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Cultural Machine 

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When they read Mr. Androes's comments in the Reader (August 14) about Gallery 37, I am told some friends of his said, "What was he thinking?" He said, "I don't want a recentralized, politicized job training program deciding what arts Chicago public schools should get." Can you hear his friends saying, "What were you thinking--talking about Maggie Daley's baby that way? You know Gallery 37 is her baby!"

Why, in the city of Chicago, would they ask such a question? As the executive director of the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center, an arts agency that no longer receives city funding, I understand why. Do you? We have built the "Art of the T-shirt" as a free summer exhibit series in the public libraries for ten years without a single paid full-time staff member. We are artists from around Chicagoland giving from the heart. When we stood up for a community group putting pressure on the city to save the North Lake View library, our city arts proposal for the first time in eight years was turned down for funding over the next three years. We are told the reason is not politics but less funding for community arts. Yet there was enough funding for the ever-expanding Gallery 37 to run over 34 programs at community locations in Chicago last year.

We have republished late mayor Harold Washington's Chicago Cultural Plan on our Web site at www.luc.edu/depts/curl/

prag/pragusr/umcac/cul_plan.htm. If you read the Chicago Cultural Plan, you will find this Washington administration plan supported independent community arts groups like ours. Local community arts councils were a priority. Developing resources that strengthened artists and empowered them was its focus, not centralized control. We urge artists, arts administrators, and concerned citizens to review this plan and to analyze whether its suggestions are being implemented. It was put together by a grassroots process and was intended to be revised by the same over time. It is time. We will post all suggested revisions and discussion on our Web site. Intimidated administrators can use an alias.

We want to avoid the pitfall of a recentralized, politicized cultural machine that squashes discussion of issues with unassailable sacred cows upheld with daddy-Daley-like clout. Gallery 37 has sucked arts money away from community organizations like ours in many of Chicago's neighborhoods without a discussion. Some have failed and no longer exist. I don't want a recentralized, politicized program deciding what arts Chicago's communities should get either. What Mr. Androes fears for agencies serving the schools is already the norm for community arts groups. Those who are blessed are blessed. Those who are not are out. There--I said it! Disagree if you wish.

What were his friends thinking about when they questioned Mr. Androes? Were they thinking we should return to the days of machine politics, when an honest word should not be heard and the truth was a person's last breath? Do they believe we are already there? Mr. Androes told the truth. He is my hero. Thank you, sir! Now--who else dares to speak out on the affairs of culture in Chicago, to join in an honest discussion of community art issues on our Web site? Help us prove Chicago is a world-class city where freedom of thought and intelligent discourse are encouraged! What are you thinking? E-mail us at

umcac-art@luc.edu.

Chris Drew

Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center

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