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HPKCC Member profiles and People you should know

From The Conference Reporter, the members' quarterly publication of HPKCC.

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Editorial Committee and their Conference Reporter and HPKCC website, www.hydepark.org. Help support our work: Join the Conference and
Feed us Material! Contact President & Committee Chair George Rumsey

Other profiles: Michael McGuire, owner of Supreme Jewelers and a jewell in the community is featured in an extensive article in the Autumn 2011 Hyde Park History. For details on how to get it, visit http://www.hydeparkhistory.org.

Someone You Should Know: Hank Webber

by Joanne Howard, HPKCC board member. Winter, 2004

Henry S. Webber, Vice President for Community and Government Affairs at The University of Chicago, joined the University in 1986. He is known as Hank to most people, and is both affable and engaging. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference caught up with Hank recently for an interview and posed the following questions:

Q: How is the redevelopment of the campus progressing?

A: The University of Chicago began the redevelopment of the campus several years ago. Right now, we are on target and under budget.

Q: The University of Chicago now has some notable eateries on campus and is becoming a fun place for students, faculty, and the community. Can you give us an overview?

A. We are particularly delighted about the northwest quadrangle of the campus and how the new eateries and new architecture have transformed the area. [Seven Ten], the combination bowling alley, billiard room, and eatery, has been a lively addition to the community. This is a great example of how a property can be enjoyed by students, faculty, staff, and the community. Th[hrough] redesign and redeployent... Bartlett (formerly a gym) has been transformed into an eating establishment. The Ratner Center (new swimming pool and gym) and the Palevsky dormitories have lent a new vibrancy to the area. The skating rink on the Midway has worked similar wonders for the southeast side of campus. Last year, we had more than 17,000 skaters on the Midway, and if it stays cold until Mach, we will probably break that record.

Q: How did you get interested in redevelopment?

A: I've always been interested in how a university and the surrounding community interface. I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, and then my family moved to New Haven, Connecticut. My parents were community activists and I could see how Yale had a very complicated relationship with the city of New Haven. So, I had the experience of being a "townie" and what that means when a great university is one of the major employers and makes a large contribution to the stability of an area. We believe the University of Chicago is great university and whatever part I can play in seeing that what benefits the University also benefits the community, I will assist in helping that along.

Q: Tell us what you did prior to the University of Chicago to ignite your interest in community development?

A: After I graduated from Brown, I worked as a community organizer in the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. I attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and upon graduation, took a position with the administration of Governor Michael Dukakis. My undergraduate thesis was on neighborhood revitalization in Providence, Rhode Island, so, as you can see, the quality of urban neighborhoods and forming linkages has been a part of my life for some time.

Q: Do you have any breaking news you want to give us?

A: Well, for now, I don't have any breaking news. But, keep your eyes posted to our web site at www.uchicago.edu and keep your eyes peeled for updates to the work on campus. This is an exciting time for the University and we look forward to more engagement with the community.

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Member Profile: Winston Kennedy

by Nancy Baum, HPKCC board member. Winter, 2004

If you ever want to meet a dapperly dressed charmer, you should stop and have a chat with Winston Kennedy of Century 21, Kennedy, Ryan, Monigal and Associates of Hyde Park. Though he is no longer the owner, he and his wife Margaret continue there as sales associates.

With a kind of twinkle in his eye he will share his vast knowledge of Chicago architectural history. A graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago, Win Kennedy found his way to Hyde Park via the student cooperative system popular when he was in college and still viable today. He worked in the University of Chicago Community and Real Estate Office for 11 years before he opened his Hyde Park real estate office in 1967 on 57th Street. He has always been a presence in Hyde Park community affairs, and was a long-time member of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, founded by Leslie Pennington and Rabbi Simon around 1949. (The South East Chicago Commission, an arm of the University, was established at about the same time.)

In those days, the HPKCC, a grass roots operation boasting 2,000 members, focused on the Whistlestop crime prevention program (which is still going on today), building code enforcement, and block clubs. The building code enforcement project encouraged people to report what appeared to be code violations to the City. During and after World War II, buildings in Hyde Park were cut up due to increased demand for inexpensive housing. this lead to property abuses: houses in North Kenwood became rooming houses. The work of the HPKCC among other organizations led to the 1956 updating of the City building code ordinances. One of the things that Win is most proud of is helping with over 25 condominium conversions in the 1970s, which helped restore the integrity of many buildings.

Win feels that the HPKCC might want to reexamine its mission. affordable housing, crime, and retail activity are problems that need to be addressed. Block clubs are not viable anymore. (The CAPS programs may fill this gap.) He applauds the arrival of Office Depot and Borders Books, but deplores the disappearance of stores such as Anderson's Ace, which offered small repair services to the community. He looks forward to development of affordable public housing in the Lake Park Crescent and the privatization of Madden-Wells at Pershing and Lake Park. He is presently reading a book called When Public Housing Was Paradise by Jimmy Fuerst.

