When I first read of the Chicago Children's Museum proposal to move from Navy Pier to Grant Park, I was mildly against it. Then I read additional facts, and was more firmly opposed. Now, as I've heard more details, I'm adamantly and fiercely resistant to the idea.
Dennis Byrne (resident curmudgeon, and reliably conservative bloviator who I usually roll my eyes at) writes:
After all is said, the rationale for relocating the Chicago Children's Museum into Grant Park comes down to this: Nothing's there, something has to go there and it might as well be the museum.
Obviously, that reasoning flunks all tests of logic, but, at base, it's the best that the move's backers can do. Put aside all the red herrings (racism, classism, adultism) raised by Mayor Richard Daley. A Tribune headline succinctly got to the heart of the argument: "Fixing 'nowhere.'" The northeast corner of Grant Park is "underused;" enter it from the serpentine bridge from Millennium Park and you'll find yourself "nowhere." Because large-scale work must be done on the parking garage below, we'll have an opportunity to fix the supposedly desolate park by relocating the privately operated, fee-to-enter Children's Museum from its cramped Navy Pier quarters.
Of course, that's bunk. There is a "there" there. A "there" with a grand view of the park and Buckingham Fountain to the south. The lake to the east. The skyline to the west. In the heart of downtown, it is a rare and valuable place of quietude. It was my favorite lunchtime refuge when I worked downtown, a place to be immersed in the city's beauty and to forget the office lunacy. The wildflower gardens; the expansive lawns; the plunk of tennis balls on nearby courts; the fountain, framed by rows of trees, rising like an exclamation point blocks away. Anyone who doesn't see the something in all this has nothing for brains.
But wait, museum backers say this won't change after the museum moves there. All that you will see of the subterranean museum are some skylights poking through the landscape. The grass, benches, the opportunity for solitude and all the rest will stay, only better.
Museum backers appear to overlook the irony in their argument: We need to fill in that corner of the park with something; after we fill in that corner, nothing will still be there.
Bad enough, but how about:
As you weigh the proposed relocation of the Chicago Children's Museum, consider this sentence from Sunday's Tribune: "If located in Grant Park, the museum would also receive a subsidy from the Chicago Park District, part of a program that has netted millions for other museums on park land."
What a nice bonus: In addition to getting a lease on a Grant Park parcel -- perhaps 99 years at $1 a year -- the privately owned, nonprofit museum would get a phased-in subsidy from Chicago property taxpayers.
This year, 10 cultural institutions are divvying up $33.8 million in Park District subsidies; the Lincoln Park Zoo gets a separate $5.6 million, according to the district. The money is allotted according to a formula that factors in their respective attendance figures and budgets.... What is certain is that taking another slice from the pie would -- barring some unanticipated infusion of city money -- reduce the subsidies the other institutions receive. In recent years that total pie has been constricting, not growing, Fassnacht says. As is, the Art Institute of Chicago (1.2 million visitors), the Field Museum (2.1 million visitors) and the Museum of Science and Industry (1.4 million visitors) each receive $6.7 million. The Adler Planetarium, with 400,000 visitors a year, receives a $2.1 million subsidy.
Now, we're getting somewhere. No wonder the Children's Museum is so eager to relocate.
Of course, the officials of the private museum differ, but their arguments don't make sense, unless you factor in the unmentioned subsidy angle.
[blah blah blah]
This concept, currently being embraced by corporations, Hollywood and non-profits alike, encourages organizations to take responsibility for the choices they make by looking at how those choices impact the larger society, constituents and their communities, and the environment.
I therefore ask that Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the vocal residents of the 42nd Ward and all other entities, including this newspaper, that are engaged in this debate also consider using social responsibility as a context for their position. If that were to happen, the question of the Children’s Museum would sound something like this:
"Would putting the Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park positively or negatively impact the citizens of Chicago, visitors to the city, the public perception of Chicago, the communities served by the museum and the ecology of Grant Park?"
In my view, the answer is clear.
[blah blah blah]
Chicago Children’s Museum, Board of Advisers
[From Chicago Tribune | Blog | Voice of the People]
Right, somehow Hollywood corporations worked itself into her argument. Wonder why? A convenient shorthand for what - meddling liberals? and to answer her question: yes, it would negatively impact the citizens of Chicago, by diluting the funding base for the public museums of the entire city to help a private museum, who just happens to be affiliated with the Pritzker family.