Chicago loses Michael Orlove to the NEA
Chicago's loss is the National Endowment for the Arts' gain with the federal agency's announcement that it has hired Michael Orlove as its new "director of presenting and artist communities" starting in May. We're thrilled to see Orlove bounce back after the city inexplicably dismissed him and other talented curators at the end of last year, yet heartbroken to lose someone who'd helped build Chicago into a powerhouse cultural presenter. Orlove's oversight was crucial when it came to showcasing local, national and international talent; it was in large part what distinguished Chicago's arts offerings from other cities and undoubtedly boosted its tourism appeal.
After 18 years of loyalty to the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, where he'd been a senior program director, Orlove was shifted to the city's tourism department in late 2010 following a Daley administration shakeup owing something to the Shakman Decrees. However, after only a year, those jobs we're moved back to the newly merged Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Orlove and others were quietly laid off once again in late December and invited to re-apply for their old jobs at DCASE.
Why DCASE didn't immediately hire back Orlove is a mystery given that thousands of Chicagoans have enjoyed his high quality (and largely free) concert programming for years, namely the celebrated SummerDance series and the expansive World Music Festival, not to mention newer Millennium Park offerings like the indie rock–friendly Downtown Sound series. Noontime showcases at the Chicago Cultural Center including Music Without Borders and Jazz, Blues & Beyond have already dried up in the three months since his departure, which leaves us skeptical as to how the city will fill the void moving forward. Crowdsourcing seems to be the approach favored so far, with DCASE turning to the public to solicit ideas for its 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan. But it remains to be seen who will program this year's SummerDance and WMF, both Orlove innovations, and whether Downtown Sound and similarly well-received series like Music Without Borders and Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz will return to Millennium Park remains unknown.
Orlove was quoted in a statement issued by the NEA this afternoon:
"Throughout my professional career, I have initiated and presented cultural events that celebrated the diversity and creativity of artists throughout the world," Orlove said. "I promise to bring that same dedication, experience and passion to the NEA to provide opportunities for artists in all disciplines to enhance their work and reach a wider audience."
Read the entire press release here.