As if it weren't enough to be one of Hyde Park's premiere businessmen, Win has also been a member of the Kiwanis Club for 40 years. The Kiwanis Club is a service organization that supports the Neighborhood club, a camp for disabled children, the 57th Street Children's Book Fair. Moreover, Win is a member of of the Blue Gargoyle Board, the Unitarian Church and is a former Co-op board member. He is certainly someone you should know.

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Someone you should know: Roger Fross

by Nancy Baum, HPKCC board member. Spring, 2004

A modest, unassuming and affable attorney who represents middle-market (family) companies, and who does Civil Rights litigation, Roger Fross is a long-time resident of Hyde Park. He and his wife Madelon both attended the University of Chicago and raised their son in Hyde Park. Roger Fross has donated over 30 years of service to Hyde Park organizations. Notably among those years have been his 30 years on the Neighborhood Club Board, which recently accorded him a "Good Neighbor" award.

He served for 10-15 years on the Hyde Park Conservation Council, which, he regrets, doesn't exist anymore. The Community Conservation Council's role was to monitor the use of properties in urban renewal areas where buildings were torn down or about to be torn down. The CCC provided a forum for local input into what types and structures people wanted to put in to replace them and then provided the mechanisms to deliver on the decisions. When the CCC was disbanded, two decades of experience were lost.

The CCC programs the Roger mentions s most memorable are the following:

1) The DARE (Disabled Housing) development at the corner of 55th Street and Cornell Ave. He credits Rebecca Janowitz for finding a church group to adopt landscaping and find occupants when the sponsor fell short.

2) The athletic field at Kenwood High School, which escaped a developer's high-rise development plan became the high school's track and field.

3) The transfer of unused properties to adjacent neighbors, such as vacant lots on Blackstone Ave. behind the Blackstone Library.

4) The shopping center where the old YMCA used to be. The developer wanted to develop across the street as well, but the CCC felt that parking provisions were inadequate.

5) The townhouses at 57th St. and Dorchester Ave. that the CCC approved only after the University changed architects to make the design conform with existing architecture on the block.

6) The preservation of park land along 53rd St. at Murray school, saving that part of 53rd St. from becoming storefronts. Roger was also on the Local Development Council and, although the LDC favored stores, Rogers cast his vote for the parks.

Roger feels that it is a good idea for various organizations to exist side-by-side in Hyde Park: The Blue Gargoyle, the South East Chicago Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business and Professional Women's Association, just to name a few. There is so much to be done it is difficult to assign a single role to decide who is going to do what. Roger believes that the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference should continue in its role to support programs when they are doing well and encourage change where need be.

This is not to say there is no need for leadership on issues. But we should not presume that other leaders will not emerge and demand to be heard. A good example are the ad hoc groups that have arisen on the Point limestone vs. concrete issue. "After all," he quips, "would we rather have these decisions made by cigar smokers at City Hall?"

Roger is also a member of the board of Joyce Foundation. In a larger role, he represents Michael Shakman in attempting to remedy continuing patronage violation through a lawsuit against various Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago government defendants based on the 1972 Shakman Decision. Because the City of Chicago claims that patronage does not affect elections (the harm has to be shown to affect constitutional rights in order for it to be illegal), the City has moved to vacate the 1983 Shakman hiring judgment.

Roger is not only a fighter but also is an eternal optimist. He is currently taking gardening classes . He is truly a Renaissance man.

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Someone You Should Know: Sara Spurlark

by Nancy Baum, HPKCC board member. Summer, 2004

Sara Spurlark calls herself "shy", but after a few minutes with this striking, well-groomed woman, one realizes that she has a lot to say and is not afraid to say it. For t he last fifteen years Sara has been the director of the School and Leadership Programs at the Center for School Improvement, a job she took on after retiring from Chicago Public Schools.

She came to Chicago from North Carolina. Her parents were teachers, but she decided she was better suited to research, so she took up biochemistry. This brought her to the University of Chicago for graduate work while living at International House. Her care took a twist when she married and started a family and focused on her own personal health and her children's education. A shortage of teachers in math and science led her to taking a "temporary" job as a high school chemistry teacher. Sara was assigned to Kelly school, located in a blue collar neighborhood where many children's expectations and those of their parents were limited. She encouraged some of her chemistry students to reach for higher goals and many of them went on to the University of Chicago and other prestigious colleges.

Never one to join social groups, Sara took courses while continuing to teach, and completed a third-quarter course at the UC in computer math. This was before before computers were de rigueur as they are today. Her career took a turn when the Board of Education realized it needed computer experts to help with school scheduling. So Sara took on the project, then went on to curriculum development, and eventually spent 24 years in administration, serving as assistant principal of Kenwood Academy and principal of Kenwood Academy and principal of Ray School. She was involved in the planning of a new high school for Hyde Park which eventually became Kenwood Academy.

