Review: WTTW Launches Fifth and Final Season of Jay’s Chicago Tonight

Emmy Award-winning Chicago producer Jay Shefsky is moving from semi-retirement to full retirement, and his broadcast home, WTTW, will present the fifth and final season of “Jay’s Chicago,” starting on Thursday, March 24, at 8:30 p.m., followed by streaming availability on WTTW.com.

Each 30-minute episode features stories of unique Chicagoans and offbeat places, such as in episode 3, “Life Stories,” premiering on April 7. Shefsky first interviews Jimmy Nuter of American Vintage Reclamation, who “got a feeling” about a house he was searching for salvageable artifacts before it was razed. In the attic, he found old business cards and letters, then, hidden in the insulation, he uncovered glass plate photo negatives that were common at the end of the 19th century. Luckily, Nuter’s partner Kari McClusky is a glass plate photographer at the Art Institute, so she was able to print out the 75 images found.

Jay Shefsky.

“If these were film, they would have never survived,” it’s noted, and the prints revealed images of a giant dog, a woman and a family in a living room with many portraits. That led Nuter and McClusky to discover that the photographer was famous Norwegian portrait painter Herman Schultz, who had moved to Chicago to paint the mayor’s portrait and likely used the photos as portrait references. The girl in the photos was his daughter Sigrid Schultz, who grew up to be a Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent, a rare position for a woman at the time. She became a key voice reporting from inside Germany during World War I.

Sigrid Schultz.

The second vignette follows a Filipino sun suit, a hand-woven infant onesie. Mary Grace Pingoy’s aunt, a nun, made the cream-colored garment in 1945, and it’s been worn by 60 babies in the family for photos ever since, then stored until the next birth. Pingoy says that the traveling sun suit is “a symbol of family unity and love,” and inspired her to become a professional family photographer.

Bronzeville’s Boxville community container mall is the next feature, highlighting artist and entrepreneur Edo, who runs the Project Escape store there. Born Edward Santana White to heroin-addicted parents, Edo lived in 12 foster homes growing up when he became attracted to mixing bright colors on canvases (which he characterizes as “infinite inception”), apparel (including pants, hats, sneakers and boots) and elsewhere (which he terms “organized chaos”). “Once the color attracts the eye, then I want viewers to hear what I have to say,” he said. “Art saved me,” he adds. “I don’t take it for granted.”

Edo

The final piece profiles Chicago’s winningest StorySlam competitor: Nestor Gomez. Due to civil war, he left Guatemala when he was 15, and has been working as a quality control expert here since 1985. He produces the live lit show Around the World in 80 Minutes, but also participates in other events, like The Moth. Gomez shares stories about immigration, alcoholism, and sexual abuse by his uncle when he was young. He’s won 36 slams, which a producer says is because “he connects with strangers because of his personal fearlessness.”

Learn more about “Jay’s Chicago” on WTTW.

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Karin McKie

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