From Disputed Dream to Icon of Arts Tourism -- the Building of Millennium Park, Chicago.

Welsh-born international arts expert Professor Tony Jones CBE examines the value of public art in a free Public Lecture at Swansea University.

RIAH thin image bar

Tony JonesCurrently President-emeritus  of the Art Institute of Chicago,  Tony Jones is an internationally-renowned arts administrator,  author, broadcaster, educator and exhibition curator.  His  illustrated free public lecture at Swansea University on Tuesday 10 December will discuss the creation of arguably Chicago’s most important public venture since its famous World’s Fair.

Millennium Park has been built over Chicago’s railway yards and parking lots.  Featuring major works of art and architecture, exhibitions and open-air performances, it was the vision of  former Mayor, Richard Daley.  Tony Jones was part of the project from the start.

The one-hour lecture, part of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities (RIAH) public event series,  is entitled Art + People + Money: An inside look at how Chicago created Millennium Park, what it did for the community, the economy and the city.

The lecture will describe the transformation of the downtown site, looking at how the project was funded as its budget soared, the public reaction, the long-term economic benefits, both in tourism and civic regeneration,  and most importantly, the future of this iconic project. 

Millennium ParkThe controversies raised by  the project  will also feature:  the removal of downtown parking,  problems with the railways, environmental concerns and disagreements about the public arts works themselves -- issues which culminated in havoc on the weekend when the Park opened.

Professor Jones said, “The Park is almost 100,000 sq metres in size, and it was impossible to finish for the Millennium as planned; it eventually opened in 2004 costing about £280 million pounds which was a mixture of taxpayers’ money and private philanthropy. 

“The Mayor had a simple belief for the Park – do it well, with great art and architecture, and the impact will flow over from the park into the community - ‘build it and people will come’. Internationally-known artists were invited to compete for their works to be erected in the Park, and Frank Gehry was secured to design the concert hall.

“However, the reality is that this was an incredibly difficult thing to pull off, and the tremors are still felt. It became very tense, with problems that were a millimeter away from ‘terminal’, and of course not everything worked as we planned; one of the key lessons learned is that the Park has developed a life of its own, a life that we could never have predicted.

Professor Jones continued, “Given the discussions about public art in the UK (Angel of the North, the Kent Horse, The Dream), and the dialogue started by Adam Price – ex-MP for Plaid Cymru - about a new contemporary art centre in Wales, ‘A Tate on the Taff’ or a ‘A Guggenheim for Wales’, this is a timely lecture that considers the issues surrounding such a major project and asks - does it work?”

The event is coordinated by playwright and SwanseaUniversity’s Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing,  D.J. Britton.

“People sometimes say that art and economics don’t mix,” said  David Britton.  “Yet when we look at a project like Chicago’s  Millennium Park, we see that the artist’s imagination  can be a powerful agent for change.  As we consider the role of the arts in developing a modern Welsh economy, to have Tony Jones here in Swansea to talk us through both the dream and the reality of Chicago’s great venture  is a wonderful opportunity.”

The lecture takes place on Tuesday 10 December at 6.30 pm in the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building, Swansea University. There will be a reception with drinks and nibbles from 6pm. This is a free public event and all are welcome to attend.

For more information please contact:


Tel: 01792 295190