Former CSO fund-raiser hired as new Grant Park Music Festival chief

Wed Oct 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Elizabeth Hurley
Elizabeth Hurley

Reflecting the current straitened financial environment for arts organizations, the Grant Park Music Festival has turned to an experienced fund-raiser as its new executive director.

Elizabeth Hurley, current director of development for the Metropolitan Opera who has also logged extensive time at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will assume leadership of the lakefront summer festival Dec. 1.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to join the Grant Park Music Festival family,” said Hurley, 47, in a statement released Wednesday morning by the festival. “This festival is unique in that it is free and accessible to all – something that is made possible thanks to strong public and private partnerships.  With outstanding musical leadership from Carlos Kalmar and Christopher Bell, and the commitment of the orchestra and chorus, we are providing a wonderful gift to the city. I have always admired the Grant Park Music Festival and cannot imagine a better place to be.”

Hurley’s background is centered in fund-raising rather than artistic management. The bulk of Hurley’s experience was her fifteen years at the CSO (1990-2005), the last five as vice-president for development. Prior to her job at the Met, Hurley was managing director of development for the U.S Olympic Committee from 2005-2006.

Henry Fogel, president of Roosevelt University and Hurley’s former boss at the Chicago Symphony, said that her lack of artistic management experience should not be an issue. “She knows music very well, even if working directly in the artistic area is not part of her professional experience,” said Fogel.   “The  Grant Park Orchestra has a very strong artistic staff. Looking at where government funding is going, locally and nationally, it is probably in the development area that they need the greatest imagination and growth, and she can provide that. I think Elizabeth is a very good hire – she was one of the best development people I’ve ever worked with.”

Hurley has a tough act to follow, in the wake of James Palermo’s fourteen years at the Grant Park helm, an era that saw increased artistic success and the building of the Pritzker Pavilion. Palermo is currently president and CEO of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

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