The planning and successful establishment of Kenwood Academy was a remarkable accomplishment, considering that the area already had Hyde Park High School, a premier institution at the time. (In the late 1950s it produced more Ph.Ds than any school in the U.S.) The debate revolved around whether to make Hyde Park High School into a huge complex modeled on Evanston Township High School or to build a new and separate school in order to keep the environment small. The school debate, which took place in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul Episcopal Church, involved practically the whole community with great differences of opinion.

Sara has a wealth of information about the history of the Hyde Park/ Kenwood/Oakland/Woodlawn area. She remembers that, in 1947 when she came to Chicago, this area was a seamless community that teemed with activity, where south of the Midway professors lived in faculty housing and students lived in dormitories. 63rd Street and 47th Street were vibrant commercial areas. But Chicago was the first city to experiment with urban renewal and mistakes were made. Land was cleared in areas adjoining Hyde Park and remained so for fifty years. Kenwood-Oakland became the site of numerous public housing sites, which in the beginning were inhabited by people from all walks of life. Changes in policies led to their deterioration an to the eventual realization that the experiment had failed.

Sara remembers that the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference was very active in education at one time and had an education committee that met on a regular basis. People would go to meetings and report back to the committee on what went on. The Conference was a vital community organization with a hugh membership. She attributes this to the dual challenges facing the community when in 1952 the University of Chicago decided to remain in Hyde Park instead of moving to the suburbs and the concurrent arrival of urban renewal. She remember the Community Conservation Commission [Council], which reported and advised on the use of vacant land. Now the North-Kenwood-Oakland community has an active CCC whose chairperson is Shirley Newsome working closely with Toni Preckwinkle, the Fourth Ward Alderman.

Sara figures that over her career she has come into contact with 10,000 students. That is 10,000 students who benefited from her tutelage and example. The Sara Spurlark Award was established by parents of Ray School and Kenwood Academy. Each year a committee of five, consisting of community leaders, parents and one teacher, chooses a Kenwood Academy senior to receive a $4,000 award in Spurlark's name.

Sara says that she does not go anywhere without running into a former student. She feels very comfortable in Hyde Park and would not live anywhere else.

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A Hyde Parker You Should Know: Gerda Schild

By Joanne Howard, HPKCC board member. Autumn, 2004

"Please keep the article short," I am told by Gerda Schild. Keeping the story of this formidable dynamo short is no small feat because what a story she has to tell. Gerda emigrated to Chicago from Germany in 1939. Gerda could see the totalitarianism that. was about to engulf... so she decided to come to the U.S. On her way to the United States, the ship she was on was torpedoed and she lost all of her documents that would gain her easy passage to her new life. Luckily for Gerda, she remembered her visa and other immigration number so that she could reconstruct her paperwork.

Gerda had relatives in Chicago so she chose to begin life anew in Hyde Park. Gerda met Gerhart Schild in Chicago, a fellow German who arrived in 1932 to attend the University of Chicago. A sense of humor and Gerhart's lack of interest in politics made them fast friends. Gerda and Gerhart soon married. They shared a love for bird watching, gardening, and a high regard for the ethical treatment of animals. What they also shared was the opinion that public discourse should be straightforward and principled. Gerda was a licensed physical therapist. She bean her career at Michael Reese Hospital, worked for an Orthopedic Surgeon, and retired with a substantial private clientele.

Flashing forward, Gerda has been a widow for 40 years, yet she maintains an extremely active life. She continues to be actively engaged in gardening, bird watching, butterfly watching, and speaking out against what she considers unethical behavior in government. She thinks Chicago is a beautiful city and she takes advantage of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other cultural institutions. Yet she questions why Chicagoans accept behavior from our politicians that border on the totalitarianism she witnessed in Germany. She considers herself an "opinionated complainer who is anti-corruption."

Look for Gerda at the Oasis doing her gardening or with a pair of binoculars eyeing birds in their natural habitat. She's the powerhouse cloaked in a small body with a lot to say. This is one Hyde Parker everyone should know.

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Someone You Should Know: Ron Grzywinski

By Nancy Baum, HPKCC Board member. Winter, 2005

Ron Grzywinski, the chairman of Shorebank Corporation, was born in Hyde Par, but grew up on the far southeast side of the city. He and his wife Audrey live in Hyde Park and raised their three children here. Ron recalls working while in college in a Kroger grocery store located on the site of Kenwood Academy. Ron got his start in banking at the First National Bank of Lockport, then co-organized a group of investors that purchased the Hyde Park Bank in 1967. Subsequently, he became one of four co-founders of ShoreBank Corporation and purchased the South Shore Bank in 1973 for the specific purpose of investing in the then rapidly deteriorating and disinvested South Shore neighborhood. Since its inception, ShoreBank has literally changed the face of the community. By developing a community oriented model it has become world renowned for its attention to developing communities, improving the environment, yet all the while keeping the bank profitable. The first ten years' history of ShoreBank is chronicled in University of Chicago professor Richard Taub's book, Community Capitalism (Harvard Business School Press.)

