See all the names for 2022


As we near the end of 2022, the writers and critics of A&E take a look back on the year to celebrate some people who have made a difference when it comes to the arts.

Chicago indie rock band Dehd, (left to right) Emily Kempf, Eric McGrady and Jason Balla, are the Chicagoans of the Year for Music, pop/rock.

“2022 has been something of a banner year for this Chicago-based trio,” writes Britt Julious. The band released “Blue Skies,” their fourth and most celebrated record yet.

“The highlight has been playing our new record in real life, real rooms, for real people,” said band member Jason Balla.

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Drummer/producer/composer Makaya McCraven is the Tribune's Chicagoan of the Year in Jazz.

“Makaya McCraven’s marriage of here-and-now improvisation with a hip-hop producer’s sensibility has made him a global musical eminence,” writes Hannah Edgar.

This year, McCraven released “In These Times,” his first album to exclusively feature the compositions he’s played in his sets for years now.

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Blake-Anthony Johnson, Chicago Sinfonietta president and CEO is our Chicagoan of the Year for Classical Music.

“For the past couple of years, all eyes have been on the Chicago Sinfonietta,” writes Hannah Edgar.” In recent years, the group has started an artist-in-residence program, implemented a new pay-what-you-can ticket pricing model, doubled its operating budget and announced new digs at the Auditorium Theatre.

And at the Sinfonietta’s helm has been Blake-Anthony Johnson, an unassuming, soft-spoken, cellist-turned-exec.

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Chicagoans of the Year for books, are library workers of Illinois, represented by Josephine Tucci, director of Lincolnwood public library, Julie Milavec, director of the Downers Grove public library, John Charastka of the library advocacy group EveryLibrary, Chris Brown, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library and Elizabeth Lynch, an Addison librarian, who helped lead a resistance on the Niles-Maine District Library board pitting library workers and their supporters against library board trustees accused of trying to defund and dismantle the library’s culture.

This year, public libraries became battlegrounds for organizations and even hate groups that were opposed to everything from mask mandates and LGBTQ rights to YA novels about racism.

“You probably heard about this,” Christopher Borrelli writes. “Less commonly reported were those library boards (in Downers Grove and elsewhere) that voted to reject such challenges and library workers who reaffirmed the foundational idea of a library as a public space for all.”

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Chicagoan of the Year for Dance is Michael McStraw, executive director of Giordano Dance Chicago. The company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and McStraw has been with GDC for a decade.

Giordano Dance Chicago marked its 60th anniversary this year after the pandemic nearly forced them to close their doors.

“Unsung heroes in the form of arts administrators saved countless organizations from financial ruin,” Lauren Warnecke writes. “In GDC’s case, that hero is executive director Michael McStraw.”

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2022 Chicagoan of the Year in film, Rebecca Fons, programming head of the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Rebecca Fons is making her mark at the Gene Siskel Film Center, which operates on a $1.5 million annual budget.

“Fons has implemented strategic shifts in its programming mix, loosened up the screening calendar to allow for more flexibility and some late additions and — crucially — attracted noticeable engagement of younger audiences,” critic Michael Phillips writes.

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Chicagoan of the Year for Theater is longtime stage director Ron OJ Parson, photographed at the Court Theatre on Dec. 15, 2022.

This year, Ron OJ Parson directed hit after hit after hit: from Tyla Abercrumbie’s epic drama “Relentless” to August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” to Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind.”

“No director did more for Chicago theater in 2022, and no artist’s talents were more needed by his town,” critic Chris Jones writes.

>> Read the full story

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