#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 47 With the Steep Theatre Staff

In honor of Chicago Theatre Week and the Year of Chicago Theatre, this week Laura and Joelle are joined by six members of Steep Theatre in their newly opened Boxcar venue. Steep is the quintessential storefront theatre and is committed to producing new and under-produced plays that tell the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Their current sold out production Red Rex is about a small theatre company embarking on an explosive new play with the hope of finally breaking it big and has already been named one of Chicago Tribune’s top 10 Chicago shows for 2019. Located at 1115 W. Berwyn, you can find this intimate theatre just two doors down from the Berwyn El Station.


From left to right, back: Peter Moore, Thomas Dixon | Front: Sophiyaa Nayar, Ryan Kling, Sasha Smith, Kate Platt-Eckert

“Watching other people battle these demons [on stage] helps us understand and work through things without having it be about us.”
– Kate Platt-Eckert

Listen to Episode 47 with the Steep Staff!

Here are some references from Episode 47 that you may want to check out:

  • Laura and Joelle visited the Boxcar on-site this week to talk with six employees of the Steep Theatre. Get to know them below:
    • Kate Platt-Eckert: Daughter of a theatre manager and lifelong thespian, Kate found Steep when working as a stage manager in 2006. She took a break from theatre for a few years after that job, then came back to work as the Executive Director five years ago.
    • Peter Moore: Inspired by film, Peter acted in high school and college theatre as much as he possibly could. One of the founding members of Steep, the artistic director, and an actor, Peter has been with the company since 2001.
    • Sophiyaa Nayer: Growing up with the magic of Bollywood film, Sophiyaa has been putting on shows ever since she could remember – the earlier ones had costumes made of pillow cases and an audience made up of her family. She ran into Steep six months ago, fell in love with it, and recently started working as the Program Coordinator.
    • Sasha Smith: Growing up with an actor dad and a comedian mom, Sasha received the full breadth of theatre growing up. Her childhood destined her for Steep, where she has been working for almost two years as an Artistic Curator and an ensemble member.
    • Thomas Dixon: Artistic Curator and Sound Designer at Steep since 2006, Thomas was first inspired by his visits to the theatre with his Grandma. Originally wanting to be in Star Trek, he realized when in college that he also had a passion for sound design.
    • Ryan Kling: As the Bar Manager, Ryan has been helping cultivate a menu with a distinct feel for the Boxcar. He grew up in Chicago, has been working for restaurants for 20+ years, and is excited to be able to work with Steep. He’s often inspired by the magic of production and loves the people that populate theatres.


      Laura and Joelle sit and discuss Steep’s history with the staff at the Boxcar Theatre.

  • Steep Theatre was founded in 2000 by three actors that banded together to have more creative control over the shows they were in. Their first show – “Life During Wartime” by Keith Reddin – featured about ten actors and a simple set. In total the production was a few thousand dollars. Although it was a small, low-budget production, “Life During Wartime” was a show that lead to the consistent use of ensembles at Steep because “the stage felt alive with so many voices on it.” View all past productions here.
  • The Steep ensemble continued to work and find their aesthetic at their first space in Wrigleyville from 2005-2008. As their budgets grew, so did their cast and audience until they expanded into their Boxcar Location on 1115 W Berwyn in 2018.
  • It has been the mission of Steep since the beginning to produce theatre that challenges the audience’s beliefs, offers relatability, and ventures into life’s dark, dusty corners without fear. Steep’s staff works to make their work a personal and accessible experience through the shows they offer and their small, intimate space that seats only fifty-five people.
  • Theatre is often considered to be “practice for life.” In shows like the ones performed at the Boxcar, people can look at the problems they grapple with through the eyes of the character. Discussing characters and their experiences can help audiences to better understand themselves and their own experiences.


    From Steep Theatre’s “Red Rex.” Photo by Lee Miller

  • This transcendent, vicarious experience can be found in “Red Rex,” which tells the story of a theatre company and their conflicts with gentrification, racism, and ownership. It is very much a story of the theatre scene in Chicago, which generated self-examination for many of the staffers at Steep. Tickets are sold out, but are the possibility of purchase is not lost – there is a waitlist that will put you next in line if there is a cancellation.
  • After “Red Rex,” there are two more shows to watch out for in the 2019 season: “First Love is the Revolution,” opening in April, and “Pamona,” which comes out in July. Learn more about the writers, directors, and the stories they are going to tell here.
  • The Boxcar was opened thanks to a money-raising campaign. The space features a full bar, cozy seating, and free performances on Sunday and Monday evenings.
  • Steep is also attempting to fulfill their mission through non-theatrical performance modes such as music, comedy, storytelling, lectures, and free willing discussions. Local band “The Winchesters” will be playing the fourth Monday of every month until April; there will also be visual artists featured, with a new exhibition coming in every four months.

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    The current visual artist on display at the Boxcar is Ken Ellis. He has worked exclusively with quilts and dye paints for the past thirty years.

