Not long after winning Chicago’s mayoral race on February 22, 2011, Rahm Emanuel attended a production of A Twist Of Water at Theater Wit. The play, written by Caitlin Montanye Parrish (a Theatre School alumna), tells the story of an untraditional Chicago family and places heavy emphasis on the city’s river and lake. After the performance, Emanuel is reported as having said, “Chicago grabs its industry from being by the lake. The river twists through the city. It always reinvents itself. That’s why Chicago is the ultimate American city.” Emanuel’s attendance at A Twist of Water and his positive response indicate that he considers theatre to be an integral part of Chicago’s identity. There is no doubt in my mind that he will continue to support the city’s theatre and arts programming when he takes office in May.
I find it extremely encouraging that our city’s mayor-elect is just as concerned about the future of art and culture as he is about city politics. As a teenager, Emanuel studied ballet and I think his exposure to art at a young age undoubtedly influenced his current support for cultural affairs. With more and more Chicago public schools eliminating arts education, it is reassuring to know that our next mayor is planning to sponsor arts programs for children in kindergarten through high school. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s generation of theatre artists and patrons.
In an interview with TimeOut Chicago magazine, Emanuel stated, “Chicago is a world-class city. A vibrant arts and culture scene defines a world-class city. The arts help to define who we are, and they make our city an exciting place to work and live while attracting business and tourism.” In order to ensure that our city remains world-class, during his campaign he signed the Principles for a 21st Century Creative Chicago, a document that defines and recognizes the role of the arts industry in Chicago. Emanuel also met with the Arts Power Chicago coalition to strengthen ties with current arts administration members. In choosing to align himself with the leaders of Chicago’s art industry, he is ensuring that the arts are protected and can continue to inspire.
Rahm Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, funded urban arts and culture by revitalizing the Downtown Theatre District. Emanuel wants to take a more grassroots approach and promote storefront theatre throughout the various neighborhoods. In a subsequent interview with the Chicago Tribune he declared, “We have great theatre in this town because we have great neighborhood theatre.” Considering that Chicago is home to over 200 small theater companies – including Theater Wit where A Twist Of Water was held – his support means more available funding and opportunity for theatre artists. Additionally, Emanuel’s stamp of approval might also boost ticket sales among the different theatres and attract more diverse audiences.
I think Emanuel’s support for neighborhood theatre companies is his best advantage over the old Daley administration. In true Chicago fashion, smaller neighborhood productions must find ways to stay afloat among the likes of big-name traveling shows in the Downtown District. With Rahm Emanuel as Mayor, though, I have a feeling that they’re going to do more than float – they’re going to make waves.
For complete interviews detailing Rahm Emanuel’s position on the arts, visit http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/the_theatre_loop/2011/03/rahm-emanuel-chicago-arts-scene-tribune.html