A portrait of the council

03/24/2010 10:00 PM

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"Pat Dowell" by Kenton Quatman

"Bob Fioretti" by Byron Durham

You can find them at community meetings, committee sessions, in city hall and at ward night at their offices (and, occasionally, walking out of court, having copped a plea on a corruption charge). They review zoning changes, development projects, park plans and road work. They’re always politicking, making phone calls, worrying about potholes and street lights.

They’re the 50 women and men who make up Chicago’s city council. And now you can find all of Chicago’s aldermen in portrait form, at Johalla Projects, 1561 N. Milwaukee, an art gallery in Wicker Park.

For “50 Aldermen/50 Artists,” the brainchild of Lauri Apple and Jeremy Scheuch, 50 artists were each assigned a council member. Every artist had to capture their alderman in an image no bigger than 16 by 22 inches. Twenty-seven artists, Apple reports, sat with, spoke with or e-mailed their alderman. The resulting portraitures include photographs, paintings on wood, Lego sculptures, glass mosaics and even a four-minute movie.

The idea for the project was sparked during a conversation between Scheuch and Apple at a café last summer. Apple said she merely wanted to know more about the people who help run the city.

“I think there is a curiosity about who the aldermen are. The media in general doesn’t cover what they do,” said Apple. “Very much a lot of it is just taping things … But it’s not the everyday stuff we all need to have happen. We need to have our trash picked up.”

The project’s opening night last week drew 17 city council members among the 834 others who passed through the gallery, said Anna Cerniglia, one of the directors at Johalla.

Apple and Cerniglia both said that several aldermen have since asked them about realizing art projects in their wards. And Apple’s already thinking an art project about another group of relatively obscure local pols.

“I was also checking out judges in Cook County,” she said. “There’s a lot of them.”

The “50 Aldermen/50 Artists” stays up through April 2. Saturday hours at Johalla run from noon to 5 p.m. On March 27, the gallery will screen Vito, a film about the old 25th Ward Ald. Vito Marzullo. That show starts at 2 p.m.

—Micah Maidenberg

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