Brian TeeThe Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is launching a Zika virus awareness campaign with actor Brian Tee, known as Dr. Ethan Choi on the television series Chicago Med.

Tee, who recently welcomed a new baby girl into his family, is hoping to raise awareness on the public health concerns of Zika virus and what people can do to prevent the infection of unborn babies who may suffer birth defects.

First identified in Africa in 1947, Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection that has spread significantly across the world since the first reported case in Brazil in 2015. For most people, Zika is a very mild infection and isn’t harmful. However, Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Consequently, infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

Inspired by his role as a doctor on Chicago Med, and as a new parent, Tee will star in television and radio commercials with information on preventing Zika-related birth defects and the importance of preparing for and having a healthy pregnancy.

The Zika virus education campaign will air the commercials statewide in cooperation with the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA) Public Education Partnership program. They will broadcast on more than 200 radio stations and IBA member television stations.

For more information on Zika virus, go to

6547321591 1fea729a9d bAs Americans all over celebrate National Hot Dog Day, Chicagoans know that to truly celebrate the day, you have to do it with a Vienna Beef dog.

The origins of Vienna Beef go back to the 1890s when Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany emigrated from Austria to Chicago. When the Columbian Exposition came to Chicago in 1893, Reichel and Ladany sold hot dogs to the many visitors.

The next year, they opened a storefront in Chicago’s Westside on Halstead Avenue. Reichel and Ladany also began selling their hot dogs to other restaurants throughout Chicago.

During the Great Depression, people selling Vienna Beef began advertising that their dogs had a “salad on top”, what we now call the Chicago Dog. A Chicago Dog is a Vienna Beef dog with mustard, relish, tomato, pickle, onion, hot peppers and celery salt. No ketchup!

Today, Vienna Beef dogs are made in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago with annual revenues over $100 million. For more information about Vienna Beef, click here to visit their website.

For a list of places you can find a good hot dog on National Hot Dog Day, check out this article.

Blaire CloydBlaire Cloyd is a Springfield-based painter who leads paint parties for adults and children at local businesses in Springfield and the surrounding area.

ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?

BC: I truly believe that I was born with Art in my soul. Since I was young, I have always had a creative eye and absolutely loved producing work. I consider myself lucky because I had a critical support system. My parents, siblings, friends, and teachers were constantly encouraging my creativity by encouraging me to enter contests, take classes, etc. I came to know that Art was my passion in high school, when I became more aware that there is, and always will be, a future doing this; whether it be a career or even a side-hobby. Art always advances, and that fascinated me.IMG 0645 This led me to Illinois College, where I studied Studio Art/Education. I have zero regrets about studying Art as a major. I learned and grew drastically in knowledge and as a studio artist. Art leads to many things, and for me it led to happiness, which is why I continue to produce today.

ILI: Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

BC: There is a certain comfort someone feels about the place they were born and raised. The best way for me to describe my feelings about my home state is the compare them to being in a long-term relationship. There are highs and lows, but ultimately, you love your partner through thick and thin. And, you always come back because they are your rock; where you feel the most comfortable. Without them, you wouldn't be where you are today and there's an appreciation that comes from that.

IMG 0647ILI: What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?

BC: I currently do adult/child paint parties in Springfield, and I have had tons of support from local businesses allowing me to come in, teach a class, and enjoy the food and drinks. To name a few: Burger Bar, Always After Five, Trail's End Saloon in Curran, Mario's in Chatham, Driftwood, and Rivertown Coffee and Wine Corner in Beardstown. Without the support of these local businesses, I wouldn't be able to do what I do.

ILI: What do you like about Illinois?IMG 0644

BC: Illinois is my "home sweet home." My family, friends, and my art knowledge all stem from here. This place fueled my artistic fire. 

ILI: What is your favorite medium to work in?

BC: I am a sucker for acrylic paint. I love instant gratification, and working with acrylic gives me that. It dries quickly, and is very easy to work with. The water-based nature helps the paint go farther than just what's in the tube. It's also fairly inexpensive, so I am able to create more for less.

ILI: Where can people view or purchase your work?

BC: I have a Facebook page called Paint Party by Blaire. I do everything from paint parties to canvas paintings, pallet paintings, and face painting. Basically, if you want something created, I'll get it done.

