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City Plans on Moving Gospel Fest, Expanding Blues and Jazz Fests into Neighborhoods

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 28, 2011 1:24PM

Image Credit: Kathy Carey
A couple of weeks back the City proposed scaling back the number of days Taste of Chicago would run. At the time Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was pleased with this year's festival but hoped the Chicago Park District could find ways to continue it without the festival losing money. That leaves the looming question of what to do with the city's annual music festivals

In a statement presented at City Council budget hearings yesterday, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone proposed moving the Chicago Gospel Festival to a new location on the South Side, while expanding the programming of Blues and Jazz Fests into city neighborhoods. Boone said:

“There’s a lot of history in Chicago with gospel music. And one of the goals of the mayor is to also try and ensure that all of our neighborhoods have access to high-quality cultural programming."

Boone said her department hasn't determined a new location for the festival yet, but speculated Bronzeville, with a host of historic churches and music history, could be a prime location, as well as the West and North sides.

Gospel Fest is the oldest musical festival in the city, but one of the least popular. As part of a $2 million cut in Mayor Richard Daley's final budget, it, along with Celtic Fest, Country Music Fest and Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival were rolled into Taste of Chicago as one-day events this year that went over as well as a fart in church.

Boone also informed the Tribune in an email of the creation of a new "arts programming division" with six full-time positions in her department, while the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which currently handles the bulk of the city's festival programming, will focus on "tourism programs and services on our behalf," signaling a shift in responsibility for cultural programming to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.