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Re-Built: Writers On Architecture And The Urban Plan

If urban design is the language of the city, where is the story - and who tells it? In the final reading of a two-part Applied Words series, the Guild Literary Complex invites writers to examine our relationships with the built environment.

"Re-Built" will take place on Saturday, October 19 from 2 - 4 p.m., in the "original" Sears tower at 930 S. Homan Ave, and is free to the public.

The venue, a 14-story brick tower in a Neo-Classical style, was once part of the world's largest commercial building, a 3.3 million square foot warehouse for the old Sears Roebuck and Company.

Our feature reader, the award-winning playwright and librettist Sandra Seaton, worked her first summer job in the old Sears complex.

Her stories will be woven with the words of Nwaji B. J. Harris and Benjamin van Loon, and a complex narrative of many perspectives will be built "brick by brick." Young authors from nearby Henry Ford Academy: Power House High will also contribute stories. The program commences with an open mic.

The Guild's Applied Words series explores creative writing's intersection with other fields. Ranging in discipline from art and architecture to social history and biology, Applied Words attempts to use the literary arts to enhance and/or creatively describe other fields. Applied Words: "Re-Built" is programmed in partnership with Open House Chicago, a program of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and is generously underwritten by the Foundation for Homan Square.


* Sandra Seaton is the author of 12 plays. Her libretto for the song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, is available as a CD from White Pine Music and as a score from Hal Leonard. Famed actor Ruby Dee appeared in a 1998 Ann Arbor production of The Bridge Party, Seaton's first play. In 2009, A Chance Meeting (adapted from the short story by Chicago author Cyrus Colter) premiered at the University of Michigan starring acclaimed Met tenor George Shirley. A recent play, Music History, set at the University of Illinois at Champaign in 1963, focuses on African American college students from Chicago and their responses to the struggle for civil rights in the South. In 2012 Seaton received the Mark Twain Award "for distinguished contributions to Midwestern literature" from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

* Nwaji B. J. Harris was born and raised in the Lawndale district. She currently resides on the West Side of Chicago, where she is a longtime community activist. Ms. Harris is also a baker and an African dance performer. Her West Side roots have continued to influence her perspective on contemporary life, which has also been enriched by her extensive travels throughout the world, including visits to West Africa, Egypt and Haiti. Ms. Harris attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Southern University at New Orleans. She has the ability of a lifelong Westsider to reflect on the ways things have changed in Chicago beyond downtown and the lakefront.

* Benjamin van Loon is a writer living in Chicago. He is the co-founder of Anobium (an experimental literary publisher); a former staff writer for Green Building & Design magazine; a runner-up for the Calvino Prize for Fiction; and is presently participating in the Communications, Media, and Theater graduate program at Northeastern Illinois University.


The Guild Literary Complex (GLC) is a community-based literary organization that presents and supports diverse, divergent, and emerging voices through innovative programs including performances and readings. GLC believes that vibrant literature contributes to society and community, and that people should have access to quality literary experiences that engage them with dynamic juxtapositions of voices and ideas. GLC programs include Palabra Pura (bilingual poetry); the Poetry Performance Incubator (collaborative theatre and poetry); and open-submission writing contests such as the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award and Prose Awards for short fiction and non-fiction. Since its formation, GLC has established itself, in the words of the Illinois Arts Council, as "Chicago's premier literary center." GLC has been twice selected as a model literary center by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Open House Chicago - a program of the Chicago Architecture Foundation - is a free, weekend long celebration of Chicago's neighborhoods and communities. Open House Chicago (OHC) offers participants behind-the-scenes access to over 150 of the city's greatest spaces and places and illuminates areas that are normally open "by invitation only." Whether you are an architecture buff, history enthusiast or looking for a unique weekend festival, OHC is a must-see event and is fun for every kind of adventurer: locals and visitors to suburbanites and city dwellers. The third annual Open House Chicago is October 19-20, 2013.

Originally named the Homan Arthington Foundation, this 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization was formed in 1995 to oversee the Homan Square redevelopment plan. The Foundation serves as an umbrella organization for the entities on the Homan Campus, including the Homan Square Community Center and Homan Square Power House. The Foundation is also responsible for the future redevelopment of the original Sears Tower, now known as the Homan Square Tower, which will serve as a beacon of hope for the entire Westside of Chicago when it becomes a multiuse non-profit arts/social service facility. The Foundation for Homan Square aspires to renovate the surrounding land into a center for urban agriculture, job creation and the arts for the North Lawndale community.

What was once an out-of-service power plant on Chicago's West Side is now humming with activity as a community learning center and the permanent home of HFA:PHH. The Homan Square Power House was built in 1905 to provide electricity and heat for the massive Sears Roebuck & Company world headquarters. In 2006, the Foundation for Homan Square and Henry Ford Learning Institute joined forces to transform the power house into a permanent home for HFA: PHH. In August 2009, HFA: PHH opened to 250 9th and 10th grade students at the newly renovated Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center. In August 2012, HFA: PHH honored its first graduates.


Previously: Messy Stories About Broken Windows, Urban Design And Dirty Architecture.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 30, 2013

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