IMG 0646ILI: What artist inspires you and why?

BC: Banksy. I have been obsessed with this artist since college. The mystery behind this person is absolutely fascinating. Research Banksy and you'll understand why. (It's worth it.) "Balloon Girl" is my favorite piece. She's even tattooed on my arm.

Frank Lloyd Wright portrait

America’s most celebrated architect would have celebrated his 150th birthday this week. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was a leader in the Midwestern Prairie School style of architecture, was born June 8 in Richland Center, Wisconsin.

After attending the University of Wisconsin for a short time, Wright moved to Chicago. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the potential for development in Chicago was limitless. The Chicago that Wright moved to was filled with grimy neighborhoods and crowded streets, making Wright determined to find work.

After many interviews Wright found work as a draftsman for Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a prominent architect who designed buildings in Syracuse, Buffalo and Chicago. Silsbee was founding member of the Chicago and Illinois chapters of the American Institute of Architects. After for working for Silsbee, Wright worked for the firm of Adler & Sullivan.

Wright worked at the firm until 1893, leaving to open his own practice. In 1896, Wright moved his office into the Steinway Hall Building, sharing the space with three other architects. Wright and those architects would form what is today known as the Prairie School style of architecture.

The Prairie School complemented the Chicago area. The one- or two-story houses often had open floor plans, natural materials like wood and stone, built-in cabinets, strong horizontal lines, low-pitched roofs and ribbons of windows.

Wright would design more than 50 houses in this style, including the Arthur Heurtley House in Oak Park, the Nathan G. Moore House in Oak Park and the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo.

Wright would pass away in 1959. Following his death, most archives of Wright’s work was stored at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Wisconsin and Arizona.

Mary PorterfieldMary Porterfield is a Chicago-based artist with a BS in Biology, MS in Occupational Therapy and a MFA. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally.

Porterfield has been teaching for 14 years with an emphasis on painting, composition, contemporary content, color theory, 2D design and drawing.

ILI: How long have you been an artist or when did you start?  Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and, if so, tell us about it?
MP: My interest in art began as a child when I would watch my mother paint.  When I was young, we lived in Germany because of my father’s career in the air force.  My mother took art classes to help her overcome her homesickness for the Midwest.  I would go with her to her painting classes and fell in love with art at that time.

Foresters by Mary PorterfieldILI: Illinois has factored into our work in the past.  What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?
MP: The diversity of Illinois, especially in Chicago, has been a huge influence on my work.  My art is largely based on my experience as an occupational therapist, working in a hospital on the Northwest side of Chicago.  I’ve witnessed many family members sacrifice their own health to care for a loved one who is disabled.  These individuals, who take on the role of caregiver, have been the most inspiring to me.  Their selflessness and resilience reflect so many of the attributes I see in Illinois residents.  Their stories are reflected in the narratives within my landscapes. Learning from their experiences makes living in Illinois especially meaningful.

Birds of Pray by Mary PorterfieldILI: What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?
MP: There are many exhibition opportunities available at various art centers, colleges, universities, galleries and independent spaces.  Some of these opportunities are listed on

ILI: What do you like about Illinois?
MP: In addition to the people of this state, I’ve been really moved by the Illinois landscape.  Both the cliffs of Galena and the canyons of Starved Rock State Park have made their way into my work.  In their beautiful yet daunting views, they represent situations I’ve encountered in healthcare that are inspiring yet challenging.  These scenes form the background of my paintings and are inhabited by many figures who struggle to care for others in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

ILI: What is your favorite medium to work in?
MP: I typically paint on wood panel but, recently, I’ve been drawing more.  Drawing has allowed me to bring more attention to the narratives that are camouflaged within my paintings.

Rise and Fall by Mary PorterfieldILI: Where can people view or purchase your work?
MP: My work can be viewed at or I can also be contacted at

ILI: What artist inspires you and why?
MP: I have deep respect for outsider art because of the unrestrained manner with which so many of the artists worked.  I’ve been most inspired by Chicago outsider artist, Henry Darger.  Over the course of his lifetime and without an audience, Henry completed a 15,000 page fantasy novel, along with some 300 watercolor and collage drawings.  Words cannot describe the level of respect I have for his lifelong commitment to such an idiosyncratic and intimate vision.