South Shore Bank's initiative was a catalyst for legislation bearing on lending in low income areas. In 1997, Senator William Proxmire introduced and Congress passed a piece of legislation called the Community Reinvestment Act. Ron was the only banker to testify in Congress in support of this law that requires banks to make a certain amount of loans available in low- and moderate-income urban neighborhoods in order to help rehabilitate and stabilize these communities.

When former President Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas he saw the potential for his state and invited ShoreBank Corporation to create a rural development bank based on the Chicago model. Later, as president, Clinton introduced the Community Development Financial Institutions legislation that allows banks t compete for a small number of federal awards for investments in inner city neighborhoods and provides investment capital to banks, credit unions and nonprofits that specialize in community development.

In the area of housing alone, ShoreBank has already financed the rehabilitation of 30 percent of the community's housing units, providing access to the resources that have purchased or renovated more than 42,000 affordable residences within the city's South Shore communities. Today, ShoreBank helps encourage its customers to choose environmentally friendly building products and energy efficient appliances to reduce energy costs, preserve natural resources and make the home more comfortable. Local rehabbers are fast becoming part of the green building and design industry that is giving them a competitive edge in the home improvement market. Loans to local small and mid-size businesses as will as employee training and development programs by the bank's nonprofit affiliates have helped create and retain more than 10,000 local jobs. The bank has financed several businesses, residential developments and nonprofit organizations, including Lot in Common, The Little Black Pearl Workshop, and Pizza Capri.

ShoreBank is America's first and leading community development and environmental banking corporation. Headquartered in Chicago, Shorebank has banks and affiliated nonprofits in Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; Ilwaco, Washington; and Portland, Oregon; business development services in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and consulting services around the world.

In Oregon, ways are being sought to sustain he west coast's seafood industries. By working with local fishermen to certify the crab and oyster fishing industries, ShoreBank is ensuring these seafoods are being processed and marketed in a manner that protects the ecosystem while helping to stimulate economic development in the region. Consumers are acquiring the knowledge and information they need to know to select the products that have been properly processed while being assured that they are not endangering the species. ShoreBank also seeks ways to encourage local organic dairy farming and raising of Heritage turkeys.

Internationally, starting in 1983 ShoreBank went to Bangladesh and Pakistan to help local institutions establish banks that focus on loans to self employed people..Later it trained bankers in Poland, Russian, Bulgaria, Romania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Ron has recently been to Kabul, Afghanistan where he felt a lot of entrepreneurial energy: ShoreBank is seeking ways to help farmers channel their resources from raising poppies to other legitimate crops.

The ShoreBank's website www.shorebankcorp.com has more information on the nations's first and leading community development and environmental banking corporation.

In the 1960's Ron was a member of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, working with Al Raby and others doing what Ron calls: "Trying to save the world." Whistlestop was one of the outcomes of that period. Since then he has lost touch with the Conference and has not been aware of what the organization has been doing. Since Ron is an avid vegetable gardener (right here in Hyde Park), he was interested in learning that the Hyde Park Garden Fair is part of the HPKCC and is subsumed under its nonprofit status. As a matter of fact Ron is going to be featured in the March/April edition of Chicagoland Gardening. You can be sure that his garden is "organically correct."

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A Hyde Parker You Should Know: Robert Starks

By Nancy Baum

If you want to meet someone who produces a veritable whirlwind of ideas, then you want to met Robert T. Starks, Professor of Political Science at the Center for Inner City Studies of Northeastern Illinois University. The Center has been housed since 1968 in the Abraham Lincoln Center at Oakwood Boulevard and Langley Avenue, across from Mandrake Park.

The number of hats that Bob wears is phenomenal:

Born is Mississippi, his family saw to it that he received his grade school and high school education in Mississippi during the school year. After his mother moved to Chicago, he spent summers here. He joined her permanently as a teenager, where he became a political science major at Loyola University and continued there for his Master's Degree. Although he was accepted at the University of Chicago Law School, he changed his mind and went into U of C's Department of Political Science, where he studied with Norman Nye, Ken Pruitt and Edward Shils. His first teaching position was at Northern Illinois University. After two years in DeKalb, he jumped at an offer to return to Chicago to teach at the Center for Inner City Studies, because he had married his wife, Judith (also an educator), and they wanted to return to Chicago to begin their family.

