Genius in the neighborhood
A MacArthur Foundation genius has connections to the South Loop
10/17/2012 10:00 PM
Claire Chase is in the latest group of geniuses crowned by the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. She is a 34-year-old flutist who lives in Brooklyn and the founder (in 2001) and artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, co-based in Chicago and New York. ICE is a group of 33 musicians who play all sorts of contemporary classical music in all sorts of places.
By the way, being a MacArthur genius means you get a half-million bucks, no strings attached.
ICE was “in residence” at the South Loop’s very own Columbia College Chicago for four years (where I have been teaching since 2004). And ICE sometimes plays music at Columbia’s Museum of Contemporary Photography at 600 S. Michigan Ave., the Columbia building where some of my classrooms have been through the years. It’s also where I often bring my students to see (and write about) the photo shows they put up there in the world-acclaimed museum on the first floor.
The ICE office was, for a while, at 1325 S. Wabash, where the Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) is located, and where I was on the board of the organization many years ago. The building also housed a short-lived, iffy rib restaurant that mysteriously burned up.
Chase also “resided” at 500 W. Cermak Ave. in an old spice factory that artists rent studios in and sometimes squat in and is now probably ripe for far-flung South Loop-related gentrification, and where I was on a divine art walk/open house a few years ago during Chicago Artists Month.
So there you have it. A MacArthur genius who has a few South Loop connections.
But here’s another one or two.
Saturday night ICE had a concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For 80 minutes, the musicians played a back and forth “conversation” between famous contemporary classical composers John Cage and Pierre Boulez; 18 snippets in all, a few minutes of each composer, alternating one after the other after the other. I loved it. One of the pieces was Cage’s “4’ 33” — four-plus minutes of silence that I’d first “heard” at a Columbia teachers’ retreat at the University Center in August — “played” by one of my fellow faculty members.
(My first exposure to ICE was a harp concert in Wicker Park a few weeks ago; but it just so happens I met the harpist’s mother a few weeks before that at a party in the Fine Arts Building at Congress and Michigan, so ergo, another South Loop connection.)
After the concert at the MCA, David Jackson, who had just experienced the ICE concert at MCA with his wife, told me that he’d recently learned that Cage had a South Loop connection himself. He’d resided with his wife, Xenia, on the 300 block of East Cermak in 1941, when he came to town to teach. That spot on Cermak (where the transplanted Platt Luggage Building was recently installed) is one mile from where Claire resided on West Cermak.
Just another South Loop connection. And by the way, John Cage was considered a genius. A musical genius. Albeit not a MacArthur one with half-a-mil to burn.