  • The bar dances on the line of a theatre bar and a neighborhood bar, as their local clientele is steadily building – especially with the free Sunday and Monday performances. They feature local brews, like Empirical beer, and have several craft cocktails on the menu. The special during “Red Rex” is the Red Line Boulevard: a mix of Four Roses Bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and a mist of Ardbeg single malt scotch.
  • To celebrate the Year of Chicago Theatre, Steep is hoping that every Chicagoan will take the time to see at least one show sometime this year – perhaps during theatre week! There are several shows throughout the city every weekend, and there are very few nights where there is not a show happening somewhere.
  • However, if you’re unable to attend a show at Steep or anywhere else, there are other ways you can support the theatre itself: donations are extremely helpful and very appreciated.
  • If the Steep Staff could work at any other Andersonville business for a day, they would choose as follows:

“The real magic of theatre is based on humans”
– Sasha Smith

Visit Steep Theatre on the following platforms:
Online: steeptheatre.com
Facebook: facebook.com/steeptheatre/
Instagram: @steeptheatre
Twitter: @SteepTheatre

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes For Episode 46 with Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier

This week, Laura is joined by Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier. Terry and Michael founded Terry’s Toffee in 2002 and sold the business in 2015. Currently they co-facilitate a variety of workshops using their many years of life and business experiences to help others connect with their place and purpose on this planet. Both Terry and Michael are also certified Reiki Masters.


Michael (left) and Terry (right) in Studio C at Trainsistor.

“It’s what I did, but it wasn’t who I am.”
– Michael Frontier

“Worry is the biggest waste of your imagination”
– Terry Opalek

Listen to Episode 46 with Michael and Terry!

Here are some references from the show you may want to check out:

  • Terry and Michael both attended a class titled “The Artist’s Way” in 2002. Based off of a book by author Julia Cameron, this twelve-week course reawakened their creative spirits and helped them realize they were not living the most fulfilling versions of their lives. Because of this class, Terry left a twenty-year-long career in the California State Chamber of Commerce. Nine months later, both he and Michael worked to open up Terry’s Toffee – an Andersonville business that has been a staple for several years.
  • One of the many ways that “The Artist’s Way” class has helped Terry and Michael is through their morning pages – a writing ritual introduced to them by this class. Most mornings they write three pages of their stream of consciousness; grammar and eloquence do not matter – they just write whatever is running through their mind. Both of them said that this ritual has provided them with better mental clarity throughout the day, and has helped them realize how needless worrying about the future really is.

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    Michael (left) and Terry (right) co-owned and ran Terry’s Toffee for 14 years.

  • Terry’s Toffee was a culmination of Terry’s past food experience, his grandmother’s toffee recipe, and the desire for creative and spiritual fulfillment. He and Michael ran the business for fourteen years, and ended up selling the company.
  • Selling Terry’s Toffee was a shocking move to many at the time, but there were legitimate reasons behind this decision: The desire not to impede on the growth of the business, a feeling of finality and completion of his passion, and a desire to return to full-time Reiki work.
  • Since then, Michael and Terry have been hosting workshops that expand on “The Artist’s Way” class that changed their lives – “The Artist’s Way and Beyond.” Terry also helps people change their perception of wealth in his class “Developing a Healthy and Wealthy Life.” Michael has continued with his clairvoyant readings and teaches classes on intuition.
  • An excellent local example of these workshops in action is that of George Bezera, former trainer at Cheetah Gym (5248 N Clark). Terry and George started working together in 2016; George, who had always wanted to open his own gym, learned to trust his intuition,opened his first gym in 2017, and currently has several branches in the city with plans to expand.
  • Both Terry and Michael have put a great deal of work into mental clarity and centeredness; they are excited to share their findings, help others learn to trust themselves, connect them to their imaginations, and push them to live with purpose.
  • Terry and Michael work on a podcast called Jumping the Fence with their friends Mary Pat and Jen. Every Wednesday they come out with a new episode where they discuss living a healthy lifestyle in every aspect: physical, mental, financial, and so on. The podcast is available on Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.
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    Left to right: Terry, Jen. Mary Pat, and Michael meeting for their podcast “Jumping the Fence.”

  • If Michael could work at any Andersonville business for a day, he would work at Cowboys and Astronauts (1478 W Summerdale) because he really loves the shop’s energy and merchandise. Terry said he would want to work at Reza’s Restaurant (5255 N Clark), as it would fit well with his food experience and he would love to talk with all of the customers.
  • For more information about Terry and Michael and their upcoming workshops please visit their respective websites at terryopalek.com and michaelfrontier.com.

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 45 with Amy Giordano of Gus Giordano Dance School

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Amy Giordano, owner of Gus Giordano Dance School located at 5230 N. Clark. The school offers a variety of dance programs, from classes in all styles & levels including ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary, musical theater & more for children from age 2 to 17, as well as drop in classes for adults and summer camps and intensives.

Amy is honored to continue the school her parents, Gus & Peg Giordano, started in Evanston in 1953.Amy moved the school from Evanston to Andersonville in 2011 to fulfill her father’s dream of having his school in Chicago. Amy loves being located here and she knows her parents would have loved the wonderful atmosphere in Andersonville.

Amy also runs the Gus Giordano Jazz Legacy Foundation which aims to create the same culture, uplifting spirit, and dedication to spreading the joy of jazz that her parents Gus & Peg gave to thousands of people. The Legacy Foundation funds scholarships to dancers of all ages, and sponsors performances and master classes to schools in the Chicagoland area.

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Amy Giordano (2018) & Gus Giordano (1953) in the studio at Gus Giordano Dance School

“I truly believe that it was a gift that was just born in him; [My dad] wanted to dance more than anything… His mind was always creating; everywhere he went, he was creating.”
Amy Giordano

Listen to Episode 45 with Amy Giordano!