One of the highlights of his education was studying in a summer program to learn German in Germany, sponsored by the Goethe Institute. Later he studied in Berlin, because he a had friends in East Berlin and wanted to study the Green Party and the Communist groups there. In both places he was thrilled to meet African students who, like him, came to study in Europe. During those years foreigners were being granted asylum and could work easily. But as the European job market became tighter for Europeans, Bob observed the emergence of the "skinhead" movement that was was very disturbing.

His memories of Hyde Park before Urban Renewal are of the Piccadilly Theater, an "art house" theater near where the Hyde Park Bank stands today, live theater, and Oscar Brown's program called "The Great Nitty Gritty," which involved street kids and was financed by Lois Weisberg through the Humanities Council. He feels that closing the Hyde Park Theater was a bad thing and that it should be reopened for performance groups.

The University of Chicago, in his opinion, exerts powerful influence, not only in the neighborhood but also in the world. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference should encourage the University to have more programs that would bridge the gap between the university and the children in the neighborhood. The new gymnasium and the huge track could be venues for sports competition among the schools in the neighborhood. A baseball league could be started. He proposes that Kenwood Academy become a "magnet" school for journalism and communication arts, named in memory of the late journalist, Vernon Jarrett. It would be the first in the nation, and co-sponsored by the University, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, the Defender and visiting professors from inside and outside the community. Children would be clamoring to come to a place where, for example, students would be required to publish a daily newspaper and produce daily news programs, on the radio and on television. The board of CANTV should join with the Chicago Public Schools to teach videography to the students and show their products to the city. Grammar schools that feed into Kenwood could be assigned projects that would be highlighted on the station. The universities in the area could all participate, including the U. of C., Northeastern illinois University, Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul, and Loyola.

It is easy to see why Bob became a teacher who can motivate others with such good ideas. Robert and Judith's two now-grown children are not the only beneficiaries of their parents' motivating.

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Two Hyde Parkers You Should Know: Mary and Bob Naftzger

By Nancy Baum

For Mary and Bob Naftzger, gardening is a way of life. Mary has always been interested in gardening, having grown up in a gardening family in Maine. Afte Mary's mother hired a landscape architect to protect her gardens from the wind and salt spray from the Atlantic Ocean, Mary acquired her skills by observation and by participating in hands-on projects around the property. Later on, Mary became a social worker and held various other positions, which include working with the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club Capital Campaign and organizing a walkathon to involve school children in raising money for a new gym for the Club.

Bob, on the other hand, refers to three years in a local 4-H club as an important basic experience. By profession a civil engineer, becoming Mary's right hand man was a natural step, as he could provide the landscaping with an understanding of elevations, slopes, and drainage.

Kenwood Landscaping Services became their brainchild in 1986 when Mary, who was looking for work as her two children, Katie and Rebecca, got older, and she recruited Bob to be her business partner.

One of the projects that Mary and Bob are most fond of is the alley garden in the 5700 block between Kenwood and Kimbark, which is a raised shrubbery bed with brick paving and timbers. The other is a courtyard building of all rental units that had sun and shade problems to solve.

Several Hyde Park organizations--including Harper Court, Kimbark Plaza, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Hyde Park Garden Fair--have cooperated with Kenwood Landscaping Services in the past to create beautiful places. Mary says that finding ways to work together with all these institutions is a wonderful challenge for them, and can be a catalyst for groups and individuals to visualize a good urban neighborhood. Now store owners, building residents, homeowners, parking lot associations, etc., can all help with the day-to-day maintenance. This year's drought made it mandatory for private individuals to get out and water, water everywhere.

The business has provided work not only for University of Chicago students but for Hispanic immigrants seeking to augment their income.

Mary and Bob also serve on the board of Association House, a multi-service center serving a diverse community. Association House annually sponsors Salsa Night, which last year took place in Millennium Park.

As the fall season disappears into winter, our thoughts may very well already be turning to next spring and to gardening. We have all been privileged to be able to walk around Hyde Park these past years to admire the beautiful landscaping projects that have appeared everywhere. We may well have to thank Bob and Mary to helping to set the standard of expectations for our neighborhood.

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A Hyde Parker You Should Know: Nancy Hays

From the Winter, 2006 Reporter. by Nancy Baum

Nancy Hays has photographed nearly every corner of Hyde Park and Kenwood over the last forty-odd years: mostly its parks, but also its people. Hyde Park owes a great debt to Nancy Hays for her efforts to save the parks from destruction by would-be improvements.

She originally came from Ann Arbor, Michigan where her parents hoped she would complete her studies at the University of Michigan School of Architecture, but she headed instead to the School of Modern Photography in New York City.

In 1949 she was sent by the American Friends Service Committee on a trip to post-war Europe and the Middle East as a volunteer photographer. Eventually making her way to Hyde Park in the sixties Nancy began working as a free-lance photographer.

