September 21, 2010
Wrigley Square, at the corner of Randolph and Michigan
“You can do whatever you want but your sign has to disappear.”
Dear Mayor Daley, Millenium Park Staff, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs,
Let me start off by expressing my gratitude for all the hard work you do for the city of Chicago. I appreciate that our tax dollars are bring used to produce high quality events, which are public and free to all. I appreciate that we have clean, well cared for parks and green spaces. You have done a phenomenal job of creating safe, vibrant community areas where people can come together to spectate, congregate, or just relax. But I have a few questions about these so-called public spaces. On your website you state that Millenium Park is the result of a unique partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community. Who is this philanthropic community and what is the nature of this partnership of which you speak? It is my understanding that the cost of constructing the park totaled $475 million, $325 million more than originally budgeted. Of this $475 million $270 was paid by Chicago taxpayers and the rest by private donors. The park is by all definitions, public space and public property. I am curious why, then, on several days in 2005 and 2006 almost the entire park was closed for corporate events. Why are private corporations able to control the events that occur within this public space?
This past week I was performing in Wrigley Square with my collaborator. We hug continuously for an hour. We converse with people when they pass but we do not solicit or accept donations. We are not promoting or advertising anything, rather, we are encouraging love and compassion through healing touch. Nearby we have a small sandwich board with some flyers on it that people can take to better understand our motivation. Within the first fifteen minutes of our performance two security guards approached us. We were told what we were doing was fine but that we had to move our sign. The security guard went on to explain that Liberty Mutual had rented out the nearby pavilion and had paid for the right to hand out promotional materials. A couple minutes before this two employees of Liberty Mutual had approached us, in fact, and seemed intrigued by our project rather then threatened. We asked the security guard if we could move our sign across the street. She said no. We asked her if we could just take it down. She said that would not be enough. She said we needed to be holding it, which is impossible to do while hugging. When I asked the security guard to re-iterate her statement about Liberty Mutual buying the promotional rights to the Square so denied she had said it. As I said before, my collaborator and I are not selling or promoting anything. Still, I wonder how much it costs to buy the promotional rights to this public space. If my collaborator and I were multi-millionaires, perhaps we could afford to do our project in Millenium Park. Until then I guess we will have to settle for performing in other ‘public spaces’ around the city where we are not shut out by corporate sponsorship or at least are able to fly under the radar.
With respect and confusion,
p.s. – Why are the trees in cages?