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Exploring the city of Chicago

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. I think it is necessary to leave all famous tourist places and see different ethnic and cultural corners of the city. The architecture, restaurants, museums of every neighborhood are different. I was lucky to explore the city with my friend and my photography mentor Paul Natkin who knows all the greatest places in Chicago! Many thanks to Paul for all the amazing moments and for making that trip unforgettable!

Chicago is known as a home of the blues. So many places here are connected with the blues history. For example, you can visit Muddy Waters house where he lived and played blues from 1954 to 1974. Actually it is only possible to see the house from outside not entering the building. That Red X on the house means that building is unsafe to enter. It is really sad and disappointing that the house of an international music icon was just left to deteriorate. But hopefully someone can buy this historical house and turn it to a museum dedicated to Muddy Waters great heritage.

Pilsen neighborhood is one of the most recognizable and well known places in the city of Chicago. It is easy to find a piece of public art adorning a façade in nearly every block. The neighborhood looks very colorful but what is more important, every piece of art has its own deep meaning mostly connected with serious political or ethnic problems.

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Here is mural which impressed me the most. It is honoring an aspiring musician and an artist Jeff Macdonaldo Jr. who was killed at the age of 19 as a victim of mistaken identity. He had never been in a gang, he was just getting back from his barber and someone opened a fire. The mural was his friends’ idea, he was an inspiration for them and did many good things so they wanted to give back to his family, helping his parents to get through the worst times. The mural dedicated to peace and tolerance, and called Safe places. It looks really beautiful. World could be a much better place if people have more opportunities to develop their art skills instead of hating each other for some unknown reasons.

There is also a great museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen neighborhood. It is responsible for presenting exhibitions of artistic, cultural and educational value, which demonstrates the unique depth of Mexican art and history. It was really amazing to see many kids visiting museum with their parents. Art is a bridge between communities and it helps to expand minds, which is really necessary for the world we are living in nowadays.

The DuSable Museum of African American history is dedicated to study and conversation of African American history and culture. It is one of the oldest museums dedicated to this topic in the United States. It was founded in 1961 and has been expanding ever since. The museum has a collection of more than15’000 artifacts, books, photographs, paintings, art objects and memorabilia. DuSable museum became a large part of black social activism, hosting festivals, political and community events.

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The exhibitions there are really great and very informative. Actually some parts of exhibitions dedicated to slavery and further segregation horrified me. Of course, everyone knows those terrible moments and events in the American history but seeing all those pictures and artefacts was still very difficult. I can never understand how it is possible to divide people by the color of their skin or their nationality. The saddest part of all this is to realize that we still face the same problems nowadays. The technologies are developing every day, but seems that some people’s minds just stuck with their stereotypes forever.

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Paul Natkin enjoying some art while I’m working as paparazzi 🙂

The museum is surrounded by very beautiful park where we met a group of nice kids who were just running around and enjoying nice summer day. We also met some of their parents and a teacher who told us that those kids were studying history and other subjects by exploring art objects, paintings etc which made the studying process much more interesting. It is great that some organizations are volunteering to help kids to get better future, enter good colleges etc. And it was really heartwarming to see black and white kids playing together not knowing anything about those stupid stereotypes. Hope they will be smart enough to overcome all stereotypes in the future.

I also tried Southern-style soul food for the first time which was really delicious! Pearl’s Place is located in Bronzeville and offers a unique experience combining tasty home-style food with the great service. With photographs of African American jazz legends covering the walls inside and outside the restaurant, you are reminded of Bronzeville’s complex and powerful history.

The Museum of Science and Industry was another great and interesting experience! The main mission of the museum is to build public understanding of science, show how science impacts our society and inspire everyone to think critically about world around us. Exhibitions that cover many important topics are very spectacular and interesting for adults and kids.

Chicago is a great city and it is easy to find something that you enjoy there. If you are interested in photography, “The Photographer’s Curator: Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago” exhibition is a must see. It is really an amazing experience which makes you understand what the real outstanding photography is. The exhibition is bringing together nearly 200 photographs by more than 70 artists whose works are held in the permanent collection. Some pictures from the collection are available here: http://media.artic.edu/edwards/.

Here are some more pictures (http://robertnatkin.net/) which are really mind blowing and should be presented on any exhibition dedicated to photography and history. It is easy to spend all day looking at those pictures, which are different from each other, but all of them are really beautiful, meaningful and very inspiring!

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