The Great Barrier Reef, off the northeast coast of Australia, spans 1,200 miles and juts, at times, as many as 120 miles into the ocean. That makes it as long as California and larger than Illinois. Though it has been forming continuously for millions of generations and supports more than 10,000 different plant and animal species, it is now threatened by chemical and oil drilling. The Great Barrier Reef is brilliantly captured in all its wonder in Omnimax's new 37-minute film, which debuts today at the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum's new script, narrated by Bill Kurtis, is directed at the Chicago audience. The film will be shown every 50 minutes beginning at 10 AM on the five-story domed screen at the museum's Henry Crown Space Center, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. Museum hours are from 9:30 to 4 on weekdays and to 5:30 on weekends and holidays. There are also shows at 7 and 8 on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after the rest of the museum is closed. Parking and admission to the museum are free, but the film is $4.50 for adults and $3 for kids and seniors. For more, call 684-1414, ext. 521.
There will probably be images of Harold Washington at the juried Columbia College student art exhibition but they're not likely to ruffle feathers the way David Nelson's Mirth and Girth did at the School of the Art Institute. Founded in 1890, Columbia only had 125 students in 1962, when it began an aggressive urban recruiting policy for faculty and students. Today it boasts almost 6,000 students--35 percent of whom are minority. Its full-time faculty is 15.8 percent nonwhite. "It's unlikely something like the Art Institute thing could happen here," said a proud Columbia source, "because, well, we have so many black students that the artist of such a painting would be too aware of his or her own insensitivity to a very large, and very real, group of people." Sponsored by the photography department, the exhibition runs through June 10. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 to 4. Tonight's opening is at the school, 600 S. Michigan, from 5 to 7. It's free. For more information, call 663-1600, ext. 110.
When an estimated half million gay-and-lesbian-rights supporters descended on Washington D.C. last October, most of the national media--Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post--ignored the event. But not ABC News. Anchor Peter Jennings named Cleve Jones the network's "Person of the Week." Jones was honored because he founded the Names Project/National AIDS Quilt (which will be at Navy Pier July 9-11). Jones also worked for the late Harvey Milk, organized the candlelight march after Milk's assassination, and participated in the White Night Riots that followed. He worked as a legislative aide to California assembly speaker Leo McCarthy (now the state's lieutenant governor), for state legislator Art Agnos (now mayor of San Francisco), and helped found the San Francisco AIDS Foundation--among other things. Jones, who hitchhiked to San Francisco in 1973 looking for a place to be safely and happily gay, is one of the most important voices in the national lesbian and gay movements. He'll be the featured speaker at the Gay and Lesbian Press Association Convention awards banquet tonight at 7:30 at the Executive House Hotel, 71 E. Wacker. Tickets are $30. Call 327-7271 for more.
The Gold Coast, Chicago's last great leather bar, closed earlier this year after a dispute between two of the leather community's most visible activists, bar owners Frank Kellas (who led the gay-dollar campaign with Marge Summitt) and Chuck Renslow (the last of the Chicago bathhouse operators). But the leather community still has its big event: Renslow's International Mr. Leather Contest. The macho boys who'll strut onstage tonight will be hiding little behind their polished and supple skins. The pageant starts at 8 at Club Land, 3145 N. Sheffield. Admission is $25 for balcony seats. The fun continues tomorrow with the "Black and Blue Ball" at the Bistro Too, 5015 N. Clark (728-0050), where the international leathers will meet to party with the cartoon music of the Village People. The Bistro Too party begins at 9 and there's a cover of $10. Call 878-6360 for more information.
Baseball umpires have been calling balks more and more these days, but it's hard to know how they'll be able to tell what's going on when Thillens Stadium hosts Baseball on Burros. There are 13 ways to balk. For example, a pitcher balks when, with his foot on the pitcher's mound, he feints a throw to first base but doesn't throw. But, hey, what if the pitcher has four legs? The fun starts at 8 tonight at Devon and Kedzie. Admission is $3. Call 539-4444 for more.
Charles Darwin once said that the origin of flowering plants was "an abominable mystery." Fortunately, evolution doesn't require us to understand it. Thousands of the progeny--roses, orchids, banana plants, palm trees--will be on display at the Chicago International Festival of Flowers and Gardens at Navy Pier through June 5. In the Outdoor Garden Promenade, community groups such as the Concerned Citizens of East Pilsen and the Graceland West Community Association have created an array of 17 public gardens. There will also be international gardens, including one that is a tribute to Latin America. The flower fest is open from noon to 8 on weekdays, 11 to 7 on weekends. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for kids 6 to 12 who are accompanied by an adult, $12 for families (two adults and children), and $3.50 for students, seniors, and those in groups of 20 or more. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand. Call 787-6858 for more information.
It's a dark, dark room, but the details attract a smart writers crowd almost any night of the week. Lower Link's, the new bar in the all-black basement of Link's Hall (which for years has hosted nearly every known kind of alternative programming), has huge roses painted on the floor, a faint map of the constellations on the wall, and serves coffee in china cups with matching creamers. Barry Cassilly, intellectual bon vivant about town, curated this month's artistic offerings, including the Tuesday Night Poetry Series. Featured at 8 tonight are newcomers Chuck Mertz, Christine Huston, Eriq Madsen, and Lita Peterson. Cover is $3 (hey--most of it goes to the poets!). The club is in the catacombs at 954 W. Newport. Call 248-5238 for more information.
Whether you believe the Chicago Public Schools' figures on dropouts (44.8 percent between 1981 and 1985), or the State Board of Education's (11 percent), the problem is devastating. The Chicago Board of Education has free dropout retrieval and dropout prevention programs for students up to 21 years of age, but too few dropouts come back. At the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago's kickoff brown-bag-lunch program, Jean W. Knoll, associate director of graduate programs at the School of New Learning at DePaul University, will give a free presentation on Returning to School. A discussion will follow. The program will be at the Y, 180 N. Wabash, third floor, and starts at 12:15 PM. For more information, call 372-6600.
She's the big woman who wails about Chicago's big, fat Sunday paper in TV commercials, growling her way up to the supermarket register. But Valerie Wellington is more than just power blues. She can purr as well as scream, and she knows a much wider repertoire than you're ever going to see on TV. It's probably good to catch her while you can--this up-and-comer just got a pad in New York and is setting her sights on bigger success. She'll be appearing tonight at 6 at the Moosehead Bar & Grill, 163 W. Harrison. The cover is only $4, and worth every penny. For more information or reservations, call 922-3276.