Writing the future

A love of literature connected one Mayer Brown veteran to a new museum

A love of literature connected one Mayer Brown veteran to a new museum
April 2017
By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

After a long and productive career as a Chicago attorney, Ivan Kane has approached retirement the way many people aspire to — by getting involved in something connected to a longtime passion.

Kane joined the board of the American Writers Museum, which opens May 16 at 180 N. Michigan Ave. Tending to the opening of the museum has taken up a decent amount of time following his retirement in January from Mayer Brown, where he spent his entire 35-year career and finished as a partner in the firm’s real estate group.

The modern museum will focus solely on American writers, which Kane said separates it from any other museum that focuses on literature.

“It’s really the only writer’s museum of its kind in the country,” Kane said. “Many writers museums focus on a specific author or authors, but this museum will celebrate the diversity of American writing in its entirety.”

Chicago Lawyer: How did your interest in literature originate?

Kane: I was an English major in college and remained a book nerd as an adult. I try to keep up with reading contemporary fiction and many of the literary classics. I’m also a casual book collector, with some focus on Mark Twain and first editions of modern classics.

CL: How did you get involved with the American Writers Museum?

Kane: Mayer Brown has had the museum as a pro bono client, and the museum itself has been in the works for over seven years. Mayer Brown has been involved with it from the start, contributing literally hundreds of hours of pro bono time. Interestingly, I just got involved in the last year, so I was a little late to the game. When I’d first heard about it during a presentation of the firm’s pro bono work, I said “That’s for me.”

When I watched my colleagues doing the work [for the museum], I realized I had skill sets and interests that I could use to contribute. I initially joined the museum’s program committee and, through that, elevated my participation to join the board. It was sort of a pivot away from the law career into something that played into my interests.

CL: What will the museum collections look like?

Kane: It’s going to be a very modern, 21st-century museum with interactive digital displays. Some will focus on individual writers and others will focus on themes that run throughout American writing. There will also be a participatory exhibit called “Story of the Day” that will allow museum patrons to participate in a crowd-created story. We will also have special exhibits, including the original manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which I believe is a 100-foot-long continuous script. It will all be a lot of fun.

CL: How much time do you intend to put into the museum?

Kane: Lately I’ve been working on it for about 10 to 15 hours a week, but right now, we’re all working toward the museum opening. It will vary once things are up and running.