Here are some references from Episode 45 that you may want to check out:

  • Amy Giordano is the daughter of Gus Giordano, who is known as the godfather of Jazz Dance. Before receiving this title, Gus served in the marines to pay tuition to the University of Missouri, where he met his wife and Amy’s mother, Peg.

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    Gus Giordano with wife, Peg Giordano, 1989

  • Though he did not study dance in college, Gus had been dancing since he was five years old. He saw his cousin tap dance while visiting New Orleans, and his enthusiasm only grew. His parents got him some shoes and wood for their basement, where Gus would hold classes for the neighborhood kids at a nickel a piece.
  • His love of dance persisted through his time in the marines and college. After graduating Gus and Peg moved to New York, where he danced in the show “Wish You Were Here.” When the show was taken off of the stage, they moved to Evanston, IL to start a dance school. Thanks to their efforts, jazz dance became a burgeoning movement in the Chicago and throughout the country.

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    Gus Giordano

  • Amy had been dancing for as long as she could remember. But, at the age of fifteen, she was a passenger in a car accident. This resulted in a shattered knee bone, years of casts and surgeries, and her attendance at Tulane University in New Orleans instead of continuing to study dance. She received her degree in marketing and design and  continued to help out at her parent’s studio while working full-time until her mother died of a heart attack.

    Gus and daughter Amy in Neice, France 1969

    Gus & Amy Giordano in Monte Carlo, France 1969

  • After her mother passed, Amy took her position at the studio. She worked full-time behind the scenes, doing everything from producing to helping younger students put on their shoes. It was not until she took her mother’s position that Amy realized the impact that her father had on the world of dance – jazz dance had become a national movement because of Gus’s persistence and generosity. He passed away in 2008, and Amy took over the business.
  • After her father’s passing and several health problems, Amy decided to move the studio closer to the city. She found Andersonville while driving, and looked at the school’s current building – which used to be inhabited by a beauty school. Immediately sensing that this was the place to move, she signed the lease.

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    Gus Giordano & his daughter, Amy

  • Soon after deciding to make the move to Andersonville, Amy underwent knee replacement surgery. Despite being bedridden and having to work from home, she had no doubt that this would be a great place for her school to flourish. The Andersonville location opened in June of 2011.
  • Gus and Peg were always extremely generous people, a trait which Amy received as well. She has solidified her family’s legacy of jazz dance and giving hearts through the Gus Giordano Jazz Legacy Foundation, which she created in 2017 to provide more scholarships to students who want to dance.


    Amy Giordano with GUS Youth Company Dancers

  • In the summer of 2018, the Jazz Legacy Foundation gave 50 scholarships for a full week of camp to children from many of the CPS schools. They also have many partnerships with a variety of CPS schools. Amy also works to give each of the students all of the attire they need for their uniforms. This includes proper footwear, hair kits, transportation and even helping kids learn how to properly put their hair up.

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    Amy Giordano & Master Jazz Faculty during JAZZ Intensive at Gus Giordano Dance School

  • Interested in learning more? Read more about Gus Giordano and his continuing legacy here.
  • If Amy could trade places with any other Andersonville business for a day, she would want to work at Vincent (1475 W. Balmoral).. She enjoys meeting all different kinds of people and would love the opportunity to welcome them warmly and get to know them better.9 Gus Face Logo

    “Long live jazz!”
    – Amy Giordano

Visit Gus Giordano Dance School on the following platforms:
Online: gusgiordanodance.com
Facebook: facebook.com/gusgiordanodance
Instagram: @gusgiordanodance
Twitter: @gusgiordanodanc
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/gus-giordano-dance-school


This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Grant Kessler. Grant is a Chicago Market owner and sits on the Board of Directors. Established in 2013, Chicago Market will be a big, bright, beautiful community-owned grocery store which exists to rebuild the connection between food producers and consumers. While Chicago Market is not open yet, it will be coming to the Wilson CTA Station in Uptown in the 13,000 square foot, restored historic Gerber Building.


Grant Kessler in Studio C at Transistor.

“This is an open grocery store and welcomes all people in the community; we want everybody shopping there.”
– Grant Kessler

Listen to Episode 44 with Grant Kessler!

Here are some references from Episode 44 that you may want to check out:

  • Grant loves to cook at home and cooks with local sustainable foods. Over time he connected with farmers and became a local food advocate. Grant is also a food photographer, so his passion and work intersected in this wonderful way and his interested aligned with the mission of the Chicago Market. You can view his food photography work here: Grant Kessler Photography

New owners are given the Chicago Market tote upon joining.

  • Chicago Market is a co-op driven by mission and vision. They are not beholden to profit margin like larger chain grocery stores and will work to best meet needs of community due to their grassroots ownership. Chicago Market is open for all.
  • Grassroots ownership means Chicago Market is owned by the community. Owners of the market live, work and own businesses in the community.
  • Chicago Market will be considered big for a coop at 13,000 sf. once open, but they will still carry a smaller footprint than traditional grocery stores which are usually 75,000 sf.
  • Chicago Market seeks to make a strong impact on farm community and bring healthier foods into the city. Chicago doesn’t have a strong local food distribution system and Chicago Market hopes to improve this and connect people back to their food.

The Gerber Building in Uptown.