She has been involved with Friends of the Parks from day 1 in 1975 when many parks formed advisory councils. In 1983, when Charles Harper was appointed by the park district to organize Jackson Park Advisory Council, Nancy became his right hand.

One of Nancy’s most effective pictures is of a cottonwood tree in Farmer’s Field (49th and Dorchester). She first became aware of it when she learned that the Park District wanted to put four baseball diamonds in that park, when the community had only asked for two. When Nancy went to the park to see what was going on, she looked at the blueprint and realized that this huge cottonwood tree would be in the baseball infield! This was the start of her education on saving trees. Thanks largely to Nancy, this huge tree still stands.

Speaking of saving trees, in the mid sixties, a plan to widen Lake Shore Drive and Cornell Drive and put in a raised highway south of the Museum in Jackson Park threatened the lives of many trees, not to mention cut the park in half. A group of Hyde Parkers, including Bill and Norah Erickson and Marian Despres, calling themselves the Daniel Burnham Committee, , protested by tying ribbons, made from old sheets around the trees. Every Sunday they did this and on Monday the ribbons would be torn down by the authorities who said that an ordinance against tying things around trees was designed to prevent damage to trees! Finally, several people were arrested and taken away in police wagons. Marshall Patner, the group’s attorney, was called in, and after several hours, bail money was accepted. In court, when a police sergeant testified that he had seen everyone in that group tying ribbons around the trees, Marshall Patner argued that he Hyde Parkers had done what the ordinance was designed to do, namely, save trees. He argued furthermore that it was a form of free speech. The case took over a year to resolve and the group was not allowed to band trees during this time. Eventually the road across the park was stopped.

Over the years Nancy’s name has become synonymous with saving trees, but she claims that her knowledge of trees is very limited. But during the Dutch elm disease crisis, it was her experience fighting the ineptitude of the City’s department of forestry that moved her to take on a new cause: removal of sick and dead trees. One day an elm tree on Drexel fell down and damaged a parked car. Nancy was sent by the Herald to photograph the incident. In the photo there was another tree on the block that was obviously in need of removal. The City removed the fallen tree, but never inspected the rest of the trees on the block to see what might need removal. This seemed to be a pattern: to only cut down the one tree someone reported. When Nancy complained, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference gave her the job of listing the hundreds of trees in need of removal, which she did.

She counted one thousand trees. The list was sent to Forestry, but no action was taken. So the list was sent to the downtown newspapers. One of the Tribune’s new editors had just published a small article on the subject of trees based on an interview with Forestry saying that all was well with Chicago’ trees. When the same editor saw Nancy’s list he realized that someone was lying. (In Evanston, meanwhile, trees were being cut early enough to save other trees, but not Chicago. It was as if there were corpses standing allover the city.) At about this time, because a University of Chicago administrator had been trying for years to have the trees on the Orthogenic School side of the Midway cut down, the Tribune asked Nancy to photograph them as well as the healthy ones on the other side of the Midway to show the contrast. Then the Tribune published a huge article about the problem. Suddenly, to everyone’s amazement the Orthogenic trees were cut down. The Sun-Times also got involved. Eventually the tree removal project was completed citywide and many new trees were planted. (In a coda to this story, the City Council, complaining that Forestry couldn’t possibly take on this job, hired a professional tree cutting company, driving the cost figures way up. The City forestry head defended the cost saying the trees were bigger than in the past!)

Nancy is convinced that because of her reporting the City was keeping a close eye on any trees in Nancy’s vicinity: one day at Ellis and 48th near where Nancy lived at the time, and where there was only one tree on the street, she found a note pinned to that one tree directing street crews to go to another address to continue their tree cutting.

Nancy’s other early activities in Jackson Park included getting church picnic-goers to sign petitions against the Park District’s fencing off the then-picnic grounds for a golf driving range, after the Nike bases were removed . Another was working with Ann Fennessy and Fran Vandervoort on getting a signal light at 57th and South Shore Drive; another was working with Ann to get the Park District to clean up the 57th Street beach in 1970’s. Nancy also had battles with the Museum of Science and Industry over expansion, including a proposal to build an above-ground garage between Cornell Drive and Stony Island Avenue.

In a recent effort, the Jackson Park Advisory Council worked on saving the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion and having its balcony dedicated to Eric Hatchett, who worked hard for restoration and reactivation of the facility but died before completion. Eric had a number of media contacts based in the Woodlawn area who helped him publicize the need for restoration.

It is easy to see how we have reaped the benefits of Nancy’s conservation activities. Nancy says that the future of the city’s parks depends on the local park councils. We should all take heed!

