Author Archive

What I am Looking at: Jesse Bercowetz

January 31st, 2009 No comments

This was a brilliant find. My reaction to seeing Jesse’s work is to get into the studio and get some work done. Anyone who knew Jesse and his work from the mid-1990’s in Chicago, and the collaborations he did with Chester Alamo, will recognize him in this body of work. 

Visit Jesse’s website at [ www.Jesse ] & his collaborations with Matt Bua at [ ]





SPECs on the Artist:

Jesse Bercowetz is a graduate of the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He was awarded a Jerome Fellowship and is a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant. Selected exhibitions include: The Brooklyn Museum, NY, The Drawing Center, NY, White Columns, NY, PS1 / MoMA, NY, Galerie Michael Janssen, Berlin and Derek Eller Gallery, NY. This month he will present a new large-scale sculpture in the exhibition Next Wave At The Brooklyn Academy of Music, curated by Dan Cameron. There will be an installation of his collaborative work at Mass MoCA in 2009. Bercowetz lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Slash the Arts: A Bad Trend in Higher Education

January 28th, 2009 No comments

In bad economic times Brandeis University looks to close the Rose Art Museum and sell collection.

Via Art Fag City [ link to article ]

In the name of economic hardship Brandeis University announced Monday it will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection. An internationally renown museum, the 8,000 object collection includes work by such contemporary stars as Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, and Nan Goldin, and Post-War masters including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik. Closing the universities budget deficit, which is said to be upwards of 10 million dollars was cited as the rationale behind the decision.

To say that these decisions raise a few questions seems an understatement at best.   For one, the Brandeis Museum has relatively small budget concerns compared to other Universities.   Cornell for example has seen its endowment drop 27% in the last six months and is now pulling $150 million from their reserves.   Also, it has to be noted that the sale of just one major work in the collection, (the nearly 6 foot tall early Lichtenstein or the Rauschenberg Combine currently on display for example),  would return enough money to close the gap the University has disclosed.   It’s possible however, that like many other institutionally run museums,  is contractually obligated to funnel that money back into the collection, which would explain at least one small aspect of that decision.

This sort of short sighted economic problem solving represents a problem to any university, but it’s particularly acute in the case of the Rose Museum, given its stature.  Painter Dana Schutz’ first museum solo show, for example, was mounted there in 2006 and ran concurrently with a Matthew Barney exhibited.  Major shows by John Armleder in 2007 andFred Tomaselli in 2005 have occurred within recent years, and amongst the historical highlights, Joseph Cornell had a solo show at the Rose in 1968, and received an award from Brandeis.

Shedding no light on the motivations behind this decision, University President Jehuda Reinharz made the following statement to The Boston Globe,

“This is not a happy day in the history of Brandeis,” President Jehuda Reinharz said tonight. “The Rose is a jewel. But for the most part it’s a hidden jewel. It does not have great foot traffic and most of the great works we have, we are just not able to exhibit. We felt that, at this point given the recession and the financial crisis, we had no choice.”

But even if foot traffic were a measure of success, as 16 Miles of String points out, it’s hard to believe the museum receives any less than many other departments.  Also, since when does any museum exhibit all the great works they have?  Jerry Saltz just wrote an article about why recessions are a great time to show off works in museum collections infrequently shown.   Could the university not just cut costs at the museum rather than liquidating “nearly half a century of public trust?”

Categories: General Arts

Immediate CHANGE in Attitude

January 28th, 2009 1 comment

Quick to Engage, Direct, Soft, Smart and Articulate.

Steve Clemons has the stuff.

Categories: International

Pattern Language

January 27th, 2009 5 comments

I am posting this as a placeholder for the use of the term “Pattern Language.” I used it in my last post in referring to the built environment in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a term made popular by Christopher Alexander in his book by the same name ( You can explore more at

Because of my interests in planning I have a tendency to think in terms of how we move through the world and know. This is a good stepping-off point into a discussion about my own work and how I reference and build a painting.

Categories: In My Studio, Painting

View Outside My Window

January 25th, 2009 No comments
10 am

10 am

7 pm

7 pm

7:30 pm

7:30 pm

2 am

2 am

From this view it looks like we are literally cooking ourselves.

