[pullquote quote="Take a lunch break and go see this...let it into your soul, and let it do what good art does. Let it move you in all different directions. " credit="Terri Hemmert"]When you go back to the old neighborhood, and see buildings that used to be a big part of your life, sitting empty and falling apart, it’s like seeing an old friend ravaged by illness. Schools, churches, factories, theatres and hospitals that once was the center of community life, now vandalized and abandoned, are a reminder of the mortality of the people and places we love…and our own expiration date. I heard about a photograph of the interior of the Uptown Theatre. During the 1970’s I saw so many great shows there. Roxy Music, Elvis Costello, Frank Zappa, Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Ramones, Genesis and Peter Gabriel, the Tubes, and The Kinks. Greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman played there when Swing was king.
Every time I go by that abandoned entertainment palace, I wish I could sneak a peek. Always wonder how it looks now after sitting empty for decades.
Well I saw a photo of the theater taken by Eric Holubow. In the magazine it looked beautiful, colorful, and restored. I knew that couldn’t be possible. So I made it over to the Chicago Cultural Center to see an exhibit of Holubow’s work, In Decay – Stitching America’s Ruins. The photo of the Uptown Theater is quite large, and colorful, and actually beautiful. It almost looks like a painting. The photo is taken from the stage looking out to the empty seats. But a closer looks shows the water damage from frozen pipes, the light coming in from outside, the major damage of what was once a beautiful auditorium. Very sad. But these photos are worth seeing.
The exhibit is only there until July 8th, but if you’re downtown, take a few minutes to see these amazing photographs. They come from Detroit, Indiana, New York State, Ohio, and our own city. Looking at these once grand houses of worship now in ruins, gets one to think of all the living that went on in that space…the weddings, baptisms, funerals, prayers of joy and of grief. The factory that was the workplace for thousands, now empty. The school study hall where generations of students had a difficult time staying awake or out of trouble, and where dreams of their future were born. And the humble nurses’ kitchen at Michael Reese Hospital. Spaces where people lived. Now ruins. Most of these were once grand displays of architecture and hope. Some still stand, some have been demolished. But it has set my imagination on fire. Take a lunch break and go see this.
It’ free. It’s on the first floor. But do it soon. And let it into your soul, and let it do what good art does. Let it move you in all different directions.