Have Some Publishing with that Breaded Steak Sandwich (A Literary Look at Bridgeport)

This traditionally working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s southside has become the unexpected home of a flourishing literary and arts community. From celebrated publications and local festivals to a research library brimming with rare periodicals, you never know what you might find during your next adventure to Bridgeport. Take a closer look at what we found:

Public Media Institute (PMI)

Public Media Institute (PMI) is a community based non-profit whose mission is to “create and incubate innovative arts programming and cultural infrastructures to transform people – socially and intellectually – through the production of festivals, art spaces, events, exhibitions, community projects, artifacts and media.” PMI serves as a “great connector” for the growing literary Bridgeport community, showcasing both emerging and established writers through the development and promotion of festivals, publications, and events in its many experimental art spaces like the Co-Prosperity Sphere. PMI also oversees a residency program, traveling exhibition series, artist-led art school, and international artist exchange program. Check it out at: http://www.publicmediainstitute.com.

Here are some of our favorite PMI literary discoveries:

PMI Publications
Proximity Magazine
Started in 2008, the award-winning Proximity explores contemporary issues arising in arts communities around the world. Articles focus on the efforts of artists, galleries, museums, and academic institutions as they create sustainable partnerships to postively impact where they live, work, and make art. Subscribe or submit work at: http://proximitymagazine.com/.
Lumpen Magazine
Launched in 1990, this independent quarterly centers on current arts news and emerging cultural trends, featuring work by both artists and writers. Readers might find anything in Lumpen from editorials and interviews to reviews. Get caught up in the conversation at: http://lumpenmagazine.com/.
Matériel Magazine
Inspiring readers since 2010, Matériel is an award-winning art and design annual that features the work of some of the most exciting artists, designers, and writers working in the industry today. Download a copy of the current issue at: http://www.materielmag.com/.
Bridgeport International
Residents created this bi-monthly newsletter in 2010 and now, two years later, it serves as the community’s “go-to” resource for local events and issues. To catch up on the latest news, visit: http://bridgeportinternational.blogspot.com/.

PMI Events and Resources
Typeforce 2012
Head to Bridgeport’s Co-Prosperity Sphere on March 30, 2012 at 7pm to attend the opening night of Typeforce, an annual showcase of emerging typographic artists. As the only art and design showcase in the Midwest, it promises to be full of inspiration. Go to http://typeforcechicago.com/ for details.
Version Festival
For the past 11 years, Version Festival has invited every faction of the Bridgeport community––from business owners to artists––to participate in a month-long urban art experience. This May, 12 temporary spaces will transform to energize the neighborhood. A Bridgeport visitor might find themselves browsing titles at a pop-up bookstore, enjoying a reading in a re-purposed storefront, or catching a performance at a donut shop turned gallery. A new publication, Mash Tun: A Craft Beer Journal, will also kick-off during Chicago Craft Beer Week (May 17 – 27) as a part of Version Festival. With a spectacular line-up of literary projects, cultural programs, and artist-run initiatives planned, Version Festival expects 1,000 + participants.
Public Media Institute Research Library
Created to establish a dialogue about Chicago based art and design, the PMI Research Library houses a fun collection of “hard-to-find” art, architecture and design periodicals. The unique space is located at the Co -Prosperity Sphere at 3219 S. Morgan Street and is open by appointment only. Visit: http://pmirl.blogspot.com/ to find out more.

Other Bridgeport Literary Destinations

Zhou B Art Center
The Zhou B Art Center’s mission is to “promote and facilitate a cultural dialogue by organizing contemporary art exhibitions and programs of international scope.” Founded in 2004 by Chinese American artists and longtime Bridgeport residents, brothers Shan Zuo and Da Huang Zhou, the Center offers an ecclectic mix of artist’s studios, galleries, and event spaces. Located at 1027 W. 35th Street, it even has a welcoming Cafe where writers and Center patrons alike can rejuvenate. Watch out for literary happenings and text inspired exhibitions at the Center’s 3rd Friday events. Learn more at: http://zbcenter.org/.

Red Lightbulbs and Love Symbol Press
The mission driving Red Lightbulbs and Love Symbol Press is simple: Connect amazing writers and artists with an expanded readership. And, champion the creation of new, beautifully crafted work. Over the past few years, poet/musician Russ Woods and his partner, artist/writer Meghan Lamb, saw a growing need for publishing outlets in Chicago and they decided to do something about it. Their online publication, Red Lightbulbs, launched in April 2011 and features literary prose and poetry of all genres. The publication will release its seventh issue in late March 2012. Visit http://redlightbulbs.net to discover a great piece of writing or submit one yourself. Love Symbol Press (the print arm of Red Lightbulbs) was announced in January 2012. It will release its first book, Variations on the Sun by M. Kitchell, this coming summer. Contact Love Symbol Press at: editors@lovesymbolpress.com.

Fun Fact
Author Billy Lombardo was born and raised in Bridgeport. He is the author of several books including Chicago Tribune Best Fiction of 2005, The Logic of a Rose: Chicago Stories and The Man with Two Arms (Overlook Press, 2010). Lombardo co-founded Polyphony H.S. in 2004, the first student-run international literary magazine of its kind for high school writers/editors.

