers Eddie. Drawn in a Tomoe River Paper sketchbook with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens and a Pelikan M215 fountain pen with Platinum Carbon Ink.

For more on Urban Sketchers Chicago: 
About the USK 2017 Chicago Symposium

For more sketch stories from Donald Owen Colley: 

Century Pens, Chicago: