Spotlight: Tony Karman

Tony Karman lives and works in Chicago where he is the President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO.

How long have you lived in Chicago and what brought you there? I moved here in 1982, with a liberal arts degree and a big question mark of what to do. I was raised in Rock Island (Quad Cities in western Illinois) but I come from a large Greek family that all lived here. I had planned to stop here for a couple of months, make a little money and then head west…I never left. I have never heeded the call to leave this great city and I am ever grateful, and proud, to called this my professional home for over 33 years.

How has living in Chicago affected your work? I have always been, and will always be, a Chicago booster. I believe strongly that Chicago is a city where you can immediately contribute if you want to. No barriers. And if you move here, that collectively, “we” genuinely try to help you find your way to succeed. It is with ethos in mind, that I am grateful for being able to navigate through my career to find some successes.

Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? Everyone! Honestly, I can’t help myself and truly believe that partnership and collaboration are the keys to any great success.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work? I realize that the question would be better for an individual or an artist to answer, but if I can answer this from the perspective of the overall art fair experience, I would say – wonder, provocation and inspiration. Add a little ”can’t wait until next year” reaction and we have done our job.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? In the city…home. In the world (I have to choose)…resting on top of the mountain above our village in Greece overlooking the mountains and the Aegean sea. Magic.

If you were a drink what drink would you be? A Boulevardier cocktail. A little sweet, a litter bitter, some aged vermouth…and hopefully always refreshing.

What phrases or trends do you wish to never come back? “and umm” and “like”.

What do you do when you’re not busy with EXPO? Unfortunately…I never seem to be “not busy” with the exposition. But when I do get that down time, I relish a simple night at home with my wife, two cats, some Thai food and a great TV show…

What are you really excited about right now? EVERYTHING. Honestly, we have some extraordinary programming, new initiatives and events to be announced for this years EXPO CHICAGO, and our list of /Dialogues speakers (our conference and panel programming at the exposition) is almost complete bringing in leading artists and arts professionals to our city. It is going to be great.

Most embarrassing moment? I remember being asked to give a talk at the Art Institute (back in the 80s) on the work I did on the Percent for Art Ordinance and program while working at the city. I had memorized my whole speech the night before and when the time came for me to speak on the panel, I forgot where to start and I completely froze. Completely. There I was, 200 people watching and I couldn’t utter a word. After that, I vowed never to memorize a speech again.