  • Owner rights which come with both direct and indirect benefits. Ownership begins with coop selling shares to the community. There are two levels of ownership: Cultivating and Founding ownership, and shares are purchasable online or at Chicago Market informational events. Learn more here. 
  • Direct Benefits of ownership include: voting rights in the business, a patronage refund which consists of a percentage of profit given back to owners at the end of the year if no major expenses are incurred, discounts in store on products and workshops, and a Chicago Market tote bag to shop with.
  • Indirect benefits of ownership include: hiring locally and providing jobs to the community by helping to open the store. Chicago Market has a strong commitment to hire in the neighborhood.
  • Chicago Market is sustainably-oriented and participate in sustainability efforts like #SheddTheStraw. They don’t have their market space yet by will keep straw use down.
  • Chicago market will carry bulk food with an emphasis on reducing plastic. They will also carry beer, wine, liquor, olive oil, and coffee from sustainable roasters. They will carry as much as possible from local regional growers and makers.
  • They will also host workshops and cooking classes on how to cook with the food they sell. One class might even feature making fruit preserve. Chicago Market is developing a partnership with neighboring Truman College to hold classes and events.

Grant at a Chicago Market recruitment event.

  • Currently, Chicago Market has 1500 owners and has upcoming recruitment session to encourage new owners and reach their spring goal of 2,000. Chicago Market will host their next Market Owner Info Session this coming Saturday, January 26 at 5PM at TrueNorth Café ( ). Learn more here.
  • Business can also become owners of Chicago Market! Currently, featured Andersonville business owners include: Big Jones (5347 N Clark) , Candyality (5225 N Clark), The SoFo Tap (4923 N Clark) , Meeting House Tavern (5025 N Clark), and the Andersonville Farmers Market
  • Chicago Market is hosting a Mixer at Meeting House Tavern on January 31 from 6-8PM.
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Rendering of Chicago Market’s new home in the Gerber Building.

“We are super excited about the location; it is just beautiful.”
– Grant Kessler

  • Chicago Market is set to open in April of 2020 in the Arthur Gerber Building which was built in 1923. It is a beautiful terra cotta beaux arts building. The CTA renovated it left empty when it moved the Wilson El station across the street. The location for the Chicago Market is highly accessible, transit friendly and has a parking lot. Click here for an article about the historic Gerber Building
  • Grant chose Big Jones as the business he would trade places with. Grant may not be a commercial kitchen person, but loves to cook at home and wants to learn from Chef Paul. Paul has a strong ethos around local food sourcing, as does Andersonville as a neighborhood in general. For example, Lost Larson (5318 N Clark) is buying grains from the mill at Janie’s Farm, and Vincent (1475 W Balmoral) and Hopleaf (5148 N Clark) also source from local farms.
Chicago Market Opening Graphic

Save the Date!

Visit Chicago Market on the following platforms:
Online: chicagomarekt.coop
Facebook: facebook.com/chicagomarket
Instagram: @chicago_market
Twitter: @ChicagoMkt
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/chicago-cooperative

2019-20 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide – Contributor Content Open Submission


In 2018-19, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce released a beautifully redesigned version of our annual Neighborhood Guide. What once was strictly used as a directory for the neighborhood, has now become a coffee-table quality publication with an editorial approach to showcasing Andersonville and its businesses in a photo-forward manner. Guides are distributed locally, to downtown Chicago tourism destinations and hotels, and are mailed to out-of-state visitors who request copies in advance of travel.

This year, we are seeking contributor submissions for the 2019-20 edition of the Guide from local residents, writers, artists, and photographers, whether professional or hobbyist. We are looking to add additional pages of featured content, and hoping to showcase the neighborhood from a local or visitor’s perspective. This contributor content request is open to all ages. People of color, women, persons with disabilities, and persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex are encouraged to submit.

Anticipated release of the 2019-20 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide is May 2019.

We are looking for the following:

  • Andersonville Neighborhood Photography
    • We know many of you LOVE taking photos of our iconic Water Tower, Dala Horse, Puppet Bike, local shops, streetscape, and more. Submitted neighborhood photos will be considered for the cover of the 2019-20 Guide as well as interior features. All photos chosen for publication will credit the photographer on our Guide table of contents.
  • Neighborhood stories or editorial features, both fiction or nonfiction
  • Neighborhood Reflections such as:
    • Tell us about what you love most about Andersonville.
    • What is the first thing you noticed about this neighborhood?
    • If you could trade places with an Andersonville business for a day, who would it be?
  • Neighborhood illustrations, graphic design, or local artists features


    • Submission Form: All applicants must complete the entry form here. If you are choosing to submit a Neighborhood Reflection, the form is the only thing we need!  
    • Photo and Artwork: If your submission includes photography or artwork, please email  print-ready high resolution images in jpeg, PSD, EPS, or TIFF format sized at 300 dpi to jscillia@andersonville.org. For cell-phone photographers who may have captured the perfect shot of Andersonville, but aren’t sure of the size or quality, please submit to us the original photo file at full-size, unedited.   
    • Written Content: If your submission includes written content, please submit proofread and edited work in a PDF format with author(s) credit.
    • File Format: Label all submitted files with your name, title of the work, and numeration (lastname_firstname_title_1).
    • Deadline: The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce will accept submissions through February 15, 2019.


Andersonville Chamber of Commerce fosters a vibrant environment in which Andersonville businesses can thrive by attracting a diverse customer base; providing business support services and advocacy; and engaging in business attraction, long-range planning, and economic development.

