The NEA comes to Glencoe's aid | Bleader

Monday, July 16, 2012

The NEA comes to Glencoe's aid

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 01:55 PM

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Count me among the admirers of Writers' Theatre. I've followed this 20-year-old company since the very beginning, starting with artistic director Michael Halberstam's first Christmas reading of Dylan Thomas in the tiny back room of the bookstore that's still one of their performance spaces. They've always been extraordinary.

I wasn't even surprised when the Wall Street Journal stumbled upon them a few years back and declared them "the best drama company in the nation." (They're great with musicals too: if you haven't seen their production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music and can still snag a ticket, you're in for a treat.)

But Thursday's announcement that the National Endowment for the Arts is bestowing a $100,000 grant on the theater and the village of Glencoe to help build Writers' a new home gave me pause. Really? Was it silly money day?

According to the announcement, this "Our Town" grant is awarded to "help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core."

Also: "The grantee projects will improve quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help revitalize local economies."

Has anyone from the NEA ever been to Glencoe? Because if the "quality of life" gets any better there, the whole village will just have to leave planet Earth behind and ascend to heaven.

Glencoe, which is also home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, has about 8,700 residents, a gorgeous stretch of Lake Michigan shore, and median family income of over $200,000. In 2007, it ranked seventh on Forbes's list of the nation's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Maybe the upscale boutiques that make up the "local economy" will benefit from the NEA's "revitalization," but the "sense of place" there is already pretty solid.

The NEA had 317 applications for the "Our Town" grants this year, and awarded 80. Writers' was the only Chicago area group to get one.

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