Meet Mayor-elect Emanuel’s Arts & Culture transition committee
We here at Unscripted figured we’d take a closer look at all 13 members of Mayor-elect Emanuel’s Arts & Culture transition committee. Why not? We love the arts and the cultures—and these folks have our new mayor’s ear on them. (Curious about the other five committees announced March 9? John Dugan has over at the Out & About blog.) Get to know everyone after the jump.
Lane Alexander is founder and artistic director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, a tap and percussive dance company arts presenter, and two years into a ten-year appointment as senior adviser at Beijing’s Contemporary Music Academy. CHRP’s annual Rhythm World Global Rhythms series : At the time of purchase, buyers can choose which receives a donation equal to half the cost of their ticket.
Michelle Boone is, along with Jeffrey Dangel, one of two staffers listed on the culture page of the Joyce Foundation’s website (there are seven divisions total). Joyce Foundation culture grants fund dance, music, theater and visual art by people of color. Follow her on Twitter @artscrusader.
David Chavez curates world music programming and books concerts through Sound Culture, a presenter of international music acts. Sound Culture is Chavez’s primary venture since the closure in 2007 of beloved South Loop venue the HotHouse, where Chavez served as program director.
Antonia Contro is executive director of youth arts outreach organization Marwen. Mayor-elect Emanuel is honorary cochair of Marwen’s upcoming Paintbrush Ball (Heiji Choy Black of is one of four organizers of the event and a Marwen board member). Contro is an accomplished artist in her own right; you can check out her bio and portfolio on her website.
Helen Doria formerly held cultural programming positions within the Chicago Park District, joining Millennium Park’s managerial team in the months leading to its opening and serving as its executive director until resigning to focus on other projects in 2007. Doria currently heads her own performing-arts consulting firm, Helen Doria Consulting and gets name-checked in Malcolm Gladwell’s 1999 New Yorker piece, “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.”
Marj Halperin also runs her own consultancy and has a long résumé that includes stints as a freelance journalist, deputy press secretary for Mayor Daley early in his administration, press secretary for the Chicago Public Schools, and positions with the Chicago Park District and the Illinois treasurer’s office. More recently, she served from 1997 to 2005 as executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres, where she was instrumental in negotiations with the city to streamline the licensing process for small performing arts venues like storefront theaters.
Cheryl Hughes is a strategic initiatives branding wizard who earned a social-science master’s from the U of C before studying temporary urbanism at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Hughes was the first executive director of Gallery 37, her title also for the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Science Chicago” awareness and engagement campaign. She’s now senior director of strategic initiatives at the Chicago Community Trust and heading plans for its centennial in 2015.
Mary Ittelson has chaired the Museum of Contemporary Art’s board of trustees since Helen Zell left the post in 2008.
Ra Joy: Executive director of the Illinois Arts Alliance, the statewide advocacy group that lobbies for the arts in Springfield and in Washington and provides training and mentoring for arts leaders. Prior to his current position, the Evanston native was a staffer for Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
Eileen LaCario: A vice-president of Broadway in Chicago, the commercial organization that books downtown’s Bank of America, Cadillac Palace and Oriental theaters, LaCario is also the current board president of the League of Chicago Theatres. The Berwyn native’s career in theater goes back to the defunct Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, where she began working as a teenager.
Josephine Lee became the youngest president and artistic director in the history of the Chicago Children’s Choir in 1999. A Chicago native and graduate of DePaul (piano) and Northwestern (conducting), Lee’s directorship has seen partnerships between the choir and performing arts orgs including Lookingglass Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Natya Dance Theatre and River North Dance Chicago.
Phillip Thomas: Just last week, Thomas was named the new chief executive of eta Creative Arts Foundation, one of the city’s oldest and most prominent African-American arts orgs, as the South Side institution’s founder, Abena Joan Brown, announced her retirement after 40 years. Thomas was most recently a senior program officer in community development at the Chicago Community Trust; earlier in his career, he had served as eta’s development director.
Angel Ysaguirre: It may seem strange to have a Boeing employee on Emanuel’s arts and culture transition committee. But Ysaguirre is the Chicago-based aerospace corporation’s director of global community investing, the guy who manages Boeing's local arts giving, and he has a deep knowledge of what goes into Chicago’s arts scene. He was previously with the Illinois Humanities Council and is a member of the board of directors of Theatre Communications Group, the national trade group for the country’s nonprofit theaters.