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The Top Five Things to Do This Week in Chicago

Andrew Bird, Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art, Dawoud Bey: Harlem Redux, In the Heights, and Xplore Chicago

HOMETOWN HERO Andrew Bird performs at Millennium Park this evening.   Photo: KMERON

The Five

Don’t-miss picks for Wednesday, September 7 through September 13, 2016

1 Andrew Bird

Rock:Former Chicagoan Andrew Bird’s newest album, Are You Serious, may be his most personal yet. Peppered with pensive lyrics and including a collaboration with ’90s songwriting heroine Fiona Apple, Bird’s latest adds yet another chapter to his quirky, imaginative body of chamber pop.
9/7 at 7 p.m. $23–$58. Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park. jamusa.com

2 Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art

Art:Inflatables, the latest trend in sculpture, are more abstract than those in a Thanksgiving Day parade but often just as whimsical. This exhibit, which includes work by local artist Claire Ashley, is one of the first to organize art that’s enlivened by forced air.
9/10–11/27. $8. Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill, Elmhurst. elmhurstartmuseum.org

3 Dawoud Bey: Harlem Redux

Photography:Renowned Chicago photographer Dawoud Bey returns to Harlem, where his parents lived, to document the cultural history of the gentrifying neighborhood in luscious large-format color photos.
9/8–12/3. Free. Stephen Daiter Gallery, 230 W. Superior, Fourth Floor. stephendaitergallery.com

4 In the Heights

Theater:Before that show about the guy on the $10 bill, Lin-Manuel Miranda penned a different Tony-winning musical, this one about a Washington Heights community in the grip of gentrification. The story follows a girl who makes it out and into college, only to find that surviving outside of the Heights is far tougher than life in the vibrant Manhattan neighborhood.
9/9–10/23. $33–$51. Porchlight Music Theatre at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. porchlightmusictheatre.org

5 Xplore Chicago

Recreation:If Pokémon Go has gotten you (or your kids) off the couch in recent months, this “urban adventure race” is sure to whet your wanderlust. Form a team and race through the city finding clues and checkpoints (disseminated through a mobile app), solving puzzles, and making new friends. Registration closes 36 hours before the event, so make sure you’re signed up by midnight on Thursday.
9/10 at 12 p.m. $25–$55. Loop. eventbrite.com

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Claire Ashley
Claire Ashley Photo: Chester Alamo Costello

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals: Claire Ashley, an artist who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Several of her inflatable, painted sculptures appear in Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art, which opens at the Elmhurst Art Museum on Saturday, September 10.

“I have a solo exhibition at the University Galleries of ISU down in Normal, and this is its final weekend. It’s titled Cawt, Taut, Hot … Not and I’m driving down on Friday for a pre-closing performance with my friend and collaborator Joshua Patterson—he will create a soundscape for some of my sculptures at the Uptown Normal Roundabout.

“Saturday afternoon, I’ll be spending most of my day at the Elmhurst Art Museum for the opening of Blow Up. There will be three performances of Double Disco, which is a dance piece that incorporates some of my sculptures and more music from Joshua. It’ll be really exciting to see how it turns out—I try to create work that crosses artistic modes of operations and, in doing so, becomes more accessible and engaging to the general public. Humor is also really important to my work—and I think a lot of the pieces in Blow Up are intentionally sort of slapstick, like the inflatable bunnies by Momoyo Torimitsu. Saturday is also my daughter’s birthday, so I’ll be taking her and some of her friends to Oakbrook Center to shop and see a movie afterward.

“Sunday, I’m probably going to crash. I live in Oak Park, so I probably won’t make it out anywhere past, perhaps, Buzz Cafe or Hole in the Wall Custard Shoppe, which my kids love. When I have less to do, I like take my family out to explore other neighborhoods in Chicago. The one requisite is that I can only drag my kids to one art-related thing per outing, so if we go to the MCA, we try to go the Oak Street Beach or to ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier afterward. We’re also hoping, sometime soon, to take a water taxi from the Green Line to Chinatown to get dim sum.

“In the next week, I may spend some time at another exhibit that I organized with my colleague Sarah Kate Wilson at the SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries, on the 7th floor of 33 South State Street. The show is called Painting in Time: Part 2, and if you like the inflatables at Blow Up, you might enjoy this as well—the featured art has a similar irreverence and whimsy. Sarah will speak about some of her curatorial choices on September 22 at noon.” —As told to John Hardberger

Freebie of the Week

Stars of Lyric Opera

Opera:The Lyric’s annual amuse-bouche to its fall season samples from the most familiar operas on tap for 2016–17 (Carmen and the Magic Flute), with singers including Eric Owens (recently Porgy) and Ana María Martínez (recently Rusalka).
9/9 at 7:30 p.m. Free. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. lyricopera.org

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