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When Chicago's weekend-long Great Chicago Places and Spaces architecture festival was launched five years ago it featured just under 50 tours. This time around there are 155, many of which will be led by architects and designers; they range from tomorrow's tour of the new UBS Tower at One North Wacker with project designer and developer Drew Nieman (May 17 at 2 PM) to a look at the legacy of Burnham and Bennett's 1909 Plan of Chicago (May 18 at 9:30 AM). The festival kicks off tonight at 6 with a free keynote discussion about the city with TV journalist Bill Kurtis and historian Donald Miller, author of City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America (which inspired the PBS documentary). It's at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark in Chicago. The free tours start tomorrow at 9 AM and continue through Sunday afternoon; a ticket or advance registration is required. For a complete schedule call 312-744-3315 or see


In 1998, Windy City Hemp Development Board founder Caren Thomas took over a lawsuit filed by late activist Robert MacDonald against the Chicago Park District. MacDonald was denied a permit to stage a march in Grant Park against the war on drugs; his suit claimed the CPD's permit process could prevent

citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights in public places. In December 2001 Thomas took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court--and lost. But, she says, "in the Park District briefs to the Supreme Court, they represented a system for granting permits that they now abide by. The effect of losing the case is that we won--we're treated a lot better." In other words, this year's free Windy City Hemp Fest should go off without a hitch. It features speakers, displays, food, and bands and runs from noon to 9 today and tomorrow, May 18, in Chicago at Montrose and the lake, east of Cricket Hill. For more information call 773-381-9330 or E-mail

Evanston's First Church of Christ Scientist was the last building designed by Solon S. Beman, the architect of Chicago's Pullman neighborhood. The landmark two-story neoclassical structure was completed in 1913; it has exceptional acoustics and contains a venerable Skinner pipe organ. Music Institute of Chicago president Frank Little, a longtime admirer of the building, began talking with church officials in the mid-1990s about turning it into something he thought the community needed: a midsize auditorium for chamber music, choral concerts, and recitals. Two years ago, the institute bought the church and began converting it into a 500-seat concert hall with main-floor studio spaces. The private grand opening was last night; it opens to the public today, which is the first of six days of free concerts. At 7:30 tonight institute faculty will give a chamber performance that includes work by Villa-Lobos and Schubert; at 5 tomorrow, May 18, Emilio del Rosario will inaugurate the new Steinway piano with music by Bach, Chopin, and Liszt. The handsome reborn hall is at 1450 Chicago in Evanston. See or call 847-866-9161 for a complete schedule.

Shopping, a 45-minute piece by German composer and video artist Michael Maierhof, is scored for 21 balloons. They are "largely rubbed, and in a couple of places the air is let out so they hiss at a very high frequency," explains Renaissance Society education director Hamza Walker. A revised version for 16 musicians will be performed tonight at 8 by Austrian cellist Michael Moser and Ensemble Noamnesia; the music will accompany a set of Maierhof's videos--which are "like blocks of texture that are juxtaposed against one another in a very precise manner," says Walker. It'll be presented in conjunction with the Joelle Tuerlinckx installation Chicago Studies: Les etants donnes ("that which is given"), which runs through June 15. Moser and Ensemble Noamnesia will perform Maierhof's work for chamber ensemble Friday night at 8. Both free concerts are at the Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis in Chicago (773-702-8670).


Seventy-nine-year-old artist Allen Stringfellow is known for wearing bright red and creating vibrant visual work using religious and jazz-world themes. A new exhibit running through June 7 at Nicole Gallery features 46 of his latest collages, including one called DeLisa the Club, which depicts the south-side nightclub that his father--a singer and jazz guitarist--managed. Today from 2 to 4 Stringfel-low will discuss his work and create a new collage using construction paper and images clipped from magazines at a free Sunday Afternoon Salon at the gallery, 230 W. Huron, Chicago. Call 312-787-7716.


The past 12 months have been "the longest year of my life," says former Gold Coast resident Julie Lofton. In that time the 26-year-old writer and producer, now based in Los Angeles, started a production company and completed her first documentary, Best Friend Forgotten, which features narration by David Duchovny. It focuses on the plight of two strays--an LA dog named Clover and a Chicago cat named Oreo that was picked up on the south side last winter by Animal Care and Control. "We followed several animals, but most ended up on the cutting-room floor," says Lofton, who will attend tonight's preview, a benefit for the educational outreach group Give Voice to Animals. The screening starts at 6 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Admission is $10; tickets for the dinner and auction at 7:30 down the hall at Petterino's, 150 N. Dearborn, start at $125. For reservations call 312-527-3667.


The latest target of the group SUSTAIN ("Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now") is the Peoria-based Caterpillar corporation, which sells armored bulldozers to the Israeli military. In March SUSTAIN members from the D.C. area plastered their local Caterpillar office with photos of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was run over and killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer on March 16 in Gaza. The northwest-suburban chapter of SUSTAIN will hammer out local protest strategies at a planning meeting tonight at 7 at the New World Resource Center, 1300 N. Western, Chicago. For more call 866-860-9311 or visit


Michael McAssey is coming home to the northwest suburbs for a one-night cabaret stand. The 1973 Wheaton Central High School graduate and former College of DuPage student will perform a one-man show that uses a mix of original songs, show tunes, pop standards, and comic bits to recap his 20 years of "trial and tribulation" pursuing a showbiz career in New York. "When I finally made it to Broadway," McAssey says, "it was in a flop musical [Late Nite Comic]" that closed as soon as it opened. And "when I thought I finally had some stability, with a job in a soap opera [Guiding Light], they cast me as a blind piano player, then gave me a cornea transplant and wrote me off the show." McAssey now spends eight months a year as a music director and performer in Aspen and the rest of the time in New York, where he's been named Outstanding Male Vocalist by the Manhattan Associa-tion of Cabarets. Michael McAssey: Down a Third starts at 7:30 at Crossroads Theater, 22 E. Chicago in Naperville. Tickets are $25; call 630-428-4730.


Like other immigrants to this country, Italians initially suffered prejudice and discrimination because of their origins. But because of their skin color, says Notre Dame American Studies professor Thomas Guglielmo, they were better able to move up the economic and social ladder than blacks and Latinos. Guglielmo will discuss his new book, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945, at an urban history seminar tonight at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago. It starts at 5:45 with a cash bar, followed by dinner at 6:30 and the program at 7:30. Tickets are $20; call 312-799-2009 for reservations.

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