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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

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Tom Palazzolo Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2013-08
Intellectual organization and arrangement: The Tom Palazzolo Collection is arranged into four Series:
SERIES I: Finished Films by Tom Palazzolo
SERIES II: Personal Films
SERIES III: Sketches, Unfinished Films, and Miscellanea
SERIES IV: Collected Films
Preservation Sponsor: National Film Preservation Foundation;National Endowment for the Humanities
Extent of collection
1,729 reels of 16mm film totaling approximately 420,800 feet; 28 reels of Super 8mm film totaling approximately 1,400 feet; 11 reels of 8mm film totaling approximately 1,100 feet; 10 videocassettes; 11 DVDs
Inclusive Dates
1940 - 2001
Bulk Dates
1966 - 1994
The Tom Palazzolo Collection consists of experimental films and documentaries, their elements, and outtakes made by Chicago-based filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, once called "Chicago's filmmaker laureate" by critic Roger Ebert. Although the subjects of his films vary widely, they are all united in their humanist depiction of those living on the margins of society. Included in the collection are well-known works like Jerry's (1976), featuring the explosive owner of a deli in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood and At Maxwell Street (1984), about the city's storied Maxwell Street market, as well as lesser-known films like Pigeon Lady (1966), Palazzolo's first film, and Rita on the Ropes (2001), the most recent film in the collection.
Palazzolo, Tom (was created by)
Tom Palazzolo (1937- ) was born in St. Louis, MO in 1937. His interest in painting led him to move to Chicago in 1960 and begin studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he also studied photography with Kenneth Josephson. Ken encouraged Tom’s interest in filmmaking, and Tom was given use of a Bell and Howell 16mm camera that had been donated to the department by a veteran WWII cameraman. Tom’s first films were completed shortly after his graduation with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in photography in 1965. At this time, he also began teaching art and photography at Richard J. Daley College.
In the 1960s Tom was associated with a group of “underground” filmmakers and in 1968 had a one-person film show at MOMA. That same year he married Marcia Daehn. Tom was then hired in 1969 by the US Information Agency (USIA) to show and discuss American independent films in the Middle East. His mission was to show how American democracy allowed for greater freedom and creativity than other forms of government. Before leaving on the tour, the Washington office informed Tom that he should never mention the United States’ then-involvement in Vietnam.
Tom has continued making and showing documentary films right up to the present; most recently, he produced Kapra Fleming's film Lee Godie: Chicago French Impressionist (2021). In 2018, his films were part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950-80” exhibition. He has also been featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lincoln Center, Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Walker Art Museum, among other venues.
Tom has been the recipient of grants and awards from the American Film Institute, National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, Center for New TV, Illinois Academy of Art, and the Andy Warhol Foundation, as well as a National Film Preservation Foundation grant to preserve a selection of films in 2006. His work has been reviewed by Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Gene Siskel (Tribune), New York Times, Variety, Village Voice, and London Times, among others, and has screened at festivals including the Chicago International, Ann Arbor, New York, Cannes (out of competition), Edinburgh, and more. Tom has had retrospectives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1977 and at Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin, Germany, in 1989
Custodial History
Most of the collection had previously been stored in Tom Palazzolo's home in Oak Park, IL until being brought to CFA in multiple trips over a period of seven years (2013-2020). Between 2005 and 2007, Chicago Filmmakers preserved eight of Palazzolo's films and the preservation elements were subsequently stored at CFA until becoming part of the collection in 2018, along with an additional donation of preservation prints that were previously stored at Chicago Filmmakers.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films created by Tom Palazzolo. For additional materials published by others, any determination of copyright status for reproduction is the responsibility of the user.
Related Materials
The Bill Stamets Collection also includes a number of prints of films by Tom Palazzolo that are also available in the Palazzolo Collection.
Palazzolo, Tom