Cultural Advisory Council May 10, 2022 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, Chair; Alison Cuddy, Vice-Chair; Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Akilah Halley, Kevin Iega Jeff, Blake-Anthony Johnson, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tracie Hall, Akilah Halley, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Ginger Lane, William Michel, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Debra Yeppa-Pappan, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, Edra Soto, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Kaoru Watanabe, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Brooke Flanagan, Tempestt Hazel, Josephine Lee

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, Jennifer Johnson Washington Amanda Carlson, Kalena Chevalier, Madeline Long, Jamey Lundblad, Meida McNeal, Nina Melendez, Tara Vock, Tenisha Wilkins



I. Welcome and Introduction

CAC Chair, Amina Dickerson opened the meeting of the Cultural Advisory Council at 3:00 pm. Attendees were welcomed and advised of the meeting being held virtually and in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements 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; First Deputy Commissioner, Jennifer Johnson Washington; Chief Marking and Development Officer, Jamey Lundblad; and Deputy Commissioner of Programming, Nancy Villafranca. Alison also thanked Tara Vock and Nina Melendez for their assistance as staff liaisons.

Amina confirmed a quorum of Council members present and provided a brief overview of the meeting agenda. The meeting minutes for the February 8th, 2021 CAC meeting were brought to attention and subsequently approved by unanimous vote.

New CAC members Blake-Anthony Johnson (CEO, Chicago Sinfonietta), Debra Yepa-Pappan, Kaoru Watanabe, and Edra Soto were then introduced to the group.


II. DCASE Leadership Updates

Commissioner Erin Harkey provided a brief overview of DCASE programs and priorities. She announced 2022 as Year of Chicago Dance; an initiative that is helping to elevate and promote the dance community. 2022 is also the 25th anniversary of Summer Dance, which will take place from June 18 through Sept 7th in Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park and in local neighborhoods.

DCASE continues to evaluate its programming portfolio with a deeper emphasis on neighborhood programming for areas that have historically been left out. There is also an increased emphasis on delivering programs with community partners, such as Firehouse Community Arts Center, Free Street Theatre, and Move Me Soul.

DCASE is now in the second year of its professional development program, highlighted under the Chicago Made brand. This initiative is held in partnership with local service organizations and professional development partners such as Social Works, the Next Showcase Chicago and A.B.L.E (Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations). Other programs that will be returning include City Markets, the Millennium Park Film Series, Millennium Park Music Series, Gospel Fest, and Blues Fest, among others.

DCASE recently completed a reorganization and continues to hire and build human capital. Currently, there are 9 open positions which includes four student intern positions, three coordinator positions, and two director positions. The DCASE team hopes to have all nine positions filled by June 2022.

Commissioner Harkey presented a brief overview of the new organizational structure and highlighted several staff promotions. Amina congratulated the DCASE team on their new assets.


III. Arts and Culture Community Check-In

CAC member, Claire Rice of Arts Alliance Illinois briefly spoke about American Rescue Plan (ARP) investments for the State, with the arts receiving $50M in federal relief and recovery grants dedicated to the creative sector. Claire noted that this is a statewide investment that has been allocated to organizational and business relief; there is still work to be done to support individual workers, arts education issues, etc.

Claire asked her fellow CAC members to provide feedback and thoughts on previous state or federal programs as guidelines and eligibility criteria are still being determined. She asked them to advise on what financial loss, and eligibility looks like. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will run this relief program and Arts Alliance Illinois will be meeting with them to discuss next steps.

CAC Co-Chair Allison Cuddy then began a discussion with the Council and asked them two questions:

1. How are you/your organizations doing as we enter this next phase of post-COVID?

2. What are you seeing and observing in the field in terms of needs, opportunities, and trends in your respective sectors?

CAC members offered the following feedback:

  • Seniors and the disabled community are hesitant to return to in-person events because of safety concerns related to COVID-19.
  • We are in transitional phase between pandemic and endemic. The public doesn’t know how to prepare themselves.
  • Patrons not observing mask mandate and/or 6ft distancing
  • Mask mandate enforcement is a challenge for venue owners
  • Employees who are represented by unions play a behind-the-scenes role
  • Participation in remote programs is strong while in-person program participation has decreased
  • The Native community has been hit hard by COVID-19 with many deaths reported
  • Need coordinated strategy across local venues
  • The emotional, financial, and mental stress on the arts community needs to be amplified as suicides have been prevalent post-pandemic

Amina added the CAC can build on the work of League of Chicago Theaters and convene a more collective conversation about what we do for patrons and staff moving forward; and how to signal public protocols as we navigate difficult times. Erin seconded the idea of being a convener to give the arts community direct access to public health (CDPH) administrators.


IV. DCASE Mission, Vision, Values Discussion

Jamey Lundblad led a discussion on the mission, vision, and values of DCASE. The goal for 2022 is to freshen the DCASE brand and consider updates to the mission, values, and vision. He explained that a mission statement is what an organization actually does/ its reason for being; a vision statement is what an organization aspires to be; and a value statement is what an organization believes in, and how its people are expected to behave, or a code of conduct.