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 43 with Brenda Webb of Chicago Filmmakers

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Brenda Webb, Executive Director of Chicago Filmmakers. Chicago Filmmakers is a non-profit media arts organization that fosters the creation, appreciation and understanding of film and video as media for artistic and personal expression. In 2018, Chicago Filmmakers moved from its second floor home in Andersonville to 5720 N. Ridge Avenue, a historic 1920’s firehouse they fully renovated with classrooms, a screening room, office space, and projection facilities. This week’s episode was recorded on-location at the firehouse!

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Sound engineer Andy Miles recording Brenda Webb on location in Chicago Filmmakers’ digital classroom.

“Artists are drivers of economic development, yet they don’t always reap the benefits of that economic activity.”
– Brenda Webb

Listen to Episode 43 with Brenda Webb!

Here are some references from Episode 43 that you may want to check out:

  • Brenda is originally from Indianapolis. After getting a degree in psychology from the Indiana University, she took a film class that inspired her and ultimately pursued it in film school here in Chicago at Columbia College.
  • While in school, she was hired by a post-production editing house. She went into film editing, and got involved with the Chicago Filmmakers because one of her roommates was the founder and they were looking for an extra programmer.
  • Chicago Filmmakers was started in 1973 during an artist-run space movement in Chicago. Chicago Filmmakers’ roots were in the art gallery scene and their former name was Chicago Film Group at N.A.M.E. Gallery. They started out as an experimental film screening space on Saturday evenings.
  • After moving from N.A.M.E. Gallery to Belmont, Chicago Filmmakers rented a large 200-seat theatre on Belmont, and while they only screened films on the weekends, needed to find a way to supplement their income on the nights the theatre lay dormant. They rented to theatre companies like Lookingglass Theatre, and these type of partnerships with theatres continued when the organization moved to Wicker Park, in what is the current Chopin Theatre, as well. After Wicker Park, Chicago Filmmakers moved to their former Andersonville location. Many of their moves had to do with renting in buildings in which they couldn’t meet the fire code violations due to outdated stipulations on nitrate-based film, a highly flammable type of film that was no longer regularly used.
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The screening room at Chicago Filmmakers.

  • Chicago Filmmakers screens documentaries, experimental films, shorts, and films from Chicago filmmakers. They also give out $100,000 in grants every year to 8 or 9 artists to create new projects. Some of the grantees have gone on to create web series optioned by both HBO and Netflix. Learn about Chicago Filmmakers grant program here.
  • In 2013, Filmmakers purchased a vacant firehouse in Edgewater from the City of Chicago. Brenda had her eye on a firehouse or a church due to the open space needed to set up a film screening theatre. She had to create the grant proposal in two days. In October of 2013, Filmmakers was awarded the building for $36,000. They closed on the building in February 2016, and after closing, immediately began construction. They finally moved into the space at the end of 2017.
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The exterior of the Chicago Filmmakers’ firehouse.

  • People can view the space from 10:30AM-6:30PM Monday thru Friday. They also rent the space to other commercial filmmakers, but the best way to see the space is to come for a screenings. View Chicago Filmmakers’ upcoming screenings here.
  • If there’s one thing that Brenda would pass on to another organization of a similar kind who is just trying to start, do all of the necessary preparations, thinking, research and planning before anything is undertaken.
  • Brenda is the founder of the LGBTQ Reeling International Film Festival that was created in 1981. The festival was started to showcase work by niche artists that were not available in mainstream cinema. The first few years of the festival it was mainly experimental and European feature films.
  • Brenda, as far as LGBTQ filmmakers from Chicago go, recommends Ky Dickens, a documentary filmmaker, along with Sharon Zurek, among many others like Lisa Cordileone, who’s film Freelancers Anonymous, screened at the festival this past year.
  • Chicago Filmmakers’ classes range from almost every aspect of digital film making for both kids and adults, whether it’s screenwriting, to directing, to lighting and sound editing, they provide the whole gamut for those that would like to learn. Chicago Filmmakers have had the summer camp since 2005. View Youth class schedule here and Adult class schedule here.
  • Brenda’s favorite movie is called Serene Velocity, a 1970s American experimental short film directed by Ernie Gehr.
  • Chicago Filmmakers shows 60mm film and digital cinema using DCP, which is a state of the art way of showing films. Chicago Filmmakers was gifted their projection system by projectionist James Bond, who had has start at Chicago Filmmakers!
  • If Brenda could work at any Andersonville business for a day she would work at Women and Children First (5233 N Clark), because she’s been going forever and it embraces the local community.
Laura, Brenda, Sara, Andy at Chicago Filmmakers

(from left): Laura Austin, Brenda Webb, Sara Dinges, and Andy Miles outside of Chicago Filmmakers for the special on-location episode of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast.

“We are trying to provide an affordable opportunity to learn filmmaking and democratize the media…Filmmaking is accessible to all.”
– Brenda Webb

Visit Chicago Filmmakers on the following platforms:
Online: chicagofilmmakers.org
Facebook: facebook.com/chi.filmmakers
Instagram: @chicagofilmmakers
Twitter: @ChiFilmmakers

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show notes from Episode 42 with Jes Scheinpflug and Kate Harrington-Rosen of Praxis Group

This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Jes Scheinpflug and Kate Harringon-Rosen, co-founders of Praxis Group. Praxis redefines group and organizational culture so that people feel empowered to bring their full selves to the table and offer support to businesses creating a more inclusive environment. They offer a sliding scale of services for nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals alike.


Jes Scheinpflug (right) and Kate Harringon-Rosen (left), co-founders of Praxis Group in Transistor’s Studio C.

