Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snack Time Report, Friday November 6th through Friday, November 13th

It's been a busy week (is there any other kind?), but a pretty good one for snacks! More than just the usual Friday night cheese and wine, the past eight or so days have provided me with a few unexpected morsels as well.

Friday, November 6th: Beverly Arts Competition at Beverly Arts Center

Last Friday there were quite a few things going on, including open studios at SAIC. Unfortunately, Steph and I had to skip all these, because we felt compelled to attend the opening of the Beverly Art Competition and Exhibition at the Beverly Arts Center, since we had work in the show. And I won a prize, which was awesome.

Normally one might think that there would be a sort of conflict of interest in reviewing a show in which I participated, but let me assure you, the Snack Report is serious business, and I'll tell it like it is. As it was, the snacks were good...but something was amiss. The snack table was well-provisioned with the usual, fruits and cheese, chips and salsa, pita and hummus, some brownie bits...I remember that they were pretty good, unfortunately I didn't take notes and the batteries in my camera died, so I can't be much more specific than that. Suffice it to say, though, that the snacks were good.

However, the event was hampered by one fatal flaw, this snack reporter's mortal enemy: the cash bar. WHATWHATWHAT? You heard me right, a cash bar. They were charging for beer, wine, and even water. (The drinking fountains were unobstructed, however.)

Now, I'm not one to criticize the fiscal policies of a non-profit organization, especially not one that just gave me an awesome cash prize. What do I know? If your 501C3 needs to charge for drinks to keep its head above water, okay, fine. Nor do I really know how the finances of having a cash bar at your event really work: is it a revenue source for the organization? Or does the catering company make their money on the booze and provide the snacks for free? Something in between? I'm imagining that if you went to a catering company, asking them to cater your event, they'd quote you two prices: one for what they charge you for running a cash bar, and another one for running an open bar, the latter possibly with sub-options like a charge per case opened, vs. a fixed amount and when they're out, they're out. I don't really know, I'm just guessing here.

So, to organizations out there considering these options, especially in these hard economic times, here's some free advice. Free advice. See how much nicer that is than advice you have to pay for? Even if it's not very good, eh? Wouldn't you rather have my half-baked opinion, free of charge, than paying some consultant to tell you what to think? Of course you would. I think you see where I'm going with this. Instead of running a cash bar, why not just swing by TJ's, pick up a case of Two Buck Chuck (I'm from California, where it really is still $2 a bottle), and set it out with a corkscrew and some Dixie Cups? It'll cost you about fifty bucks, tops, it's classy, and you don't have to pay some guy in an apron to open my beer. Everybody wins! Or, failing that, just do what the apartment galleries do, and leave out a cooler full of Old Style.

Anyway, Beverly, thanks so much for the snacks, they really were great, and of course thanks for the prize and for putting me and Steph in the show!

Saturday, November 7th: Sign of the Times at Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche has opened in her new location on Division with Sign of the Times, an exhibition of work centered around the current state of the economy. There were some good pieces in the show. No snacks, unfortunately, but there was a bottle of white wine and little plastic cups.

I've read, I can't recall where, but someone was advising gallery owners, or maybe it was for people hosting an event in general, that only white wine should be served, since it doesn't stain if you spill it on your fancy white linen suit or whatever. In practice, plenty of spaces serve red wine, and gallery-goers (even myself) seem able to navigate a cup of red around without getting it all over themselves. Well, okay, so accidents happen, but maybe that's the reason that dressing in all black is so fashionable...it is still fashionable, right? Not like I'm stopping, regardless. Anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s knows what I'm talking about; you hang out with the Goth kids for a few years, and you lose your ability to coordinate colors.

I wonder if that's why vampires wear all black, to hide the blood if they spill a little: the human neck is the original dribble glass.

Regardless, whether a practical necessity or not, serving white wine only functions as a signifier that one's space is catering to a clientele that wears white linen suits and, by extension, expensive evening gowns, furs, and possibly powdered wigs. Not that I saw any of those, but it did sort of feel like one might show up at any time.

Sunday, November 8th: Coffee receptions at Packer-Schopf and Dubhe Carreño

This weekend saw something new in the realm of art-funding snacking, at least new to me: the coffee reception. There were two of them; I got an email from Aron Packer informing me that both his space and Dubhe Carreño were hosting coffee receptions mid-day on Sunday: 11am to 2pm at Packer-Schopf, and 12pm to 4pm at Dubhe Carreño. Packer's had an artist's talk with Jerry Bleem. But this isn't about that. This is about SNACKS!