A Prologue to Black Holes

Even a “Black Hole” has a location, and to most Americans East Chicago is a black hole. It is not among the many places they visit or are aware of. It is a place of distant images and vague emotions. East Chicago is a gap area in America’s geography. There is nothing new about the presence of gaps in ones awareness. Americans are famous for their limited awareness, but usually we associate those limits with what is happening in the rest of the world, not five minutes for one of its great cities.

I am amazed at how thorough and comfortable Americans are at maintaining and preserving this black hole. Millions transverse the area daily. Commuters who travel between Chicago and the East witness the conditions from high up as they cross the Skyway, and Cline Avenue bridges.

Black Holes are perfect places for making things or people disappear. They also provide cover for stomping out civil unrest and fracturing organize opposition.

So who occupies our black hole.

East Chicago is home to BP (the largest oil refinery in Midwest and second in the nation), Mittal Steel (largest integrated Mill in the country), U.S. Steel, and many other large legacy industries. They own much of the land (>80%) and most of the value in this city.

I cannot help but think that all this smoke represents an intentional failure of civil society to protect its citizens. To who’s benefit? And who benefits from a fractured civil society?

Under the Plumb of Industry:
Included under the plumb of industry are social and environmental costs. In addition to the large industries, East Chicago is also home to some of the poorest census tracts in America. Some of these census blocks have a medium household income less than $11,000. Yet, these same residents pay among the highest property taxes in the country at 8.43%. This is literally the most regressive taxing structure in America. You can’t make this stuff up. And yet, these numbers don’t give an accurate picture of poverty in East Chicago. They are skewed to the high end due to lack of reporting in this population and high city government employment rates. And yes, all this was accomplished under local Democratic leadership.

To make matters worse The Mayor and the East Chicago City Council recently provided BP with a $164 million tax abatement (with out a single public hearing – an illegal act in itself) on the promise of 70 new jobs. These new highly technical jobs will require an advance education that East Chicago residents simply lack. When BP and IDEM held the public hearing last spring on the air permit in Hammond and not East Chicago, BP employees and contractors came out in great numbers. However, less than 3% of them live in East Chicago under the plumb of BP. Too often we identify BP with Whiting, but 2/3 of this new project is presently being planned for East Chicago.

The City of East Chicago is also the single largest employer of East Chicagoans, with 18% of the Workforce employed by the city and city related taxing districts (corporate City, School City, Library, Sanitation, etc.). That translates into ~28% of households receiving a paycheck from the city.

The School District is also the lowest performing district in the State of Indiana, despite having the highest per student investment.

I could go on…

Air Quality:
Based on EPA’s Toxic Release Inventories (TRI), Lake County is ranked as the 7th most polluted county in the country due to atmospheric releases. This high ranking in pollution is attributed to BP, Mittal and U.S. Steel, all of which are concentrated on East Chicago’s lakefront and within a mile outside its borders. This would probably make East Chicago one of the most polluted cities in the country, if not the world. Still, this did not stop the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the USEPA from recently re-designating the region as an attainment zone for sulfur dioxide, a convenient re-designation in light of BP’s decision to refine sour crude from the Canadian Tar Sands – a high sulfur product.

Water Quality:
The indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC) is considered the most polluted waterway in America. It is the only “Area of Concern” on the Great Lakes that fails all measurable “Beneficial Uses.” After 30-years of the Clean Water Act not a single environmental project has been initiated to clean this waterway. The government may have initiated a few projects to stem some releases into the canal, and they may have issued a few fines, but outside of that no real progress has been made, not even the attenuation of time has significantly improved its condition. Today, the City of East Chicago continues to be the greatest violator in Indiana of its NPDES permits, and has not made any efforts to re-engineer its combine sewer overflow system.

If the by-products of industry were included into products and sold on the market, they would be recalled. But since they are freely distributed in communities like East Chicago, the citizens can absorb their benefit. Under such complex plumbs it is almost impossible for a resident to associate a health condition with a source, and yet that is exactly what is being requesting of them to gain standing in the permitting process. A process that needs to be scrapped.

Amazingly, East Chicago no longer has an Environmental Department to guard the health and welfare of its citizens. This too was accomplished under local Democratic leadership. With such glaring impairments you have to ask yourself why there are NO environmental groups doggedly fighting to clean this environment. You would think East Chicago would be a poster child for all kinds of humanitarian and environmental causes. Has this not happened because, I am just wrong in my assessment? That my data conveniently supports a false picture? Or that I do not include any important gains in recent years?

