Bread and games. Nothing much has changed over the millennia. Roman emperors kept the plebs happy with bread and games; today governments, whether local or national, keep the citizens happy with pretty much the same. The bread and games have been replaced by less specific entities such as social security and public art and performances.
Every time I pass the Crown Fountain, two glass block towers with video projection and water, I am reminded of how Millennium Park is the Chicago embodiment of the bread and games concept. The Cloud Gate, lovingly named the Bean, is another enormous example of art captivating the public. But most of all, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and its smaller cousin, the Petrillo Music Shell in neighboring Grant Park, where many free performances, including the Blues, Jazz and Gospel festivals, entertain the city’s residents and tourists.
Just like Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction of the Colosseum and Pope Julius II laid the first stone for the new Saint Peter’s Basilica, Mayor Daley began Millennium Park. It is all about legacy and that is not a bad thing. We wouldn’t have these marvels of architecture and art if it wasn’t for the desire to build a legacy. It is a symbol of power, a case of civic pride, to demonstrate the ability to marvel your citizens, but maybe most of all, your neighbor’s citizens.
Unfortunately, bread will always lose against games. You cannot marvel citizens with bread. All these public displays of art and performances are part of what makes Chicago a wonderful city and believe me when I say that every dime spent is a dime well-spent. I’d just like to see some more bread as well.