A Sneak Peek at Chicago Tools of Change with Bill Wikert

Publisher Bill Wikert of O’Reilly Media has his eye on Chicago. “It’s a very diverse city with more publishing professionals than it gets credit for,” he says. For the past 6 years, O’Reilly has hosted the Tools of Change conference in New York City, which works to foster innovation in publishing and technology. Chicago is slated to host a smaller version of the event—a “MiniTOC”—this spring. “MiniTOC Chicago will be our third regional event (following Portland and Austin) and the location was selected because of the great mix of smaller and university presses,” said Wikert. “It also doesn’t hurt that plenty of people in the publishing community call Chicago home, even if the company they work for isn’t headquartered there. The more we researched MiniTOC locations the more Chicago kept floating toward the top of the list.”

Tools of Change has worked over the last eight months to establish year-round e-content and create multimedia resources that can be accessed anywhere. The group hopes to inspire advances in publishing technology on both a national and a local level. “We typically have to offer broader content coverage in our larger events,” explains Wikert. “The Mini’s let us focus on the needs of smaller presses as well as the local community.”

The one-day regional conference will be held on April 9, 2012 from 9am-5pm at the Chicago Cultural Center. Its organizers promise an exciting mix of panels, projects, and technical Q&As with field experts. Emphasis will be placed on attendees and presenters engaging in a shared conversation, using panels as a launching point for further collaboration and discussion. “MiniTOC Chicago is an opportunity for this community to come together and learn from each other,” Wikert said. By lending a regional focus to the traditional TOC format, Mini TOC Chicago organizers hope to showcase the vibrancy of the Midwest’s publishing and tech scenes.

Early registration for the conference ends April 2, 2012, with standard registration continuing for as long as space is available. Attendance will be capped at 250, in order to promote a small, intimate setting and casual discussion. Those interested in participating should register through O’Reilly’s TOC Chicago site.

“There are a lot of eyeballs”: An Interview with Keith Taylor

Could you tell us about your work and the different mediums/media you use?
I started doing “Streams” in July of 2010. I call them “streams” because of the stream of consciousness—the fact that I use a pen and there’s no pencil involved, no premeditation. It’s free-flowing connectivity. The first thing is just putting a line down, and one thing leads to another. There are a lot of eyeballs, a lot of mouths. I love line and line combinations. I love the overall patterning that happens.
I prefer pencil, but I think the permanency of pen—putting a mark on the page and living with it—is an exciting challenge.
I like to throw paint and draw cartoons. My MFA was in Lithography, and in the 70’s I ran a studio near Division and Ashland called Fine Art Hand Printing.
Does your cartooning work function differently than your “Streams” drawings?
Yes. I’ll have a cartoon pretty much generated in my head before it goes down on paper. I know how it will be presented and with what characters. Then the fun begins, trying to see what will happen between the idea and the paper. There’s pencil involved usually, because I’m working on gestures and deciding the best way to present each frame. With my pen drawings, on the other hand, it’s all spontaneity.
How has living in Chicago affected your work?
Chicago shaped me a lot as a cartoonist. I spent a lot of time working in music bars, and my cartooning really blossomed there. I’m an observer; I believe that’s what my cartooning is. I reflect on what’s going on around me. One of the first long-form pieces I did was an actual incident where a guy—a regular—was playing pool and his girlfriend came in and whomped him upside the head with her bag. Evidently she thought he was cheating on her.
Where did you work?
I started at John Barleycorn on Lincoln Avenue, and at Wise Fools, which was a blues club at the time. I later worked at Somebody Else’s Troubles, owned by Steve Goodman and the Holstein Brothers, and at Holstein’s, which was also owned by the Holstein Brothers.
Were there any recurring characters?
There was a doorman at Wise Fools, Paul Hemstreet. I believe he was a war veteran, and he smoked a pipe. The guy had a wig on, a rug underneath his white hat, and he communicated with the bar in signals. This meant he wanted a shot of mescal, this meant he wanted a beer back, and this meant he wanted a cognac. He rarely talked to anybody.
He had a friend who was a sculptor, who built a life-sized model of him that sat at a table with a little recorder. You could press this foot button…you’d stand next to the dummy and hit the button and it would start singing, “I neeeed a drink! Oh, I neeeeed a drink! Waitress! Some cocktails for my army!” I would do drawings of Paul. He was a curmudgeon—he just did not like anybody who came in there. He didn’t like any kind of a hassle. He became part of many of the cartoons that I drew, because he was such a character.
Could you tell us about what you’re working on right now?
I’m working on the “Streams” all the time. I finished one a couple of days ago, and recently donated another to Woman Made Gallery for their gala.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a book my brother-in-law gave me. It has notes and letters from Illinois and the prairie from 1730 to 1960. I’m in 1857 right now. It’s nice to strip away everything else and see what it would be like without all the crap around here, the road signs, even the roads. It’s wonderful looking at old cartoons, too, and seeing how people used words. That’s a fascinating read.

Streams by Keith Taylor