Mayor Daley has appointed Katherine LaMantia the Acting Commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), assisted by Sue Vopicka. Ms. LaMantia previously had been Deputy Commissioner for Finance and Administration of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), which was merged last December with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events to create DCASE. LaMantia, who assumed her new post on Feb. 16, had been with Cultural Affairs since 2003. Before that, she was a Senior Budget Analyst for the City of Chicago for two years.
Since its launch in December, the brief history of DCASE has been a bumpy flight. The shotgun marriage of DCA and Special Events led to the swift resignation of Lois Weisberg, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for 22 years. In departing in January, Weisberg lambasted Mayor Daley and the political motives behind the merger, which resulted in laying off almost 30 of the DCA’s senior arts specialists while farming out their jobs and responsibilities to the semi-independent Chicago Tourism Fund. Weisberg quickly was succeeded by veteran tourism official Dorothy Coyle as Acting Commissioner of DCASE, but Coyle departed Feb. 16 to assume the new position of Executive Director of the Chicago Tourism Fund.
Ms. LaMantia obviously knows a great deal about the department’s programs and management. However, it’s worth pointing out that her career has dealt entirely with finance and not at all with cultural creation in any direct way. Certainly, Ms. LaMantia’s appointment will provide DCASE with stability and continuity in the short term. She will supervise the work of Caroline O’Boyle, who is the DCASE Deputy Commish responsible for cultural programming (as announced in this blog Feb. 16).
For theater folk, one piece of the puzzle remains missing, and that’s the appointment by Dorothy Coyle of a Director of Theatre within the CTF, which will develop and execute programs under O’Boyle’s oversight. For the entire arts and cultural community, the much larger missing puzzle piece is whom Rahm Emanuel will name as the permanent DCASE Commissioner come mid-May. Will it be strictly a political appointment? Or will it be an arts and culture person? The Mayor-Elect has pledged to establish an arts advisory board and create a cultural plan for the city, neither of which guarantees an appropriate choice to head DCASE.