Sunday, January 13, 2008

Here's how it happened: The Mayor's visit

Friday morning 10:30 AM. Fulton Market.

There’s an eerie silence in anticipation of the mayor.

In the cold room, Patrick Pyszka snaps away: the workshop is absolutely radiant. The crew wraps ice shards in the corner, as if today was just another day.

Gord and Erik cut some pieces

and sweep the dust away. It’s so quiet, it’s almost as if you can hear your breath come out in the cold air.

In the warm room, Ari has cleaned up the buckets and tidied as much as that is possible at The Fulton. A muffled sound on the radio. The bang of the roving forklifts and the slam of the elevator doors roar on around us like a huge thunderstorm, oddly punctuated by beep, beep, beeps. We’re strangely alone here.

By this time, Christine has arrived as the front person for the City of Chicago contingent. Two figures emerge from the elevator, right out of an Al Capone movie: broad shouldered, stocky men with thick necks and sleek camel coats. Manicured, looking straight ahead; plastic squiggly attached to an ear plug. Security. Both stride confidently into the cold room, accompanied by a representative from The Fulton. I hear their shiny shoes squeak across the cement floor, feeling as if I’ve accidentally come across a scene I shouldn’t be witnessing; I’m quite sure neither of them smile. They glance around: a proverbial ‘once over’ and leave the way they came.

Valentine emerges from somewhere in a red coat and a black winter hat, looking stylish and warm at the same time: a combination I thought was impossible under the circumstances. Others from the City of Chicago Cultural office (Kimberly, Brooke, Karen & Christine) gather in their designated place near the door as the press set up their cameras in the center of the room.

Gord and I stand at the door inside the workshop space; waiting. We were to be introduced first by Dot Coyle. I hear footsteps. I think Nathan is the first leading the pack. Then the mayor, in step with his photographer, a light beaming the way, and Alderman Burnett. The fedora tips me off: everyone told me he would be wearing it. This is Erik Olson's photo:

Dot is somewhere in the darkness behind him, and he walks right up to us, so I extend my red glove out to him, “I’m Caitlin Hicks, the aritst’s wife, and this is Gord Halloran.” The mayor shakes my hand and then Gord’s. Away they go. I've got my little camera:

Even so, it seems still in the room, so many witnesses to something only a few people pressed closely, can hear or see. Nehemiah, Amit’s father, sees Valentine in her stylish red coat and, while the cameras are focussed on the mayor, the alderman and the artist,

he invites Valentine to dinner -- as we're all skedded to meet at 6 at Greek Islands. Nehemiah is determined, so Valentine considers, and says yes.

At the end, after Gord takes him through the work, (Pyszka photo)

after a reporter tries to get him to answer a political question, after Jaz is introduced,

and walking out of the cold room, one of the drivers of the fork lifts stops the mayor and asks for a picture with the mayor.

And then it all breaks open, spontaneous laughter and relieved conversation all around as the cameras pop and snap. Our crew poses for photographs, too. Katie says something, she’s a bold gal. They have an exchange to which everyone laughs.

We all walked together back towards the elevator, and Gord led him into the warm room, where somehow we started talking about guns. The buy back program which the mayor had instigated a few years ago. How they all get melted and they’re just pieces of steel. I’m not a Chicagoan, nor a member of the gun club, this idea seemed good to me. “You’re the opposite of Al Capone,” I said, “melting guns instead of using them.” Ironically, in his fedora, he could have been from Central Casting.

Finally he was safely back in the elevator with Amit and Nehemiah. We said our good bye’s and thanks you’s, and I remembered: invite the mayor to the opening of Paintings Below Zero -- on January 31st. I put my red thumb up and said, “See you at the opening.”

Then, we turned towards another room, where the cameras set up again for an interview with the artist.

Afterwards, lunch.

(Patrick Pyszka photo)

An email from Brooke: look for coverage of Paintings Below Zero/Museum of Modern Ice “on NBC, FOX, WGN, CLTV, CBS tonight. A FOX feature will run at 9 pm tonight with Amy Freeze and a CBS feature with Vince Gerasole will run at 6 pm. A far as the other stations go, expect to see coverage on the news at some point tonight and/or tomorrow morning.”

Supper at Greek Islands, guests of Nehemiah and Amit Hasak.

For more photos of the installation-in-progress, go to:

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