My Message to Chicago

Dear Chicago,
As the season is ending at the Joffrey Ballet, I am taking this moment to think about where we are today and how I've gotten here.  I have been with the Joffrey now for 10 seasons and I have seen the city grow and change in big and small ways.  To me, it is only in Chicago where you find the perfect equilibrium among a downtown with beautiful architecture and high rises, a lake to run along, suburbs and hidden neighborhoods, gorgeous parks, a clean city, and much more.  And of course, Chicago is located geographically in the ideal place, where you can easily access both coasts of the US within 4 hours.  And that's nothing to say about the restaurants and the culture.
I was born in France and lived most of my childhood in Paris, but have worked in many other European cities as well as in Japan.  It is easy for me to now compare major cities of this world and make a solid statement about what makes a city successful and why (in my opinion anyway).
American cities cannot offer the same history that European cities bring, meaning you will not find 300 year old buildings at the corner of every street studded by churches that date back centuries.  There's a feeling of elegance that comes with these older structures that I have a hard time seeing our contractors trying to replicate today.  When I see new buildings going up and cities being developed, somehow what I see are a few pieces of history being taken down and replaced with inexpensive, quick, cheaply made structures that scream I'm here to make money.
So when people really think about the history of Chicago, indeed people think about a reputation based on decades for high crime.  The stories and the history are rich, and our reputation has been sealed around the world that even if it is not what it used to be, there are always novels, comic books, and movies to remind us.  This is not something we should try to hide from or deny, but we should work hard to turn this notion around and show our city at its best, for what it actually is now and not what was.  
As so, here is my message to all Chicagoans.  Where we need to focus our efforts is in exactly how the world thinks about America...entertainment, yes pure entertainment.  Let's be clear about that.  People are not traveling 8000 miles to come look at our buildings, that are essentially found all over the world, in all major cities.  People are looking for the great American entertainment.  They go to New York for the broadway show, Time Square to see the lights, Hollywood to see the the Grand Canyon to see art in nature, route 66 to feel the experience of history.
Basically it is all about HISTORY AND ENTERTAINMENT.  People don't care about Trump, they cared about someone like Michael Jackson.  This is what makes America powerful.  It is the place of great entertainment and possibilities.  Chicago has so much to offer, and where we need to focus is on our art, music, and museums to attract people to our city and to show the world once and for all how great Chicago truly is.  The obsession that is our sports culture is unique to America (with the exception of soccer abroad), but what we have in common with the world around us is of course music and dance.  The funding of every art form is necessary to show that Chicago supports what is already important on the global scale.  And then we will finally be compared to other great cities like Paris, Tokyo, or New York that instantly bring thoughts of culture and art.  It is very important for Chicagoans to step out of their baseball jerseys and begin to broaden their horizons by supporting the arts scene of this city...those that are already sometimes unknowingly making news around the world.  Yes I work for the Joffrey and my passion is greatest for this art form, so I cannot deny that the Joffrey Ballet, Chicago's ballet company, brings attention of the world to this city.  And it's not just the Joffrey, but many quintessential Chicago arts companies and establishments.
The Joffrey may not have won a world series or a superbowl, but it's name is more known in the world than the Bears or the Bulls (which I love of course!).  We are considered one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, and I sometimes find it mind boggling that people living right here in the city we represent do not see the importance of what we do and what we do for this city.
Chicagoans, please spend at least $300 on the arts next year.  We are here to bring happiness and thought into your lives, and we work tirelessly to never let you down.  Going to a game will cost you $50-300 average, with $10-40 on 3 beers and whatever miscellanous things you buy that makes you ask yourself, "where did my cash go?".  A subscription to the Joffrey for one year is the same price, giving you culture and experiences throughout the year, rather than at one shot, and certainly does not give you the hangover headache the next day.  Instead you are left with days to weeks worth of thinking about that one night at the Joffrey and what you saw and felt.  
See you at the ballet....


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  • Well put Fabrice. Chicago needs to go the next step and establish itself as an international cultural center and this is coming from my background as a real estate developer. The arts are more important, essentially yes but also as a catalyst and an inspiration. The new mayors dance background and appreciation has created a magnifique opportunity right now. Vive le Chicago!

    PS and thanks for your work with the rising ballet dancers at Aspirations in Lombard...

  • Actually, Fabrice, there are quite a lot of people who travel 8,000 miles to look at our buildings. Chicago was, and still is, an incubator of architectural leadership. You are right that sometimes some very bad decisions have been made when tearing down an older structure to build a bland replacement. However, our built environment is recognized as one of the finest in the world, and I am sure it is one of the factors that influences our innovative cultural and culinary scene. I've only lived in Chicago for 2 1/2 years, and I feel stupid for not having moved here sooner. I love this city.

    I hope that our newly elected leadership will make good decisions regarding our schools. It's important for the city to not only be a magnet for new ideas from outside, but also to nurture and develop its homegrown talent. We can only do that by making sure our children get a well-rounded education in a safe, clean, and healthy environment.

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