Chicago taps eBay for cultural funds

The City of Chicago is joining the eBay Nation, sponsoring an online yard sale to raise funds for cultural programs.

Lois Weisberg, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, said Wednesday she believes the Great Chicago Fire Sale, to be held Dec. 2 to 16, will be the first eBay auction organized by a U.S. municipality.

By Charles Storch
Tribune staff reporter,1,1861219.story?coll=chi-business-hed

Hani Durzy, an eBay spokesman, could not confirm whether the effort is unprecedented, but he said it is a departure from the usual use of eBay by government entities: selling their surplus goods.

Weisberg said she wanted to pursue the sale "because I was looking for new ways to raise private funds other than at dinner parties."

Among items being tagged for sale are pieces from former city public exhibits as well as hotel and dining packages from the hospitality industry. The city also will let bidders vie to dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Other items are an architectural drawing of Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion signed by designer Frank Gehry; an original 1960s Playboy Bunny costume; a dinner party prepared by Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef; a cow from the "Cows on Parade" exhibition; and birdhouses from the recent public art exhibition "For the Birds."

The city also is asking the public to donate items or services, especially with Chicago themes. Items should have a minimum value of $100.

Weisberg said sale proceeds will go to the Chicago Cultural Center, the Gallery 37 arts job-training program, the Clarke House Museum and grants to artists and arts groups.

She said she hopes the sale will raise at least $300,000. But she also sees immeasurable promotional benefits for the city.

"If this works, it will be bigger than the cows," she said, referring to the widely imitated public art exhibition of 1999. "Other cities will want to do it."

Asked whether the proceeds might help soothe the city’s budget woes, she said, "I haven’t told the mayor yet."

Information on donating and participating in the auction will be available on the Web site or by calling 312-742-2151.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

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