Author Archives: marenr

Chicago Theatre Recommendations

Chicago is a fantastic theater town.  There are many big theaters, but there are great small theaters performing in church basements and storefronts. This is where real Chicago theater lives- in the performances where you could reach out and touch the actors. There are over 200 theaters producing great innovative work for almost every taste.  Most of them are listed at the League of Chicago Theatres.

Here is my basic quick guide to Chicago theaters and tips for seeing theater on the cheap.

Reviews appear in the Sun TimesTribuneChicago Reader and TimeOut ChicagoTimeout even has their “17 theatre shows to see this fall” article for some quick recommendations.

Continue reading

AWP Series: Jessi Haley

Wrapping up our series of AWP posts is this one from Jessi Haley.

jessi haley“AWP is like a music festival,” a friend told me last week.  “You have to have a really solid plan so you can see most of the stuff that you want to.”

Okay, I thought, maybe.  Maybe that is how you do music festivals.  With a plan. I, on the other hand, tend to show up with a vague idea of what is going on when and wait for people and/or circumstances to guide me to the good stuff.

But I took her advice; I pretended like I was at a music festival. I thumbed through the heavy directory, letting my eyes settle on random pages so that the titles of events jumped out at me haphazardly.  I listened to the advice of my fellow MAPH people and sometimes followed them places. I skipped readings and panels that were probably informative or even enlightening.  On Saturday afternoon, I ran over to Charlestown to spend an hour nervously holding my cousin Vicky’s fragile, squirming newborn when I could have been, I don’t know, acquiring more half-priced copies of Tin House? Continue reading

AWP Series: Ariana Nash

Continuing our series of AWP posts this one from Ariana Nash (MAPH ’13)

The Bookfair

 ariana signingMy first AWP, I imagined that someone would ask to read my work, I would meet my future publisher, and maybe there would even be a parade with confetti announcing my presence to the writing world. Or, I didn’t so much imagine this scenario, as find myself surprised when it didn’t happen. Instead, I had a few awkward conversations, bought too many journals I was never going to read, and felt a kind of agony of irrelevance — a stark reminder that I capable of intense egoism and insecurity.

My second AWP, I did a little better. I took home a few journals that helped me find new places to send my work — having not backed away awkwardly from tables or hastily grabbed what someone tried to sell me, but instead stood at their tables reading long enough to decide I liked their journals. I managed to learn a little about book contests, since I was finishing my first manuscript. I also met an editor or two from journals that had published my work. Of course, not to paint too rosy a picture, one editor told me, when I realized I had “introduced myself” without giving my name and belatedly told him who I was, that it didn’t really matter since he wasn’t going to remember my name in a few months anyway. Continue reading

AWP Series: Charlie Puckett

A dispatch on the Boston AWP Conference from Charlie Puckett (MAPH ’13 ) Creative Writing Option

The 2013 AWP Conference & Book Fair is held at John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in the Back Bay streets of Boston. Once most people finish reading the center’s name, they take a nap and then go inside. In the 193,000 sq. ft. building there are 8 billion people and they have all written a book or a poem or frequently have creative ideas. These people walk around many tables that also have books and magazines and ideas on stickers and people who have jobs sit behind these tables and say many nice things to those who do not. UChicago’s MAPH program has a table at Booth 2811 on the second floor and there are very good looking people behind it, which is necessary because there are lines to meet them and less attractive people might not be able to manage the task as well.

On Thursday night at 6:30, the 2013 Keynote Presentation, a conversation between Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott moderated by Rosanna Warren, celebrated the successful opening day of AWP Boston. Warren declared the conversation a draw on the account that no one could understand their accents, though most favored Heaney as the winner due to his ability to make speech sound like a fawn lapping water from a brook in solstice moonlight. Everyone agreed, however, that it’s a good thing both Laureates use the medium of writing for their art and that Walcott had a mustache but Heaney did not. On Friday afternoon, Don DeLillo gave a reading from his work and participated in a conversation with himself because everyone in the audience was very busy whispering: “It’s Don DeLillo, It’s Don DeLillo.” Continue reading

Planning to work in or study the arts sector? Look up the Cultural Policy Center

You do not have to be in a specific program option while in MAPH, but many students find program options a useful way to develop their interests during the year. Even those of you who are not in the option might want to check out the cultural policy course options and workshop sessions if you think you might want to work for cultural organizations.