The current mission statement created under the leadership of Commissioner Michelle Boone is:

“The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists, and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality free and affordable programs for residents and visitors.”

Current DCASE values, created under the Kelly administration, include creativity, advocacy, diversity & equity, access, collaboration, and celebration

Jamey noted that with Commissioner Harkey now at the helm of DCASE, there have been changes in programming, special projects, and initiatives, more recently in our artist relief work, and roles as funder and policy maker. He shared feedback recently received from Amina, Alison, and DCASE staff, which includes:

  • Make the statement straightforward and concise
  • Emphasize direct support in grant making, commitment to DEI, community-engaged, and citywide programs
  • Incorporate words and concepts such as: Both “artists” and organizations,” creative economy, arts discovery, support, inspire, community service, advocacy, “arts and culture”; and current values (creativity, diversity & equity, access, collaboration, celebration)
  • Consider creating just one mission, vision, value statement
  • Consider a more detailed “About DCASE” boilerplate

Jamey noted that the next steps are to create a new impact statement or stories by this fall. DCAE leadership hopes to finalize the new updates by June 2022.

He then shared the new draft mission, vision and values combined statement, which is:

“The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports local artists and cultural organizations, strengthens our creative economy, and inspires arts discovery to build a better Chicago. As a cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for equitable access to the arts, our programs and events serve all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.”

He also shared a more detailed boilerplate “About DCASE” statement, which is:

“The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports local artists and cultural organizations, strengthens our creative economy and inspires arts discovery to build a better Chicago. As a cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for equitable access to the arts, our programs and events serve all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. Serving a local and global audience of 25 million people at Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and in communities across the city, DCASE produces some of the city’s most iconic annual events including Taste of Chicago, Chicago SummerDance, and festivals celebrating Blues, Gospel, House, Jazz, and World Music – and coordinates public art, markets, and permitting for special events and film productions across Chicago. For more information, visit and stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube at @ChicagoDCASE.

Jamey then began a discussion with CAC members asking them “What are the key themes or ideas missing in these updated statements? CAC members offered the following comments:

  • Consider adding multi-generational youth to statement
  • Check wording re: for-profit arts businesses vs artists and organizations
  • The presenting details dilute the language of grantmaking and policy arena
  • Cultural presentation is being done in partnership; this is missing from statement
  • Thank you for including advocacy and equity
  • “77 neighborhoods” important in mission
  • Need something more inspiring
  • The word “discovery” can be triggering to native people and artists


V. Engagement with Key DCASE Priorities and Initiatives

Commissioner Harkey reminded everyone of the working groups initially created for the Council. These groups included arts education, creative industry support, community vitality, economic development, government engagement and practices, and arts as resource and advocacy. The working groups were helpful in informing the larger CAC strategy and the Arts77 initiative. DCASE has now pivoted to using the CAC as a first-line resource and sounding board for major initiatives and programs for input early in the process.

Commissioner Harkey gave updates on current grants programs, including:

  • Individual Artist Program (IAP): This program will grant 235 grants to individual artists with the average award being $6,000, up from the $3,500 average previously. Twenty-two of the 235 IAP grantees will be awarded as Esteemed Artist Winners and will receive $15k each. For the first time, we have artist representation from all 50 wards. This is in large part due to the outreach that has been done with the help of CAC.
  • City Arts general operating grants were extended from 1-yr to 2-year grants. There were 421 applicants this year, compared to 296 last year. These organizations are mostly BIPOC-led or BIPOC-serving.
  • The Neighborhood Access Program (NAP) closes on March 20th. This is a newer program that grants funding to social service and community-based organizations.
    • There is a need for NAP grant panel reviewers. Commissioner Harkey asked for CAC members or help in volunteering or connecting DCASE to local artists and/or community members who may be interested in participating.
  • The Creative Placekeeping/Placemaking program will be giving $50,000 – $500,000 grants
    • Guidelines are still being developed for this grant and guidance and input from CAC members on these is welcome.

A performing arts conversation will take place on June 27, 2022. A survey has been distributed to the performing arts sector to capture data and help inform the structure of the convening; this will help inform identify challenges and provide space for creative thinking.

Erin thanked CAC members for their participation in the We Will Chicago initiative and noted that the arts and culture recommendations will go live June 2022.

Amina led a discussion on thoughts on priorities, programs, or initiatives that members believe would benefit from the Council. She also asked if there are ideas for different ways to engage the CAC that haven’t been discussed or implemented. Members offered the following thoughts:

  • Add a skill matrix for CAC to inform DCASE staff for future needs
  • Interest in addressing diversity in mission statement input – will
  • Thank you to DCASE Director of Cultural Grants Kalena Chevalier for her great work
  • Suggestion for a neighborhood arts program for DCASE to sponsor neighborhood banners


VI. Next Steps

The next CAC meeting will take place on August 9, 2022.


VII. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 4:58pm.