Steve Krakow black and white ilustration, Ulysses Davis sculpture
OUTSIDE CHANCE Relive Steve Krakow’s The Secret History of Chicago Music at the MCA; browse works by the outsider Ulysses Davis at Intuit—both free, both featuring self-portraits of the artists (above).


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 05.05.10 through Tue 05.11.10:


opera Frederica von Stade
Flicka says farewell—or does she? Along with Three Decembers, a short chamber work written for the mezzo-soprano by Jake Heggie and running concurrently, the legendary diva’s solo gig this week is billed as among her last Chicago appearances. (We guess Chicago Opera Theater isn’t counting von Stade’s August 5 and 7 concerts at Ravinia, maybe because—talk about a technicality—those are in the burbs.) In any case, don’t let the semantics distract you. Both this concert and Decembers are not to be missed.
GO: Von Stade solo: May 10 at 7:30. $25-$80. Three Decembers: May 8, 12, 14 at 7:30; May 16 at 3. $30-$120. Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph.

ALSO THIS WEEK: On the new-music front, the International Contemporary Ensemble tubist Dan Peck explores the history of humans and deep sounds May 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. We’re not sure what this means exactly—burping Neanderthals? The evolution of speech? As of quite recently, Peck was still figuring it out himself—but we’re intrigued.


farrago Smucker’s Stars on Ice
In other diva news, Naperville’s golden boy Evan Lysacek skates into town on the heels of Vancouver glory. The roar of the crowd should just about drown out the sound of Yevgeny Plushenko whining. The lineup also includes the 2006 silver medalists Sasha Cohen, Tanith Belbin, and Ben Agost. Expect grace and athleticism—and absolutely no judging controversies.
GO: May 8 at 7:30. $24.50-$149.50. Allstate Arena, 6920 N Mannheim, Rosemont.


farrago Great Bear Wilderness
Polar bears, grizzlies, and bison—oh, my! Brookfield Zoo unveils a new habitat that triples the size of its old ursine stomping grounds. Now if the bears could just get a covered garage, they’d be set.
GO: Great Bear Wilderness opens May 8. Free (for kids under 2)-$13.50; parking $9. Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W 31st, Brookfield.


farrago Fashion 2010
Sexy, stunning, can’t-look-away gorgeous—and that’s just the venue. The School of the Art Institute’s annual runway show of student designs moves into the Modern Wing for the first time. Options include a late-evening installment, drinks included, for nightowls.
GO: The show at 2 is sold out, but tickets remain for the gala at 6 ($500+) and the Nightwalk party at 9 ($100). Modern Wing, Art Institute, 159 E Monroe.


theatre Incognito
The Waukegan native Michael Sidney Fosberg learned he was half-black at age 32, never having questioned his ethnicity as the son of a white middle-class family. His discovery led to an unexpected identity crisis—and this extraordinary one-man show.
GO: May 6-29. $16. 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th, Berwyn.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Tracey Scott Wilson’s play The Good Negro is a stark reminder of how the good old days were anything but: In the Jim Crow South, a mother and her four-year-old are arrested when the little girl uses a whites-only restroom. The play is in premieres now at the Goodman.


museums Steve Krakow
Better known to locals by his nom de plume, Plastic Crimewave, Krakow has been writing and drawing his info-meets-comic strip The Secret History of Chicago Musicfor the Chicago Reader since 2005. A cross between an historical archive of the local music scene and an ode to R. Crumb, the series gets a second life this month in the MCA’s 12 x 12 gallery, with past History subjects playing live every Tuesday night. First up is ONO, an experimental Chicago band that dates back to the 1980s, when it opened for punk headliners including Naked Raygun.
GO: ONO plays May 11 at 7. Admission is free for the Tuesday-night series, May 11-25; see website for full schedule. Krakow’s work hangs May 8-30, with a preview May 7 at the museum’s First Fridays; admission varies. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago.

ALSO THIS WEEK: For another illustrative evening of great graphic art, head to Northwestern May 5, when Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Anders Nilsen, and Chris Ware host a free Q&A and book-signing. Read more about it in The 312.

galleries The Treasure of Ulysses Davis
Intuit, Chicago’s home base for outsider art, announced last week that it will start charging an admission fee of $5 in June. Since the gallery’s current show runs only through May 15, you can visit free now without a guilty conscience—and visit you should: Few have seen the art of Ulysses Davis (1914-90). The self-taught Savannah native not only made works well outside the mainstream, he was very reluctant to part with them: “They’re my treasure,” he said. “If I sold these, I’d be really poor.” The show offers a rare look at his astonishing oeuvre—including a series of carved wooden busts depicting every U.S. president from George Washington to George H. W. Bush.
GO: Through May 15. Intuit, 756 N Milwaukee.

ALSO THIS WEEK: The show opening May 8 at Western Exhibitions is only the Chicagoan Rachel Niffenegger’s second solo gig, but her work has been popping up in all the right places. Her figurative paintings and sculptures, often of faces or disembodied limbs, teeter between the vibrancy of life and the rot of decay—and you can bet we’ll be seeing more of them.

Photography: (Krakow) Self-portrait of Steve Krakow. Courtesy of the artist. (Davis) Self‑Portrait, not dated, wood, 8 ¼ x 4 ¼ x 3 inches, King‑Tisdell Cottage Foundation, photo © Peter Harholdt