To the editors:

I read Mr. Lazare’s article [Culture Club] in the Friday, August 3, 1990, Chicago Reader. In referring to my thoughts, his last sentence states, “he thinks Chicago talent isn’t good enough to do the big jobs for him.” This is an incorrect and unjustified conclusion.

Mr. Lazare may perceive that the only “big job” is a logo design, but in fact it is the continuous presence of exhibition catalogues circulated to the nation’s libraries; exhibition and program announcements, brochures, and bimonthly calendars which are viewed and used by hundreds of thousands of visitors; street banners on Michigan Avenue; and thousands of MCA t-shirts that make up the fabric of graphic identity of an institution like the MCA. All of these projects were done by Chicago firms.

To direct one commission to a non-Chicago firm, in the context of several hundred in the past four years, and suggest this single action supports Mr. Valicenti’s and Mr. Essex’s contention that this institution doesn’t support the local community reflects both short memories and sour grapes.

Mr. Lazare notes “none of the 3,000 or so practicing professional designers in Chicago have stepped forward to question Purdle’s [sic] qualifications or talent.” This should be the heart of the matter. We endeavored to make a selection for a particular piece of work based on specific talent and experience. We reviewed a wide variety of firms, many of them Chicago firms. Our finalists included Chicago firms. To suggest that we make our selection primarily on the location of a firm, rather than our best assessment of their specific design skills for this particular job, is a cynical thought that puts politics above quality, and insults the integrity of every design firm in Chicago.

If we were to hold the design community to the same standards Mr. Lazare holds us, I would expect no Chicago design firm to have clients outside Chicago. The strength of an institution like ours, in a city as sophisticated and international as Chicago, rests on independent thought and action in aesthetic and business decisions. In this case, it means a symbiotic relationship with the local design community, not a captive relationship.

We look forward to continuing our work in Chicago, and awarding design commissions to firms based on the merits and quality of their proposals and experience.

Kevin E. Consey


Museum of Contemporary Art