Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Mark Kelly set to retire this fall

Mark Kelly, who worked with partners to invest in a number of major art projects across the city, was appointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2016.

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Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Mark Kelly speaks during a press conference about “Open Culture,” a plan to bring back cultural events after they were canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Goodman Theatre in the Loop, Wednesday afternoon, May 5, 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Mark Kelly will retire this fall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday.

Kelly was appointed to his role as DCASE commissioner in July 2016 by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel after working more than 40 years as an administrator for several universities, including Columbia College Chicago, Wayne State University and City Colleges of Chicago.

A news release from the mayor’s office said Kelly’s leadership in post-COVID recovery has primed the city for a resurgence of the arts.

“Following a tumultuous sixteen months battling the pandemic and advocating for Chicago’s cultural community, Commissioner Kelly’s leadership has set the stage for a very strong arts recovery with various arts and culture programs and investments that will continue with the introduction of new leadership to the department,” the release said.

In his time, Kelly worked to get partners across the city to invest in a number of public art projects, including $18.5 million supporting public art in different neighborhoods and $25 million to support monuments honoring Jean Baptiste Point DuSable and his wife, Kitihawa, among other initiatives.

As commissioner, Kelly addressed inequality in the arts by introducing several programs that prioritized the South and West sides of Chicago, including Chicago Presents, the Artists Response Program, Culture in My Neighborhood and the Neighborhood Access Program.

A national search will begin immediately while Kelly finishes his tenure and will conclude ahead of his retirement in the fall.

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