The future of summer fests
Major shake-ups in city government and declining festival revenues put summer music festivals in danger.
With the help of her staff, Weisberg celebrated the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear, the millennium, the birthdays of anonymous Chicagoans and—aided by some Mexican nuns—the city’s 150th with a birthday hat for the iconic Picasso sculpture. And the list goes on, not just along the lakefront but across the city.
“She connected something that some people feel is elitist to the daily life of the people who live and work in this city,” says Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theatre.
During the mayoral campaign, candidates ticked off bullet points for how to improve this city. Yet Weisberg’s mandate—to improve the cultural life of Chicago’s citizens—was anything but bullet points. It was the connective tissue among the city’s many ethnic and neighborhood groups, its economic classes and generational groups.
“She was an example of the unwieldy and completely delightful character of the arts,” says Martha Lavey, Steppenwolf Theatre’s artistic director.
On a recent afternoon, the faint sound of orchestral music from a free concert drifted beneath the Cultural Center’s signature Tiffany dome. Students on a field trip sat quietly, listening to the music. They likely had never heard of Weisberg, though they were benefiting from her work.
This report was produced for Time Out Chicago by the Chicago NewsCooperative, a nonprofit news organization focused on in-depth reporting about Chicago politics and policy.