“We give people the tools necessary to create more open and inviting spaces for all.”
– Praxis Group

Listen to Episode 42 with Praxis Group!

Here are some references from Episode 42 that you may want to check out:

  • Jes and Kate met after they were both hired for work at a nonprofit in Chicago. Jes was working there as part of their MSW program and Kate was a supervisor. Both gained experience in a workforce development program supporting trans and gender non-conforming adults.
  • Jes was Kate’s intern for a year, and while they initially thought they wanted to be a therapist when they got involved with social work, they ultimately decided they could provide the best mental health services through attacking macro-level issues; their switch from micro social work to macro social work happened about ten years ago.
  • Jes and Kate had a difficult time picking the name for the business, but they settled on Praxis because a co-facilitator had recommended the term. Praxis essentially means putting theory into practice; it answers the all-important question: how do you live out your important life values through the work that you do?
  • Kate is the Director of Training and Curriculum for Praxis, meaning she is responsible for any training programs that Praxis implements. As Director of Operations and Outreach, Jes has the initial conversations with clients about their needs.  Learn more about the Praxis Group team here.
  • Jes and Kate, on the website for Praxis, talk about cultural humility, which they offer workshops on. Click here to learn more about cultural humility.

“Cultural humility is the idea that when we are doing work around diversity or inclusion, it’s never complete, it’s always continuing. It’s realizing there is always more to learn and always more to do. “
– Jes Scheinpflug 

  • Jes grew up on the South side of Chicago, and after college, served in the Peace Corps in Africa for two years living in Togo with a host family. They were a girls education and empowerment extension agent, and talked with community members about why they weren’t sending their daughter to schools. They opened up the conversation about gender and equity issues in an incredibly remote village with no running water and a population of less than 1,000. After serving, Jes returned to Chicago and moved to Andersonville. They love going to Candyality (5225 N Clark) to raid the blue raspberry candy bins.
  • Kate started her career in direct service with communities and is familiar with the sense of urgency and need when approaching clients. She moved to Chicago three years ago and initially lived in Logan Square, but later moved to Andersonville.
Pronoun Business Cards from Praxis

Offered by Praxis: Are you nonbinary and tired of correcting people who misgender you? Are you an ally who knows gender can’t be assumed? Order some free #HopefulGender cards (choose from 3 versions) to help have these repetitive and often exhausting conversations: www.praxischi.com/hopeful-gender

  • Praxis Group starts any workshop by defining “cultural humility.” They focus on intentional listening. Learn about their workshops here.
  • Kate talks about “communities of practice” and one of the long term goals of Praxis is developing a community of practice around creating inclusive and affirming work spaces. Another goal is to help develop training for young Trans and Queer people of color who will be the future trainers for the organization.  
  • If Jes could switch places with any business for a day, they would switch with George’s Ice Cream & Sweets (5306 N Clark) or Early to Bed (5044 N Clark) and Kate would switch with Lost Larson (5318 N Clark) because she always wanted to open a bakery.

“Andersonville for me, similarly, has been a place of stepping into and catalyzing my identity in a powerful way”
– Kate Harringon-Rosen

Praxis has worked with several Andersonville businesses: Aligned Modern Health, The Clark at Swedish Covenant, and Women & Children First and will be facilitating the upcoming Being A Stronger Ally:  Trans/GNC Affirming Business Workshop on Wednesday, February 6 at 9:30AM and Thursday, February 7 at 3:30PM at Reza’s Restaurant. You may register by clicking the links above.

Visit Praxis Group on the following platforms:
Online: praxischi.com
Facebook: facebook.com/praxischi
Instagram: @praxischi
Twitter: @praxischi
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/praxischi

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 41 with Al Liu of Colectivo Coffee

This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Al Liu, vice president of coffee at Colectivo Coffee, located at 5425 N. Clark St. Colectivo is a Milwaukee-based coffee company that recently opened its largest cafe in Chicago yet. Colectivo Coffee provides house made coffee, tea, seasonal drinks, breakfast items and more to patrons. Colectivo is well-known for its bold designs and customizable approaches to its spaces.


Al Liu recording in Studio C at Transistor.

“Andersonville just based on my experience here really is the kind of neighborhood we like to be in, but is a great fit for our culture and our brand: very neighborhood oriented.”
– Al Liu

Listen to Episode 41 with Al Liu!

Here are some references from Episode 41 that you may want to check out:

  • Al is a Milwaukee native but he has lived around the country and in other countries as well. He started with Colectivo in 2000 and worked there for seven years as the Director of Culture and Communications when the company was called Alterra. In early 2008, Al moved to Seattle to work for Specialty Coffee Importer, Atlas. He did that for over eight years, then moved back to Milwaukee about 2.5 years ago to take on the role of Vice President of Coffee.
  • Al’s interests in coffee originated after serving in the Peace Corps in Bolivia. He visited a friend who was working in coffee also in the Corps in Bolivia in 1999. Al got to see coffee getting picked and processed, and the rest is history.
  • Al’s main responsibility as a Vice President of Coffee is to actually buy the coffees that Colectivo roasts and sells. Most of their coffee comes from Latin America, namely Mexico, Peru and Brazil. The largest origin for Colectivo Coffee is in Indonesia in Sumatra, which is fair-trade and organic.
IMG_3135 cropped

Al with Roberto Salazar, the general manager of the Fair Trade cooperative Cooperativa Cafetalera La Labor Ocotepeque Limitada (COCAFELOL) in southwestern Honduras. He visited COCAFELOL and two other co-ops from which Colectivo sources last March, and in this photo you can see the ripe coffee cherries that he picked.


