For the past few years, Justin Vernon has organized Eaux Claires, a music fest in his hometown of (you guessed it) Eau Claire, Wisc., where art installations and live music take over a farm for a weekend. My RSVP was decided when Chance the Rapper and Wilco were announced as headliners. Sylvan Esso, Perfume Genius, Paul Simon, Danny Brown, Feist and Jenny Lewis were also a plus. I achieved something close to nirvana when a suit-clad John Prine played his hits at the end of an hour-long tribute to the legend that included, but was not limited to, Spank Rock singing "In Spite of Ourselves." A torrential downpour struck during Prine’s finale featuring a dozen-plus performers, including his kids. I would've thought it was all just a fever dream if it weren't for my muddy shoes.
When you walk into Paisley Park, they lock up your phone. (Prince cherished his privacy.) Next, they take you into the foyer where you hear his cooing, laughing pet doves, and you realize that your phone is best off where you can't reach it, because no camera is capturing the magic humming through this place. I don't want to spoil the tour for anyone who plans to visit, but I will say it's a privilege to see the space where Prince wrote, recorded, performed, threw parties, played basketball and lived a good portion of his beautiful but too-short life. It was even an honor, strangely, to see his crazy outfits and realize all 5'1" of me is too large to fit into them. So much respect.
My mom studied art in college and worked as a graphic designer until she became, well, my mom. When she said she'd spend my birthday with me this year, I knew I wanted to go to the MCA with her. Her taste is versatile, but I wasn't sure how much she'd like the Takashi Murakami exhibit. She surprised me, though, as moms tend to do. She marveled at every piece, studied the details of the massive installations, read every plaque and pored over the film explaining his process. As much as I enjoyed what I saw, her appreciation for it made a greater impression on me. It was cool to spend a birthday wandering the galleries with the woman who lived for art before I was even a thought. This might sound like too much of an emotional jumble to be an endorsement of this exhibit. It's not. Go see it. And take your favorite art lover.
Poetry Block Party.
I'm in love with Eve Ewing's idea that "poetry should be outside and free and poetry should have a piñata and facepainting" because "poetry is for everyone." I found a whole crowd of folks who feel the same when I went to the Second Annual Chicago Poetry Block Party (which Ewing organized) this July in Pilsen. At the party, ordinary folks workshop their poems and perform them for the masses alongside veteran writers. I loved these performances—raw, memorable and met with poetry snaps, which we simply don't hear enough in daily life—as much as I loved the whole vibe of this event. Afterwards, my friend Becca and I dipped in the National Museum of Mexican Art which is free, incredible and hopefully on your agenda.
I work at a children's hospital that specializes in the treatment of kids with special needs and chronic conditions. In other words, I'm surrounded by little heroes on the regular. But for our school-age patients, dances aren't always a place where they feel comfortable being the center of attention. So this August, we hosted our second annual back-to-school dance just for them with a superhero theme. Though these kids are braver beyond comprehension and need no costumes to prove it, they had a blast on the dance floor, posing with a Ghostbusters team (made up of awesome volunteers) and fueling up at the superhero-centric buffet. Nights like these make me so grateful to work for kids whose joy is simply contagious.