Green Goes to Ballet Chicago

Effective June 1 Ballet Chicago’s new managing director will be Randall Green, currently executive director of the Civic Center for Performing Arts. The struggling Ballet Chicago, performing at the Civic Opera House this weekend, was a last-minute addition to the Civic Center’s annual Spring Festival of Dance; at the time Green said he added the Ballet Chicago to the festival because he would rather support a local company than out-of-town troupes such as the Joffrey Ballet, which he dumped this year. Green apparently saw brighter prospects at Ballet Chicago than did many other observers, or else was faced with compelling reasons to bail out of his Civic Center post. Stay tuned.

Here Come 3,000 Money-Hungry Museum Managers…

More than 3,000 of the nation’s museum administrators will descend on Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums (AAM) May 9-13 at the Hilton. And the leaders of more than 50 Chicago-area museums are using the opportunity to draw attention to the fact that it’s significantly more difficult to operate a museum today than it was even ten years ago. Local museum execs point to a long list of problems, including the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which has caused a drop-off in gifts of objects to many museums. In addition there are growing threats of censorship and the constant threat of reductions in both public and private financial support. For the first time in memory, for instance, the Chicago Park District is providing what amounts to no annual funding increase to the museums located on Park District property. “We’re all finding it harder to make ends meet,” says Ellsworth H. Brown, president of the Chicago Historical Society and president-elect of the AAM. “I think the 1990s are going to be a tight time in general.” The situation seems particularly lamentable considering the public’s obvious interest in what the city’s museums have to offer. Chicago’s sports teams may get all the attention, but in fact the total annual attendance at Chicago museums is double that of all the city’s sports teams combined.

According to the local execs, museums generate more than $330 million annually for Chicago businesses and collectively employ more than 2,500 staffers on payrolls that total more than $50 million. The AAM conclave isn’t likely to offer up any magical solutions to the problems plaguing museums, but it will give administrators a chance to address the major issues and perhaps spark new action to ensure that theyll get the support they need to survive.

…and a Horde of Monet-Loving Museumgoers

Speaking of museums and their popularity, it already looks as if “Monet in the ’90s: The Series Paintings” will be one of the Art Institute’s most popular exhibits ever. A month prior to the official opening on May 19, the museum already had sold 60,000 tickets to the event, which brings together Claude Monet’s series paintings for the first time in 100 years. The Art Institute’s most popular special exhibit since it began tracking attendance through ticket sales was “A Day in the Country,” the 1984 show of Impressionist paintings that drew 360,000. “A lot of people simply aren’t in the habit of getting tickets in advance to a show like this,” says Art Institute spokeswoman Eileen Harakal.

Kennedy Center Update

The Goodman Theatre, Free Street Theater, and Hubbard Street Dance Company, the three Chicago performing groups still planning to appear in June at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., may not find the situation there reassuringly settled if and when they arrive. In an interview with the Washington Post last week, James D. Wolfensohn, the newly appointed chairman of the board at the Kennedy Center, declared the national performing-arts center “bankrupt” and cited an immediate need for $45 million in federal funding to cover a $15 million debt and $30 million in needed renovations. Hubbard Street managing director Gail Kalver says her dance group does not yet have a signed contract for its appearances June 14-16, though Kennedy Center staff seem to be preparing for them. Goodman producing director Roche Schulfer says he has a signed letter of agreement from the center for scheduled performances of She Always Said, Pablo June 21-July 22. Schulfer described his dealings with the Kennedy Center as “nothing out of the ordinary,” but added: “That’s not to say anything out of the ordinary won’t happen.”

What’s to Eat on Navy Pier?

Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary when the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority opens the first-ever cafe on Navy Pier on or around May 10. The Regency Cafe, which is being set up in the picnic area at the east end of the pier, will offer fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, and pizza. Navy Pier manager Susan Wayman did convince Regency Caterers, the Hyatt Hotels division that will run the cafe, to put a cobb salad on the menu to satisfy herself as well as all the health-conscious bikers and hikers who may want to use the facility. “The burgers and such are what the majority of the people apparently want,” says Wayman, “but I think Regency is willing to experiment with other options.”

Econo-Art on the Move

After failing miserably in its efforts to set up shop in a large Pilsen theater space, the enterprising and seemingly indomitable Econo-Art Theatre Company has found a new temporary home at the tiny 50-seat Project at 2856 N. Halsted, where the troupe will open Peter Handke’s Offending the Audience this weekend. “We’re going back to our roots,” says Econo-Art ensemble member Ileen Getz, referring to the company’s auspicious early years in a small basement theater in the River North gallery district. Getz says the company will continue to look for a permanent space on the north side. Famed for its lowball pricing, Econo-Art is selling tickets to its 7 PM Saturday performances for $4.99; other performances are $10.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Loren Santow.