(Christ Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 5/5; Photo: Chicago Tribune.)
Just weeks ago, the working assumption around town was that this would be a relatively quiet summer in Chicago, a muted cultural season of masks, pods, social distancing and a few well-spaced (and well-tested) artists doing their far-off thing — somewhere out there in the wind.
You know, not unlike last summer, when it felt like a radical act to grab your laptop and watch a livestream in your own backyard.
My, how quickly things have changed!
In the last couple of weeks, our city and state officials have as consciously changed the narrative as they have the conversations, and announcements of Chicago’s great cultural return have been coming fast and furious.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is back at Symphony Center! The South Side Jazz Coalition with be “Jazzin’ on the Steps”! The Auditorium Theatre will present the American Ballet Theatre in Millennium Park! There will, after all, be neighborhood festivals, dance in Millennium Park, a Chicago Auto Show, a Chinatown Summer Fair, the Old Town Art Fair, shows at the Goodman and Court Theatres, on and on.
The city had most all of its nonprofit arts constituencies in line like eager petitioners: as soon as the mayor spoke, they hit “send” on their summer news releases.
And let’s not forget the suburbs. Ravinia is returning, too! If you run an arts organization, you’re now worried about being lost in the shuffle.
“We want you back,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the Goodman Theatre on Wednesday, praising Chicago’s world-class cultural scene (and its colossal economic impact) and striking an optimistic tone. Mark Kelly, her commissioner of cultural affairs and special events, essentially told Chicagoans that they now had a moral responsibility to support their devastated cultural sector. Kelly’s verbiage was as upbeat as a concert promoter with a big show: He used words like “break-out moment” as he outlined a variety of city programs “peppered throughout the summer,” all designed to be the leading edge of an epic recovery.