A look inside the mayor's arts & culture transition team

March 11, 2011

So maybe I missed it, but now I get it 'cause someone actually has sent out a press release that makes it all clear: Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel's Transition Team--which heretofore most folks understood to be a tight-knit handful of people--actually is a broad-spectrum set of six committees addressing areas as diverse as Economic Planning, Public Safety, Energy and Environment and Arts and Culture. Naturally, we're ONLY interested in Arts and Culture (joking).

The Arts & Culture Committee has 13 members about evenly split between arts managers and powers in the funding community. Among the arts managers are Lane Alexander (a dancer, and founding artistic director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project), Sound Culture founder David Chavez, Marwen (visual arts education) Executive Director Antonio Contro, MCA Board Chair Mary Ittelson, Broadway In Chicago Vice-President Eileen LeCario, Chicago Children's Choir Artistic Director Josephine Lee and Philip Thomas, newly-appointed head of eta Creative Arts Foundation.

The money folk include top-name representatives of the Boeing Company (Angel Ysaguirre), Chicago Community Trust (Cheryl Hughes) and the Joyce Foundation (Michelle Boone). Also on the Arts & Culture Committee are consultants Helen Doria and Marj Halperin plus Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Ra Joy.

It's a diverse and experienced line-up, and one which is NOT dominated by representatives of Chicago's clout-heavy major Downtown cultural institutions (Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony, Goodman Theatre, Art Institute, Joffrey Ballet, etc.). Emanuel has said that the strength of the arts in Chicago can be found in the neighborhoods (well, he was speaking specifically about theater) and, certainly, the funding agents on the Committee are intimately acquainted with many smaller neighborhood non-profits.

The presence of Ra Joy also means the Committee has someone plugged into a state-wide network. No chair of the Committee has been appointed. According to a spokesperson from Emanuel’s press office “they all sit as equals.” The spokesperson stopped short of saying the Committee would develop a comprehensive cultural plan for Chicago (as Emanuel pledged during the campaign) and said only that the group would develop “both long-term and short-term recommendations.”