Incoming MAPHers interested in working in the arts sector, or going on for doctoral work involving the policy aspects of cultural studies, should look into the resources at the Cultural Policy Center. The CPC is an interdisciplinary research center that is situated in the Harris School of Public Policy and the independent research organization NORC, but it has strong ties to the Humanities Division, and MAPH in particular. It focuses on three activities: research; public programming; and teaching, including overseeing the Cultural Policy Studies MAPH option.

Cultural Policy Studies MAPH option

The cultural policy option is of particular interest to MAPH students who are considering careers in cultural organizations; in public service agencies within the cultural sector, such as foundations or government agencies that support the arts; or doctoral work with a focus on the policy dimensions of cultural studies, cultural theory, or cultural history.

It requires an introductory course, a research project-based course, and at least two cultural policy-related electives, as well as the Foundations of Interpretive Theory course (the “Core” course) required of all MAPH students and a final thesis on a topic broadly related to cultural policy studies.

Further reading:

Public programming

The Cultural Policy Center’s workshops mix theory and practice: speakers include practitioners as well as academics, and the events always draw visitors from cultural organizations around the city as well as students from several different academic divisions. (Students don’t have to be in the MAPH option to attend the workshops.) See a list of past workshops, and some videos, here.


In addition to its events and curriculum, the CPC conducts its own research, and the biggest research project in its history was released this summer. Set in Stone is a study of a major building boom of museums, performing arts centers, and theaters in the United States from 1994 to 2008. Among the discoveries:

  • Cities in the South had the greatest increase in cultural buildings. The region had lagged behind the rest of the country prior to the building boom — the Northeast and West had twice the number of cultural facilities per capita in 1990 than did the South.
  • More than 80 percent of the projects studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent.
  • Smaller cities with fewer than 500,000 people were building as well, and many of these cities were building for the first time.
  • More performing arts centers were built than any other kind of arts facility.
  • There is substantial evidence that there was overinvestment during the building boom—especially when coupled with the number of organizations that experienced financial difficulties post-building.

Further reading:

Connect with the Cultural Policy Center by signing up for their mailing list.

Have questions? Contact the CPC’s assistant director, Will Anderson, MAPH’09, at


Welcome to the MAPH blog!

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been so happy to meet the few of you who have trickled on into MAPHCentral to introduce yourselves. If you’re already in Hyde Park, stop on by to say hello! (We’re lonely, too, you know.) You can find us in Classics 117 and someone is usually here from 9:30-3:30, Monday – Friday.

For the few of you who have already packed up your lives and moved to Hyde Park, we thought it might be nice to give you a crash course in Chicago living and to give you a few ideas for occupying yourselves during what can certainly feel like a period of limbo. Some of you might have moved to Chicago a few weeks early to get settled into your apartment and traverse the city. Well, now that you’ve hung your curtains (aka, thumb-tacked bed sheets above your windows), it’s time to get out there and explore! A leisurely pre-MAPH summer can feel a little purgatorial, but it’s more likely a well-deserved break/good time to rest up before the year actually begins – and boredom can be a great motivating factor for doing some things you might not otherwise!

For Chicago exploring and general galavanting, check out – they have some great (cheap) events and things are mostly organized by day, so you can almost always find something to do. This is the first of many MAPHtastic posts to come, but if you’re already in Chicago (or just freakishly obsessive about finding awesome things to do when you do arrive) we suggest exploring all of the archived treasures from previous years! Start with posts from August 2011 for some ideas on what kinds of things to do in the summer, and explore from there! We are particularly fond of the post about the Milwaukee Ave Coffee Shops – great places to chill out with some non-required reading or a crossword puzzle. Plus, The Wormhole has a DeLorean and how kitsch-ily cool is that? If you accidentally activate the Flux Capacitor and travel to 2015, track yourself down and shake your own hand: you now have a Master’s Degree! There are also plenty of other things to do along that strip once you start to feel over-caffeinated. If you’re more of a free-spirited galavanter (that’s a word, right?), just hop on the 6 Bus and head to the Loop, where you’ll have access to almost all of the El trains in the city.

Also – did you know that Chicago has beaches?! And nice ones at that. In fact, one of the best beaches in the city is in your own backyard. Head on over to Promontory Point on Lake Shore Drive between 55th and 57th Streets to soak up all the UV rays you can before those dark winter clouds start to settle over Chicago.

