The Steve Balkin collection and Chicago blues culture

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The Last days of Maxwell Street: The Steve Balkin collection and Chicago blues culture

Chicago’s storied Maxwell Street was one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in the city.  Nestled against the Chicago River, which sheltered it from the great fire of 1871, Maxwell Street was home to successive generations of Jewish, Italian, African-American and Latino communities.  Each left their cultural stamp on the area, but most unique was the way they converged in the first integrated neighborhood in a deeply divided city.  The result was unparalleled energy and creativity.  Despite the overcrowded tenements, the sweatshops, the bordellos, the political graft, the mobsters, and the grinding poverty, it was an iconic Chicago location.

This exhibit contains items from CSU’s Steve Balkin Maxwell Street Photographic Collection.  Starting in 1994, when the neighborhood entered the final throes of gentrification, Balkin toured the market and shops along Maxwell and Halsted Streets on an almost weekly basis.  His photos capture—as well as a photo can—the sights, sounds, and smells of the market, as well as the rich gallery of charismatic people who lived and worked there.