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Chance the Rapper performs at “Chance the Rapper’s Parade to the Polls” at Grant Park’s Petrillo Music Shell on Nov. 7, 2016. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Chance the Rapper, his father, among DuSable Museum’s new board

SHARE Chance the Rapper, his father, among DuSable Museum’s new board
SHARE Chance the Rapper, his father, among DuSable Museum’s new board

New blood and new buzz.

That’s what officials of the DuSable Museum of African American History brought to the iconic South Side institution with a board shake-up adding history-making Chicago artist Chance the Rapper to its board of trustees.

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, who formerly was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first deputy chief of staff and director of the office of public engagement, and currently serves as a senior advisor at Choose Chicago, will join his son on the board of the 55-year-old museum.

In addition to the father-son duo, President Barack Obama pal Eric Whitaker, a prominent physician and former executive vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center, also is joining the board.

The three, and several others to be announced, will replace nearly half of the current 18-member board of trustees at the museum at 740 E. 56th Pl., sources said Thursday night.

DuSable President and CEO Perri Irmer declined to comment when reached.

But the attorney, architect and facilities management professional who in September 2015 became the fourth president and CEO of the museum that has struggled financially in recent years has achieved quite a coup with the shake-up.

She’s helped breathe new life into a board some had described as stagnant just as the Barack Obama Presidential Center is set to be built in Jackson Park, potentially stimulating an economic revival of long-neglected, nearby neighborhoods.

Since announcement of the presidential center, the challenge that has loomed over the museum — founded in the living room of artists Charles and Margaret Burroughs — was its capacity to capitalize on the traffic and publicity sure to be drawn by its high-profile neighbor projected to open in 2021.

The presidential center is expected to attract some 800,000 visitors annually.

Among the first independent African-American history museums nationwide, DuSable, with a $4.1 million annual budget, has like most small niche museums faced declining revenues and government funding in recent years. It saw about 100,000 visitors in 2015, compared to nearly 118,500 in 2014.

It also has experienced transition pains, with a dispute over artistic direction erupting between new and older board members in 2015. Then new trustee Theaster Gates, the hip, nationally renowned installation artist, had proposed a committee that would oversee programming in tandem with nearby University of Chicago, where he is a professor. The museum’s old-school supporters, deeply distrusting of the university, cried foul.

However, the museum, deeply revered by Chicago’s black community for its unfiltered narrative of black history rarely found elsewhere, has held steady, and under Irmer achieved the prestigious status of Smithsonian Affiliation from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. last year.

Besides Gates, other current board members include longtime State Sen. Emil Jones, Jr.; the Rev. Byron T. Brazier of Apostolic Church of God; restaurateur and businessman Timothy Rand; Englewood Square developer Leon Walker; and longtime hospital exec Joyce W. Washington.

Appointment of Chance and his father, and Whitaker, fall in line with a vision early espoused by Irmer to re-focus on the museum’s mission of sparking inter-generational dialogue; as well as a vision of DuSable and other South South Side institutions to have the presidential center anchor a Museum Campus South, a proposal backed by Choose Chicago.

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