Congress Theater, 1994

Congress-Theater-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Everytime I pass the Congress, I wondered if it would ever be restored to its former glory. It would be great to see a vertical neon sign and a lit marquee. It’s still being used as a music venue. It’s located on the southern end of Logan Square, just before the Western stop on the Blue Line. Change had started to come there as well in the last 10-15 years. Some say it’s like Wicker Park was in the nineties–but I disagree. The change is different in Logan Square.

Vintage Shoes, 1994

Vintage-Shoes-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Around this time, vintage anything was popping up everywhere . This was evident here in Chicago, especially Wicker Park. Of course at the time finding mint saddles shoes or a nice red and black chrome 1950s dining set was in decent abundance. Nowadays, you’d be pretty lucky to find a original in good condition. The ones I’ve seen recently were all crap unless you bought a replica for new.
It’s funny how in the midst of all the technology of that time, how there was such an underground movement to bring back the mid twentieth century. In this period, I fell in love with the ideologies of The Beats. Going out and doing your things for kicks really inspired me. That’s why I started to dig the art scene in Wicker Park back then. Everything happening coincided with how I felt. It seems like the dressed-in-black days of the old Belmont and Clark were over, and a new, plaid shirt bohemian existence was beginning.

Gentrification– Wicker Park, 1994

Gentrification-Wall-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

To some, gentrification meant purging the past and allowing a brighter future. To others, it meant higher rents and long time residents finding new places to live. Wicker Park first drew in artists looking for work/live spaces for cheap. With that, they brought stability and hope to an area once known for hypodermic needles on the sidewalks and prostitutes on the street corners. Unfortunately, these artists found themselves ousted by the Yuppies who came to the Around The Coyote festival every year. The large poster to the left of the frame says it all.

As a side note, that wall is now an Italian restaurant and the Firehouse where that meeting was held is now a Potbelly’s sandwich shop. “Give a shit”.

Damen Ave. Blue Line Station 1994

Damen-Blue-Line-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

In 1994, Wicker Park was already the ‘hot’ new area in the city. It was the heart of Chicago’s music scene, and a flourishing art community. Change was evident everywhere . In the two years since I started to come down here, more and more places were popping up. Anything from vintage clothing stores, to bars, to coffee shops. It was an exciting time for this neighborhood, once a pretty rough area in the city.

900 Block Of Belmont Looking West 1994

900-Block-of-Belmont-Looking-West-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

I started hanging out in the Belmont and Clark area (known as Lake View) around 1989. I was into the whole New Wave/Post-Punk scene and would go to a teen night club called Medusa’s which was about two blocks from where this photo was taken. Across the street from here is a Dunk in Donuts which was affectionately known as Punk-in Donuts due to the crowds of teen Punk Rockers who would congregate there when Medusa’s let out.

When this photo was taken in ’94, the area had gentrified immensely. Medusa’s was gone (It became a Real Estate office) and Kokomo’s Caffe was soon to be history. Slowly the grit and the bad ass charm that was Belmont and Clark of the eighties was becoming more upscale with the influx of Yuppies moving there. Rents in the area doubled by the end of the decade. It looks so different today, but occasionally I’ll catch a fragment of something that harkens to the days of my youth when black was the only color I ever wore.

Medici’s 1994

Medici's-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Not too far from the mural is a place called Medici’s on 57th. I haven’t been there in years, but from my recollections it’s known for its pizza and its graffiti etchings on the booths. I also remember a rum torte that was phenomenal. Located not far from the University of Chicago, a big university hangout. This place always screamed “character” to me.

Belmont ‘L’ Station 1994

Belmont-Red-Line-Station-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

One of the busiest ‘L’ stations in Chicago. The Red, Brown, and Purple lines all stop here. This IS the hub of Chicago’s North side. The station was rebuilt some years back to accommodate the large passenger loads and looks nothing like this picture. This view to the west has also changed. The spread of gentrification now reaches as far as Western Avenue. At this time, it was nearing Ashland, about a mile west. The liquor store on the corner is still there–with its bright neon sign, but sadly, Muskie’s is gone.

57th Street Mural 1994

57th-Street-Viaduct-Mural-1994

©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

With a friend just hanging out, I ventured into Hyde Park one Saturday afternoon. After we got off the #6 Jeffrey Express bus from downtown, we started to walk west down 57th street. It was a pleasant September day, and I randomly clicked away. When we started walking underneath the Metra tracks, I came across this great mural. It was showing some age and some graffiti, but I was fascinated by how it looked. The dim lighting, the peeling paint, all seemed to inspire me. It was one part urban decay, one part nostalgia. It definitely told a story about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and how it impacted Hyde Park and Chicago itself. I saw it as a strong image– but I still didn’t see a connection yet. It was too early.

A New Project, 1994

me-bongo-room-1995

Flash forward one year; It was now the fall of 1994. I had completed two full semesters of Photography and my interest in the subject had only seemed to grow stronger. I had spent the summer photographing various things just to keep myself motivated. I was happy that I did not have to endure the technical assignments of the second semester class (Although I tell people today that those technical assignments actually helped you in the long run.) .

With entering the third semester course, I now had to pick a project to do. I realized at that point that I hadn’t really considered my options.  After self-loathing and debate, I chose to go out one weekend and shoot a “whatever” roll just as a crapshoot to see if I got anything.