Fred Solari, a lifelong advocate for the arts and the executive director of Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre, passed away in his sleep on March 9. He was 55.
The Chicago-born Solari took over management and programming of the Athenaeum Theatre, located at 2936 N. Southport, in the summer of 1994. The venue has become one of Chicago's most popular sites for theater, dance, music and opera performances, in addition to providing affordable office space for numerous arts groups, including Lookingglass, Congo Square, Porchlight, Emerald City and the Saints. Under Solari's leadership, the building underwent an $800,000 renovation, which was completed in 2004.
One of Solari's most significant accomplishments at the Athenaeum included the co-founding ( along with John Schmitz ) of Dance Chicago, an annual dance festival that celebrated its 11th anniversary this past November. Chicago's largest and most diverse dance festival, Dance Chicago brought more than 300 companies and choreographers to the Athenaeum stage during its most recent season.
Solari garnered several awards. In 1997, the Chicago Tribune named him 'one of the 100 most notable contributors to Chicago's rich tradition of the arts in the last 150 years.' He and Schmitz received the 1998 Ruth Page Award for 'Outstanding Contribution to the Dance Community' for creating and running Dance Chicago.
Solari is survived by his wife, Joan, as well as two sons, Dan, and Andrew. His eldest son, Peter, passed away in 2005.
A memorial wake was held March 13. A memorial mass took place March 14 at St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, 1429 W. Wellington—next door to the Athenaeum Theatre.