  • Colectivo Coffee has an extensive team working to coach employees on barista technique and new drink cultivation. For example, the grapefruit espresso drink was a part of their new cold-drink menu upon opening in late summer. View their cafe and food menu here.
Outside of Andersonville Colectivo

The Colectivo Andersonville location.

  • There are 13 Colectivo storefronts in the Milwaukee area and four locations so far in Chicago. Colectivo works with existing structures when it comes to designing their cafes. At their location at Clark and Rascher in Andersonville, the original “Cream City” bricks are used, which is a popular material in Wisconsin too. View all cafes here.
  • Al considers cafes to be ‘third spaces,’ or basically spaces where people can be comfortable, but not at home and not at work.
  • Colectivo was founded in 1993 by three men, Ward Fowler, his brother Lincoln Fowler and Paul Miller. The two brothers had a high-end speaker cabinet business and Paul had a business selling Milwaukee-themed clothing items and sheepskin lined slippers. The two businesses shared storage space in the same warehouse. They began talking to each other about how good coffee was hard to find in Milwaukee, so they made a plan and one year later opened the first retail Colectivo space in Milwaukee. Learn more here.  
  • By the time Al joined Colectivo in 2000, they had four stores. The main flagship store was where the roasting and packing happened. In 2002, Colectivo expanded to a lakefront location in Milwaukee in a building called The Pumping Station. The store in Andersonville is the 19th store.
Colectivo Graphic Bus

Colectivo gets it’s name from the “Colectivo” or bus found in Southern Mexico.

  • The name Colectivo is taken from the artful and funky buses used for transportation in Southern Mexico. “Anyone and everyone can join us on a coffee journey…anyone can get on the bus, so to speak, and have a coffee experience.”  The owners used this name because they also wanted to nod to the far-away regions in which these coffee beans originate.
  • Colectivo does not import coffee directly, but uses the services of green importers around the world. Some coffees are featured year-round, while smaller origins are highlighted for sometimes only a few months.
  • January, February and March are busier travel times for Al, as he visits locations like East Africa, Mexico and Central America with their different grow seasons.
  • Al says the most valuable thing he has learned working in coffee is the power of the human connection.
  • The Colectivo creative director, Kevin Callahan, is responsible for the artwork and creative designs you see on their merchandise. He has a studio art degree from the University of Milwaukee, and he used to draw everything by hand.
  • Al does credit Starbucks for pathing the way to specialty coffee in the Midwest, their first market outside of the Pacific Northwest. Al expects to see coffee markets pop up in developing countries and countries that typically haven’t seen specialty coffee consumption. Climate change is affecting coffee producers all over the world.
  • Al drinks his coffee black and had to train himself to do that. He likes to taste the unique characteristics of each coffee. Al likes his coffee via french press or coffee that’s brewed on a batch machine with a filter. The Chemex method he likes to use on occasion, as it recreates the pour-over method.  Al thinks he could even do a blind taste test!
  • If Al could trade places with any other business in the Andersonville neighborhood, he would trade with Reza’s, (5255 N Clark) because he loves the cuisine and the complex flavor profiles.
Latte Art Colectivo

Don’t miss Colectivo’s upcoming Latte Art Throwdown on Thursday, January 17!

Visit Colectivo Coffee on the following platforms:
Online: colectivocoffee.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ColectivoAndersonville
Instagram: @colectivocoffee
Twitter: @colectivocoffee

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show notes from Episode 40 with Alderman Patrick O’Connor of the 40th Ward

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Alderman Patrick O’Connor. Elected in 1983, Alderman O’Connor has represented the residents of the north side of Chicago since the age of 28. As a lifelong Chicagoan, he has worked tirelessly over the years to serve the community and better the lives of his constituents. On the 40th Ward website it reads, “There’s no more local government than an aldermanic public servant, you are in and among your constituents. You live there, you grew up there, you see the people you serve every day and you feel honored to do your best for everyone.”


40th Ward Alderman O’Connor is this week’s guest on the podcast for our 40th episode!

“A neighborhood is not just a place that you live, it’s a place that you make livable.”
– Alderman O’Connor.

Listen to Episode 40 with 40th Ward Alderman, Patrick O’Connor!

Here are some references from Episode 40 that you may want to check out:

    • Alderman O’Connor is a lifelong resident of Chicago. He grew up on the north side and has five siblings, three of which still live five blocks from his house. His mom lived close as well until she passed away in the summer of 2018. He met his wife in grammar school and raised his own five children here, and they all live within a half mile of him.
    • He graduated from Mather High School and attended Loyola University for college and law school. He always wanted to be an attorney. When he decided to run for public office, he couldn’t think of a better place to be then the place he had known all his life

Alderman O’Connor speaks during the Andersonville for Equality Rally during Midsommarfest in 2017.

  • When Alderman O’Connor first started representing Andersonville, there was a Methadone clinic on Clark Street and he comments on how much the business population has changed over the years. Andersonville has gone from an area on the cusp to, if you look at Redfin, one of the top 10 places in the country to live. According to Alderman O’Connor, Andersonville has a good mix of new and long-time residents.
  • According to Alderman O’Connor, in Andersonville, the housing stock is great, schools are doing well and the business District is thriving. Andersonville has hit its stride and Alderman O’Connor thinks the biggest issue the neighborhood is now facing is trying to control the cost of being here, so folks can continue to be here. He believes in advocating for small business owners, and there are nearly 300 in Andersonville alone.
Copy of Transit Tees

Transit Tees Grand Opening in July 2017.