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A Hyde Parker You Should Know:
Peter Cassel, Executive Director, Hyde Park Neighborhood Club

By Joanne E. Howard [HPKCC board member][from the April 2007 Conference Reporter]

Peter Cassel assumed the leadership of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club six months ago. Peter is a member of the community and he and his wife, Danielle Meltzer Cassel , live in Hyde Park with their two children. Peter is a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota, and the recipient of two master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago in urban planning, and the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. After a successful career in recycling, he joins the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club with compassion and drive.

You have been with the Club for six months. Can you let the neighborhood in on your vision for the Club?

I really want to create and bring an atmosphere of excellence to the Club. Hyde Park is rooted in excellence from its inception as a suburb of Chicago through serving as host of the Columbian Exposition to the founding of he University of Chicago. Hyde Park is an exceptional place and I would like the Club to match the community. The staff and I want to create an environment at the Club that brings people together in a good way. For example, there were a number of people who wanted a chess program here. We looked at school-based chess programs and were lucky to find an international master who just happens to be the 5th best player in Illinois. We engaged him to run the class. It has truly been a great experience for the 8 year olds to 14 year olds to have beginning to advanced classes.

It is very interesting that you have taken suggestions from constituents and users of the Club. Can you talk a bit more about this?

Sure. The staff at the Club always has their ears primed to listen to the recommendations of our attendees and future attendees to the /club. We want to have good programming that appeals to a variety of community members. So, we have new staff associated with our adult daycare and they have introduced “Time Slips” - it’s a national program that works with people with various forms of dementia. We will show a provocative picture, like a man dancing on the top of a table and we will have people in the adult day care program take turns in telling parts of the story. The group storytelling fosters friendships and allows people to participate in a fun exercise. It also helps to build memories around an unusual story. We have more than 55 people enrolled in this program and on a daily basis we have from 25—30 attendees.

The Hyde Park Herald reported that the Club will be getting a new floor. How did this come about?

Representative Barbara Flynn Currie and senator Kwame Raoul were very instrumental in getting $100,000 so we could undertake this long-needed upgrade to our gym. This was in the works before I arrived and I am delighted it is about to happen. Irene Smith, a long-time and revered former Executive Director of the Club, put this in motion back in the 1j980s when the addition was put onto the Club. We hope to christen the floor in late June and early July by hosting a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

The Club as a variety of events—can you review them for our reading public?

The Club is essentially open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. We host a “party” for 250 people on a daily basis. We host CAPS meetings, TIF meetings, after-school meetings, aerobics, basketball, French classes, bridge, Mahjong, and a host of other events.

This seems like a good deal of time to hold your doors open on a daily basis. What does your financial picture look like, and can you discus any financial challenges you want to correct?

15% of our annual revenue is generated from 400 members of the community who have been especially generous to us, and the remainder of our revenue is generated by fee for service activities. Our key goal is to introduce more people to our revenue mix and build on the relationships of our very loyal donors who have been with us for more than 40 years. Of course in order to do this, we will have to build on keeping our activities fresh and relevant to the community. At a holiday party this year, I met a couple who met at the Club in 1958. Can you imagine that! They celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary with the Club. This is a great historical aspect of the Club. We want to build on their warm feeling for the Club so that 40 years from now we leave a legacy for other people to top.

Can you talk a bit about your board of directors?

We have a wonderful board who have stuck by the Club through thick and thin . They have been unbelievably helpful and encouraging to me and the staff. There are 27 of them and I certainly look forward to our continued association.

Any final thoughts you would like to convey to members of the community?

I hope members of the community will see the Neighborhood Club as an asset and that they will take advantage of the myriad things we offer here. I also hope they will continue the legacy of support and giving so that years to come, people will be able to enjoy the Club.

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From the January 2010 Conference Reporter

A Hyde Parker You Should Know: Chuck Thurow

By Jack Snapper

Chuck Thurow is stepping down from the directorship of the Hyde Park Art Center. Before joining the HPAC board, Mr. Thurow was in the research department of the American Society of Planning Officials (later the American Planning Association) on Chicago’s south side. He became Executive Director of HPAC in 1998. During his tenure, the HPAC built and moved into its new building on Cornell and 51st and greatly expanded its programs. Mr. Thurow plans to remain a member of the Kenwood Neighborhood, looking for new challenges. He kindly agreed to discuss his views of the Hyde-Park-Kenwood art scene with Jack Snapper for the Reporter.

Jack: Can you tell us something about the history of your work with the Art Center?

Chuck: When I joined the HPAC board in 1983, I knew little about contemporary art and nothing about Chicago art. I was collecting ethnographic art. But the board in 1983 needed to expand and friends asked me to join. Within a couple years I became exhibitions director, then chair of the Board, and finally I became executive director. It was a bit of serendipity.

