Friday, November 25, 2011

Maggie Daley, Champion and Matriarch for Chicago's Arts and Culture, has Died

Mrs. Maggie Daley, wife of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and longtime champion for the arts and cultural activities in Chicago, succumbed late yesterday evening to her long battle with cancer. While some may question why I would care to write something about a politician's wife, it's not that. Mrs. Daley, for whatever reason she became Mayor Daley's wife and stayed with the man through good and bad,  has been a devoted wife, mother, grandmother. In addition, she has been a beloved persona in this city, and a mother-figure to many besides her family.

Maggie Daley has been a crusader for children, education and cultural events in Chicago in ways that astound people with seemingly more important social and political clout. She was able to convince the politicos in town grant a prominent downtown spot in very lucrative Chicago real estate to start Block 37, and create a place for Chicago city youth to make artwork. Several of my friends have been instructors in that important program over the years, and thousands of children have benefitted from their classes and workshops.

What I am most grateful for is Maggie's tenacity to save the Chicago Cultural Center, which was originally a part of the Chicago World's Exposition, and became the Chicago Public Library until 1991. Located across from Millenium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, it sat upon prime real estate. It was slated for the demolition block until she put her foot down and said 'NO'. The Chicago Cultural Center is a cultural gem, filled with concert recital space and it is literally be-jewelled with Tiffany mosaics from top to bottom.

After the library left for its new south loop residence, the city was going to raise the building but Maggie stood firm and said it should be a gallery space for the artists of Chicago and guests from around the world.  Even though it sat across from the Art Institute of Chicago which houses world-figure art exhibitions, she said we needed to keep it. Thank Goodness the powers that be listened to her. It has since become a premier destination for numerous exhibitions, recitals, poetry readings, performances, The Renaissance Court Gallery  - for artists over the age of 55, and the home of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Office. It serves a vital and important need for this city.

As an artist, I appreciate having it be a part of our city's artistic community for the world to see we are a strong, artist-friendly community and we appreciate seeing good work as much as any other major  metropolis.

Mrs. Daley was a beautiful woman, always displaying great love for her husband,  family and the causes that mattered to her. Her smile could light up the room. Her courage and strength, even in the face of her illness, was a great inspiration to everyone that met her, or knew of her.  The city has lost one of its greatest matriarchs, but she will be forever remembered and loved.

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