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Arts & Power

Call it a portfolio of power. In a series of portraits, we highlight six of the most powerful professionals on Chicago’s cultural landscape. From a best-selling novelist to the man who raised Chicago’s international theater profile, meet a truly inspiring and remarkable group.  

Expo Chicago President and Director Tony Karman at The Arts Club of Chicago

The New York Times best-selling author Gillian Flynn outside her Ukrainian Village home

Tony Karman
For Tony Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago, reflecting on this fall’s inaugural art exhibition—which welcomed 120 galleries and 27,000 visitors to Navy Pier—is all about looking forward. “No fair is built in a year,” he says. “It was an extraordinary step forward, but I think we feel comfortable that what was presented was a fair that fit the legacy of a great art fair in our city and matched the kind of presentation that any international contemporary modern art fair should have,” he says. “That, coupled with good sales, with a city galvanized to support it, with institutional exhibitions that were well-attended and a collector base energized to support it… We’re in a great place for next year and the year after.” Though he won’t divulge a favorite artist or collector he’d love to see at Expo Chicago, he’s expecting to see more collectors from New York, L.A. and, most importantly, the Midwest. “If you go from Toronto to Denver, from Dallas to Cleveland, and all that’s in between—[and if] the collectors, museum curators, directors and trustees in all those regions come to Chicago—then we will have achieved what the international art world is looking for in a fair in Chicago.” But don’t underestimate the Midwest collectors. “I think some of the most aggressive and risk-taking contemporary collectors live in cities within the greater Midwest,” says Karman. Next year, patrons should expect a similar exhibition, fine-tuned. “Right now, it’s like any second-year fair or business. It’s looking at what worked, looking at what didn’t work and refining the presentation. We’re very bullish on the future as well as the opportunity to collaborate again with all the institutions in our city.”

Gillian Flynn
This summer, for the first time in recent memory, a psychological thriller by a Chicago author topped The New York Times best-seller list. The novel that claimed the crown? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a former writer for Entertainment Weekly who lives with her Winnetka-raised husband and toddler son in Ukrainian Village. This isn’t the first taste of success for the 41-year-old Flynn, who grew up in Kansas City and earned her master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Her first two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, also earned rave reviews—and the movie rights to all three books have been optioned, most notably Gone Girl, which was purchased by 20th Century Fox and Reese Witherspoon’s production company. Gone Girl, which is on track to sell 2 million copies by the end of the year, tells the twisted tale of Amy and Nick Dunne, a young Brooklyn couple who return to Nick’s recession-stricken Missouri hometown to take care of his sick parents. When Amy goes missing, Nick is the main suspect—and the twists and turns that follow her disappearance are smart, scary and completely addictive. Flynn is currently working on the Gone Girl screenplay; Dark Places’ screenplay was written by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who is also directing, and has Amy Adams attached to play the lead role; and Sharp Objects is still in the early stages of development. As for the controversial ending to Gone Girl: “For me, it was the only ending that worked,” says Flynn. “There were a couple other things I tried, but they were all cheesy. Yes, my characters all have lives after the ending of my books, just not happy endings.”

Lou Raizin
As the president of Broadway in Chicago, Lou Raizin has come a long way since first falling in love with the theater during a summer job as an usher. The Detroit native spent the first part of his career in the concert business, building the amphitheater industry around the country. He helped create Broadway in Chicago in 2000, and says he’s watched Chicago elevate to the third most important city in the world for theater behind New York and London. Pre-Broadway shows like this year’s Kinky Boots give Chicago visibility as a world-class city, and that’s something Raizin, who also sits on the executive committee for Choose Chicago, the city’s new tourism entity, is extremely passionate about. “We are hyper-focused on elevating Chicago as a great international city and communicating to the world what we have to offer. Once the world comes, it’s magical.” And the theaters have a lot to do with that. “Broadway in Chicago has done up to 1.7 million people a year through our doors alone,” he says. “In that case, when you look at a long-run show, 42 percent of that audience comes from 100 miles or more away. And 80 percent of that group’s primary reason for being in Chicago is to see one of our shows. So the impact turns out to be $600 to $800 million in economic output to the city and state on an annual basis.” Already helping those numbers is The Book of Mormon, opening this month. “It’s one of those unexpected delights,” he says, referring to the quirky fact that it’s written by the creators of South Park. “It is as true to musical theater as anything that’s been done before it.”

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