In 1966, the MCA’s founders published a booklet entitled The Reality of a Dream. The slim volume contained endorsements by Governor Kerner and Mayor Daley of the founders’ plans for a new contemporary art museum; quotations from the local press; a biography of Jan van der Marck, the new director; and a solicitation for founding pledges. It also included an exquisite essay outlining the founders’ vision. That essay, “From Dream to Reality,” is reprinted here:
After a decade of dreams, Chicago will have its Museum of Contemporary Art. To everyone who accepts the challenge of the untried and unproven, the museum will offer the excitement of discovery.
There is much yet to be explored in contemporary art that Chicagoans have been deprived of seeing.
Certainly, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the great museums in the world. Its collections are the envy of other museums and a source of rightful pride for the citizens of this community. However, it surveys all periods of art and, therefore, cannot emphasize new trends and phenomena. In this area, the new Museum of Contemporary Art intends to complement the activities of the older institution.
A museum of contemporary art is different from the general art museum where the values of the past are enshrined. Instead it is a place where new ideas are shown and tested.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is dedicated to the art of today. As no other institution in our community it will provide a forum for current creativity in the arts. The Museum of Contemporary Art will explore the new. Its staff will be inquiring in outlook, liberal in viewpoint and devoted to its task. Its programs will be not only educational, but also stimulating and exciting. Headquartered in a modern, temperature-controlled building on Chicago’s Near North Side, the new museum will be an attractive and accessible showcase for the arts of today. As a champion for what is artistically meaningful, the Museum of Contemporary Art will bring to mid-America a new focus. This will not be a regional museum but, rather, a gathering place for the best in art today, regardless of where it is produced.
Chicago has a great potential to become an art capital. There is every reason to believe that the city of Vachel Lindsay, Carl Sandburg, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright can sustain the quality of achievement and the degree of creative excitement necessary to produce and support great talent. If the arts do not flourish here, if artists move elsewhere, then it is up to the community to devise new ways and provide new means to remedy the situation. Chicago has the opportunity to meet this challenge.
The Museum of Contemporary Art will become an important force in the world of art. It will originate exhibitions that have not yet been seen in other parts of the country. It will also bring to Chicago exhibitions that previously could not be shown because of the lack of a sponsoring institution. Education, a prime obligation in the furthering of the arts, will be an integral part of the new museum’s program.
Since there will be a strong emphasis on innovation and experiment, there is ample room for collaboration among practitioners of today’s many-faceted art expressions. A program of thought provoking exhibitions will be amplified with lectures, symposia, roundtable discussions, films and musical performances, in an atmosphere that is both congenial and attuned to the needs of a discriminating community.
Acquisition of major works by contemporary artists will form the basis of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection. Gifts to the collection will be actively solicited from among the many fine private collections of contemporary art in Chicago and elsewhere. Such gifts to the museum, held in trust for the public, will provide Chicagoans with enjoyment for generations to come.