By all measures this area is frozen by 19th century steel-town politics. It is easy for the delicate nature of a post-industrial society to look away from the damage that these industries continue to reek on segments of our society. The NIMBY instinct (not in my back yard) is an attack on the Health and Welfare of our weakest citizen’s.

It may be now be an appropriate time to review the incremental approach environmental groups have adopted in the last two decades and access their achievements. Yes, we can say this approach has delivered some benefits in improving the overall environmental health in our region. yet, it has become overwhelmingly clear that these gains have not met the minimum requirements necessary to sustain a healthy community. East Chicago is a case in point. In fact, it has become apparent, that the incremental approach has failed miserably to meet the requirements necessary to sustain human life on this earth. Granted, the world is large and there reach is limited. Still, we clearly need a new regime, one which maintains the level of trust with industry that the incrementalist have forged, and moves this relationship forward to actually meet the minimum requirements for a healthy sustainable community in East Chicago and elsewhere. There is a lot of work to be done, legislation to be adopted, and 3.4 billion small steps to be made.

Someday, I hope to look out my window and see a green inspiration.

Missing Paintings

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

In my first attempt to get my work seen, two of my paintings were stolen from a group show I participated in with Uncle Freddy’s Gallery. When I first heard they were missing I was not so upset – I didn’t feel terribly invested in them. But now that a month has gone by and I am looking at these images, I am much more upset.

If you have any information regarding the location of the these works, please contact the Hammond police department. 219/852-2906

Lake Effect Series: 56" x 72"

Lake Effect Series: 56" x 72"

Lake Effect Series: 30" x 34"

Lake Effect Series: 30" x 34"











Hammond Gallery Paintings Swiped

Times Correspondent
 | Friday, December 19, 2008 |

HAMMOND | Four monumental paintings collectively valued at $51,000 are missing from a temporary gallery in the former Mercantile National Bank building at 5243 Hohman Ave., police said.

The sheer magnitude of the crime — the largest piece stolen measures 8 feet by 12 feet — has left detectives scratching their heads, and the artists hanging theirs.

“You hope that some of your better work can be around so people can see it,” said well-known local artist Tom Torluemke, whose enamels “Hide & Seek” and “Between Two People” were among the pieces stolen.

The paintings were part of a fall exhibit which reunited some two dozen artists to celebrate the original downtown location of Uncle Freddy’s Gallery, which Torluemke founded with Linda Dorman in 2002.

After the show ended, some of the larger pieces were left at the site with permission from the building’s owner, the Hammond Development Corp., Dorman said, until weather conditions improved.

And then the paintings, including two by East Chicago artist Thomas Frank, were discovered missing on Wednesday.

“We just want them back,” said Torluemke, best known for his 12 foot by 25 foot tile installation, “Jesus Speaks to the Children,” at Andrean High School, terrazzo flooring in Indianapolis International Airport and murals at the Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library.

Torluemke and Dorman said they promise not to press charges if the works are returned or can be recovered undamaged. They ask that anyone with information about the artworks call their gallery at (219) 923-1909.

Police had no suspects as of Thursday afternoon. Detective John Murks can be reached at (219) 852-2906.

Images of some of the missing paintings can be seen at

Categories: Painting

This is a Re-org

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

Be patient with me as I set up this blog and migrate content from other sites.

Categories: Misc

Economic Development – Mayor Pabey’s Way

February 7th, 2007 No comments

Categories: Architecture, East Chicago

East Chicago’s Industrial Past

February 6th, 2007 3 comments

Categories: East Chicago

Housing Bubble and the North Harbor Project

April 30th, 2006 No comments

When I first moved to East Chicago ten years ago, it was common for me to say “East Chicago, and indiana for that matter, were about ten years behind most of the rest of the country.” Now ten years later, I find myself saying “East Chicago is now about twenty years behind most of the country.” There is no doubt in my mind that Mayor Pabey wants to rebuild East Chicago. The North Harbor Plan is a great example of tackling our problems head-on. Yet, with a housing project such as the North Harbor project, timing is everything. The North Harbor project is happening at a time when western sprawl of the Chicago suburbs is now half way across the state. This provides home buyers a good incentive to look at the South Shore and East Chicago (only 20 from Downtown Chicago). Unfortunately, This is all happening when the housing buble seems to have peaked and may be on a steep decline. My concern is that our lack of keeping pace with the rest of the country leaves us without the tools necessary to bring us out of industrial age. There are a series of interesting reports at the Center for Economic and Policy Research website. one in particular is:

