The Blues Are All Around Us, And Now Chicago Has a Museum

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Many people think the focus of blues music is all about, well, being blue. Being down. Being out.

And, yes, many blues songs — from those belted out in the juke joints in the South to the nightclubs in the North — deal with down-and-out and the downtrodden subjects, often over a 12-bar progression.

But from another perspective, the blues also can take a different direction, like finding better times just down the road, or perhaps at the next crossroad.

The soon-to-be built Chicago Blues Experience will be housed right in downtown Chicago, the mecca of big city blues. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

In Chicago, undisputed as the place where the Delta blues evolved into a dynamic big city musical and cultural force, there was an announcement this week about something better happening just down the road of time.

On Monday, the world learned of plans to build The Chicago Blues Experience, a 50,000-square-foot museum scheduled to open its doors in a few years. This long-overdue addition to Chicago’s cultural scene will be housed in a former retail space in the bustling Loop and two blocks from Millennium Park, site for the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival, the world’s largest.

As a true Chicago guy and long-time lover of the blues, I’m thrilled by this news. Like many art forms, the blues needs to grow and evolve, especially since many of the legendary Chicago clubs like Theresa’s and the Checkerboard Lounge have long been shuttered. The new museum hopefully will energize the blues and inspire the next generation.

Along with the museum component, which I’m sure will house some awesome artifacts like cool old guitars, the Blues Experience will let visitors experience live blues music at a 150-seat performance space.

As a contribution to the cause, I’m making a “donation” of sorts to the Chicago Blues Experience and the blues community, something fresh and modern.

Below are lyrics to — you guessed it — to a contemporary blues song I wrote a few years ago while participating in a song writing class at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Hopefully, the museum folks would like to hear me perform it. Hopefully at a time when things are better somewhere down the road.

The Blues Are All Around Me

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
That building use to be a store
Well it ain’t a store no more

The Blues are all around me
And they  follow me where ever I go

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
Electric cars don’t go too fast
I drive a car that uses gas

The Blues are all around me
And they follow me where ever I go

The TV show from Washington was all about the state of the union Thirty minutes later I was still in a state of confusion

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
The photograph that’s on the wall
Has a crack and is about to fall

The Blues are all around me
And they follow me where ever I go

Don’t have to look too far
Don’t have to look too far
Won’t go outside anymore
I’m afraid to even open up the door

‘Cause the blues are all around me
and they follow me where ever I go

Copyright 2017 Edward M. Bury

What I Learned From Some Amazing 4th Graders

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Sometimes one encounters an awakening in the most unexpected places. Recently, for me, it came during a visit to a Chicago magnet school where I interacted with a class of 4th grade students.

Amazing 4th grade students, I must point out.

The Walt Disney Magnet School was a lot different than the grammar school I attended.

Here’s some background.

The Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago’s Buena Park neighborhood was planning a program to teach students about industries that would yield employment opportunities in the future. One 4th grade class was addressing the job outlook in the transportation industry. The instructor, Morgan Stumbras, reached out to me at the university where I work and inquired if someone would be free to speak to the students.

I received permission to visit and deliver a short presentation. A scholarly, schooled transportation guy, I’m not. But after some four years leading transportation technology transfer initiatives, I felt confident I could share some relevant and valuable insight.

One concern I shared with Ms. Stumbras: Would the class be able to comprehend much of what I had to say about the work done by our research staff, the value of transportation in modern society, and recent transportation developments in Chicago and around the nation? Rest assured, she said: These kids rank in the 98 percentile.

She was right.

Shortly after I launched my PowerPoint presentation, hands shot up and the boys and girls posed poignant and at times provocative questions. Frankly, I was stunned at their collective interest, knowledge and inquisitiveness. One kid even gave an accurate definition of the so-called “last mile” leg of commute, a challenge society certainly needs to address.

If you need help with identification, that’s me in the red sweater.

They politely inquired about autonomous vehicles, the Divvy bike share program, the difference between freight and transit, the future of hover boards and transportation challenges facing Chicago.

A recent mobility success, the new Chicago 606 trail was of particular interest, and that discussion led to further conversation on the impact The 606 has made on gentrification in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The students sparked when I noted that the transportation industry will always need professionals like engineers to help design transportation networks in the years to come. “My mother is an engineer!” one girl noted enthusiastically. After a comment on safety, another girl pointed out that her mother said she used to ride in the front seat of automobiles as a child, something not done today.

