Last week I attended the Grant Park Conservancy Symposium on Chicago’s future. The symposium talked about where Chicago was headed and what it’s future goals are, that kind of thing. There were speakers from all different disciplines: Jeanne Gang for architecture and Chris Jones the Trib theater critic. It was a very cool talk and I’ll go into it more in the coming weeks.
The panel’s main purpose was to figure out how Chicago was going to move forward in the next years. What we can do to spur growth in all these different disciplines. Much of the talk about Chicago present is how we don’t really have much of an image internationally. There is the classic “Al Capone” or “Obama” or “Oprah” but generally, people across the world don’t have an image of Chicago. Even Hollywood sees us as really wonderful because both New York and LA have such specific looks to them and already formed images; Chicago can still be molded anyway Hollywood wants it to look.
Anyway, everyone is talking about how to bring more film here, more television producing, more art, more people more money, etc.
It was so exciting to hear all these different answers and hear how people view Chicago, but I couldn’t help but wonder, do we really want all this growth? Do we really?
I thought about the Olympics and how most Chicagoans really didn’t want it. Yes, it was about money and taxes and the city, but it also felt like so many Chicagoans just didn’t want the attention. We’re happy in our lives here, living in some kind of urban obscurity. We don’t want to be LA or NYC, we don’t want to be the center of the world. We want things to stay relatively quiet.
When I was giving the Second City tour and explaining what the name “The Second City” meant, it always made me laugh that anyone, including A.J. Liebling, ever thought that it was even mildly important to us to be the First City. No one here wants that, we never have. We don’t want celebrities and movie stars muddling up our city. We never wanted thousands of athletes swimming on our shores. Part of me truly believes that we protect our Second City, because we prefer it that way.
What do you think? Do you think any of Chicago’s growth is stymied by the people who live here? That we enjoy our peace and quiet and have no real intention or want to become a “global city?”