Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Influence on Chicago Culture

October 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Richard M. Daley has held the position of Mayor of Chicago since 1989. He is the second longest serving mayor behind his father, former Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley. The current mayor will not run for reelection in 2011, and as we think about who his replacement will be, we wonder about his or her agenda for the arts. The Chicago Tribune recently posted a set of articles online about Daley’s “incomparable arts legacy” — how he influenced different sectors of the arts and culture community in the windy city.

To highlight just some of his contributions: assisted his wife Maggie with creating gallery37 (now After School Matters); initiated funding through the Department of Cultural Affairs to renovate the Civic Opera House and Symphony Center as well as the creation of Millennium Park; and supported summer music festivals such as the Chicago Country Music Festival, the World Music Festival Chicago, and the Chicago Jazz Festival through the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

Mayor Daley made the arts a priority. He advocated for their importance. John Schmidt, lifetime trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and former chief of staff for Daley, said, “I have heard Mayor Daley say a number of times that cultural institutions are the single most important element of a city today.”

Will Daley’s successor support the arts as consistently? Many Chicagoans, myself included, ardently hope so. This is also absolutely crucial to the funding environment, as donors will follow the lead of the city government. I hope the budget of the Department of Cultural Affairs stays intact and that the next mayor analyzes and addresses the current state of arts education in Chicago Public Schools. I hope he or she supports the arts through not only initiatives but also attendance at arts and culture events.

In the current economy, the next mayor will need to cut costs and prioritize his or her initiatives. Let him or her not underestimate the cultural and economic impact of the arts. Chicago is an important and unique jewel of culture in this country — let’s keep it that way.,0,1173109.storygallery

–Siobhan Lau


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