New City Event Chief Michelle Boone Wants to 'Elevate Chicago's Reputation as a Global Cultural Leader'

By Jenny Berg June 8, 2011, 11:20 AM EDT

Michelle Boone

Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

Michelle Boone took her post as commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events under Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday. On Tuesday, she addressed the City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Special Events, and Recreation, outlining some of her goals and anticipated challenges. Here is her complete statement:

“Good afternoon. Thank you, Chairman Burnett and members of the committee, for inviting me to be here today.

“I’d like to start by saying that I have a lot of love for the department. I started my career as an arts administrator with Gallery 37, and I have seen firsthand the level of commitment and talent of the people who work here. 

“It is absolutely thrilling to think that I will have the opportunity to be part of delivering the amazing programs and services produced by this department, and I would like to thank Mayor Emanuel for appointing me to this position. I look forward to continuing to partner with the many cultural leaders and artists across the city that i have worked closely with over the years. 

“That said, i am fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

“In the past year, there have been major changes to the city’s cultural efforts, especially the merger of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

“My first priority as commissioner will be to ensure that the entire department is working together as one unified team, with shared goals and a common culture. 

“I will immediately begin conducting an inventory of all of the programs and services that are being delivered to get a full understanding of the breadth and depth of what we’re doing.

“We need to look at every program and ask: Does this still make sense? Is it relevant to the community? And are there ways to do it better—whether by increasing efficiency, improving access, or involving more artists or residents?

“We’ll also ask how we can better position the department as a resource to elevate community-based, neighborhood arts organizations.

“Moving forward, I’d like to see our department become a conduit to help artists and groups who reside in the neighborhoods to access resources beyond just the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

“For example, are there opportunities for artists and arts organizations to work with public safety officials to address youth violence? Or, is there a way for artists and arts organizations to partner with workforce development to create jobs or employ artists?

“And throughout everything, we will be asking how can we better take advantage of all our cultural resources to elevate Chicago’s reputation as a global cultural leader.

“During my time with Gallery 37, I became deeply familiar with communities across our city, and worked closely with many aldermen. I understand the dynamics of what cultural resources can bring to neighborhoods to help stimulate economic and community development, while also creating safe places where people can go to connect with one another.

“I know that there is a tremendous amount of goodwill in the community at large for this department to succeed, and I am confident in the future. I am looking forward to working with each of you and am happy to answer any questions.”

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