By James Janega
March 14, 2013
The conversation crackled after Wednesday night's Chicago Forward program on the future of the arts in Chicago.
“I thought this was an especially auspicious panel with views you don’t often hear,” Tribune arts critic and co-moderator Chris Jones told me just after the onstage discussion with Rick Bayless, Michelle Boone, Tony Fitzpatrick, Jeanne Gang, and our Tribune colleague Bruce Dold.
Just as auspicious were the knots of conversation audience members had with our panelists and one another during the hourlong reception that followed at the Chase Auditorium, 10 S. Dearborn St. ComEd is sponsoring the series. Here’s a link to some of the evening’s photos on our Facebook page.
Still onstage after the programmed conversation had ended, Chris marvelled at a comment by chef Rick Bayless, taking from it one sign of artistic development in Chicago and the United States:
"People are starting to think chefs have important things to say," Bayless said. In Chicago, high cuisine is an artform barely 25 years old, Bayless reminded the audience. He's excited about its future, and he's excited about its future here.
Bayless, like star architect Jeanne Gang, has built his artistic passion into a global brand.
"I'm uncomfortable with being a brand," Gang said at one point, before cocking her head to one side. "But, having a high profile helps you get projects you wouldn't otherwise get."
The comment, delivered drily, drew chuckles from a pretty packed house of artists and art enthusiasts.
Applause followed several nods to Chicago's vibrant visual arts community, and people leaned in when discussion swung to how to deal with violence in Chicago.
"Art can lift you above furious loss," artist and playwright Tony Fitzpatrick said. "It has an amazing balm on the community."
How the community of artists and educators could be involved in helping to stem the tide of violence in Chicago was a topic I still heard people talking about during the reception afterward. It's probably worth following up on, so stay tuned.
Back to Wednesday's program:
The conversation began with a question from Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold, who asked the panelists if Chicago looked to New york and Los Angeles and suffered from a Second City chip on its shoulder when it came to the arts.
"New York wishes they had the theater we have," Fitzpatrick shot back. "We go to New York to collect our Tonys."
Chicago, as represented by the audience, roared its appreciation.
It was the beginning to a night of deep and deserved pride in Chicago's accomplishments, and thoughtful contemplation of our artistic future.
As Chicago Cultural Commissioner Michelle Boone put it, how do we sustain what we have, and build on it?
Wednesday night's forum came and went with a bang. But the conversation continues.
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