Cultural Advisory Council February 8, 2022 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, Chair; Alison Cuddy, Vice-Chair; Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Brooke Flanagan, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Akilah Halley, Kevin Iega Jeff, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Ginger Lane, William Michel, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Tempestt Hazel, Josephine Lee, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, Nina Melendez, Jamey Lundblad, Tara Vock, Kwame Amoaku



I. Welcome and Introduction

CAC Chair, Amina Dickerson, opened the meeting of the Cultural Advisory Council at 3:06 pm. Attendees were welcomed and advised of the meeting being held virtually and in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements and provisions for virtual participation in public meetings. A live stream link and pre-registration link for public comment were posted to the DCASE website with no requests for public comment received.

CAC Vice-Chair, Alison Cuddy greeted and thanked Council members and DCASE staff for joining. She then provided a brief overview of the virtual meeting process.

Alison welcomed and thanked DCASE staff, including Commissioner, Erin Harkey; Chief Marking Officer, Jamey Lundblad; Director of the Chicago Film Office, Kwame Amoaku; and new Deputy Commissioner of Programming, Nancy Villafranca. Alison also thanked Tara Vock and Nina Melendez for their assistance as staff liaisons. Amina and Alison confirmed a quorum of Council members present and provided a brief overview of the meeting agenda.

The meeting minutes for the November 9th, 2021 CAC meeting were brought to attention and subsequently approved by unanimous vote.


II. DCASE Leadership Updates

New DCASE Commissioner, Erin Harkey expressed her excitement in her new role and for the impactful work to come. Erin provided an overview of current department updates which includes the following:

  • As a result of the recent community outreach in partnership with the Arts Alliance and the Cultural Alliance, DCASE was able put some feedback to work immediately by providing larger, multi-year, general operating grants ranging from $10k - $50k for the CityArts program.
  • This year will likely conclude the “Year of” initiatives with the 2022 Year of Chicago Dance (YOCD). Along with project-based support, substantial policy and program work will be completed in this Year of Chicago Dance. The policy and program work will largely focus on health and wage disparities and will surface recommendations to the field for all disciplines.
  • DCASE recently announced the launch of the 2022 summer season with a return of live summer programs in Millennium Park and the neighborhoods.
  • DCASE will launch a strategic assessment with Bloomberg in an effort to conduct a deep dive and analysis to better develop and understand the DCASE portfolio.
  • The Public Art team recently concluded an RFP process to identify community consultants to assist in conducting a collaborative, community-led process to determine priorities for $16M in public art investment.
  • DCASE is in the process of concluding the community engagement portion of Chicago Monuments Project work. The final report is forthcoming.
  • Commissioner Harkey recently met with Ingenuity and CPS to begin developing arts education strategies for students both in and out of the classroom, and connection points for employment opportunities. Council members were reminded they have agency in this space to help in determining the City’s ongoing strategy and commitment to arts education.
  • Conversations have started with members of the mayor’s policy team and Claire Rice regarding domestic workers’ rights and the health of the creative worker.
  • Alexandra Antoine was chosen as the first Artist in Residence for Legler Library. Alexandra is local to the neighborhood and now has a residency space located inside the library. The team is very excited for her work to come.

Erin concluded her overview by restating her desire to make DCASE the best-functioning local arts agency in the county. In order to accomplish this, DCASE has instituted an aggressive hiring plan hoping to hire twenty new staff members by June, 2022. Erin asked for help of the Council in sharing these new opportunities as they become available.


Questions and Comments

Q: What is the status of the Air & Water Show?

A: The Bloomberg analysis work will help us to determine potential pathways forward.


Q: What is the status of the Band Roster program?

A: There will be an activation of the Chicago Band Roster in the coming year.


Q: How do you see the Council participating in the public art program?

A: CAC members will be included in planning, outreach, engagement and ensuring the right people are at the table.


Q: Given the current guaranteed income initiative underway for artists in NY, is there any interest in doing this in Chicago?

A: There are two considerations that must be explored: Artist-specific guaranteed income vs. guaranteed income for all. We currently have the largest guaranteed income pilot in the country, in which artists are eligible. We also had the creative worker assistance program which granted close to 3.3M in funds.


CAC members noted that some artist guaranteed income programs do a disservice to artists by segmenting them out. It is important that CAC to work with other independent labor practitioners such as domestic workers, transportation workers, service workers, and others working in the gig economy as coalitions are built and collaborations are activated around advocacy. It is also important to look at the implications of these initiatives and learn from them.


