Arts Council Follies: Does Shirley Madigan Know What She's Doing?
Is Shirley Madigan, chairwoman of the Illinois Arts Council and wife of powerhouse state rep Michael Madigan, doing a good job? Of course it depends on whom you ask, but Madigan's management style and leadership abilities are increasingly questionable to a number of observers.
According to one Arts Council insider, during a recent speaking engagement, Madigan--who is far from the most polished of speakers--shocked listeners by commenting on how much better Governor Jim Thompson's wife looked since losing a considerable amount of weight. And at a recent Appropriations Committee hearing in Springfield, at which chairwoman Madigan was seated in the front row with Arts Council acting executive director Rhoda Pierce, Madigan is said to have reached over and lifted Pierce's skirt hem above the knee, explaining, "these boys like to see a little leg."
More important than such stylistic gaffes, there is the troubling administrative flux that has plagued the state agency for some time, causing some observers to wonder about the council's efficacy under Madigan's iron grip. In June 1988, John Riley was named to the Arts Council post of executive director and then left in a flash after it was discovered he had falsified information on his resume. A more careful search for Riley's successor led to the appointment two months later of Robin Tryloff, a former executive director of the Nebraska Arts Council. Tryloff lasted all of 18 months before quietly resigning last February to pursue other opportunities, according to the official statement.
But a source in the city's Cultural Affairs department put the reason for Tryloff's departure more bluntly: "She was dumped." Several Arts Council members past and present claim they were surprised by Tryloff's sudden resignation, and one source familiar with the situation suggests that Tryloff and Madigan may have locked horns. "Shirley doesn't like anyone with half a brain," said the source. After Tryloff's departure, Rhoda Pierce, a longtime council staffer known to be close to Madigan, was named acting executive director, even though the council's deputy executive director and four assistant deputy executive directors all outranked her in the organizational structure. Pierce says she is unaware of any plans the Arts Council's search committee may have for finding Tryloff's permanent successor. Search committee chairwoman Jane O'Connor could not be reached for comment. But other Arts Council members say any attempt to find a replacement probably will be delayed until after the gubernatorial election, perhaps as late as February. Does Pierce, perchance, harbor any interest in the post of executive director on a permanent basis? "We all have career aspirations," she says, "but I have no interest in the post at this moment" (emphasis added). Spoken like a true politician.
Rock in Tinley Park: Not the End of the World
The first season of the World Music Theatre, the mammoth outdoor music complex in southwest-suburban Tinley Park, is history. The crowds are gone (about 460,000 total season attendance), and the quiet village still stands, though many residents won't soon forget the weekend that hordes of Grateful Dead cultists came to town. "You'd have to put an asterisk next to those concerts," says Tinley Park mayor Ed Zabrocki. "They weren't like anything else that happened all summer." It was a shakedown summer for the facility in every respect, but Tinley Park Jam, the Jam Productions subsidiary that owns and operates it, clearly went that extra mile--literally and figuratively--to ensure villagers could begin to live with the new entertainment complex, which seats upward of 27,000 people.
One of Jam's more amusing and enterprising efforts to deflect criticism was the "noise patrol," a team of staffers, including a sound engineer, that all summer long rushed to the homes of Tinley Park residents who called to complain about noise during the concerts. On some occasions the noise patrol discovered that sound was indeed seeping from the facility, but in other instances they found the noise coming from elsewhere in the neighborhood. Zabrocki says Jam tried to contain the noise by removing some speakers and adjusting the location of others. "The noise levels went down after the changes," says Zabrocki. Traffic control proved a matter of constant fine tuning. "We changed traffic-control patterns a half-dozen times," says the Tinley Park mayor, "and it improved a little each time." But when crowds were at their peak, says Zabrocki, it still took 35 to 40 minutes to get into or out of the parking lot. Training of more than 600 new employees also was a monumental task, according to Jam partner Jerry Mickelson. "We could have brought in people who had worked with us," says Mickelson, "but we hired a lot of people from Tinley Park who didn't know the business, and it took time for them to learn what to do." Over the long haul, Tinley Park stands to gain financially from learning to live with the World Music Theatre. "We made $65,000 off the facility this year," says Zabrocki, "but that figure is going to rise well into six figures over the next eight years." Total ticket revenue was about $8.5 million. It was a light first year for concert bookings, consisting of only 35 dates over the three-month inaugural season. And with a few notable' exceptions, such as Aerosmith and Kiss, most of the lineup was on the lighter side, ranging from Cher to Jimmy Buffett to David Bowie. The schedule is expected to grow to 55-60 shows next summer, which should give Tinley Park and Jam executives plenty of opportunity to work out any remaining kinks. For his part, Mickelson says he is happy about what the World Music Theatre has done--any noise and parking problems notwithstandmg--for Tinley Park. "We have put that town on the map."
Saks Appeals to Art Lovers
The new Saks Fifth Avenue at 700 N. Michigan is, surprisingly, quite a bit more than just a swank-looking department store. The seven-story store is decorated with numerous pieces of original art--cleverly incorporated into floor displays, hung at eye-level on walls, and even arrayed throughout bathrooms and fitting rooms. Most of the art was selected by Robert Hoy, Saks's regional director for visual merchandising. "In the last three years," says Hoy, "Saks has developed a reputation for collecting American art." The Saks collection at 700 N. Michigan ranges from shadow boxes by Chicago artist Pamela Hahn to photographs by Bryan Jones to a series of contemporary teapots by Nancy Adams. All of the pieces on display will remain part of Saks's permanent corporate art collection.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.