Think You Know The Best of The Cultural Mile? | Transfixed by Centuries-old Mystery

8 December 2017

1000M is more than a little bit magical. With otherworldly views and transcendental interior and exterior design, the 1000M experience has an enchantment all its own … so it’s no surprise that the neighborhood is seeped in Chicago’s rich history of magic, entertaining trickery and mysterious spectacle, as well. During the Golden era of modern magic in the late 19th and early 20th century, Chicago was alive with magical performances from the likes of celebrity magicians Alexander Herrmann and Max Malini, who astonished audiences in 1000M’s neighborhood.

The allure of magical performances is alive and well today, too, as we learned from Sean Masterson a Chicago-based magician and author of a blog that celebrates the history of magic. “I became interested in magic at seven and was performing by 12,” Masterson said. “No magician really starts as an adult. You must have a certain type of curiosity that you can’t grow into,” he added of the magician’s persona.

Chicago magician and mentalist Dennis Watkins had a similar experience. The third generation in a family of magicians, he became interested in magic as a child. “Magic was very different from anything my friends were doing. Magic gave me an outlet that was unique.”

Alexander Herrmann: “Herrmann The Great”

Alexander Herrmann, a renowned magician better known as “Herrmann the Great,” began showing interest in magic when he was eight and was soon performing as his older brother’s assistant at performances. Just up the street from 1000M, Herrmann, hosted an extravagant party in 1894 at the Auditorium Hotel (in what is now Roosevelt University), celebrating his 35th year in show business. The party included his famed magic tricks and a 20-course French dinner that began at the stroke of midnight.

0th floor banquet hall of the Auditorium Hotel
Herrmann likely held his midnight feast at the 10th floor banquet hall of the Auditorium Hotel.

“Alexander Herrmann’s appeal was not spectacle, but humor and charisma,” explains Masterson, distinguishing Herrmann from performers more in the realm of Vaudeville, like Harry Houdini.

Constructed between 1886 and 1889, the Auditorium Hotel was Chicago’s Civic Center, hosting theater and opera. Designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, the Auditorium’s undeniable grandeur was an apt space for an evening of grandiose celebration.

Max Malini Master Illusionist

An admirer of Herrmann’s and one of Masterson’s favorite magicians, Max Malini also delighted 1000M’s neighborhood; he performed at The Congress Plaza Hotel. He was known for close-up magic that captivated his audiences; politicians, including Presidents, royalty and notable families like the Vanderbilts sought out his performances.

A spectacular showman, Malini traveled broadly but considered Chicago, the city where he became an American citizen, his home.

Max Malini
Famed magician Max Malini was known for close-up magic.

Modern Day Magic Parlour

While tarot card reading and other forms of mysticism are trending again, the golden era of magical performances is seeing a new glow with a strong community of magicians in Chicago and opportunities for spellbinding tricks that are still readily available in the 1000M neighborhood.

“As an art form, magic is definitely timeless,” explains Watkins. “We magicians certainly have to work to stay relevant. And, with all the knowledge in the world available to our audiences on their smartphones, we have to work to find new ways of being magical. But, people still want to be amazed. People still need to wonder.” He added, “I think that Malini or Herrmann could still attract audiences if they were with us today.”

Watkins hosts Magic Parlour, an evening of magic and mind-reading at the Palmer House, a historic building in 1000M’s neighborhood. “From the moment you walk into the unbelievable lobby, you feel like you’ve entered a different world at the Palmer House. In my mind, there’s no better place for (Magic Parlour) than a grand, historic building like the Palmer House.”

Watkins adds, “The thing that makes performing magic in Chicago special is most certainly the eagerness of the audiences. Their willingness to sit and imagine and suspend their disbelief makes my job a total joy.”

Dennis Watkins at the Palmer House
Dennis Watkins performs at the Palmer House. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Dennis Watkins performs Magic Parlour most Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. A full schedule can be found on the Magic Parlour website.

Sean Masterson will be appearing in SPACE and the Timeless Magic Show at Skokie Theater this month. Check his website for a full list of upcoming shows.

