Northwest Side groups scramble to find other venues for events
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Northwest Side organizations that planned to hold events at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., scrambled to find other venues for their programs after the theater was closed on May 24.
Arts Alive 45 president Cyd Smillie said that some programs that were scheduled at the landmark theater have been moved to Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., and other venues including the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, until that theater closes for repairs to a broken air conditioning system in the summer.
Smillie said that the arts group has been working to find space for planned movie screenings and other events.
Smillie said that the Northwest Chicago Film Society and the Silent Film Society of Chicago, which both have made the Portage Theater their home, have been particularly affected by the closing of the theater because they need special equipment to show classic movies.
The Northwest film society has been using the Patio to screen its movies while it seeks a more permanent venue. The group will screen the film “High Treason” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, “Ace In The Hole” at 8 p.m. Monday, June 10, and “Chicago Love is Forever” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, all at the Patio. Other dates have yet to be determined.
“It’s been a crazy week and a half,” Northwest Chicago Film Society executive director Rebecca Hall said. “It’s a miracle that we have been able to go forward with some of our screenings, but there has been a lot of scrambling to find some new locations.”
Hall said that the group it taking things week by week. “One challenge is that we are a museum of cinema and we show original material that needs certain equipment,” she said. “We need to use old-school projectors more than most people. The Patio has that, but they also need a new air conditioning system.”
Smillie said that Alderman John Arena (45th) and Alderman Tim Cullerton (38th) are working with owner of the Patio. “Maybe we can get an HVAC person in there and hopefully things will turn out all right,” she said.
Smillie said that Schurz High School has provided space for some school graduations that were scheduled at the Portage. “Everything is still in a state of flux and we are trying to figure out where people can go, but the high school is definitely providing space for some things,” she said.
Schurz will hold a graduation program for Kids in Harmony School on June 14 and a South American wind ensemble concert on June 17. The school will also screen silent films on Fridays in July and August.
Schurz will hold a graduation ceremony for Ames School on June 17 and for Lorca School on June 20, according to high school assistant principal Debra Neiman. The high school held a Rico Dance Studio recital on June 2. Schurz will have its graduation on June 22.
Smillie said that the Filament Theater, 4041 W. Irving Park Road, also will hold some events and that the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., will provide space for the Dance Academy dance recital on June 22.
“We’ve been assisting whenever possible to work with groups to provide for different venues,” Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. Referring to Smillie, he said, “She’s been a tremendous resource because she knows a lot of key players in the arts community.”
Schurz principal Daniel Kramer said that he is happy to help out the community. “We have had a great opportunity to do outreach programs at the school, and I’ve met with Alderman Arena and said that if he ever needed space for a community event, this is the place,” Kramer said.
Kramer said that the school has a large auditorium and even a pipe organ that could be used during silent film screenings. He said that while it is sad to hear that the Portage closed, “When you have lemons you make lemonade, and we are looking at a new day for Schurz High School.”
The closing of the Portage Theater on May 24 came on the same day that the city revoked owner Eddie Carranza’s liquor license for the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. Carranza is appealing the revocation, and the Congress can continue to serve liquor during the appeals process.
Carranza, who purchased the Portage Theater building last year, bought the management company which holds the licenses for the theater and has until mid-June to apply for a transfer of the liquor license and until the end of June to apply for a transfer of the public place of amusement license, according to Brugh.
Arena has said that he would oppose the transfer of the Portage Theater’s licenses to Carranza until he demonstrates that he can run the theater responsibly. Under city ordinance, Carranza could apply to have the licenses transferred to him, but he would be barred from ever obtaining a new liquor license in the city if the revocation of the license for the Congress Theater is upheld.