Cultural Advisory Council August 9, 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, Kevin Iega Jeff, Blake-Anthony Johnson, Omar Torres-Kortright, Akilah Halley, Tonika Lewis Johnson, William Michel, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Debra Yeppa-Pappan, Silvia Rivera, Vivian Teng, Kaoru Watanabe, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Esther Grimm, Tracie Hall, Tempestt Hazel, Ginger Lane, Josephine Lee, Claire C. Rice, Edra Soto

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, Jennifer Johnson Washington, Kalena Chevalier, Jamey Lundblad, Nina Melendez, Lydia Ross, Tara Vock, Tenisha Wilkins



I. Welcome and Introduction

CAC Co-Chair Alison Cuddy called the meeting to order at 3:07 pm. A quorum of Council members were deemed present, and the meeting being duly convened, proceeded with business.

Co-Chair Cuddy presented the minutes of the May 10th, 2022, meeting. The Council subsequently approved the minutes by unanimous vote.

No requests for public comment were received.


II. Arts and Culture Community Check-In

Co-Chair Cuddy asked CAC members to share their insights and current perspectives on summer audiences and operations. Members provided the following feedback:

  • Crowds have increased but are not at pre-pandemic levels
  • Members are still holding hybrid events for increased participation
  • Members are offering ticket promotions to secure repeat patrons
  • Inflation and supply chain challenges are becoming more prevalent
  • The Music industry is in a sustainable place now; venue owners now better prepared for COVID-19 challenges

Co-Chair Cuddy then took a moment to remember Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) co-founder and beloved CAC member, Myrna Salazar who passed away on August 3, 2022. Myrna was a fierce advocate for equity and representation of Latinx artists in theater and mainstream media. Members took turns reminiscing on the tremendous impact she had both personally and with the arts community at large. Myrna was remembered for being a supportive mentor, a strong ally often affectionately labeled as a “madrina,” - a Godmother figure to many.

Commissioner Harkey issued an immediate call to action to support and uplift Myrna’s legacy. She implored members to continue to support CLATA which includes their annual Destino’s Chicago International Theater Festival.

A celebration of Myrna’s life and legacy will take place at St. Ita Catholic Church, 5500 N. Broadway, on August 12, 2022.


III. DCASE Leadership Updates

Deputy Commissioner Jamey Lundblad announced that after months of receiving helpful input and feedback, DCASE’s final new mission statement and detailed “about DCASE” boilerplate have been updated on the official DCASE website at Commissioner Harkey remarked that the new mission statement and “about DCASE” boilerplate better represent DCASE’s commitment to access and diversity. She added that the purpose of this updated language is “to engage, celebrate, support the arts and strengthen our city.”

DCASE continues to work with Bloomberg Associates in evaluating its program portfolio. Programs now have a smaller but more impactful downtown footprint as work continues to extend programming into the neighborhoods, in collaboration with local arts organizations and community stakeholders. DCASE is also working to ensure legacy festivals continue to run in a sustainable and effective way that supports the cultural ecosystem.

Deputy Commissioner Kalena Chevalier presented an update on DCASE’s signature grant program: CityArts. This program provides general operating support and project grants to non-profit arts organizations. In 2022, DCASE was able to greatly increase the CityArts budget, thanks in part to additional City investment. Kalena added the following key details:

  • CityArts total budget has grown from $1.7M to $6.6M in 2022
  • General operating grant amounts have increased from $2k-$25k to roughly $10k- $50k
  • A total of 80 additional grants were given this year, including 28 to new grantees who have never applied before
  • Grantees located on the south and west sides of the city increased from 35% in 2021 to 45% in 2022.

Commissioner Harkey thanked CAC members for their outreach support in bringing new grantees to the table; many of which are located in hard-to-reach areas that need these resources most.

The ARPA-funded Together We Heal Creative Place Program application window is now closed. This $5M program is a collaboration with the Office of Racial Equity and Justice (OERJ), in which 50 two-year grants will be awarded to projects working at the intersection of community health and community healing. A total of 187 applications were received and chosen grantees will be announced at the Year of Healing Summit on September 22, 2022. Grants will be awarded grants ranging from $25k – $500k.

DCASE held a Performing Arts Convening in June 2022 that comprised the theater, music, and dance communities. A survey was circulated to identify current needs and challenges in four categories which include funding, opportunities marketing/audience, and space/facilities. Julia Perkins has been enlisted to assist with synthesizing the information received. Additional information to come.

DCASE continues its work with the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) on We Will Chicago, Chicago’s first citywide plan since 1966. The full initial draft can be found at and DPD is accepting feedback until Nov 1, 2022. CAC Chair Amina Dickerson asked CAC members to send monthly reminders to their respective networks to provide feedback on the arts and culture section of the plan.

