Saturday, September 22, 2007

The World Class Chicago's Children's Museum: We're Number 31!

Among the frenzied charges of child-hating and racism that Richard M. Daley and supporters of the Chicago Children's Museum have been hurling in a desperate attempt to discredit opponents of the museum's campaign to move to Grant Park, the mayor and Bob (if-we-don't-give-Grant-Park-to-the-CCM-it will-be-the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it) O'Neill have gotten a free pass as they repeatedly extol the virtues of the "world-class institution" they seek to insert into Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

It seems we may have been more than a little gullible in accepting the museum's claim at face value. A post to my blog from yellow dog democrat directed me to an article in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times in which writer Delia O'Hara deconstructs the CCM's inflated sense of self-importance as
"some cultural temple our city's children must experience to claim a complete childhood."

"It isn't."

"The Chicago area has three major children's museums. The DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville and the Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview leave the Chicago museum in the dust."

O'Hara notes that the CCM has higher admission fees than either of those institutions, but "books one unimaginative commercial traveling exhibit after another, often with licensed characters children are expected to recognize from television."

O'Hara concludes that as "9 percent of Chicago's land is held in parks, less than half that in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco or Boston," it isn't a bunkered, parkland-grabbing CCM that children need. "They need safe, well-maintained, accessible spaces for play they direct themselves. These spaces don't have to be Disneyland. A nice park will do. Let's make a commitment now not to give away any more parkland." Read the full article here.

And if that isn't enough of a blow to CCM's pretensions, another voice is saying the real world-class children's museum in Illinois isn't in the Chicago area at all, but in Rockford.

The child-haters at Parents Magazine rank the CCM in 31st place in a list of America's top 50 children's museums, miles behind the Discovery Center in Rockford, which comes in 5th, the Exploration Station, Bourbonnais, at 15th, and the Children's Museum of Illinois in Decatur, at 23. Indianapolis's Children's Museum tops the list. Read the full Parents Magazine story here.

The Indianapolis museum, the largest in the survey, has 365,000 square feet of exhibits. The proposed CCM building will have 100,000. Which raises still another troubling question: how long will it before the aggressively expansionist CCM returns to the well, with demands to gobble up more and more parkland as it continues to grow?


Anonymous said...

I am just so, so sick of listening to you. Argue about losing park land. Argue that the mayor is an idiot. Argue that you don't want "those types of childrren" in your neighborhood (you are a fool if you don't think people haven't said this ... and MUCH worse) over and over again. BUT stop trying to question the credibility, the need, or the value of the chicago children's museum. Have you been there? Have you done research besides an easy google check which refers back to some silly parents magazine poll that relies on no research? Perhaps you would be surprised to know that they have received a National Science Foundation for their work in developing community programming and exhibits on architecture and science -- gasp! One of these children give you a run for your money one day. Perhaps you'd be surprised to know that this museum brings in visiting artists representing cultural partners from all over the city, country and world. Perhaps you'd be interested to know that the museum has award winning school group programs and Chicago Public Schools considers the museum a vital partner. Argue whatever the hell you want. But stop the madness of saying the museum isn't important, vital, and a huge asset to our city.

Anonymous said...

Great point about expansion. The Indy Children's Museum has gobbled up an entire block with expansions, starting with an old house on the North Side during my youth 40 years ago. Also, let's not forget that museums in parks get money from a city fund.

JBP said...

The current Chicago Childrens Museum is about as important culturally as the play area at any McDonald's. Soft blocks, racing ducks, and wacky mirrors are not really that educational.

Wouldn't the money be better spent on encouraging children to visit a (sort of) real museum such as the Art Institute or Field?

Lynn Becker said...

So, let's see:
Parents Magazine: silly poll that relies on no research? Did YOU read their article? The entries on the top ten museums appears very seriously researched, with detailed descriptions of the virtues of each.

Delia O'Hara - another idiot, I suppose, but one who HAS researched children's museums in the area and finds the CCM a distant third.

"BUT stop trying to question the credibility, the need, or the value of the chicago children's museum? News flash: I've never questioned the need or value of the CCM, I question the need of it in Grant Park.

You mention some very laudable aspects of the CCM and its programs. I don't challenge them, but I would suggest that there's probably a dozen or more other fine museums in the Chicago area that could make similar claims. That makes them valuable civic assets; it does not make them "world class", which is the propaganda the CCM's supporters are cramming down our throats as part of its campaign. The Art Institute is "World Class". The Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium are "World Class". To claim that the CCM is in their league is an insult to those extraordinary institutions.

And I DO question the credibility of an institution that's run a disgraceful, deceptive campaign in support of its cause:
- I'm not the one withholding renderings of the its project from the public; that would be the CCM
- I'm not the one who hijacked a community meeting for area residents; that would be the CCM
- I'm not the one running a desperate, gutter, race-baiting campaign. That would be the CCM.(You know what I'm sick of listening to? The way museum supporters CONTINUE citing a few, always unnamed, people, who they just know have racist, anti-child motives, to proclaim that this proves that anyone who opposes the CCM's land grab hates kids, blacks and Hispanics. You know this is complete BS, yet you persist in pushing this argument because you know those based on the merits aren't getting you anywhere. Check out my website and see the pictures of kids of all races and nationalities playing joyously in Crown Fountain - I've got dozens more. Kids are both beneficiaries of and a great asset to Millennium Park, just like kids I see playing in the current Daley Bicentennial Plaza. They don't seem to need an intrusive 100,000 square foot building to have fun.)

