Breaking the Box: Do We Need Arts Institutions in the 21st Century? The Case of Classical Music

George Lepauw

January 14, 2014 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 289B

George Lepauw, pianist and founder of the International Beethoven Project

The 21st century and its social, technological, and economic revolutions have created a major paradigm shift for the arts in our society. Sustaining our cultural heritage is becoming increasingly difficult and challenging, yet adapting to new models is slow and haphazard, especially for older, heavier institutions that cannot easily turn on a dime. The time has come to put everything on the table and question the role of these institutions, without the usual reliance on stale assumptions, in order to provide a clear purpose for the arts in our century. Tradition aside, do we need the arts to be curated and preserved by institutions? And if so, what is their place, and how are we to sustain them? Taking the example of classical music to examine these questions, I will lay out the specific challenges to the idea that we must as a society institutionally preserve this art form and ask whether or not classical music and its admirers are better off with, or without, major institutions.

Recent seasons have been extremely exciting for concert pianist and passionate cultural activist George Lepauw. Most recently named Chicagoan of the Year (2012) for Classical Music in the Chicago Tribune and listed in Chicago Magazine’s Classical Music “Power List” (2013), George represents the ideal 21st century musician, intensely focused on his art and wholly engaged with the world. “A prodigious pianist” (Chicago Tribune), George is very committed to the Chicago concert and cultural scene. In 2009 he founded the International Beethoven Project, a non-profit organization focused on revolutionizing classical culture, as well as the Beethoven Spirit Award, an international prize established to recognize exceptional human beings who have used culture to make the world a better place; and in 2011, he founded the annual Beethoven Festival, a radical new kind of happening that focuses on the humanistic spirit of Beethoven and his belief that art could make the world a better place. George began piano studies at the age of three in Paris with Aida Barenboim, and began concertizing at the age of ten. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a double major in English Literature and History, and received his Masters of Music in Piano Performance from Northwestern University. George is a frequent guest on Chicago’s classical station 98.7 WFMT, and has appeared on local, national and international radio and television.


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