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I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.

Song of the Open RoadMichigansign
Ogden Nash

Written as a parody of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, Ogden Nash’s four-line gem (above) also takes direct aim at the ever-invading creep of commercialism, which often obscures culture.

Metaphorically, the Chicago Cultural Mile is the beautiful tree that often is obscured by flashy commercialism, or more specifically, better-known Chicago neighborhoods that are popular because of the types of businesses located there. The Magnificent Mile, for example, is one of the most popular and successful retail shopping districts in the world; Wrigleyville is a thriving entertainment district because of its storied baseball team, a landmark stadium and the multitude of taverns and nightclubs that surround it; the Loop, because of its unique mix of businesses, restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues has long had an international reputation as one of the most vibrant and commercially successful city centers in the world.

Consider, on the other hand, the Chicago Cultural Mile (Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River south to Roosevelt Road and including the Museum Campus). True, it also is home to businesses, office buildings, retail shops, entertainment venues and a number of interesting taverns, just like those other neighborhoods. But the Cultural Mile also plays host to several world-class museums, dozens of smaller special interest exhibitions and galleries, one of the most famous symphony orchestras in the world, an almost acoustically-perfect concert hall, three of the most-visited and well-loved parks in the city, world famous sculptures, popular public art, gardens, several historic and architecturally significant buildings, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Fine Arts Building, several large colleges and universities and much more. A vast and diverse concentration of businesses, organizations and cultural institutions that other city neighborhoods can only covet.

This blog — the Cultural Mix — celebrates the institutions, the organizations, the activities and the people who comprise the Chicago Cultural Mile, the beautiful, unobscured “tree” in the heart of Chicago.

Read, learn, share and enjoy. Culture involves everyone.

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