“Will a Bursting Bubble Trouble Bernanke? The Evidence for a Housing Bubble” by Dean Baker and David Rosnick

You can find a earlier post at: Housing bubble: Paul Krugman on Alan Greenspan

Categories: East Chicago

Straight from Enviromental Economics

March 20th, 2006 No comments

Throwing the Little Ones Back

Throwing the little fish back, a common practice, causes fish to shrink over time since there is selection against the survival of larger fish:

Survival of the Smallest, Ecology, Scientific American: Any commercial fisher or weekend angler knows to “throw the little ones back.” The idea is to give small fish time to grow up… But that strategy may actually be harming fish stocks. Ongoing experiments on captive fish reveal that harvesting only the largest individuals can actually force a species to evolve undesirable characteristics that diminish an overfished stock’s ability to recover, says David O. Conover, director of the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook University. The results may explain why many of the world’s most depleted stocks do not rebound as quickly as expected. 

Categories: Economics, Environment

Four New Books

February 24th, 2006 2 comments

I have four new books on my reading list.

“Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond

“False Dawn” by John Gray

“Globalization and its Discontents” by Joseph E. Stiglitz

“The Rise and Decline of the State” by Martin Van Creveld

Categories: Reading List


February 19th, 2006 29 comments


(East Chicago, IN) -The City of East Chicago will hold a press conference on Thursday, February 23, 2006, at 10:00 a.m., in the Mayor’s Conference Room, 4527 Indianapolis Blvd., to officially announce a partnership with two of the nation’s most prestigious and successful non-profit community development corporations, The Community Builders, Inc., and Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, for the purpose of redeveloping the entire North Indiana Harbor section and the Lakefront.

The partnership is joined by EDAW, which is one of the nation’s top urban planning firms. After the announcement, the development teams will present their initial plans and procedures for the project.

Cline Avenue to the east, Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the South, and Lake Michigan to the North border, are the areas involved in the project. The project will involve an extensive construction of mixed-use of housing, with an emphasis on market rate leasing and ownership, new retail-both large and small, light industrial, and recreational facilities and uses, as well as the continued rehabilitation of existing neighborhoods and infrastructure. The emphasis throughout will be comprehensive planning and community involvement to enhance in all ways the quality of life for residents of the area and to make it a destination and recreation site for those outside of it.

The development will bring millions of dollars of private investment in to the Indiana Harbor Community. The city will ensure that the public infrastructure is in place as a foundation for the new development activity, but the vast majority of development funds will come from banks and other financial institutions. “Our team will also work with the city to approach the Regional Development Authority, the State of Indiana and the Federal government to leverage additional public funds to support infrastructure, schools and quality services that will enhance the entire East Chicago community,” said Bill Goldsmith.

“Our goal is to build on the momentum already created by Mayor George Pabey to retain and attract a culturally diverse community rich in public and private amenities, while creating job and contract opportunities for existing residents and businesses,” stated Paul Roldan, President & CEO of Hispanic Housing.

“So many people either worked here or came from East Chicago, or had family and friends who did,” said Nathaniel Ruff, City of East Chicago corporate counsel. “We have heard from a number of members of the administration who have attended meetings throughout Northwest Indiana that there is a great deal of enthusiasm and support through Northwest Indiana for the Mayor’s pledge to repair, rebuild, restore, reinvigorate, and renew East Chicago.”

“We want East Chicago to be a great place in which to live, and also a destination for jobs, shopping, ethnic and cultural experiences, and recreation,” said Mayor Pabey. “The announcement we make today is another major step towards the fulfillment of this promise.”

Categories: East Chicago

St. Catherine Hospital to Expand into Washington Park

February 19th, 2006 No comments

Last night I was informed that the city planner made a formal announcement at a Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce dinner that St. Catherine’s hospital would be expanding into Washington Park thus closing Grand Blvd. between 142nd and 144th. These discussions were never shared with neighborhood residents or anyone outside the administration. At this point I don’t have any real planning information to go on.

Categories: East Chicago

RDA and Planning

February 18th, 2006 4 comments

Recently, the members of the RDA were blindsided by Council as they were informed that they are required to develop a comprehensive plan before they can spend a single cent.