And, finally, it's not me, but the Chicago's Children Museum that has taken it's programs, its awards, and the good will it's built up in the community and thrown it into the toilet for a campaign that uses the kind of logical, substantive arguments you make as window-dressing to obscure an effort predicated on evasion, deception, race-baiting and raw political muscle.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see architect maya lin redesign the field house in an understated manner, and i'd love to see another billionaire come along and fund a different project in grant park: upgrade the fieldhouse and repair parking structure leaks. pritzkers have lost all credibility as philanthropists. we need a new breed of billionaire "green" philanthropists to take the reins of this affair. allow other billionaires to participate and contribute to upgrade the public parks. pritzkers have demonstrated nothing but self-serving and self-interested motives. their reputation for doing good work has been completely shattered. mayor daley has been an embarrasment. the olympic committee must be watching this too. do you think they are impressed?

Anonymous said...

How about we end this debate now?

Let's build the CCM in Lakeshore East's new park. Then those living on Randolph can have their lovely Daley-Bi all for themselves.

Anonymous said...

There is a new 'green billionaire'. Or maybe a few: parents at the Latin School who just managed to snare exclusive use of a section of Lincoln Park by the simple act of pre-paying their user fees. The Latin School says they will let the general public use the soccer field after dark so Chicago Park District taxpayers are spending $250,000+ to install lighting.

For all the screaming about CCM in Grant Park, at least this is before construction starts. The Latin School contract is a done deal --unless a citizens files a lawsuit. (There is no park advocacy group with the funds to do so.)

Anonymous said...

i just took a stroll in grant park near the bridge and the tranquility and quietude were wonderful. i could calm down and contemplate. i better enjoy every second of this, before daley sends the midnight bulldozers. people were coming off the bridge to stroll in the gardens. birds were twittering in the trees. this is true quality of life. it is so relaxing. the stillness and quiet. it is irreplaceable. the value of this experience is priceless.

i also walked by pritzker park on the corner of van buren and state. that is a perfect spot for a museum. near subway, L and busses. totally unused space. looks to be about 100K sq. foot with room for expansion. i say we put it there.

Anonymous said...

" Also, let's not forget that museums in parks get money from a city fund."

This is a critically small fund, constrained by a complex tax equation. Someone should pull the (public) financials from the Park District and the "Museums in the Park" and give us a hard number. It's tiny and too-little already.

10 important Chicago institutions rely on those subsidies to support their culturally and economically-significant programs -- evocative, City-building programs that help define Chicago. Who honestly believes that CCM is in that league?

In any case, another museum like CCM drawing Park District subsidies (by moving into the Park District) might expect a 10-percent boost or more to their 9 million dollar annual operating budget. Wow!

In return, the Park District will have less to spend on places like the AIC or the Field or the Du Sable. Again, the total subsidy is capped; 11 museums must share the same amount as 10. A DaleyBi CCM would take money from a large list of legit museums -- by design, though I have yet to hear anyone publically admit that this is a primary motive for the move.

To the previous poster: Van Buren and State looks great. Across the street from the library? Perfect, if you're really interested in The Children -- or if you're interested in the City, which could use exactly this kind of loud, billionaire-supported investment into South State to turn our Great Street around, especially considering the loss of Fields and the potential dissolution of Mr Sullivan's amazing contributions.

It's about time we stopped "recovering" from the Transit Mall, don't you think? Seriously. CCM could be an awesome, family-friendly contribution to some kind of Congress anchor, alongside Harold Washington, with no need for wig shops or whatever happened to that Burger King?

b2arch said...

The Indianapolis Children's Museum is located at Meridian and 30th Streets. That is 30th Street as in well north of downtown. The argument that not allowing the city to decimate the park is racist and anti-child is a rather dusgusting argument. Between the Bush Administration and the People's Republic of Daley and Stroeger haven't we had enough facism for a decade??

Anonymous said...

If you read the editorial in the Tr
ibune yesterday you realize that those who support this folly did not anticipate questions and when pushed on several issues, they could not back up their assertions. A lot of homework was not done. It certainly showed that that Daley just wanted to push this through., and that the panel has the mentality of a 6 year old.

We do not need a Chidren's Museum. Kids need to be outside not in an underground crypt. Kind of a creepy idea.

Also the CM has applied for and received a liquor license!
What are these people thinking??? Parents drinking while their children run around underground!

It dosn't take a whole lot of brain power!

Anonymous said...

The entire reason the Children's Museum is moving is due to proposed gaming permits moving into Navy Pier. You can't have a Children's Museum near drinking, gambling, and the resultant extras that go along with such activities. The Mayor and the Governor are about four steps of you all on this one.

Lynn Becker said...

Sorry, Daley isn't "ahead" of anybody. He just keeps denying there's any plan for a casino at Navy Pier. This has been the subject of speculation for some time. Some informed observers think CCM's Navy Pier site is actually too small for the kind of casino the mayor is lusting after. (Upcoming cliche alert!) Only time will tell.