Summer 2021 Publisher's Letter: When Leaning Back Moves You Forward

Balancing work and life with one of CGN’S top interns, pictured here on an official outing to the Art Institute with publisher Ginny B. Van Alyea, spring 2021


Remember when many businesses and corporate leaders declared that women “lean in” to achieve professional progress as well as a work-life balance? I think at some point we started to lean so much we tipped over. I physically did this at the time Sheryl Sandberg’s book of the same name was published, and I was a few months pregnant with my daughter. I was leaning in to admire something at an art fair, and I didn’t yet understand how my own bodily center of balance had shifted. My mother had to help me stand back up and I had to brush off my embarassment.

For me, eight years after that art fair and two children later, the center of many things has continued to shift. 2020 was basically one big lurch in another direction for all of us. Settling into 2021 I’m not sure I will ever go all the way back to the late night multi-tasker I was before the pandemic. I’m finding I’m a better mother, wife and publisher when I lean back – I get more sleep and I keep my to-do list short and my social calendar more limited. Leaning, for me, is balancing, not falling over or getting whiplash. 


When the pandemic hit last spring, I fretted about what to do at work – how could CGN help galleries and artists? Should we organize a benefit auction? A crisis symposium? Would CGN even survive? Should we find a way to build e-commerce into our website? How could I fix everything? 

Ultimately, in the CGN office Emily and I decided to just keep doing what we always do: cheerlead the arts. Doing one thing for over 38 years has worked. We haven’t taken over the world, but it also hasn’t managed to take us over either. Leaning back this past year is what kept us on track and balanced as we navigated unpredictable, sometimes scary times.  

In this summer of 2021 issue we’ve tried to seek balance and perspective once again, grateful to be publishing according to our usual schedule, not under lockdown, and with a host of exhibitions and news to cover, all while keeping our eyes open for good news and green shoots. 

So far we have seen a notable number of galleries moving and smartly expanding this year, deepening roots in the creative economy long term. Mayor Lightfoot also announced “Arts 77” — a citywide arts recovery and reopening plan with an initial investment of over $60 million to ”place the arts at the center of our city’s recovery efforts.” We are back to posting new (and in–person) events and exhibitions on chicagogallerynews.com every day. 

If 2020’s flood almost wiped us out, 2021 is a year of replanting ahead of what we hope will be a cultural harvest in 2022 and beyond. 

For now openings still look different and are fewer in number, and the art fairs and large events haven’t officially returned yet, but we do see people seeking out art in person this summer, visiting galleries in small groups, buying timed tickets to museums, and hitting the road on weekend trips to Midwestern cities and towns that offer art and culture within a couple hours drive. A year of leaning back has helped artists and dealers reevaluate plans as well as resources, and it has helped me build up the resolve, not to mention appreciation, to wade back into the water and enjoy our city again. I see I don’t have to do it all, but I will strive to do it well.

Grateful to be able to continue publishing CGN as we approach our 40th anniversary next year, we’ve recommitted to making sure this lovely magazine continues to exist and connect to many in our little part of the art world. 

As long as I can keep my balance, and my head, we can stay right where we are. That is good, and it’s enough.