So, Steph and I were in the car on our way down to the West Loop, and I said, "I hope there's going to be bagels and cream cheese." And Steph said, "I don't think there's going to be bagels and cream cheese." So we stopped at Beans & Bagels on Montrose by Ravenswood and got lox bagels, which we call "fishbiscuits," after the fish-shaped bear treats that Sawyer and Kate got while they were trapped in the bear cages on Lost a few seasons ago. Lox bagels/fishbiscuits are awesome; I always pretend I'm either a bear or an eagle when I eat one.

Anyhow, we get down to Packer-Schopf and there were tons of snacks, INCLUDING BAGELS AND CREAM CHEESE! Plus berry cobbler, some really good grapes, coffee (Starbucks brand, made in a big percolator), orange juice, and probably a few other things. I made it a point to sample everything, and it was all damned good. Oh, except for the orange-colored cream cheese: I wasn't sure if it was berry or salmon, and I'm not a fan of salmon-flavored cream cheese, so I decided not to risk it.

A note on grapes: Packer picks a good grape. Concords, I think, but more importantly, they're SMALL. Big grapes are totally flavorless, like bubble wrap full of water. Small grapes taste way, way better. Doubt me? Visit a vineyard sometime, that makes high-end wine grapes, taste one, and tell me how big they were. Yeah. That's what I thought. Small grapes for the win!

Dubhe Carreño has a similar setup, slightly less lavish in the food department but I was pretty well stuffed by then anyway. They did have coffee and some snacks, I think it was bagels and fruit and cream cheese again, but honestly my memory of it is a little faint. I recall it fondly, though.

Guys, kudos to you both. Packer-Schopf and Dubhe Carreño are helping me to bring my dreams to life: I dream of a world where I don't need to buy food or booze at all. Instead, I just have to visit an art gallery every time I get hungry. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, three meals a day, plus maybe midnight snacks and late-night cocktails, all for no more than the courtesy of my attention, viewing some art! Wouldn't that be a nice world?

Indulge my fantasy if you will: Sunday morning, coffee and bagels with Aron Packer. Sunday night, dinner at Linda Warren, followed by her famous vodka punch. Monday morning, an early pancake breakfast at Ann Nathan. Round about noon, lunch at ThreeWalls. Dinner time, head on over to Monique Meloche. And Tuesday, start the day off right at Peter Miller, with sausage and eggs...and so on. Wouldn't that be great?

We may not be there yet, but with their great spreads of snacks, Packer-Schopf and Dubhe Carreño are helping to make this world a reality, one reception at a time. My hat is off to you both, and may many more follow in your footsteps!

Friday, November 13th: Second Fridays at Pilsen East "Chicago Art District"

CHA-cha-cha. CHA-cha-cha. It's Friday the 13th! This is Second Fridays, and there wasn't a whole lot else going on, so I decided to make the pilgrimage down to the Principality of Podmajersky.

We got there earlyish, around seven. We started off the night at the Chicago Arts District's 1915 S. Halsted Exhibition Space. This is a space which, if I understand things right, you can rent from Podmajersky directly, to put on an exhibition. So, it's sort of like a vanity gallery or pay-to-play space, except without all the bullshit and lies and pretending it's a real gallery. It's a good spot to rent for, for example, an organization or school that wants to put on an exhibition in a well-trafficked neighborhood.

This time around, it was some school putting up their students' photography. They even had a camera set up so you could take a photo of yourself, or the gallery, which was fun. The camera, like the photography in the show, was traditional, film based, non-digital. I took a photo of Steph and she took one of me. We're famous! Okay, but yeah, there were snacks.

No wine, which I tried not to get too grumpy about since it was a school show (although I didn't see any kids about...), but there was a basic though much-appreciated snack tray setup. There were soft drinks (Coke, Mountain Dew, Hawaiian Punch, and Ginger Ale), which I steered well away from (I needed all the room in my bladder for the wine I was sure I'd find later). There were also Oreo cookies topped with some kind of sweet spread...meringue? Gussied up Cool Whip? I wasn't sure, but it was tasty. I had a few. What's that almond stuff called? Marzipan? I don't think it was that, either.

So there were chips, and grapes (mid-sized, didn't try 'em), and nuts. I love nuts. Seriously. A pawful of nuts and I feel like some kind of tropical bird. Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, filberts...are those the same thing as hazel nuts? No, they're a subspecies of hazelnut. Thanks, Wikipedia! Cashews...even the lowly peanut is my friend.

Then they had a sort of deli tray thing with salami, Triscuits, and two types of cheese (cheddar and pepper jack). I made myself a couple of cracker sandwiches and chowed down. Maybe not the most high-class or pretentious of snacks, but man was I happy. Poor man's art gallery sandwiches, to fill the tummy against the barrage of wine it was about to endure. Speaking of which...