III. Chicago Film Office Presentation

Chicago Film Office Director, Kwame Amoaku provided an overview of the inner workings of the Chicago Film Office. This department leads the City’s efforts to attract and enhance filming in Chicago and also provides permitting, city services, and logistical support for local film productions.

The Chicago Film Office has worked tirelessly to aid developers in building and acquiring new studio space. Cinespace recently acquired additional studio space in Little Village, and the new Cinespace owners, TPG Real Estate are looking to expand even further. The Film Office is also working with the Regal Mile Studios located at 77th and Stony Island, and the Fields Project located at the defunct Marshall Field warehouse located at Diversey and Pulaski.

The City of Chicago was one of the first cities to begin issuing film permits after the arrival of COVID-19, issuing permits as early as June, 2020. The Film Office worked with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to ensure the safety of film sets and as a result, film production increased 125%.

Kwame provided an overview of Chicago Made which is the brand for Chicago’s creative industries including film, tv, music and others. The Chicago Made workforce development program focuses on investing in young to mid-career workers, primarily from underserved areas of the city aged primarily from 25-50 years old. The program will also evaluate how to utilize the states film tax incentive funds to support the expansion of targeted workforce development programs in high-need areas.

The overall goals of the Workforce Development Program include:

  • Providing residents from underserved areas with training and placement in entry-level positions in film and TV production
  • Promoting diversity within the local film workforce
  • Providing an incentive for attracting new productions
  • Aiding in the economic recovery of the local workforce
  • Positioning Chicago as a long-term hub for entertainment production
  • Prepare a well-trained workforce to return to work when demand increases


Chief Marketing and Development Officer, Jamey Lundblad, provided an overview of the public awareness campaign for Chicago Made. Jamey began by explaining the goal of the campaign which is to create a campaign that highlights the vital role Chicago’s TV and film industry plays. It is one of the largest and most diverse in the country; it’s a critical component to the city’s economic recovery; and it’s beneficial to Chicago’s communities and residents. The target audience includes Chicago residents in all 50 wards, residents affected by film production, Chicagoans interested in film production jobs and careers, and TV and film industry stakeholders.

Jamey highlighted that the campaign will showcase the industry’s enormous economic impact, introduce local film workers as neighbors and friends and will highlight the diversity of local “reel” jobs. It will also emphasize the grit and authenticity of Chicago’s film industry and its unique style of filmmaking – a top priority for Kwame.

Jamey shared some examples of the ad placements taking place for Chicago Made which included billboards, CTA ads, O’Hare and Midway ads, and city information panel ads located in the central business district. Ads will be displayed in a variety of circulars including Austin Weekly News, Block Club Chicago, Bronzeville Life, Chicago in Arabic, La Raza, and the South Side Weekly. There will also be various social media ads, website updates, filming notice flyers and marketing toolkits made available.


Questions and Comments

Members asked the following questions:

Q: While we are advancing in film production, post-production typically goes back to LA or NY. How do we keep post-production here as well?

A: The issue is at a state-level as the tax credit does not include post-production. Modifying the tax credit would greatly help; however, our charge is to build the infrastructure to allow individuals to start generating projects right here in Chicago.


Q: What has been done to provide local actors with longer term contract work as opposed to short term gig work?

A: Major headliners will come from out of town until we begin the process of the creative content infrastructure with studios generating local talent in a way that cultivates national notoriety. There is no other solution other than creating the infrastructure ourselves.

Comment: Brooke Flanagan of the Steppenwolf Theater commented that the opportunity to expand and scaffold the moniker of Chicago Made and the third adage “We create here, we live here, we x here” could pay it forward. For those who have work with its genesis here, we can stamp it and carry the Chicago flag. This effort will amplify that creative industries have a strong home here and attract others to Chicago instead of the coasts.


Q: What role do organizations like Community Film Workshop, Sisters in Cinema, or Kennedy King College have in this initiative?

A: The workforce development programs advisory council consisted of organizations just like these. The workforce program is thought of as a feeder program that then feeds into our workforce. Kennedy King plays a very big part in workforce, career technical education, infrastructure, and facilities. Kennedy King’s studio was recently activated with the help of the Chicago Film Office and since that time Showtime, Disney and HBO have filmed at Kennedy King College. The Film Office has also worked with Kennedy King on their curriculum helping to make it more applicable to the industry.