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Think You Know The Best of The Cultural Mile? | Seeking Beauty on The Printed Page

21 November 2017

1000M’s prime location places it at the center of Chicago’s robust art scene. It’s walking distance from great galleries, world renowned museums and spectacular public art on the lakefront. This weekend, the neighborhood enjoyed a creative novelty just up the street at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel with the inaugural Chicago Art Book Fair (CABF), which ran from November 16 to November 19.

Unlike anything else in Chicago, the CABF’s robust programming celebrated small press arts publishing and showcased more than 120 local, national and international publishers, small presses, book artists, comic artists, zinemakers and printmakers who all exhibited at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. CABF also included presentations, panels, and discussions with the artists throughout the city. Co-founded and co-directed by Alexander Valentine and Aay Preston-Myint, all programming was free and open to the public.

Exhibitors were selected through a juried application process. Twenty-two arts and publishing professionals reviewed over 260 applications, with 120 selected to represent the vibrant world of small press arts publishing. A fair of this breadth and inclusivity has never existed in Chicago.

Many of the artists of CABF’s Open Program exhibited in the one-time pool of the Chicago Athletic Association.

Valentine and Preston-Myint did their homework by traveling extensively to national and international small press arts publishing fairs, and came to believe their hometown Chicago has the talent and interest to support its own. “Chicago has a lot to offer in terms of arts printing,” said Valentine, who is the publisher of No Coast and a lecturer at the Yale University School of Art. “We wanted to create something inclusive” of the diverse works that exist under the umbrella of small press arts publishing.

And inclusive it was. Exhibited works at the CAA included risograph prints, buttons, patches, zines, hand stitched poetry books, newspapers and puzzles of cereal boxes, among much more.

Prints and other works by artist Jamiyla Lowe

Boyang Hou, part of a three-person team that manages the Fernwey Gallery in West Town that exhibited at the CABF, said, “There are so many forms to explore and ways to approach different mediums. It keeps it interesting for the artist.”

Scott Speh, owner of the Western Exhibitions Gallery that hosted the CABF official after-party Friday, and an exhibitor, believes a focus on form or how to define small press arts publishing should not be the focus. “I’m not necessarily interested in any particular art medium,” he explains, “but what a piece communicates.”

Western Exhibitions, a Gallery in West Town, hosted the official CABF after-party on Friday.

An overarching characteristic of the works arguably is accessibility; small press arts publishing does not break the bank for creator or consumer. At the host site, where most exhibited works were available for purchase, prices ranged from less than $5 to $500. Most art shows exhibit works in the tens of thousands of dollar price range (or more).

The Video Data Bank table exhibited videos for purchase by and about contemporary artists.

Valentine explains, “At the universities where we teach, Aay and I see a lot of young people who are or want to be involved in small press arts publishing. It’s accessible, both because of price and cultural barriers.” He added, “Small press arts publishing isn’t dependent on any cultural gatekeeper” like other mediums.

Some of our favorites were a limited-edition puzzle based on a fruity pebbles’ cereal box by Kevin Goodrich, exhibited through the Fenwey Gallery, and Adjunct Commuter Weekly — a one-off newspaper edition that showcased the struggles of American Adjunct professors. Paper Monument, a non-profit art press based in Brooklyn, exhibited The Weekly.

Speh’s table showcased a newly-published monograph of Robyn O’Neil’s work. On Saturday, O’Neil, who is known for her large-scale graphite drawings, signed copies of the book; she is known for sometimes slipping surprise free drawings into the pages of some of the books she signs.

Robyn O’Neil is known for her large scale graphite drawings.

In the same week that Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was auctioned for $450.3 million, CABF’s offerings were a welcome counterbalance in the often-pricey and sometimes culturally-guarded art world.

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The Chicago Art Book Fair // Chicago Athletic Association Hotel // Partner Institutions throughout Chicago // Free and Open to the Public // 11.16 – 11.19

Think You Know The Best of The Cultural Mile? | The Inaugural Chicago Art Book Fair

9 November 2017

The inaugural Chicago Art Book Fair (CABF) will debut on November 16 and run through November 19. While programming occurs at several partner locations throughout the city, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, just up the street from 1000M , will act as the Fair’s host site. Unlike anything else in Chicago, the CABF’s rich programming celebrates small press arts publishing, and will showcase more than 120 international publishers, small presses, book artists, comic artists, zinemakers and printmakers — along with robust presentations, panels and discussions with the artists. Co-founded and co-directed by Aay Preston-Myint and Alexander Valentine, the Fair’s programming is free and open to the public, and brings an oft-overlooked medium to the forefront of the Chicago art scene.

