Cultural Advisory Council February 18, 2020 Meeting Minutes



Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, chair; Alison Cuddy, vice chair; Paola Aguirre-Serrano, Sandra Delgado, Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Tracie D. Hall, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ginger Lane, Josephine Lee, Tonika Lewis Johnson, William Michel, Heather A. Miller, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, David M. Schmitz, Jennifer A. Scott, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford.

Absent: Paul Sznewajs

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Mark Kelly, Melanie Wang, Erin Harkey, Kwame Amoaku, Gabriel Godwin, Ann Hickey, Maggie Cullerton Hooper, Lisa Laws, Lisa Lorick, Nina Melendez, Tara Vock, Sue Vopicka, Jennifer Johnson Washington.

Office of the Mayor: Daniel Lurie



I. Welcome Remarks

The meeting was called to order at 3:10pm

Amina Dickerson, chair, greeted the Council, introducing vice chair Alison Cuddy and the DCASE team supporting CAC. Amina Dickerson reminded members to complete their required trainings and certifications and that the Open Meetings Act applies to current meeting, including opportunity for public comment. She then reviewed the meeting agenda and offered encouragement to the Council on the important work ahead to be done on behalf of the city, artists, and communities.

Mark Kelly, commissioner of DCASE, thanked the chair and vice chair and welcomed full council on their new appointments. He introduced the DCASE team supporting CAC, and restated the opportunity to bring fresh perspectives, community connections, input, advice, and guidance to the department and Mayor Lightfoot’s developing arts agenda.

Daniel Lurie, chief of policy for Mayor Lightfoot, thanked the CAC for their service on behalf of the mayor. He described his enthusiasm looking forward to working with the CAC and the Mayor’s administration to rethink Chicago arts and culture from a policy perspective. He acknowledged Erin Harkey, deputy commissioner of programming at DCASE, who has an added role with his office to help build the city’s arts policy.

Daniel Lurie then shared a brief presentation to illustrate the work, currently centering on four proposed pillars:

  • Arts education
  • Livability
  • Creative economy
  • Interagency workgroup

To advance the conversation and bring community leaders directly into dialogue to further inform this developing agenda, the Mayor intends to hold an Arts & Culture Town Hall event on April 13, 2020. Daniel Lurie mentioned he will share more details for how CAC will be encouraged to lead and be involved in the process.


II. Cultural Advisory Council Member Introductions

Commissioner Kelly commented that DCASE and the Mayor were eager to see the newly reconvened CAC be more reflective of the city and its vibrant diversity of race, ethnicity, geography, creative form and including organizations and individual artists. The Commissioner applauded the Council for their taking on this new role and invited them to introduce themselves to the room. All present Council members introduced themselves and briefly shared their role in the arts and reflections on their appointment. The Commissioner also introduced all DCASE personnel to the room.


III. Cultural Advisory Council Strategy Discussion

Commissioner Kelly presented an overview summary of DCASE’s current programs, operations and services, as well as broad strategies guiding the department’s future. The Commissioner spoke to the importance of collaboration and the department’s continued commitment to leveraging its assets to support the broader cultural landscape and serve as a convener and connector across Chicago’s creative communities.

Amina Dickerson opened the floor to CAC members to begin open discussion in response to the City and DCASE’s presentations, as well as comment on the purpose and activity they would like to see the Cultural Advisory Council take on this term. She advised members will provide advice, counsel, encouragement, support and advocacy, not just to serve as a passive group receiving reports.

Alison Cuddy added the Council has great opportunity with exciting shifts taking place. She encouraged members to join in civic conversation to further DCASE and the Mayor’s Office in their work to support the city. She remarked how they are called to form a public body “not of one mind but of one will”, acknowledging individual expertise and perspectives, but focused on what collective work can be done as a Council to achieve greater goals.

Members took turns to offer comments and questions in response to the presentations and the chair and vice chair’s remarks. Topics include:

  • More funding for arts education in schools and have arts education and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) represented in future meetings
  • Clarify definitions such as livability and affordable housing, acknowledging working artists also face issues such as housing and food insecurity
  • Accessibility and people with disabilities to be more directly represented, its absence from listed arts priorities being noticeable
  • Arts to be more embedded in policy work, in areas such as public health or housing, rather than outside from an arts and culture lens
  • Broaden language of city grant programs and services to ensure all communities see themselves represented, such as Native Americans who historically have not
  • Increasing grant funds and how to work toward enabling a more permanent, sustainable financial investment in the arts to make long term, systemic impact
  • Exploring other cities’ models of financing and funding artwork as shared value capital investment through creative private partnerships
  • Call for greater and more leadership level representation of Latino artists given significant population in Chicago, often missed opportunity to speak to the unique needs and lack of access to the arts in Latino communities
  • Desire for more connection between existing planning and civic efforts by the Mayor’s Office, some disconnect since the transition and past plans and reports
  • Attention to be paid to process and structure of future CAC work, while acknowledging expectations of the group as a public body
  • Building greater partnerships with educational institutions
  • Bringing the Council together to work more collaboratively in bringing benefit to the city as a whole

Amina Dickerson and Alison Cuddy thanked the group for their comments and committed to take them into consideration, along with feedback in a member survey


IV. DCASE Presentation on Year of Chicago Music

Commissioner Kelly was invited to share information about DCASE’s yearly theme to align department resources and programs in support of a Chicago arts community. He shared an overview presentation to introduce the current Year of Chicago Music.

Commissioner Kelly summarized the thinking that Chicago has always been a world music capital but does not historically come together as a citywide music community – until now. He mentioned the recent kickoff event for the music industry, as well as DCASE’s plans for a new civic initiative where the city to promotes music gatherings across Chicago, timed with some of the city’s largest free music festivals – House, Gospel and Blues Fest – that will also have a Chicago musician focus.

Commissioner Kelly emphasized the importance of community participation in the work, referencing the Year of Chicago Music steering committee of 40 individuals, 12 working groups and 250 music professionals offering time and expertise toward marketing, youth, research, professional development, music legacy, and others.

CAC members involved with the Year of Chicago Music were invited to offer their own perspective. Robert Gomez, Juan Dies and Margaret Murphy-Webb shared observations about the city’s effort to be more relevant and involve community leaders with decision making. They observed voices of individuals and smaller organizations being lifted alongside larger, well-resourced institutions. Small businesses such as those represented in Chicago Independent Venue League and community schools such as Old Town School of Folk Music see themselves with a seat at the table.

Robert Gomez mentioned DCASE’s role in pushing agencies to partner and leverage their resources such as Choose Chicago. Rather than an isolated branding effort, the Year of Chicago Music shows a greater move toward unity across the sector and the city showing pride for what is authentic and real about Chicago’s music culture.


V. Next Steps and Action Items

Chair Amina Dickerson noted that no members of the public signed up requesting the opportunity to provide public comment for this meeting.

She then invited DCASE staff to share any closing follow-up items. Melanie Wang of DCASE thanked the members for their open and eager engagement to the work and to expect some post-meeting materials and a link to a member survey by email. Erin Harkey restated the forthcoming Mayor’s Arts and Culture Town Hall and opportunities for CAC to join as facilitators and have greater involvement in the process.


VI. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 5pm

Minutes submitted by Nina Melendez, DCASE