Timothy Gilfoyle | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Timothy Gilfoyle 

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The story of Millennium Park, as told by Loyola historian Timothy J. Gilfoyle in Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark (University of Chicago Press), is three uplifting tales in one: the site, up from the lake and the post-Fire rubble; the politics, up from a landfill's worth of failed plans; and the culture, up from a conservative vision of merely filling out the north end of Grant Park to a tightly packed series of walkways, sculptures, and theatrical spaces. Mayor Daley got the ball rolling in 1998 when he asked Sara Lee CEO John Bryan to raise $30 million for what was then called the "Lakefront Millennium Project." But the charismatic and connected Bryan made no little plan. In the end he drummed up more than $235 million by exchanging naming rights for gifts and by placing the whole endeavor in historical context. "In Gilded Age Chicago," writes Gilfoyle, "the city's elites had created the cultural institutions that defined the city for a century: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Public Library. Millennium Park could do the same a century later. This was, in Bryan's words, 'the opportunity of a lifetime.'" This impressively organized and lavishly illustrated book itself wouldn't exist without financial support from the Minow Family Foundation. Those uncomfortable with the project's delays, cost overruns, privatized process, or jangly outcome get their say, but the mayor has the last word. Wed 6/21, 6 PM, Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 312-747-4050.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/courtesy of Maria Gilfoyle.

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