Friday, February 13, 2009

Is Chicago Losing Art and Culture?

Being a musician is not an easy occupation.

Neither is being President of the United States.

("What's your point, Mike?" she says from the peanut gallery.)

Ridiculous career choices? Absolutely.

That is not the point I'm going for, though. Far from it.

One character trait that myself and President Obama share, aside from being left-handed, which technically isn't a character trait, per se, is the importance of the arts in society.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the birth of Abe Linclon, POTUS XVI, Obama gave a speech at the gala opening of the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. It had undergone an extensive, multi-million dollar renovation and was now reopening to much fanfare and support.

It is also the site of the Lincoln assassination back in 1865, by the way.

The irony here is that Lincoln, like myself and the current president, was also a fervent supporter of the arts in America.

In today's Chicago Tribune, there is an article by Howard Reich, the jazz critic, reporting on the possible demise of the Morse Theater in Rogers Park. If you are unaware of the theater, then let me be the first to say that it is AWESOME. It seats 299, so the space is very intimate. If I'm not mistaken, there is no place on the main floor that is more than 50 feet from the front of the stage. The sound system is state of the art, and every performance is recorded digitally, whether it be for archiving purposes, broadcasting, or as a live album, ready to hit the streets. The styles of music the Morse hosts is mixed, ranging from jazz to blues to classical to world music. Really, it's simply outstanding.

Anyone who has spent their time paying attention to anything I might have to say should know by now that I am a frequent performer at the Morse. I work there twice a month, every other Wednesday. It may not seem like much, but in the music biz, any kind of steady gig is a welcome one, indeed. They are also becoming more and more difficult to come by.

After only 4 months of being open, it could be gone. Poof. Just like that. Another one bites the dust. It's too bad really. The last time in there, just a couple of days ago, the head count was 75. The attendance was seemingly improving from week to week. Nevertheless, the number of places to play are disappearing like republican support of the infamous stimulus package in Congress (Infamous Stimulus- hmmmm. Perhaps the name of my next band). For this to happen to the Morse would truly be shameful. There was a lot of time, and love, put into the renovation. Obviously, there was a lot of dough involved, too. One can only assume that the dough is the main reason for all of this happening, as is usually the case. I certainly don't know any of the facts, though.

The neighborhood could have really benefited from the Morse anchoring all of the various artsy ventures in that 'hood. It still may be that place, but the details are unknown at this point (at least to people who aren't an insider) as to what the fate of the space will be. It certainly would not hurt anything if the community at large spoke up and offered their support (are you listening Joe Moore and Mayor Daley) of the space.

So please, see a show there. Have dinner. Get a drink. Or a coffee. Whatever you can do.

Either way, the community of artists in Chicago will keep on keeping on, despite the obstacles we've faced and have yet to face. It's who we are and what we do.

So it goes...

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