Our all new summer exhibitions are officially OPEN!

And This Is Free: The Life and Times of Chicago’s Legendary Maxwell St.
Past Event

Join us for a free screening of the 1965 documentary film And This Is Free: The Life and Times of Chicago’s Legendary Maxwell St. with a introduction and guided Q&A session from Steve Franz as part of BIMA’s first ever Mojo Rhythm & Blues Festival, a four day weekend of live music and events happening July 11-14.

About And This Is Free

During its heyday, the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago was the biggest and most populated open-street market in America, and a singular cultural melting-pot it has been called the Ellis Island of the Midwest. Thousands of people swarmed there every weekend to shop for bargains and second-hand junk on pushcarts and in stores (Ron Popeil got his start there). They also came for the entertainment: hucksters, hustlers, eccentrics, sidewalk preachers and, most famously, the street musicians, including many of Chicagos blues greats.

Mike Sheas only film is a seldom-seen pioneering cinema-vérité masterpiece, an essential historical document of Chicago and the market as a quintessential public space (the market was dismantled in 1994 to make room for student housing). Shea, who had been a photojournalist for Life and other magazines, shot the film over 16 Sundays (the markets busiest day) in 1964, and was often accompanied on the shoot by 21-year old Mike Bloomfield, later of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Dylans Highway 61-era band, who knew the street musicians and helped facilitate filming. AND THIS IS FREE features blues and gospel performances by legendary Chicago musicians Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Blind Arvella Gray, Jim & Fannie Brewer, Carrie Robinson and many more.

AND THIS IS FREE is one of the greatest documentaries of the 1960s and perhaps the liveliest portrait of American street life ever captured on film. The 50-minute feature will be supplemented by additional rare footage documenting the market and the musicians who played there.

About Steve Franz

Steve Franz graduated from the University of Memphis with a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology. He is the author of The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James, which was translated into Japanese in 2006, and selected as one of the 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own. For the past decade, he has been the host and independent producer of the critically acclaimed and nationally syndicated radio show Blues Unlimited, which focuses on the history, heritage and rich cultural traditions of the blues. Three volumes of Blues Unlimited: The Complete Radio Show Transcripts will be available in the spring of 2019.


Jul 12, 2019


Frank Buxton Auditorium



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