Art scholar Lisa Yun Lee shares some of the Chicago spaces that fuel her imagination.
Lisa Yun Lee, photographed at 36th Place and Albany.
In her 15 years in Chicago, Lisa Yun Lee, the director of the University of Illinois-Chicago’s School of Art & Art History, has become as invested in social justice as she is in the arts. A past director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Lee also cofounded nonprofit The Public Square, now a program of the Illinois Humanities Council, which celebrates its annual Public Humanities Award luncheon May 14. Lee, a previous recipient of the award, reveals some favorite Chicago haunts.
“One of the most beautiful places in Chicago is 36th Place and Albany on the southwest side. It’s this industrial zone where the Crawford Steel Building is, but it’s [also the epicenter of] the Chicago graffiti community—absolutely beautiful walls of some of the freshest graffiti that’s being done now in Chicago.
“The Currency Exchange Café (305 E. Garfield Blvd., 773-855-9163) in Washington Park is a real crossroads for different people in the community. It has the most delicious breakfast sandwich in the entire city, served on a croissant kind of roll with ham, a fried egg, and cheese. It’s a giant sloppy mess.
“Ed’s Potsticker House (3139 S. Halsted St., 312-326-6898) in Bridgeport has a lot of dishes from the Xi’an region of China, which is on the Silk Road and was the first place where the Koran was translated into Chinese. So there’s a real commitment to a halal menu, and they have a lot of lamb and use cumin as well.
The Silver Room
“I like the Silver Room (1506 E. 53rd St., 773-278-7130) for jewelry. It’s a great place where art and commerce come together; you feel like when you’re buying an adornment there, you’re contributing to an art ecology because of owner Eric Williams’s great curation.
“Jane Addams’ second floor bedroom at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 S. Halsted St., 312-413-5353) is a place I constantly return to for inspiration. You can read about the Nobel Peace Prize that she won, but you also see her FBI file, which is big and thick because she was considered the most dangerous woman in America.
Publican Quality Meats.
“I often have meetings at Publican Quality Meats (825 W. Fulton Market, 312-445-8977). Missy, the butcher, makes all the sausages; she’s one of the great artisanal sausage makers of our country.”