The Film Office has met with the head of CPS, CBS and the Regal Mile Studio team in the effort of turning CBS into a career technical education for film production by repurposing the hangar into a studio. The team is working on refining CPS’ career technical education to be in line with industry needs and create hub that focuses on event production.


Q: Are you looking for additional space partners?

A: Yes, we are always looking for space for film production and training. We are currently at capacity for filming, and are looking for large spaces, preferably with 75 acres and 50’ ceilings.


Q: Is there a placement guarantee at the end of the training program?

A: No. The workforce demand is what is driving the placement. These are all contract/freelance positions.

Amina closed out this portion of the meeting by stating that the group would like to explore to what extent this as a model that can be replicated for other disciplines and sectors of the city.


Year of Chicago Dance and 500 Shows

The 2022 Year of Chicago Dance was recently announced, and the DCASE marketing and communications team is pulling together core partners including See Chicago Dance, Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, Chicago Dance Makers Forum, and Choose Chicago to discuss how to raise the profile of dance and build the audience.  Jamey asked that CAC members assist in promoting DCASE jobs, grant opportunities, and open calls as representatives and ambassadors.

Jamey then took some time to speak to another industry led advocacy effort called 500 Shows. DCASE is working with CAC member and Executive Director of Steppenwolf, Brooke Flanagan, and others to build out a stronger digital hub for all live dance, music, and theater events along with a fresh campaign to bring people back to local venues. The working title for the campaign is “500 Shows” and the work will begin to appear in spring, 2022.

The initiative’s 3 prongs include:

  • Digital platform
  • Marketing campaign
  • Hub that contains show forward assets with tag to be utilized on City property vestiges

Jamey noted that conversations began with members of the League of Chicago Theatres, See Chicago Dance, CIVL to form a cross discipline citywide tent. One Chicago Fund has also taken this under their umbrella and moving forward, the hope is to create a framework that can be evolved to include visual arts and other artforms in subsequent years. Jamey asked that CAC members involved in the performing arts who are interested in joining the task force reach out to Brooke or himself.


Questions and Comments:

Q: Is this a DCASE, City or First Lady initiative? There were no BIPOC organizations or leaders in the initial conversations.

A: The trade organizations were first brought into the conversation. Once this group received a green light for funding, the team then confirmed these organizations can work together and were in alignment. Email invites were then sent to their recommended individuals while ensuring individual representation across disciplines from both historically white and BIPOC organizations to ensure an equal balance.

Comment: CAC member, Ginger Lane expressed interest providing insight for the Year of Chicago Dance initiative with regard to inclusive and integrated dance. Ginger founded and produced the annual CounterBalance dance event in Chicago.


IV. Funding and Futures Recap

CAC member, Claire Rice provided an overview of recent Chicago Arts and Culture: Funding and Futures conversations. The Arts Alliance worked with DCASE and the Chicago Cultural Alliance to gain insights from arts nonprofits, individual artists, and creative businesses regarding current challenges and how DCASE should move forward in allocating their $26M budget increase.

In all, there were 4 focus groups with 25 participates in each session. There were two larger scale informational sessions led by DCASE along with an online survey with 191 total participants.

Current key challenges include:

  • Need for performance and rehearsal space
  • Streamlining grant application processes
  • Health care, and housing
  • Income sustainability and gen op support for orgs
  • New technology demands. Desire to pool resources & expertise

A total of 5 possible funding priorities were presented with the highest ranked priority being general operating grants for nonprofits and the lowest ranked priority being capital projects. A more robust report with specific stories, qualitative and quantitative data is forthcoming.

Claire concluded her presentation sharing that this will help set a policy and advocacy agenda with the city. She noted that we are still in a relief-based place and must stay laser focused currently on relief opportunities.


V. Next Steps and Closing

Amina and Alison advised that they will be calling upon CAC members between now and the next meeting to build on the momentum and provide much needed assistance to DCASE.

Commissioner Harkey stressed the importance of data in arts and culture work. She added that data will help with assessments and will bring clarity to needs for policy work moving forward. The intention is to be actionable to the public’s concerns and needs.

Erin thanked everyone for the incredibly rich conversation.


VI. Adjourn

The meeting ended at 4:57pm.