Commissioner Boone’s May letter as to why Music Without Borders was cancelled

About May 6,2012  I received a reply from Commissioner Boone of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to my letter asking why was Music Without Borders cancelled; who made the decision and what factors were considered. I posted the following “note” on Facebook to inform the members of the group.

We now have the official answer as to why Music Without Borders was cancelled. Commissioner Boone answered my letter of inquiry late Monday afternoon. In my letter to her, I expressed our desire to help DCASE find solutions to bring back Music Without Borders. We are afraid that without the support of the City of Chicago, this kind of programming will evaporate over time. We would like to know what we can do to help bring back this beloved series. I asked “To that end we would like to know who made the decision to cancel it and why? What process and information was used to formulate that decision?” My letter concluded “Music Without Borders…. recognizes and validates the ethnic communities within Chicago and promotes friendship and understanding. It was a platform for different Chicago communities ( Brazilian, Turkish, Haitian, Senegalese, Egyptian, Nigerian, Indian & many more) to come together safely downtown to celebrate their ethnic heritage outside the boundaries of their own neighborhoods. Each community could proudly point to their unique culture being displayed for all to see and hear at Chicago’s most magnificent venue. In a city the census calls the most segregated in the country –that is not a small thing. Families & friends of all ages, colors and ethnic backgrounds enjoyed the summer evenings very harmoniously & safely under the beautiful colored steel beams of sound under starry skies. This is the kind of story about Chicago that makes great headlines. We want to see what we can do to help make those nights a reality again.”

      Commissioner Boone’s answer is substantively the same as Deputy Commissioner Ysaguirre expressed in his interview with the Chicago Tribune a couple weeks ago. She writesBecause we have other strong platforms in place to deliver world music–specifically the World Music Festival, SummerDance and performances at the Chicago Cultural Center throughout the year-staff was inspired to direct our limited resources into other new and innovative programs. In our efforts to serve the interests of all artistic communities and many different genres of music, we will introduce a new series called “Loops and Variations”, which highlights new music with electronica”.She goes on to say “In addition, fans of the Music Without Borders series will find international performers woven into our other musical series and festival such as Downtown Sound and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Please know that we remain committed to showcasing the talents and cultural heritage of the city’s ethnic and cultural diversity.” How was the decision formulated and what information was used? We are not given any specifics. “The decision to discontinue any event is never an easy one, not is it done without careful thought. When I became Commissioner…one of the first tasks I was charged with, based on input from Mayor Emanuel’s Arts & Culture Transition Team, was to conduct a detailed examination and audit of all cultural programming offered by the City of Chicago. This process provided us with some much-needed insight and clarity, not only on the programs offered, but also on the opportunities for new ways to engage residents and visitors while supporting local artists and performers.”

I commented on my note to the Facebook Group:

As an outsider to the city’s bureaucratic processes, I look at actions and not intentions to determine motivation. This letter says the decision to cancel MWB was a preferential choice made by her staff. As was widely speculated, she doesn’t give lack of sponsorship & funding or the absence of experienced programmers as reasons for the cancellation. It’s true positions still remain vacant on her staff (or were just recently hired). We don’t know why. It also appears that the Cultural Center Foundation is in a state of decline. I and others would be happy to volunteer to help obtain sponsors. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any suggestions you would like to offer on what you’d like to see the group do now?””

Here is an update as of today ( and some of my editorial opinion continued) The Cultural Center still has not been booked for any “world” music since last year.  The Downtown Sound Series at the Pritzker includes two nights for the entire summer that fall into the “world” music genre. The Chicago Summerdance schedule just was recently announced. It has a late start this year- July 19th.  It does include several  evenings of  local musicians who are part of the “world” music genre but no artists from outside Chicago area.   I love Chicago Summerdance but it is a smaller venue intended mostly for dancers with a mediocre sound system. It is not a outdoor concert venue like the Pritzker Pavilion nor does it have the cultural cache that Music Without Borders had.  It belongs along side Music Without Borders, not as a replacement.  (If you are interested in viewing the actual letter– I posted it  on the group Facebook wall  of We Want Music Without Borders)

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