When I was trying to reinvent the HPAC and raise awareness of the Center so that we could raise the six million dollars for building, the quickest and easiest way to raise awareness was through the exhibition program. So we did some really flashy exhibitions. Shows like “Free Basin,” a sculpture that was also a skateboard venue that traveled around the U.S. and Europe, are the kinds of things we did to raise the profile of the Center very quickly. At the same time, we were lucky to have incredibly strong people looking after both the studio and outreach programs. So I could concentrate on the exhibitions.

Although there can often be tension between an exhibition and an educational mission, the fact is that the really great thing about the HPAC is that it combines exhibition and
teaching programs. It is really unusual to have this unified program. And to have it so successfully.

Jack: In my mind HPAC is the place for studio classes and fine art exhibitions. The outreach program is less visible. Tell me about that program.

Chuck: We have worked with as many as 26 schools on the south side. (We also work, for instance, on the west side, but the board has always seen outreach to the South Side
its primary mission.) Through the efforts of Jackie Tarrasza, we were one of the first organizations to introduce programs that integrate the arts with the other teaching efforts in the public schools. We put artists in the regular classrooms, for instance with math or science teachers, and used visual arts as a way of learning in the classic disciplines. It is a very successful program, and it is easy to see why. When students are learning history in an interesting way, they are likely to remember better and do better on tests.

Jack: So your programs have a much broader impact on the South Side than just Hyde Park? Chuck: In many ways. We also had a program in the park district called ‘Partners in Art’ where teaching artists worked intensely over a long period of time with teenagers, with the idea of skill development. And those students turned around and taught younger kids.

Jack: It is striking that there is no highly visible artist’s community in Hyde Park, such as the artist community that has popped up around the Zhou Brother’s building on 35th Street.

Chuck: There is a huge population of artists that would love to live on the South Side, particularly around Hyde Park. Actually a couple of people have promoted Hyde Park as a living location for students at the School of the Art Institute because rents are cheaper than Wicker Park or Buck Town or places where those students generally live. And of course it is easy to get to the Art Institute with both bus and train. Hyde Park seems like a natural. But there are problems. It is a real limitation that Hyde Park does not have the kind of buildings where you can have studio spaces. The Zhou Brothers seem to be looking south from 35th to Canaryville and Back of the Yards. South of Hyde Park, you find good studio prospects in Grand Crossing, but that neighborhood is not an appealing option right now.

Jack: What can be done to encourage an artist community in Hyde Park? Chuck: I was really pleased with Laura Shaeffer’s venture on 55th Street—the Opportunity Shop in December. She has gathered a nice crowd with an exciting atmosphere. That sort of activity is very successful in building community. It started in the loop with the Loop
Alliance and the ‘Pop Up’ shows. And I have a friend who has done it in Irving Park, calling it ‘Art in my Back Yard,’ as a take-off on the urban planning cliche ‘not in my back yard.’ These sorts of activities confront problems. There are city regulatory issues – is it an assembly place and do you have to have a bathroom. There are insurance issues that confront the store-front owners. The question is whether we can figure out a way to make it easier for an individual like Laura to overcome the obstacles. Maybe some organizations, like HyPa, could provide some coverage to deal with these obstacles. We do something like that with the Jazz Festival. The other thing is that these Pop Up events are very mobile, temporary, dynamic. When you get a crowd that has a good time and realizes that this is really an interesting thing, how do you get them to then go to another site and understand that it will be the same kind of experience? These things are very mobile. An organization can help with that. And I think the art events can also be key to retail in Hyde Park. Retail likes to have the crowds, and the crowds won’t be there unless there is something interesting there. And so Pop Up art is one way to keep the streets activated.

Jack: And the HPKCC can help with this?

Chuck: Oh sure. We are actually just planning to get a group of people together. Someone from the HPKCC could be there too, to just think through the issues. One of the problems is staffing. Artists should be in their studios creating art, not sitting being store clerks.

Jack: What exciting opportunities do you see at the HPAC today? Chuck: I think there is an incredible opportunity at the HPAC studio program that has not as yet been fully realized. The studio classes have always been oriented to the avocational rather than towards alternative ways to becoming an artist. We have some really outstanding examples of people who started taking classes at the HPAC and then went on to become outstanding artists. We can think about the school as a way to support that kind
of development. That is one of the ways they are thinking about it right now, and that can be very exciting. And in a different direction, there are projects like the ‘Not Just Another Pretty Face,’ which is actually a commissioning project. The idea is to bring together people who are not that savvy about contemporary art and to actually go through the whole process of how a piece is developed, put together, and finally exhibited. And with the whole range of media.

Jack: Do you have some thoughts about what the Art Center has meant to you?

Chuck: I just took my own first drawing class and I have been having great fun. It was a course on expressing color and light with a graphite pencil. I may not have been the best student, but I am certainly a very enthusiastic student. So now I have given up my camera and I take my sketch book when I travel. So after all those years, now I can draw. I may not be an artist, but I do enjoy making a reasonable likeness.

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