There it was Tuesday in the Cultural Center, flanking the grand staircase on the building’s north side and spreading out into a larger reading room: a gathering of more than 1,500 books, magazines, journals, zines, comics and other items from 70 local book and 120 periodical publishers.
On Friday it was gone. The Chicago Publishers Gallery had vanished, all of it gone except the Book Wall, a sculptural concoction including the many books stored and distributed by the fine folks at the Chicago Distribution Center in Pullman.
The gallery, which was more accurately a library, opened in 2008. It was hatched by Lois Weisberg, then the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs, and the recently hired Danielle Chapman, who now has the title director of Publishing Industry Programs, Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.
“Lois wanted to do for the local publishing industry what she has been able to do for our arts, culinary and fashion scenes,” Chapman told me at the time.
The gallery was the first and most accessible expression of this idea, and Chapman continues to do a good job of promoting the city’s publishing industry and literary scene through events and the information/news available at chicagopublishes.com.
But two months ago, she was told that there were new plans for the gallery/library space. What plans? No one seemed to know, but the message was clear: “Move out.”
“Change is inevitable,” says Chapman, understandably diplomatic.
Chapman quickly found a home for the gallery, the Read/Write Library. This remarkable, all-volunteer, donation-funded operation with a most interesting and inclusive selection of Chicago-related media had recently found a permanent home at 914 N. California Ave. That is where the books and other materials were carted Thursday. They will be cataloged and available to the public in a few months.
That’s the good news: The collection lives. But a Humboldt Park home is not a heavily trafficked downtown space. There was not a day that I walked through the Cultural Center without seeing many people reading books, perhaps with a cup of coffee bought at the lobby cafe. The cafe closed about three months ago, and now the books are gone, and all those people too.
In other, more encouraging news from the literary world, a new print magazine hits the stands. The Chicagoan, devoted to documenting “the arts, culture, innovators and the history of Chicago and the greater Midwest,” is fat (194 pages) and expensive ($19.95).
Bang for the buck? It delivers magnificently. Its centerpiece is “Enemies, A Love Story,” detailing the relationship between Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Author Josh Schollmeyer (also one of the magazine’s executive editors) interviewed who knows how many people to get the three dozen voices (mine included) that make up this compelling and revelatory oral history.
Handsomely and artfully designed, the magazine also contains fiction, essays and interviews, and stunning illustrations and photography.
J.C. Gabel, who previously created and ran the fine arts and cultural magazine Stop Smiling, is The Chicagoan’s editor-in-chief, publisher and writer of two good pieces in this issue. He is filled with high hopes to sell out the 5,000-copy press run and to publish twice a year.
The magazine will be on sale at about 50 retail locations (mainly shops and restaurants) and at custom-made pop-up newsstands. It carries no ads because Gabel has created a nonprofit organization and hopes to fund the publication through $99-a-year memberships, subscriptions and donations, promising all manner of extras, such as special events and Web-only content.
Listen to The Chicagoan magazine’s J.C. Gabel and Josh Schollmeyer, as well as producer Elysabeth Alfano, filmmaker John Davies and singers Tom Kastle and KT McCammond on “The Sunday Papers With Rick Kogan,” 6:30-9 a.m. Sunday on WGN-AM 720.
“Chicago Live!” is hosted by Kogan and takes place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the UP Comedy Club at Piper’s Alley with, among many guests, Black Ensemble Theater founder and CEO Jackie Taylor, the Tribune’s Michael Phillips talking movies with Rebecca Hall and Kyle Westphal of the Northwest Chicago Film Society, J.C. Brooks the Uptown Sound, and comedy from The Second City. To see highlights from previous seasons and get tickets, go to chicagolive.com.