Mayor Daley's Lasting Contribution To Chicago's Art Community

By Anna Deem in News on Oct 9, 2010 6:30PM

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Photo by: sfmoe
Although many are happy about Mayor Daley's imminent departure from office, it's still hard to ignore his role in Chicago's physical landscape with multimillion-dollar art and sculpture contributions. From Millennium Park and "The Bean" to the Paris-style Metra entrance on Michigan Avenue and the Crown Fountain, Chicago would be exponentially different without Daley's commitment to the arts. "What is unusual is to have public art that creates the degree of public enthusiasm and interaction that Millennium Park creates," Tim Samuelson, a cultural historian for the Department of Cultural Affairs, said to the Chicago Tribune about the quality of art that Daley brought to Chicago.

Unlike other aspects of his position, Daley chose to not let his ego get in the way of the aesthetics, according to Lois Weisberg, commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs. "That is the problem that many people get into in high positions: They want to select what the (public) art should be," Weisberg said to the Tribune. "One of the reasons for (Daley's) success is that he had the good sense to realize that. You won't find anything in Chicago about which he says, 'Well, I picked that.' He has made it known if he's not terribly enthusiastic about a project...but he'll come to embrace it. The mayor did not ever impose his feelings to any (art curatorial) committee that I have seen, and that's a good lesson for people to learn."

Both Samuelson and Weisberg agreed that the new mayor needs to focus on neighborhood arts, something that Harold Washington made a priority during his administration. "If I were to give (a new mayor) advice, I would focus on the neighborhood arts. There's so much coming out of our neighborhoods. One needs to reach out into other neighborhoods besides their own," Weisberg said.