I even gave a shout out about my Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, stressing how it keeps me committed to learning about modern public relations practices.

So, how was I awakened by the 32 kids comprising Ms. Stumbras’ class?

In light of all the challenges — transportation and many others — we face as a society today, there’s a generation ready to meet those challenges head-on, and win.

The 4th grade class at the Disney Magnet School made that quiet clear.

 

 

Inspired by St. Patrick’s Day: A Perspective on the Irish Academy of Public Relations

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this day before the “official” St. Patrick’s Day — that is March 17 — much of the nation, including Chicago, equates the holiday to all the things one would expect: Parades, lots of people wearing green, performances by Celtic step dance troupes, and of course, consuming malt beverages at pubs with Irish-sounding names, as well as at those without.

Here in Chicago, the popular downtown parade is always held the Saturday before the real St. Patrick’s Day, and the one held March 11 drew thousands along the route in Grant Park; and, yes, the City poured green dye into the Chicago River to turn an already greenish body of water emerald.

Logo courtesy of Irish Academy of Public Relations web site.

But I’m re-purposing St. Patrick’s Day for another reason; and it doesn’t involve anything green. I’m inspired by the holiday to learn more about something else that comes from Ireland.

The Irish Academy of Public Relations is a company based in — you guessed it: Dublin, but there’s a New York office, too — that offers online courses in public relations, media, events planning and broadcasting.

For the past few years, I’ve received email messages promoting the various diploma and certificate program

“Green River” image courtesy of Choose Chicago web site.

s and other courses. So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to investigate a little further. Of course, the Diploma in Public Relations was of most interest.  It’s comprised of 11 modules on topics like the history of public relations, drafting “press and media releases,” managing events and sponsorship opportunities, working with photographers and more. There’s even a module on crisis management.

Based on just a cursory evaluation of the Academy and the Diploma program, I must conclude that this kind of education has some merit and value today. (Hey, the IAPR must be doing something right because they’ve been in existence for 24 years.)

If the folks at IAPR read this, I strongly suggest that the PR course be expanded to include modules on digital communications, ethics and the business aspect of public relations; but overall the knowledge shared here is fundamentally sound.

Given how public relations is so often misaligned and misunderstood in society today, perhaps certificate programs can provide the first step toward a university course of study and eventually programs like the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

(Yes, I’m guilty of shameless, self-absorbed promotion of Accreditation. So what: It’s my blog.)

What’s your perspective on programs like the one just referenced? Share your thoughts here, or let me know if you want to meet at an Irish pub and discuss over a beer.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

* * *

Footnote: Back in 2012, the PRDude offered some other thoughts inspired by St. Patrick’s Day.

One Image, One Question: March 6, 2017

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

For nearly four years now, I’ve been somewhat of a “transit guy.” That is, I manage public affairs for a research unit that concentrates in four transportation clusters at the university where I work.

Rest assured friends: There were many, many more fellow Blue Line riders who were not shown in this image.

By leading communications for our center, I’ve gained a much better appreciation for the transit industry, the people who manage and plan transportation networks and what it takes in terms of resources and capital to keep systems operating safely, reliably and efficiently.

Which brings me to today’s topic: You guessed it, transportation.

From the image above, taken on my morning commute on the CTA Blue Line, it’s apparent that I had to share the car with many, many other commuters. (That’s o  ne reason why I hunker down in the operator’s compartment at the end of the car.)

And, to put it all in perspective: This image was taken around 8:15 a.m. at the Western Avenue station, meaning the train had five more stops before reaching Clark/Lake, the first station in the Loop.

As you could ascertain, by Western Avenue most likely every car on that run was fully packed, meaning lots of commuters down the line had to wait, and wait, and wait …

The overcrowding on Blue Line trains is not a new phenomenon these days. It’s being driven by societal factors — more mainly millennial-aged people eschewing auto ownership to take public transit — and a dramatic amount of new development along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor in Chicago, as illustrated by a recent report from online site Curbed Chicago.

So, onto the question:

What can be done to alleviate or mitigate overcrowded conditions on the Blue Line?

Your thoughts are most welcome. Being a communicator, my first response would be to build awareness for other modes, like bus and ride share. And, perhaps those will evolve.

And, by the way, I work with some pretty smart transportation research professionals who probably have some thoughts of their own.