Multiculturalism in the arts will be investigated through more than 20 workshops, video screenings, and performances during the conference Cultures, Communities, and the Arts: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Chicago this Friday and Saturday at Columbia College. The two-day meeting of minds will grapple with such topics as ethnic identity and artistic expression, public policy and the arts, and arts education and criticism. For $15, you get two days of panels, presentations, and talks; admission is free for students with a valid ID. Registration for the first day starts at 8 this morning in the lobby of Columbia College's Hokin Center, 623 S. Wabash, followed at 9 with a keynote address by Catharine Stimpson, director of the MacArthur Foundation's fellows program. Tomorrow's session gets under way with registration at 8 and a lecture by poet and playwright Amiri Baraka at 9. For reservations, call 663-1600, ext. 219.
If you're checking out the holiday windows on State Street today, you may want to look in on Mandy Morrison's daylong performance Paper Window. The artist and Reader contributor says she'll take up residence in the front window of a vacant Loop restaurant from 8:30 to 6:30 to comment on "voyeurism and passive consumption." The free performance takes place at 200 S. State; call 738-8965 for more information.
The term "underground movie" hasn't been in vogue since the heyday of Andy Warhol, but the folks at the Hub Theatre have resurrected the label to describe the work of filmmakers Richard Kern and Jim Sikora. New Yorker Kern is perhaps best known for the flick Fingered, which stars Lydia Lunch as a phone-sex operator in what has been called "the most amoral chain of events ever committed to celluloid." Chicagoan Jim Sikora has garnered accolades for his Super 8 epics Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera and Walls in the City; the latter film is based in part on a short story by Charles Bukowski. Both Kern and Sikora will attend screenings of their films tonight and tomorrow at 8 at the Hub Theatre, 1746 W. Chicago. Admission is $6; call 525-1860.
In Santa Girl, Cathleen Schandelmeier's Christmas puppet show, a ghetto child hooks up with an angel who transforms her into the title super-hero. Santa Girl quickly becomes embroiled with a naughty group of exile elves called the Greebies. The popular children's play, now in its second holiday run, is at the Coronet Theatre, 817 Chicago in Evanston. Show times are every Saturday at 1 PM and selected Wednesdays at 10:30 AM, through December 21. Tix are $6, $4 for kids; call 708-733-0030 for details.
Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar spotlights the talents of South Pacific strummers Keola Beamer, Ledward Kaapana, and Cyril Pahinui. Their concert is offered at 7 and 10 tonight at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage. Tickets cost $12 to $16; call 525-7793 for more.
If you're in the mood for some nonsmoking, nonalcoholic country-and-western two-stepping tonight, shuffle over to Dancer's Delight, 1623 W. Melrose, where Steppin' Out, a lesbian and gay dance group, oversees an evening of western swing starting at 8 PM. It costs $5 to get in; call 477-4196 for extra info.
The Prairie Fire Organizing Committee says that Uncle Sam is unfair to Puerto Rican political prisoners. For example, in 1980 Chicagoan Carmen Valentin was sentenced to 98 years behind bars for "seditious conspiracy" to throw the U.S. out of Puerto Rico, while abortion-clinic bomber Michael Donald Bray recently received a sentence of only 10 years. The group wants to publicize the plight of Valentin and 14 others; most have already been incarcerated for nearly 15 years, twice as long as the average sentence for homicide. They're trying to raise $17,000 to purchase a full-page ad in next Saturday's New York Times for International Human Rights Day. An all-you-can-eat Pancake and Waffle Breakfast this morning from 10 to noon will help raise funds toward meeting their goal; admission is $5. The breakfast takes place at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, 1671 N. Claremont; call 278-6706 for details.
When is a cigar not just a cigar? When it's a Cuban cigar--and a Montecristo II is not just any Cuban cigar according to organizers of the Special Smoke, an affair honoring this stogie from the pre-Castro era. They're charging $100 for two of the fabled Cuban smokes--one to smoke there, one to take home--along with wine, cheese, cognac, and a cigar expert to tell you how to puff with propriety. It's from 5:30 to 7 tonight at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson. Call 800-465-8687 for details.
A free concert of computer music, Midi Mix, touts the versatility of new digital technology. Jim Lucas, head of the computer lab at Northeastern Illinois University, will present various works by his students, ranging from jazz and pop songs to more avant-garde sound manipulation. It's at 7:30 tonight in the auditorium of Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis. Call 794-3042 for more information.
HotHouse--the Wicker Park club with a yen for world and avant-garde music--has been hosting a series of Town Hall Forums on a variety of social and political issues affecting the local community. Tonight's edition concentrates on schools and young people. Laura Washington, editor and publisher of the Chicago Reporter, will moderate a panel discussion with state senator Alice Palmer, congressman Bobby Rush, and other local activists at 7 tonight at the club, 1565 N. Milwaukee. It's free; call 235-2334 for details.
The reunification of Berlin, with its two independent systems for utilities and transportation (not to mention politics), has been the job of Hans Stimmann, director of building for the city. He's in town tonight to talk about his vision for a reconstructed Berlin core, divided and neglected for nearly 30 years. It's a process that includes many of the same nettlesome questions native to any city--what to tear down, how to improve access, how to include the community in city planning. Stimmann will talk about The Rebuilding of Berlin: City Center and Its Historic Neighborhoods at 7:30 tonight at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 4 W. Burton Place. It's free; call 996-5083.
All the Fran Lebowitz you'll ever need is collected in the new Fran Lebowitz Reader because the collection has just about everything she's ever written. The famous raconteur, columnist, and cynic hasn't produced much in the way of writing for nearly a dozen years. Lebowitz is known for the early-80s collections Social Studies and Metropolitan Life, and those essays are included in the new collection. The only thing she's done since is a new children's book, Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas. She'll be talking about that book and her older stuff at 7:30 tonight at the New Town Barbara's Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway. Call 477-0411 for information.
Out at Work (or Not), a group that focuses on the needs of gay employees, says it believes many personnel managers are sympathetic to hiring gays, but are challenged by their higher-ups. "We want to find out if that is the case," says the group's Greg Ward. They've assembled a panel of high-level managers from Commonwealth Edison, AT&T, and Hewlett-Packard to talk at their monthly meeting tonight in room 650 of the Commonwealth Edison Building, 125 S. Clark. There's a light buffet at 5:30; the panel discussion begins at 6:45. It costs $10; call 794-5218 for more.
The Neo-Futurists move south tonight for a show at the University of Chicago's Court Theatre. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the group's long-running hit at their North Ashland digs, is a blur as the group performs a promised 30 plays in 60 minutes. The Court Theatre is at 5535 S. Ellis; the show's at 10:30 PM; and it costs $3 plus the roll of a six-sided die (in other words, you could end up paying $4 to $9). Call 753-4472 for information.