11/29/2011 03:33 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2012

I Remember Maggie Daley ... a Muse for the Arts in Chicago

I know the word muse is an overused term for people who inspire creativity in others, but I find it appropriate to use when I remember the spirit of Maggie Daley and her commitment to the youth of Chicago. She inspired and she worked hard on this relationship. It wasn't a matter of a casual interlocutory interface between students and mentor. It was a hands-on, face to face persona that she presented day after day, month after month, year after year for over two decades.

Maggie was a real patron of the arts as well as a muse who knew the importance of incorporating the arts into the fabric of education. She realized that the schools didn't have the resources to fully support curriculum that offered instruction in many arts disciplines and so thought up the idea of developing an activity that would offer students a summer time program with an employment benefit -- Gallery 37, located on State Street, two blocks from the Chicago Cultural Center. Years later she organized a year-round program that supported after school activities that resulted in the esteemed After School Matters. Maggie Daley was always busy thinking and planning.

I saw Maggie Daley in action regularly during my ten years working at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. She opted to walk, not ride the elevators, with great regularity up the grand staircase of the Chicago Cultural Center to an office on the third floor where she initially orchestrated the foundation of Gallery 27. This esteemed summer program brought national attention to Chicago and encouraged other cities to develop their own summer arts/employment programs.

She was a regular presence during the summers on the saw-dust covered grounds of this tent city that was in many ways an "Occupy Chicago" arts project, attracting positive attention from workers in the neighborhood as well as visitors from across the globe who stopped by to be amazed at the productivity of teens from all across the landscape of Chicago. I too was part of the constant parade of gawkers who regularly spent part of my lunch hour wandering through the tents admiring the prints, paintings, sculptures, and dance and music classes of energetic young people who were ecstatic to have been selected to be a part of something very special.

As a woman of approximately the same age as Maggie, I admired her passion for this work. As people so often say of people who are above a certain age who happen to still participate in life with vigor and eager anticipation of every day: 'they haven't lost their mojo yet.' Maggie never lost hers.

Pat Johnson
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