Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cultural Minister Boone

By Nazihah Adil, Development Intern

Today we’re shifting our focus from the intricacies of Chinese business and political customs to local administrative news—specifically, Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of Michelle T. Boone to an exciting new position in the arts. Meanwhile, for your daily fix of all things Chinglish, check out our video library for rehearsal and production videos; explore Chinglish Cultural Advisor Ken Smith’s series on the extensive research process that went into the development of this extraordinary new work; and read playwright David Henry Hwang’s journals at You Offend Me You Offend My Family and Broadway’s Best Shows. Chinglish is showing now through July 24 in the Albert; go here for tickets.

The Chicago arts and culture scene has witnessed dramatic changes in the past year, from a push to privatize the city’s largest free music festivals to the merger of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. In his last months in office, Mayor Richard M. Daley led a major restructuring of the city’s cultural initiatives in an attempt to close a $655 million budget gap. Successor Rahm Emanuel has made his opinion on the importance of the arts and culture to the city’s economic climate clear with his recent appointment of arts crusader Michelle T. Boone to the position of commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).

Above: Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith, Michelle T. Boone, and Goodman Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez. Photo by Abby McKenna.

The appointment hints at the beginnings of a new plan to assess the city’s cultural resources and collaborate with artists and neighborhood groups to determine its collective needs and priorities. This information will be used to create new strategies for artistic and cultural growth in the city and foster economic growth. So who is this new civic leader? Boone began her career in the arts as director of Gallery 37, a community job training program for artistically inclined city youth. She went on to serve as senior program officer for culture at The Joyce Foundation, overseeing the distribution of nearly $2 million in grants to community arts organizations across the Midwest. Boone also serves on the boards of Arts Alliance Illinois, Grantmakers in the Arts, and other local arts organizations.

While working at The Joyce Foundation and Gallery 37, Boone developed “a strong sense of how the Department of Cultural Affairs could be a conduit between community arts organizations and the city’s neighborhoods.” In a recent address before the City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Special Events, and Recreation, Boone emphasized the importance of the department “as a resource to elevate community-based, neighborhood arts organizations,” and as a link between artists and neighborhood groups and resources beyond just the DCASE.

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