City Council budget hearings are slated to take place in late September/ early October 2022. DCASE is working hard to ensure the new $10M in corporate funding remains and are hoping to strategically grow the amount of resources available to the cultural sector. CAC members were reminded they are welcome to make public comment and speak to the needs of the cultural community at the budget hearing.

Questions and Comments

CAC members shared the following feedback:

  • Members expressed gratitude, awe, and respect to Commissioner Harkey and the DCASE team for the extraordinary body of work that has been achieved in the past year which includes: a reframed mission, an increase in funding, the activation of programming across all 77 neighborhoods, capital infrastructure improvements, convening of the field, listening and planning, and reorganization of the DCASE team.
  • Members also expressed interest in Claudia Cassidy theater usage and information on We Will Chicago toolkits.

Commissioner Harkey added that DCASE is in talks with CDPH to disseminate toolkits that will include links, resources, and social media graphics to share for the performing arts community to share.

There is no new information on the Chicago Monuments Project at this time; however, new information will soon be circulated.


IV. Public Art Presentation

Senior Strategist Lydia Ross provided a deep dive into current capital investment work which includes the $3.5M investment at O’Hare Airport, and updates on the public art planning process. She thanked Commissioner Harkey for ensuring that the arts/public art is being brought into every conversation regarding equitable neighborhood development.

DCASE continues its work with the Department of Aviation on the Terminal 5 (T5) Expansion Project, in which they are commissioning the largest single acquisition of works by the City for artwork completed by Chicago artists. This $3.5M project presented a unique opportunity to invest in over 25 Chicago-based artists and creative professionals, while providing international visitors with a more dynamic and welcoming first impression. Commissions will be installed across three critical sites: the Arrival Corridor, Baggage Claim, and Passenger Level Concourse. Completion timelines are slightly variable; however, unveiling dates will start being announced this fall and over the next year.

Lydia highlighted T5 artists Jonathan Michael Castillo, and Gina Valentine; Jonathan’s social photography project “Immigrant Owned” which documents immigrant-owned businesses across the city on seventeen backlit lightboxes, many of which will feature the actual business owners; and Gina Valentine’s large-scale artwork called “Irene Wa” that maps the demographic composition of the state of Illinois from around the time of ratification (~1820) to twenty years into the future (~2040). Several hundred wall mounted convex mirrors of varying sizes that correspond to data visualizations of the state’s population growth will be displayed along with a quote or blessing from every nation that has passed through the state of Illinois, to pass on to passengers.

The arrival corridor will be home to seventeen creative and unique commissions curated by Ionit Behar and Andrew Shackman of the Floating Museum. Arrival Corridor commissioned artists include Nelly Agassi; Assaf Evron; Krista Franklin; Wills Glasspiegel with P-Top De La Cruz, Winfield Wounded Eye, and the ERA Footwork Crew; Jenny Kendler; Mayumi Lake; Yvette Mayorga; Cecil McDonald Jr.; Ebony G. Patterson; Faheem Majeed; Huong Ngo and Hong-An Truong; Chris Pappan; Cheryl Pope; Edra Soto; Leonard Suryajaya; Selina Trepp; and Bernard Williams.

Lydia announced the new artist and community-led, and designer-supported engagement initiative known as P.A.R.T.Y., (public art reimagining tour with you). This initiative brings creative placemaking in with Englewood Arts Collective, Floating Museum, and Vanessa Stokes at VS Creative Counseling, in partnership with design support from Borderless and Port Studios.

Questions and Comments

Members offered the following feedback:

  • Excitement both with T5 developments and with the authentic and deep relationship building across the community
  • Interest in advanced notice for P.A.R.T.Y events to enable members to mobilize constituent supporters
  • Interest in lifting these stories with broader media coverage to show how ARP funds and taxpayer investments are manifesting themselves.
  • Suggestion to have CAC members join their local Aldermanic community meetings to enhance communications and transparency
  • Expressed criticism of Gina Valentine’s commissioned work due to inaccuracies and lack of native representation behind the project. DCASE was asked how they will hold artists accountable for their work noting that we are on native land and there is a constant challenge of the erasure of native voices. DCASE apologized for any inaccuracies and committed to addressing the concerns and keeping lines of communication open on this.
  • Suggestion to add QR codes, or short video to give more context to the T5 commissions to help explain why the artists decided on these works

DCASE stated that currently, impact stories are shared by local news organizations such as Block Club Chicago, among others, and are also shared in their Opportunities, and News and Events newsletters in addition to their social media sites. DCASE is also planning on creating an annual report to share yearly progress. This report will also serve as reeducation on the array of programs DCASE manages. Lastly, DCASE announced they will be hiring a community outreach coordinator to join the communications team. This new role will focus on becoming more familiar with local communities and ensuring DCASE is amplifying these stories and opportunities


VI. Next Steps

The next CAC meeting will take place on November 8, 2022.


VII. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 5:02pm.