Exposition '93 will give plenty of reasons to say, 'Chicago is ++ my kind of town'

April 18, 1993|By Alfred Borcover | Alfred Borcover,Chicago Tribune

Hardly anyone shed a tear last year when Chicago didn't host half of the 1992 World's Fair to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World.

Mired in politics, lack of direction and financial woes, Chicago abandoned the fair the city had been awarded along with Seville, Spain. Seville, the city from which Columbus sailed, had its six months in the sun with Expo '92.

Some wags suggest that had Chicago gone ahead with the fair, construction for Expo '92 would just now be nearing completion, happened back in 1893.

But, hey, Chicago always is ready for a good time and this year the city seems to have its act together.

Rather than worry about the 1992 non-fair and the surrounding Columbus hoopla, Chicago instead will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its own World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, which marked the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage with an explosion of artistic and technical achievement from around the world. No construction needed. Well, not quite.

"Grand Illusions: Chicago's World's Fair of 1893" will be marked by an extensive exhibition at the Chicago Historical Society from May 1 through July 15, 1994. "Grand Illusions" will consist of a detailed scale model of the fair and a multimedia show re-creating its lights and sounds. The model, lighted as if it were dusk, includes a working Ferris wheel, a ride introduced at the fair, but not Little Egypt, a hootchy-kootchy dancer who became the fair's star.

Pavilions within the museum's galleries will, among other things, show how the fair was organized. A pavilion called "Image and Illusion" will depict the fair's use of classical European styles of architecture and of official fair photographers to control the the exposition's images. The "Culture and Commerce" pavilion will show how merchandising was used by the fair as a form of entertainment for the first time, with products of rival companies placed side by side. The "Pride and Prejudice" pavilion not only will demonstrate American achievements since 1492, but also will tell how African Americans almost were excluded from the fair. "Tradition and Triumph," a fourth pavilion, will portray the significant role of women in the fair.

To kick off the summer celebration of the Columbian Exposition, the city will launch Chicago '93 with Chicago Day on May 2. On that day, 16 of the metropolitan area's cultural, educational and social institutions will be open free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with programs and events.

Lois Weisberg, Chicago's commissioner of cultural affairs, said, "To my knowledge there has never been such a large, unique cooperative coming together [of institutions] to promote the positive aspects of this great city."

Participants in Chicago Day include the Art Institute, Auditorium Theatre (lobby tours), Chicago Academy of Sciences, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Historical Society, Orchestra Hall (tours), Columbia College/Museum of Contemporary Photography, DuSable Museum of African American History, FieldMuseum of Natural History, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Jane Addams' Hull House Museum at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Hull House Association, Museum of Science and Industry, Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago.

Throughout the summer there will be programs offered by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, including a series of Jackson Park walks revisiting the 1893 fairgrounds site.

A Chicago '93 calendar of events is available from the Chicago Office of Tourism, Historic Water Tower, 806 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611; (312) 280-5740 or (800) 487-2446.

The World's Columbian Exposition celebration is expected to draw an additional 100,000 visitors who will be attending related conferences. Chicago gets about 11.6 million visitors a year.

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