2015 Recipients of Chicago’s Fifth Star Awards

Inaugurated in 2014, the City of Chicago’s Fifth Star Awards honor artists and cultural organizations for significant contributions to our city’s cultural life. This year’s honorees are WXRT Program Director Norm Winer, author Sandra Cisneros, children’s performer and educator Ella Jenkins, architect Stanley Tigerman and the Joffrey Ballet.

You can see the Joffrey Ballet perform at the Fifth Star Awards Ceremony at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 16 in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Other performers include Sweet Honey in the Rock and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and admission is free!

Norm Winer has been program director at my favorite radio station, WXRT, for 36 years, but in the 1970s he was program director at WBCN in Boston. In Boston, according to Larry Harris, author of And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records, Winer “ran the station in too democratic a fashion. All of the on-air people, including the news people, had a vote in what music was played” (emphasis mine). Frankly, given the increasingly corporate nature of radio and playlists handed down from on high, I think Winer should be declared patron saint of DJs in addition to a Fifth Star recipient. And maybe the patron saint of Monty Python fans, too, based on what I read in Harris' book, in which you can read more about Winer, AKA Saxophone Joe, in the freewheeling 1970s.

Although still best known for her beloved novel The House on Mango Street, a 2009 One Book, One Chicago selection, Sandra Cisneros' output includes poetry, short stories and even an illustrated fable about loss and grief for adults, the slim but powerful Have You Seen Marie? If you’re unfamiliar with her work, a great starting place is Vintage Cisneros. Eagerly awaiting her next book? A House Of My Own: Stories From My Life is due out in October.

For over 50 years, children’s music artist and educator Ella Jenkins has charmed and educated children with interactive songs. Inspired by the call-and-response music of Cab Calloway, Jenkins released her first album in 1957, six years after receiving her sociology degree. Since then the Grammy Lifetime Achievement recipient has released close to 40 albums, including Multi-cultural Children's Songs, the bestselling release on the historic Smithsonian Folkways label, and the standout You'll Sing A Song and I'll Sing A Song.

The Pacific Garden Mission in the South Loop. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. Hot Dog House in Harvard, Illinois. All three were designed by architect and designer Stanley Tigerman. The outspoken 84-year-old is also the author of books including Designing Bridges to Burn: Architectural Memoirs. (Trivia question: What novel inspired the 13-year-old Tigerman to become an architect?)

The Joffrey Ballet came to Chicago 20 years ago, but it began in 1956 with a partnership between Robert Joffrey and dancer and choreographer Gerald Arpino. Its history and daring innovations are chronicled in the fascinating documentary Joffrey: The Mavericks of American Dance, which includes stunning footage and insightful commentary from generations of Joffrey dancers and the late Arpino.

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