As more people arrive, we will be coordinating some events for early-arrivers sometime before the program starts – probably sometime towards the end of August. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Classics and say hi, give us book recommendations, tell us your moving nightmare story, and pick our brains about other ways to fill up your days! We know you might feel bored, but exploring Chicago now will make it easier for you venture out during your MAPH year, once Hyde Park starts to feel like:

Happy Exploring!


Jane Hanna, MAPH ’11, discusses the MAPH Cultural Policy Option

Incoming MAPH students, while you do not have to choose one of the program options to be in MAPH, many students do choose an option. If you are at all interested in working with arts organizations, non-profits, or galleries you may want to take some classes in cultural policy or consider being part of the Cultural Policy Option.  Jane Hanna, MAPH ’11, talks about her experience in the option and the nifty job she has now as Social Media Strategist for the Field Museum. Also, the Cultural Policy Center has a released a big study that was recently featured in the New York Times. It is worth reading the article if you are interested in cultural policy and some of the work CPC has been doing at the University of Chicago.

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in CPC while I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in 2010-11. As a MAPH student, I chose the Cultural Policy option, and much of my coursework was taken at the Harris School and Law School. I was looking for an academic program which would allow me to have an interdisciplinary focus, combining my interest in the arts and humanities with my career experience in marketing, and assist me in my aspirations towards a career in museum administration. I’m also a technologist and gamer and my research areas included mobile and social media and the ways in which these complicate traditional museum exhibition, education, and marketing strategies. At CPC, I helped with the preparations for the CultureLab Emerging Practice Seminar 2011, which was focused in part on engaging arts audiences through the use of technology.

Additionally, I was involved with the lunchtime workshop series as both an employee of CPC and an enthusiastic attendee. After graduating, I also participated in the marvelous Future of the City: The Arts Symposium by virtue of my association with CPC. Betty Farrell served as my supervisor as well as my thesis advisor and professor.

What do you do now?

I am the Social Media Strategist for The Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. In this capacity, I am responsible for maintaining a broad and ever-growing portfolio of social media pages for the Museum, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Yelp, and many more. I work closely with the scientific staff to develop engaging content that educates and entertains our digital community of fans and supporters.

I also deliver up-to-the-minute news about exhibitions, educational programs, special events, and promotions to the public several times per day, seven days per week. I monitor and evaluate the performance of these pages using Google Analytics and other tracking tools, and continually look for short- and long-term ways through which the Museum can leverage these properties for various strategic purposes. I think I have one of the best jobs at the Field not only because I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with staff working in all of the Museum’s departments, but also because I spend a large portion of my time interacting with our enthusiastic public, answering their questions, inviting them to participate in dialogues and citizen scientist activities, and learning valuable insights from their feedback.

Continue reading

Free or Cheap Summer Activities in Chicago

It is somehow always the case that one can have time or money but never both at the same time. So now that you do not have to read 1000 pages every week what are you going to do in Chicago that doesn’t cost much money? Well the lakefront, the parks and biking are all great options, but below are a few more you might have missed.

Museum free days

Most of the museums in Chicago have free or discounted days or offer student discounts

You can still use your Artspass, check the link for the discounts and partner institutions.

The Museum of Science and Industry is free for Illinois residents on June  7, 8, 11.

Field Museum check back here for discount days. They list them throughout the summer.

Adler Planetarium has discount days on June 7th and 8th perfect if your family is arriving early for convocation.

The Shedd Aquarium has Illinois resident discount days on  June 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.  If you bank with Bank of America you get discounts on July 7-8 and Aug. 4-5 by showing your bank card.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is $7 with your Student ID.

While you are in that neighborhood you could visit the City Gallery at the Water Tower which is always free.

The Chicago Cultural Center has free exhibits, concerts and gallery talks all year round.

Students get into the Art Institute of Chicago for $12 any day and the first and second Wednesday of every month are free for Illinois residents.

On Navy Pier there is actually a free Stained Glass Museum which has great works and is not as populated as the rest of the pier.  You could stay for the free fireworks if you are braving a day on the tourist-y pier.

Also did you know that if you have a Chicago Public Library card you can check out museum passes from any branch?  Just make sure you get to the library early. The passes go quickly. The library also has lectures, readings and performances so check their calendar.

Outdoor events after the jump . . .

Continue reading