Cultural Advisory Council Tuesday, March 7, 2023 Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes were approved at the Cultural Advisory Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 6, 2023 at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park Room, 5th Floor North, 3pm.



Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Blake-Anthony Johnson, Vice-Chair; Coya Paz, Chair; Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Esther Grimm, Omar Torres-Kortright, William Michel, Cesáreo Moreno, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Kaoru Watanabe, Tanner Woodford, Alison Cuddy, Amina Dickerson

Absent: Akilah Halley, Kevin Iega Jeff, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Tracie Hall, Josephine Lee, Debra Yepa-Pappan, Vivian Teng, Robert Gomez, Brooke Flanagan, Margaret Murphy-Webb

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, Jennifer Johnson Washington, Amanda Carlson, Jamey Lundblad, Nina Melendez, Tara Vock, Melanie Wang, Tenisha Wilkins



I. Welcome and Introduction

Commissioner Erin Harkey thanked outgoing chairs Amina Dickerson and Alison Cuddy for their contributions to the council. Dickerson then spoke about the growth and development of the council under Harkey's leadership. Harkey then introduced the new chair and co-chair, Coya Paz and Blake Anthony Johnson, respectively, and welcomed them to their new roles. Paz called the meeting to order and mentioned that the meeting is open to the public but that no public comments will be heard, since there were no registrations in advance. Dickerson thanked the DCASE staff and gave a brief update on DCASE and the City's efforts.

During the meeting, the participants discussed various issues related to arts and culture in Chicago. One group talked about the need to remove barriers for deaf and disabled artists to perform and exhibit their work. Another group discussed how Chicago should be seen as a cultural communicator outside the city and that its neighborhoods, which maintain different cultures, should be given recognition. There were also discussions about segregation in the city and how it has prevented people from exploring its cultural richness fully.

Lastly, participants discussed the lack of recognition Chicago receives nationally as an artistic and cultural hub. Blake-Anthony, one of the facilitators, discussed the survey they conducted and how cross-pollination among different groups and individuals could help close gaps in knowledge and connectivity. He also shared the mission statement of the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), which aims to support artists and cultural organizations, invest in the creative economy, and expand access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago's 77 neighborhoods. Three north stars of the DCASE are to be ambassadors for all Chicagoans, advocate for Chicagoans and DCASE, and advise people in real-time.


II. 2023 CAC Vision

The Council discussed how they can better collaborate and share resources to advance the arts community. They agreed on the importance of personalizing invitations and communications; as well as building a sense of camaraderie and community among members. Also suggested was that council members attend events in different neighborhoods and commit to sharing resources among each other. They highlighted the importance of connectivity and consensus in achieving their goals and aim to stay true to their values while being practical in their approach.

The Council is focused on breaking down barriers between different ethnic communities in Chicago and promoting diversity within the Council itself. They discussed the importance of advocating for the cultural advisory budget, funding and pushing for progress in the overall mission of the Council. Additionally, there was a discussion about promoting cultural events and inviting others to attend them, with an emphasis on personal invitations and human interaction rather than just mass promotion.


III. DCASE Leadership Updates

Commissioner Harkey discussed the progress made on hiring and building a stronger department. DCASE created a cultural resources team to provide grants for the community, including organizations and individual artists. The team also focuses on providing ancillary support like access to affordable housing and healthcare. While the DCASE team has made some incredible hires, there are still 18 positions to fill. Commissioner Harkey emphasized the importance of public art and private development and how they are opportunities to build cultural infrastructure. She also talked about the cultural grants program and the need to press on to increase the budget from corporate funds. She urged organizations to apply for the Chicago Arts Recovery Program and the Arts Work Fund.

Commissioner Harkey listed DCASE’ initiatives in 2023, which include:

1. Funding opportunities for arts organizations.
2. Strategic outreach to organizations for funding.
3. Advocacy for securing funding.
4. Deep dive into the performing arts sector and outreach to museums and cultural institutions.
5. Launch of a new marketing campaign for Chicago.
6. Planning for a performing arts campaign in the fall.
7. Improvements to the website to make it more user-friendly.

Information was shared about grants that are currently open, including the Chicago Presents grant, which is open to both nonprofit and for-profit presenters, and the Neighborhood Access Program, which is open to community-based and social service organizations. The group agreed to organize strategic outreach to these organizations to inform them of these opportunities. Concerns were raised about the possibility of the mayor reallocating the $10 million corporate budget were raised and Commissioner Harkey emphasized the importance of advocacy on the group's part to prevent this from happening.

The group also discussed the state of the sector and the need for outreach to museums and cultural institutions. Commissioner Harkey shared plans for a new marketing campaign to capitalize on the city's cultural offerings. The group agreed to help push out the messaging for this campaign through their respective organizations. They also discussed plans for a performing arts campaign in the fall with urgent call-to-action messaging to drive ticket sales for all performing arts organizations.

Finally, a discussion was led on improvements to the website to make it more user-friendly. The group agreed to commit to making some basic changes to the website in the next couple of months.


IV. 2023 CAC Engagement

The CAC chairs then led a discussion on 2023 CAC priorities, programs, and initiatives. Council members provided the following action items:

1. Organize strategic outreach to arts organizations to inform them of funding opportunities.
2. Advocate for securing funding and preventing the mayor from reallocating the 1 million corporate budget.
3. Begin conversations with museums and cultural institutions.
4. Push out messaging for the new marketing campaign for Chicago through respective organizations.
5. Plan performing arts campaign in the fall with urgent call-to-action messaging.
6. Commit to making basic changes to the website in the next couple of months.


V. Recap / Next Steps

The council discussed the importance of the arts community in Chicago and the upcoming elections. They discussed the need for the candidates to address issues related to the arts and BIPOC serving assets in the community. A candidate survey was suggested to get the candidates on the record regarding their plans for the arts. The new class of aldermen was also identified as a target audience to introduce DCASE and communicate the scope of the agency's responsibilities. It was suggested that the agency communicates better with the new class of aldermen by showcasing its work through videos and field trips. A dedication event for two big new important works at the airport was also discussed. Toward the end of the meeting, the participants were given the opportunity to raise any questions, concerns, or other issues they want to discuss in the coming year.

The meeting's goal was to discuss the arts community priorities and to plan for future meetings. Some of the key topics discussed were advocacy, social media, virtual meetings, and upcoming opportunities. Participants also discussed the emergency order that allowed public bodies to convene virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was expiring soon. They noted the need to communicate and make sure that there is a quorum present for votes during in-person meetings, while also ensuring virtual options are available. The next meeting was scheduled for June 6th, 2023.


VI. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 4:52pm.