Regional Reports


Benna B. Wilde

GIA members in Chicago are hopeful that you are preparing to join us for GIA's 1998 annual conference — “Arts Under 21” — that will concentrate on youth and arts using the city of Chicago as a laboratory and model. Here in the Second City, we're awfully proud of our cultural institutions and since the conference can't possibly show it all off in four days, it seems useful to give a snapshot of some of the other arts events and programs that will be in Chicago this November. Two disclaimers: the list cannot possibly be complete and the author will attempt to limit comments that smack of jingoistic local pride, but guarantees nothing.

The arts community is lucky to have Mayor and Maggie Daley. The mayor has put millions of dollars of city money behind big projects like a North Loop Theater district which will be in place by y2k [the year 2000] and the new museum campus along Lake Shore Drive (see below). Mrs. Daley's favorite project, Gallery 37, is an arts outreach program for youth. The amazing Lois Weisberg, commissioner of cultural affairs, is fiercely protective of the arts in the city, and keeps the beautifully restored historic Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue full of events, exhibits, and performances.

The most spectacular new attraction is the Museum Campus that unites the Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. Dedicated this summer, it was made possible by the re-routing of Lake Shore Drive west of the museums and Soldier Field. It replaces a six-lane highway with acres of park land, lovely landscaped terraces, bike paths, and a redesigned Burnham Harbor and promenade. The museums sit in this new setting like jewels in a beautiful lake shore park. The Field Museum will have The Art of the Motorcycle, the popular exhibit from the Guggenheim Museum in November. Sue, the famous T.rex dinosaur's five-foot skull, will also be on display. Visitors can watch museum scientists clean and prepare the rest of her bones in the McDonald's Fossil Preparation Laboratory nearby.

Slightly to the north on Michigan Avenue, the Art Institute will be featuring Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, a large exhibit of 100 of her paintings. At least two other major exhibits will be up: Ancient West Mexico: Art of the Unknown Past (200 BC - 250 AD) and Julia Margaret Cameron's Women, sixty-five images of women, by the distinguished Victorian photographer. The Impressionist collection is always worth a visit. The Museum of Contemporary Art (near the conference hotel) will be exhibiting work of Jana Sterbak, a Czech/Canadian installation artist, photographs and video installations of Mariko Mori, and artists' books from the collection.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be into its second season in the Symphony Center, the three-year $100 million renovation of Daniel Burnham's 1904 Orchestra Hall. The auditorium was gutted and rebuilt, and another building to the north was added with four levels of arcades, a rotunda, a restaurant, the Eloise Martin Education Center, and new performance, rehearsal, and office space. During the weekend of the conference, the Orchestra will be performing Ravel and Rachmaninov with pianist Ivan Moravec and conductor Riccardo Chailly. On Sunday, Samuel Ramey, bass, will give a vocal recital. The Lyric Opera of Chicago season will be running in the renovated Ardis Krainik Auditorium of the Civic Opera House. The two productions alternating in repertory during your visit are Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Catherine Malfitano and Strauss' Ariadne Auf Naxos featuring Deborah Voigt.

Chicago is a great theater town, second to none according to The New York Times! The opening night schedule for the fall is four pages single spaced! Here are a few highlights in November. The Goodman Theater, adjacent to the Art Institute, will be performing Death of a Salesman, directed by Artistic Director Robert Falls, and starring Brian Dennehy. The Goodman expects to move to its new building, anchoring the North Loop theater district for the 2000-2001 season. Steppenwolf, in its modern and expanding theater, will be presenting the world premiere of Charles Mee's play The Berlin Circle, based on an ancient Chinese fable, set in 1989 East Germany after the fall of communism. The Court Theatre on the University of Chicago campus will have Nora, Ingmar Bergman's retelling of Ibsen's A Doll's House. Shakespeare Repertory, in its last season before moving to a new theater on Navy Pier, will be doing Much Ado About Nothing. Mary Zimmerman, a 1998 MacArthur fellow, will direct her adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass Theatre in November.

Chicago is justly famous for its architecture and the Architecture Foundation, across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute, has daily walking tours run by knowledgeable docents. Some favorite tours are Early Skyscrapers, Modern and Beyond, and Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, (train or car ride to Oak Park). By proclamation of the mayor, November is Chicago Artists' Month. There will be special exhibitions, lectures, seminars, studio visits and art tours organized throughout the city by the Chicago Artists' Coalition and for the first time, a non-juried visual arts exhibition, The Chicago Open.

Unfortunately, neither of the major dance companies will be performing in Chicago during the conference. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will be rehearsing in their new state-of-the-art studio and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago will be preparing to open The Nutcracker. The Bulls will be playing at the United Center, but until the cast list is posted, we don't know whether tickets will be available.

This very partial list should give you some idea of what will be happening in the city when you're here. Please come, you'll have a wonderful time and we'd love to show it all off to you.

Some of the organizations listed below have Web sites you can consult for further information.

The Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Field Museum
The Goodman Theatre
Lookingglass Theatre Company
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art
Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Welcome to Chicago. Enjoy.

Benna B. Wilde, Prince Charitable Trusts