We journeyed on, in search of more art, and some wine! If Logsdon 1909 had any wine, it was tucked away somewhere I couldn't find it. There were snacks though: candy, nuts, and brownie bits. I'd had my fill of nuts at the previous space, so I abstained. But then, just as we were about to head out the door, I saw what I thought were lemon squares. I had one. Turns out they were cheesecake bits! I had another.

We still hadn't had any wine, so we moved on. Vespine is a pay-to-play space that I've never been able to figure out: the only barrier to showing there, from what I can discern, is forking over the cash to rent the space out...but then, why is the work there usually some of the best stuff in Pilsen? I don't get it. Also, they usually have really good snacks. And wine.

I say usually, because this time, not so much. Look at their website, you can rent either the front half or the back half, as either "basic" or "premium." "Premium" apparently includes wine and snacks, which are usually pretty good. I don't know that they're $150 good, though, so if it were me I'd probably go for "basic" and then take my Franklin-fifty to TJ's and load up on Two Buck Chuck, chips, and salsa. You can get a lot of Chuck and chips for $150. But I guess there's cups, too. Whatever.

Regardless, in this case it looks like the artists went for "basic" and then cut some corners with the snacks. Well, times are tough, I understand. You shell out your $450 for the front half or your $350 for the back half, and you don't have money left over to feed me and get me drunk. There were, to be fair, pretzel sticks, mints, and ginger snaps. I had a ginger snap just on principle. Oh, and I liked the work, too: mushrooms made out of apparently-handmade paper in the front gallery, and letterpress books of the three types of whales in Moby Dick (Folio Whales, Octavo Whales, and Duodecimo Whales). I guess you guys think making good art is more important that feeding me snacks...

Well, good art or no, I had grazing to do, so I moved on. The Chicago Art Department had wine (I chose red), plus cheese (Cheddar), crackers, and snack mix. I had a little bit of the snacks and enjoyed the wine while I looked at the work. The theme of the show was $200, which is what it costs per month to be a member of CAD, plus it was the price of each work in the show, plus each work was somehow about that. It was kind of interesting, and gave me something to look at while I finished my wine.

South Halsted gallery had box wine, but the setup was kind of off-putting; it looked like it hadn't been opened yet and some dude was standing back there. I probably should have just hit it up, since I remember talking to the gallery owner last time I was down there and he was really nice. So, I missed out on some (I think white) box wine, basically because I was shy. Oh well...

Some guy hollering on a street corner (okay, actually he politely addressed Steph and I individually, very nicely) told us about an apartment gallery he had work in, called Second Floor Gallery. We headed over there. Their "sign" consisted of a TV playing snow (oh god...is there even snow anymore? So back before digital TV, when your TV wasn't getting a signal, it played this black-and-white static, and we called it "snow"), with the word "ART" over it in colored tape. It was pretty cool. Upstairs there were erotic photographs all over the walls (some of apparently gay men, others of apparently straight women), a DJ was playing, there were colored lights in the living room that made it nearly impossible to see the paintings in there, and there was punch! It reminded me of Linda Warren Gallery. The punch, I mean. I sat out on the back porch, talked to some girls from Indiana, and enjoyed my punch and a smoke.

Around the corner, on 18th street, we passed a place called "Anode," on our way to Rooms Productions. Anode had some cool paintings up, and a bottle of red wine on the counter! They had those big red party cups but I resisted the urge to top it off (which would have rudely killed the bottle). I spent some time looking at the work in there, but still had a good bit of wine in my cup as we braved the two blocks to Rooms...by the way, what's the deal with public drinking and art openings? Is there just an unspoken understanding that cops don't bust you on art opening nights for walking around with a cup of wine? Is some sort of profiling working to my advantage here (at someone else's disadvantage)? Are they being paid off? Whatever, it works for me. Just trying to understand the rules.

Okay, Rooms Productions. This is pretty much always the highlight of my evenings in Pilsen, both in terms of the work and in terms of snacks, and tonight was no exception. The show, Oracle 3, was awesome, I reviewed it.

But also, the snacks were classy: they had my good friend Charles Shaw there waiting for me, plus fruit, cheese, crackers, and nuts. The fruit consisted of pineapple, blackberries (which always remind me pleasantly of Northern California) and grapes which were unfortunately of the large and bland variety. The cheese was what really rocked, though. There was chevre, and brie, with freakin' honey under it! I swear, she had honey on the underside of the brie! That was awesome. I gorged myself on wine, nuts, and honeyed brie and crackers, and watched Oracle 3 for a while. Rooms, you kick ass. Seriously.

This is Jeriah, signing off. Good night, and remember: If you feed me, I will come.

1 comment:

  1. Will totally provide you with better grapes next time :) - just keep visiting us.