Was the response of RDA members to divy up the funds in the same old fiefdom fashion they are accustom to doing?

Categories: Northwest Indiana

E.C. Comprehensive Plan

February 18th, 2006 No comments

As some may know, I have been chairing a Comprehensive Planning Committee on behalf of the Mayor. After much work and deft diplomacy by John Artis, we have brought the process forward. As a committee we have gain the initial buy in by the proper departments and individuals. We have also made our recommendations to the Mayor and received back his approval. I am very pleased by these outcomes and truly believe in their importance to the future of this community. I am told the Mayor will be making an announcement of the selection in two weeks. More to come.

Categories: East Chicago

E.C. North Harbor

February 18th, 2006 No comments

John Artis has taken the lead in moving forward with the North Harbor Action Plan developed by EDAW in 2002. The result of which will be a major announcement by the mayor this week. I cannot share much now, but expect more on this topic soon. This is a very serious and I believe very necessary program for East Chicago. The greatest I’ve seen in NWI or most place for that matter.

Categories: East Chicago


February 18th, 2006 No comments

Every so often I come back to this and become frustrated with the undeserved arrogance. I am convinced that E.C. would be a year ahead and finalizing its Comprehensive Plan. With the election of George Pabey to Mayor of East Chicago came a new ruling class and the purging of the intellectual class reminiscent of the great purges in Russia. For the past year this new ruling class, taking on responsibilities they lack qualifications, has been desperate to show progress. They have focused their attention on physical evidence in the built environment for expression their moral superiority over the past regime. This has essentially created a environment where all outside the ruling class laid vulnerable to redevelopment. Throughout the year eminent domain could be heard regularly in the conferences of this small group, while project after project was proposed without the engagement of professionals, authorities or the input from stakeholders such as industry or the public. This ruling class scoffed at their views and recommendation. They even attempted to move forward without a vision. Their first expression came with the teardown of the Historic Bank building for a Walgreen’s. later this first year, in an attempt to move the cities ideas for a Port forward I set up a meeting between the Cities Economic team and JRR and SEH, the planning consultants for the Congressmen’s Marquette Plan. I have never seen such complete disrespect in meeting. They just ignored them and huddled around their own plan. Taking the professionals out of the plan. Fortunately for East Chicago they have had many setbacks and have not had much of a chance for a second act.

Categories: Local

New Book

December 12th, 2005 No comments
Categories: Reading List

Message #2 to the newly formed RDA

September 26th, 2005 1 comment

The following are some of my thoughts as I consider the impact the RDA can have on the region.

Agreement is not only elusive it is counterproductive to the very nature of our mission. The necessary range of our endeavor can only be achieved through a decentralized network of interests.

Organizing a region is one of the most ambitious human endeavors. Concepts at this scale are at the height of what is to be a Metropolis and why the RDA has formed. Where planning is generally considered a local responsibility municipal fragmentation is inevitable. Ordering the regional system has generally taken one of three approaches; social, environmental, or transportation.

Social plans emanating from a concern for creating a better place to live include Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept, and today’s New Urbanism. They establish three fundamental foci: The Urban Boundary, The Rural Boundary and Transit-Oriented Development. (NWI does not have regional example of this approach, However we do have a few scattered developments ranging from the worker villages of Marktown and Sunnyside to more recent developments such as Coffee Creek)

The environmentally structured plans include Olmsted and Eliot’s Boston Regional Plan. These examplify how the juxtaposition of nature to human settlements transcends ideology. Concerns for health, recreation, as well as our watershed, land and forests can overcome socioeconomic divisions. (The Marquette Plan as our first and only regional land use plan is a worthy expression of a Metropolis)

Until recent concerns for the environment, transportation had been the strongest determinant of the regional form, and continuous to be the ruling determinant here in NWI. (Again NWI is looking to transportation)

It is my recommendation, as we build this Metropolis and compete against other regions, that NWI and the RDA along with other regional authorities seed and overlay plans along all three approaches, To be a successful community we must learn to juggle many balls, and not ignore any for the emanance of one. From a land use perspective NWI has suffered from the tyrrany of single – use planning (some may argue the lack of planning). We must now acknowledge that this approach has not done us well. It has not been smart nor sustainable.

Categories: Northwest Indiana