WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 15-21, 2010)


New Hellenic museum to rise in Greektown.” By Donald Liebenson. Chicago Tribune. March 17, 2010. The Greektown community, still reeling from a fire last month that destroyed a number of longtime businesses, is encouraged by construction activity on the site where a new National Hellenic Museum will rise and serve as a gateway to the area. Plans for the museum have been under way for nearly a decade, but the last of 24 caissons for the three-story 40,000 square-foot structure on the northeast corner of Halsted and Van Buren streets only went in last week. The foundation is expected to be poured next month and the facility should open in fall 2011. It will house 180 oral histories of Greek-Americans and thousands of artifacts ranging from pottery crafted before Christ to clothing worn by the first Greek immigrants to Chicago. Museum officials have raised $10 million toward a target goal of $25 million to construct the building and establish an endowment to sustain operations. The city of Chicago gave the museum $3.5 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds in 2001 to buy the land at 333 S. Halsted St., formerly occupied by the Turek hardware store, which was demolished.

Foundation Promotes Art as Well as Sole Trustee.” By Kevin Flynn and Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. March 18, 2010. Like the abstract painter who created it, the Judith Rothschild Foundation has never had a very high profile in the art world. Ms. Rothschild, who died in 1993, established the foundation in her will and assigned a friend the mission, as trustee, of using her collection of artworks by masters like Matisse and Mondrian to promote underappreciated artists — a category in which she included herself. That friend, Harvey S. Shipley Miller, has since donated or sold many of these artworks and used the proceeds to benefit cultural institutions across the country. Another major beneficiary of the foundation’s efforts over the years, though, has been Mr. Miller himself. A Harvard-trained lawyer and art aficionado, he set a salary for himself of more than $200,000 in some years for his service as the foundation’s sole trustee and, for years after Ms. Rothschild’s death, had the use of her Park Avenue town house and her upstate country home. Over several years he directed more than $130,000 in foundation money to the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, where some was used to create a fellowship named after him, not Ms. Rothschild. And as the foundation’s trustee, and the gatekeeper of its treasures, he was given coveted seats on important boards and committees at institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, where he has served alongside the likes of Ronald S. Lauder and David Rockefeller Jr. In a city where money alone is no guarantee of social standing, Mr. Miller provides a striking example of how control over important works of art can be a ticket to the upper tier of the philanthropic world, with all its attendant prestige and social cachet.

Arts, Briefly: Heldentenor Foundation Is Closing Shop.” By Daniel J. Wakin. New York Times. March 18, 2010. Lauritz Melchior, the greatest heldentenor of his day and a supreme Wagner singer of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, knew how tough it was to find his kind of voice, so he set up a foundation in 1964 to seek them out. Now, 37 years after his death on March 18, 1973, the foundation is closing shop.

Madame Walker Theatre Center names leader; After lengthy search, board selects woman who led Muncie arts center.” By Michelle Kinsey. Indianapolis Star. March 19, 2010. The head of a Muncie arts organization has been chosen to lead the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis. Terry Whitt Bailey resigned Thursday as president and CEO of Muncie’s Cornerstone Center for the Arts, effective April 9. She will take the helm at Madame Walker on April 12. Madame Walker Theatre was named for the country’s first black female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker. Opened in 1927, it was the Downtown entertainment hub for area African-Americans for decades. But by the late 1970s, the building was nearly abandoned and faced demolition. It was rescued in 1979, renovated and turned into an arts center.

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