Schulman’s art history interests reflect his hometown pride: He has tended to focus on African-American art in the 20th century, “so much of which revolves around Chicago” (read his essay on Chicago sculptor Marion Perkins here). He says he had “the good luck” to work with Charles Stuckey at the Art Institute, who was a “pioneer in addressing gaps in the museum’s coverage of African American artists.”
And in a 2007 study Susan Anzia, then a graduate student at the University of Chicago, argued that the program had “run its useful life course.” Anzia also criticized the program’s governing body, the Public Art Committee (PAC), a group consisting of government officials and art community representatives. In Anzia’s view the committee, while having “formal authority to do a great deal,” more often “simply puts a stamp of approval on the decisions made by the program staff and the project-specific panels prior to PAC meetings.”
Daniel Schulman, who served on PAC from 1999-2007, disagreed with that assessment, calling it “not true.” On the matter of the future of the public arts program, Schulman had even less to say. Currently the program is overseen by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, a department Schulman says is slated to “disappear” as of June 30. Until that date the program, like many of the city’s cultural initiatives, is “in transition.” And until the department comes under his leadership, Schulman said it was “not appropriate” to provide more specific details, including whether or not the program will survive.
He did say they’d be looking “very carefully” at the program, including the way it is funded. With public art programs the “results are unpredictable – so why make them predictable?” In other words he thinks the department needs to be open to different funding formulas and independent ideas – “suppose an artist comes in with an idea that is just phenomenal … how do you fit that into your bylaws or specific mission?”
The only project Schulman mentioned by name is the proposed Bloomingdale Trail development, which he hasn’t been involved in but he considers a project where public art can “really put a strong imprint on either a corner, a neighborhood, or a region of the city.”
City dwellers know that to already be the case – though they’ll have to wait until after June 30 to hear whether the city has new public art projects in the works. In the meantime, check out some of the public art in your neighborhood – and the rest of Weekender’s picks below!
Friday 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
A multi-media exploration of individuals and communities at the breaking point.
1060 East 47th Street
Please note: This show has been postponed to June 14
A blistering blend of math-rock, techno, and pop!
1375 West Lake Street
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