Publisher’s Letter: Cultural Offerings Benefit Everyone


Tourism is often on the minds of Chicagoans. Whether we are trying to avoid Michgan Avenue sidewalk throngs or racking our brain for ideas on what to do with a house guest, many of us live day to day alongside visitors to our attractive city. 

There is no doubt that one of the biggest tourist draws in Chicago is our vibrant cultural scene. The arts, however, are not just a way to dress up an already good looking city; they are serious job and business generators. In a state with a fragile economy, our arts are valuable assets that benefit many individuals as well as groups. The Illinois Arts Alliance estimated that jobs in the arts industry generated more than $2.3 billion in household income in Illinois in 2010, and the majority of the $2.75 billion spent by arts and culture organizations and their audiences in that year went to locally owned or managed organizations, businesses or enterprises. 

Patronizing the arts nurtures communities, instills a sense of pride, and inspires investment. Supporting individual artists is a wonderful way to support another person’s livelihood, but the impact is actually much greater. The visual arts in particular offer an incredible range of opportunities not just for creativity and economic success but also for solutions, and renewal. Seeing is believing, so to speak, and thanks to visionary artists in our city art can reveal solutions to real world problems. 

In this issue we talked to a number of people who are making Chicago a better city through the arts. 

Dealer David Weinberg is devoting his gallery to a new mission of social justice; his first exhibition in this vein features the work of Carlos Ortiz, who embedded himself in the most dangerous pockets of our city to photograph the aftermath of violent crime.

Jenny Kendler is the National Resource Defense Council’s first artist-in-residence. For the year long residency, she is examining ways to use art to heal the environment.

The Zhou Brothers moved to Chicago from China nearly 30 years ago. As a thank you to the city that welcomed them, they opened the Zhou B Art Center in 2004 and helped revitalize Bridgeport as a place where artists could thrive.

Two south side arts institutions, The Smart Museum of Art and the Hyde Park Art Center, are celebrating major milestones this fall (40 and 75 years), and they are both mounting exhibitions that reflect the cultural hub that Hyde Park has become over the years.  

The arts make a difference. Visitors may come to Chicago to enjoy the lake, the famous food and the sports, but the real power of the arts is personal. The public art we see on the way to work and the local gallery openings we pop into with friends will outlast the seasonal ebb and flow of people jamming into the same downtown shops and restaurants. When the world is on our doorstep during this fall’s art fair frenzy - EXPO in September and SOFA in November, we will have chances to show our best side to those looking for a taste of Chicago. But many who call Chicago home probably first came to the city as tourists. Whatever we saw made us want to stay. And what we do next will make others follow for generations to come.

Enjoy our latest edition of CGN, and we wish you an art-filled fall!