Millennium Park was just a gleam in Mayor Daley’s eye when Terry Evans asked me if I wanted to work on a photo exhibition with her – the first one in the new park. I worked closely with Ms. Evans while she was photographing inside The Field Museum for the exhibition From Prairie to Field. ((As you might have seen from the link to the Field Museum’s page, the exhibition was remounted in 2008. The original was designed in 2001; I have some fine photographs from that original installation that will make it to this site eventually.)) I couldn’t have been more excited; I believe I accepted the job on the spot, without hesitation.
The exhibition was spearheaded by the indefatigable Jerry Adelman of Openlands, with cooperation and participation by Metropolis Strategies (then operating as Metropolis 2020). The goal: to show the residents of Chicago their land–what it looks like from overhead, what it’s being used for, and how the growth of the city changes the landscape around us.
The exhibition opened in June of 2005 with the concrete still drying on the Gehry Bandshell. I’m very proud to have worked on it. It was a pleasure and a privilege to help bring Terry’s stunning photographs to an audience who could appreciate them as art and also be able to say, “hey, there’s my house!” or, “I drive past that every morning and had no idea it looked like that.” To talk about the growth and progress of Chicago with its denizens and visitors in such a highly visible public space felt then – and still feels now – like one of the most valuable things I can do with the opportunities I’ve been given.
Revealing Chicago taught me more than I can relate here about the past, present, and future of the city. Being on the periphery of Hizzoner’s great public work taught me a lot about the inner workings of Chicago government – which, as you may know, has always been a lively battleground. At the opening of the exhibition I got to have a brief conversation with the Mayor:
Hizzoner: Hey, nice show you got here.
JD: Thanks, Mayor! Nice park you got here!
Hizzoner: Hey, thanks!
The rest of the conversation is one for the record books. In order to appreciate it fully, some setup (and knowledge of certain maneuvers involving a former airport) is required – but if you wanna hear it and you run into me sometime I’ll be glad to tell it.
Do yourself a favor: take a look at Terry’s gallery of images from the show. And (if you’re really interested) pick up the exhibition catalog. I’m sure whether you are a Chicago native or just interested in some amazing photos, you’ll find something intriguing and beautiful.