“Independent business are the hallmark of the district and I do my best to maintain the character of the neighborhood by working with the Chamber, landlords and the City of Chicago.”
– Alderman O’Connor

Lost Larson_Ribbon cutting 1

Lost Larson Grand Opening in June 2018.

    • Alderman O’Connor served as the Chair on the Committee of Education Development for 20 years and was instrumental in bringing Northside College Preparatory School to the north side along with the Board of Education and Mayor Daley.  Northside College Prep was the first high school in over 20 years that was built on the north side. There was a need to create an option for residents so that they didn’t move from the neighborhood when looking for a good high school for their children.
    • Local schools in the 40th and 48th Ward have become “schools of choice” in this area, and Alderman O’Connor emphasizes the importance of capital improvements in schools. He referenced Amundsen High School at Lawrence and Damen. Enrollment at Amundsen High School is going up and “the principle there is a dynamo.” Alderman O’Connor says great school needs strong leadership and financial help from the City.

Alderman Harry Osterman (left) and Alderman O’Connor at the Aldermanic lunch in 2017.

  • The job of an Alderman has two parts: the first is to serve as the steward of the City’s services for the community and to obtain what is needed to maintain a quality of life that is acceptable and achievable for that community. The second role is to help inform and pass on public policy that relates to the entire City directly to the area constituents.
  • Alderman O’Connor also Chairs the Workforce Development Committee. This committee is responsible for maintaining fair labor standards. On the day the podcast was recorded, the Committee passed a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters Local and earlier this year increased minimum wage and passed an ordinance for earned sick time.

    gus o'connor

    Alderman O’Connor attended the Gus Giordano Dance School 65th Anniversary celebration earlier this year with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and school owner, Amy Giordano (second from right).

  • Alderman’s O’Connor helped build the West Ridge Nature Preserve which saved 20 acres of land from being developed. There is a lake in the park that is stocked with fish where people can catch Bluegills and Sunfish. Alderman O’Connor has a soft spot for the location, as he grew up a block west of Rosehill Cemetery and played by the lake when he was a kid. In the future they are looking to add a Natural Playground and Alderman O’Connor encourages everyone in the neighborhood to at least walk through it once. It is filled with incredible wildlife, like deer with full racks of horn. Check out the video here!
  • When asked to give advice for upcoming politicians, the Alderman mentions using modern technology as a communicative tool and not as a weapon saying, “When you weaponize those technologies, you take away their effectiveness.”
  • If Huey’s were still around, Alderman O’Connor would work there as he has always wanted to own a hot dog stand. Huey’s was a former business at 1507 W. Balmoral and beloved by many. It closed in 2014. If he ever wins the lottery, Alderman O’Connor is going to teach history and own a hot dog stand.
  • If given the chance to swap places with and Andersonville business, today he would choose to work at Replay Andersonville (5358 N. Clark) because he loves old video games. He wouldn’t make any money, but he would get better and better at those games.

Visit Alderman O’Connor and the 40th Ward on the following platforms:
Online: aldermanoconnor.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AldermanPatrickOConnor
Twitter: @40thWard
YouTube: AldermanOConnor

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Andersonville

NYE Photo


December 31, 2018 & January 1, 2019

Andies Restaurant
New Year’s Eve buffet: 6-10PM – $25.95  per person with Champagne included
New Year’s Day buffet: 11AM-8PM – $25.95  per person with Champagne included.

Bar Roma
New Year’s Eve: Seatings between 5-9PM with special dinner selections. View menu

Big Jones
New Year’s Eve Brunch: 9AM-3PM
New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe: 5-10PM

Fireside Restaurant
New Year’s Eve Bash: Drink packages from 10PM-1AM. Open until 5AM
New Year’s Day Brunch: 10am-3pm

Hamburger Mary’s
New Year’s Eve: 10th Anniversary and NYE Party – 8PM
Featuring the Blue Wave reCount down: “It’s not a political statement, we swear! Never mind that the Dem’s “blue wave” was the big story of 2018. Coincidence! We just wanna see everyone in their most dashing and/or elegant blue attire, sipping on Beto-Cocktails (Tito’s and blue Red Bull) and toasting the midnight (re)countdown!”

Lady Gregory’s
New Year’s Eve: NYE Party – 5pm
No cover, with DJ, party favors, Champagne toast
New Year’s Day:  80’s themed brunch: 10AM-2PM

Replay Andersonville/Elixir
New Year’s Day Brunch:

Vincent Restaurant
New Year’s Eve: Multiple Seatings
Purchase tickets in advance here 

5PM: Early to Bed Seating – $50 per person
4 course Chef’s Menu(Wine Pairings Additional) and special kids “half midnight” celebration
7PM : Just Our First Stop Seating – $75 per person
5 course Chef’s Menu (Wine Pairings Additional)
9:30PM: Kissing Vincent Seating – $85 per person
5 course Chef’s Menu (Wine Pairings Additional) with Midnight Champagne Celebration+

New Year’s Day Hangover Brunch – 11AM-3PM:
Chilaquiles Buffet with Bloody Mary Bar and Champagne Cocktails