Ravinia unveils plans for interactive museum with classical bent

Ravinia Festival hopes to have two major park improvements ready for concert-goers during the 2018 and 2019 summer seasons, including an interactive museum with a classical bent.The Highland Park concert venue is proposing to add the experiential exhibit...

Ravinia unveils plans for interactive museum with classical bent

Ravinia Festival hopes to have two major park improvements ready for concert-goers during the 2018 and 2019 summer seasons, including an interactive museum with a classical bent.The Highland Park concert venue is proposing to add the experiential exhibit...

25 February 2017 Saturday 09:52
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Ravinia unveils plans for interactive museum with classical bent

Ravinia Festival hopes to have two major park improvements ready for concert-goers during the 2018 and 2019 summer seasons, including an interactive museum with a classical bent.

The Highland Park concert venue is proposing to add the experiential exhibit space, known as the Ravinia Music Box, for the 2019 season. An outdoor dining veranda overlooking the park would be added in 2018. Both improvements are aimed at attracting younger audiences, particularly millennials, and reversing the declining audience for classical music.

During summer concert seasons, the Ravinia Music Box would be free to ticket-holders and open to visitors who sometimes arrive hours before the concert is scheduled to begin. The new building would be located in the northwest corner of the park.

"It will be a value-added music experience that we hope will entice all of our audience members, especially kids and families," said Welz Kauffman, Ravinia's chief executive officer, as he explained the proposed improvements to a city of Highland Park commission on Feb. 21.

"This is not just designed for classical concert nights, but also very specifically for non-classical evenings," said Kauffman, noting that audience members arriving early for non-classical concerts often are looking for something to do.

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter John Legend is set to play Ravinia Festival in June as part of his "Darkness and Light" tour, Rolling Stone magazine reported Monday.

Legend, 38, is scheduled to perform June 10 at the Highland Park venue. Ravinia organizers have not yet announced the summer schedule...

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter John Legend is set to play Ravinia Festival in June as part of his "Darkness and Light" tour, Rolling Stone magazine reported Monday.

Legend, 38, is scheduled to perform June 10 at the Highland Park venue. Ravinia organizers have not yet announced the summer schedule...

During the off-season, the center would be available to school groups and for other pre-arranged visits.

Kauffman said Ravinia has been working for 10 years with BRC Imagination Arts to figure out what would make the experience enticing. The creative firm developed the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, among many other experiential museum spaces.

"We feel that this is the chance to take a chance," said Kauffman, noting the project doesn't face the usual marketing issues because visitors already are in Ravinia Park for a certain amount of time.

Inside the Ravinia Music Box, two gallery spaces will flank a 65-seat theater.

The Highland Park plan commissioner stopped at three of the spots where his wireless provider is proposing to mount small cell antennas on utility...

The Highland Park plan commissioner stopped at three of the spots where his wireless provider is proposing to mount small cell antennas on utility...

"Sixty-five seats is two school buses," Kauffman explained. "You don't want more than 65 kids. They won't have a good time. They will be distracted."

Visitors will progress from an interactive exhibit space into the theater for a show lasting 7 to 11 minutes. From there, they'll move into the second exhibit space.

Kauffman said the audience for classical music has been declining for four decades, and there was a 10 percent drop in the American audience in just the last four years.

"When it comes to the classical music challenge, we feel this is the time to think big, to make no small plans, to cast a very wide net and invite all audiences to the table," Kauffman said. "It's time we remove the arrogance and condescension that permeates the classical music world."

The second floor of the Ravinia Music Box will be partially enclosed and feature an outdoor cocktail area overlooking the grounds. If all goes as planned, Ravinia hopes to open the Ravinia Music Box for the city of Highland Park's 150th anniversary in 2019.

An open-air dining veranda will be added onto to the existing dining pavilion. The veranda will both overlook the grounds and provide cover for an existing patio below.

Kauffman said Ravinia's dining facility has come off as foreboding to some patrons.

"Since we opened the building in 2007, we have had people wonder if the public was invited or if it was a special donor club," Kauffman said. "You don't know exactly where to go in and it's a little hermetically sealed."

Kauffman said younger audiences want more outdoor dining with a view and opportunities for an elegant, but speedy experience. Ravinia hopes to have the new dining amenities in place for the 2018 concert season.

Kauffman's remarks came during a preliminary discussion with the city's plan and design commission. The proposal will require a public hearing before the commission, which has not yet been scheduled, and approval by the Highland Park City Council.

kberkowitz@pioneerlocal.com

@KarenABerkowitz

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