Obituary: Stanley M. Freehling, Chicago arts philanthropist, 95

Posted on: September 30, 2019

“What was the crowning achievement of Stanley M. Freehling, the extraordinary philanthropist, fund-raiser and all-around arts agitator for the State of Illinois?” writes Chris Jones in Wednesday’s (9/25) Chicago Tribune. “Was it the saving of the Goodman Theatre? The creation of Ravinia? … Creating a key foundation for the world-class contemporary art collection at the Art Institute of Chicago?” Freehling died on September 20 at age 95. “The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park has long claimed to be Freehling’s first love…. It was Freehling who began the major 1969 capital campaign that turned the outdoor music theater into a physical facility capable of attracting all manner of summer tours, classical and popular. It was Freehling who raised the money to widen the stage and improve the sound, and who created an endowment fund…. As the chair of the Illinois Arts Council in the 1970s, Freehling pushed for more state funding for the arts. [Among] other institutions [that] greatly benefited from Freehling’s largess and political advocacy [was] the Merit School of Music…. Freehling lived in Highland Park from 1951 until the day he died, but he revolutionized culture in Chicago.” Said Freehling’s daughter, Maggie Phillips, “He dedicated his whole life to the arts.”

Posted September 30, 2019