Can’t make it to CABF? Check back soon to get the highlights here, or follow @1000MChicago on Insta.

The Chicago Art Book Fair // Chicago Athletic Association Hotel // Partner Institutions throughout Chicago // Free and Open to the Public // 11.16 – 11.19

Dîner en Blanc | Seeking Beauty In The Unexpected

6 November 2017

Guests attend Dîner en Blanc at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake on Thursday August 24, 2017. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Sipa USA

Dîner en Blanc is an experience like little else. Combining mystery, prestige and absolute elegance, the event is an exceptional opportunity for residents of 1000M to connect with beauty.

Dîner en Blanc, which translates to Dinner In White, began in France with François Pasquier in 1988. Pasquier was inspired by the simple but powerful motivation to share an elegant meal with close friends. One day, he spotted a couple in all white enjoying a bottle of champagne at a picnic table.

“There was the spark,” says Roger Hobby, one of five hosts or organizers of the Chicago Dîner en Blanc. Nearly three decades later, this spark has spread to more than 70 cities around the world, with nearly 120,000 guests participating globally each year. Chicago has participated since 2012.

Dîner en Blanc distinguishes itself with its peculiar guidelines. For starters, attendees must dress completely in white. “Why white? To recognize each other as being part of the party!” Hobby explains. Guests are also required to bring many of the essentials of a traditional dinner party, including tables, chairs, cutlery and napkins (no paper or plastic allowed; only the real stuff). They can also bring a gourmet meal or enjoy a picnic basket from the party’s caterer. And everything — food as the exception — must meet the color code. Finally, the party’s location is not released until the day of.


The annual event sparks lifelong friendships.

“There’s something magical about coming upon the venue and discovering it, as opposed to knowing where it will be all along,” says Hobby of the mystery surrounding the location.

Roger Hobby began attending Dîner en Blanc 17 years ago in Paris. “A friend sent me an email one day asking if wanted to go to dinner and if I had all white clothes. A passion was born that night.” He adds that he was captivated by the connection guests make at Dîner en Blanc. “People start lifelong relationships with new friends, job networks and yes, sometimes even romance.”

Hobby has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Dîner en Blanc thrives in the Windy City. In 2012, he heard the planned Chicago party was being cancelled. Hobby was committed to keeping his passion alive in his adopted hometown. So with no budget and barely six weeks, Hobby and a group of like-minded friends joined together to create the first Dîner en Blanc in Chicago under the international banner. This premier Dîner en Blanc was celebrated by about 500 guests in the South Garden of the Art institute of Chicago, right in 1000M’s neighborhood. Today, Dîner en Blanc Chicago has grown to include nearly 4,000 participants.


Chicago has celebrated this international tradition since 2012.

Dîner locations are selected based on size, accessibility and, of course, the location must define iconic Chicago beauty. The party’s location let’s “people rediscover their own city, especially parts of it they may have passed by thousands of times, but have never truly seen,” says Hobby.

One of Hobby’s favorite traditions is the event’s unwavering commitment to preserving each Dîner location. After the party concludes, guests leave nothing behind — no trash, no footprints in the grass, no stray streamers or balloons. Hobby remembers the Director of the Palais-Royal in Paris looking on in amazement when she realized the venue was more pristine after the Dîner than before. The guests were “even picking up old cigarette butts,” remembers Hobby.

After all his years participating, Hobby is still fascinated and charmed by the annual event that provides such a mysterious elegance. “It is an event like no other,” he emphasizes. “Your first year you should be prepared to be overwhelmed and amazed.”

Perhaps this year, the Cultural Mile will act as the stage for the 2018 Dîner en Blanc. 1000M’s neighborhood is a perfect location for this unique expression of beauty. Interested parties can sign up to learn more about the 2018 Dîner en Blanc at:

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Dîner en Blanc // Clandestine Location // 2018 TBD //