Cultural Advisory Council Tuesday, September 12, 2023 Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes were approved at the Cultural Advisory Council Meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park Room, 5th Floor North, 3pm.



Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Chair; Coya Paz, Vice-Chair; Blake-Anthony Johnson, Brooke Flanagan, Robert Gomez, Kevin Iega Jeff, Bill Michel, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Silvia Rivera, Kaoru Watanabe, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Alison Cuddy, Amina Dickerson, Juan Díes, Bob Faust, Esther Grisham Grimm, Akilah Halley, Tracie Hall, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Josephine Lee, Claire Rice, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Debra Yepa-Pappan

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, First Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Johnson Washington, Deputy Commissioner Nancy Villafranca, Deputy Commissioner Jonah Zeigler, Nina Melendez, Tenisha Wilkins, Tara Vock



I. Welcome and Introduction

Coya Paz, Chair of the Cultural Advisory Council (CAC) at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), welcomed attendees to the meeting held on September 12, 2023. She introduced herself and the purpose of the meeting, ensuring compliance with open meetings regulations. Despite no public comments received, the meeting proceeded as planned. Coya acknowledged key DCASE staff members and Co-Chair Blake Anthony Johnson.

The agenda for the meeting was outlined and a quorum was established. The minutes of the previous meeting on June 6, 2023 were unanimously approved.


II. Chicago Film Office Presentation

Chicago Film Office Deputy Commissioner Jonah Zeiger then provided an overview of the Chicago Film Office and the current state of the film and television industry. The Chicago Film Office (CFO) was established in the early 1980s, emerging in the aftermath of The Blues Brothers. Initially led by police lieutenants, its primary focus was on facilitating film production logistics by obtaining permits and coordinating city services. Throughout the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s, the CFO played a pivotal role in notable films such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dark Knight, Transformers, and more.

The landscape of the Chicago film industry underwent a significant transformation with the passage of the Illinois Film Tax Credit in 2007-2009 and the subsequent opening of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios in 2011. This laid the foundation for the current production boom, reaching an all-time expenditure record in 2022, with $691 million invested in film projects. Over 90% of these expenditures were attributed to projects filmed in Chicago, utilizing local resources and services provided by the CFO.

The Chicago Film Office is structured with key positions such as Deputy Commissioner, Deputy Director, and Cultural Coordinators overseeing various aspects of its operations. The core areas of the Film Office's activities encompass permitting current productions, film programming, and industry-building initiatives. The permitting process involves collaboration with various city departments, sister agencies, and dedicated project managers for major endeavors, ranging from feature films and TV series to commercials, music videos, and documentaries.

In terms of film programming, the Film Office engages in screening films, hosting filmmakers for panels, talks, and Q&A sessions in venues like Cassidy Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center, and Millennium Park. Noteworthy initiatives include the Cinema/Chicago Summer Screening Series, the One Earth Film Festival, and collaborations with the Chicago Film Society.

The Film Office actively participates in industry-building through advocacy, policy development, professional training, and stakeholder convening. As of mid-2023, the Chicago film and TV industry boasts a thriving ecosystem, with a record-setting year in 2022, 70+ soundstages, a 20,000-strong workforce, and support from various unions and organizations.

Despite recent challenges, such as strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAGAFTRA), the Film Office envisions a two-pronged strategy: attracting production and developing original content. Chicago aims to position itself as a leading hub for original, inclusive, and creatively sustainable independent content. Key components of this vision include talent development, creative labs, business development, and the exploration of a physical central hub known as the CHICAGO MADE CENTER.

They have actively engaged with the industry through various initiatives, including hosting film festivals, roundtable discussions, and collaborating with organizations like Variety, Wayfarer Studios, and the Chicago Alliance of Film Festivals. Achieving a prominent presence in Variety Magazine's Oscar Edition in March 2023, the CFO, along with its partners, received 15 pages of editorial coverage, underscoring the significance and vibrancy of Chicago's film and TV industry.


III. Theater Sector Updates

CAC members Coya Paz and Brooke Flanagan provided an overview of the recent Theater Advisory meeting that included Mayor Brandon Johnson and representatives from over 20 local theaters. Mayor Johnson highlighted the critical role of theaters in Chicago and expressed commitment to supporting the growth of the theater community. He acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and emphasized the need for a comprehensive plan.

During the Q&A session, theater representatives raised concerns about funding disparities, sustainability, and diverse community engagement, citing specific challenges faced by various organizations. Commissioner Harkey presented insights from a recent SMU DataArts report, outlining challenges such as audience impact, subscription decline, and increased costs. The State of the Sector conversation delved into topics like funding, partnership advocacy, and the role of arts in community development.

Next steps involved a shift in the approach to corporate engagement, focusing on employee and client engagement, collective education, and inclusivity. Plans for a fall theater campaign and a Chicago Theater festival were introduced, emphasizing the importance of ongoing collaboration and strategic planning.

DCASE announced they are working with League of Chicago Theaters to identify five workgroups that will include:

1. Internal/ External Education (Data)

2. Marketing/ Audience Development

3. Shared Resources

4. Development – strategies to guide, adapt around contributed and earned revenue

5. Equitable Outcomes

DCASE hopes to have final workgroup recommendations finalized by January 2024.

The meeting concluded with a call for continued advocacy, forming work groups, and addressing the long-term challenges facing Chicago's theater community. Participants expressed gratitude for the collaborative discussion on potential solutions and initiatives.


IV. DCASE Leadership Updates

Commissioner Erin Harkey began her updates with an overview of Summer 2023 events, many of which drew record attendance. This year’s Chicago Jazz Festival drew over 170k attendees over 4 days; and the Taste of Chicago drew over 125k attendees with 4 stages, 35 participating restaurants, and 17 food trucks.

DCASE is actively engaged in improving methods for tracking artist data, underscoring its commitment to bolstering the creative economy. The Public Art team is presently focused on the Cultural Heritage Markers program, an extension of the Chicago Monuments Project. They are also nearing completion of the O'Hare Terminal 5 Art project.

DCASE is expanding its portfolio by incorporating arts education and providing continual support to theaters in their recovery. Professional development programs are a key focus, exploring best practices, potential paid opportunities, and childcare provisions.

A recent milestone is the launch of the Chicago Arts and Health pilot, where 10 artists are to be compensated $66k, coupled with a benefits package equivalent to $20k. Additionally, youth job training initiatives are underway. With 80 current employees,

Future plans include the development of a Nighttime Office, strategically coordinated with the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) department. DCASE has also begun work on the 20th anniversary of Millennium Park in 2024.

DCASE recently completed two data project commissions: the SMU DataArts State of the Sector Report and Metris Arts Consulting Music Assessment. Ongoing research involves the SMU DataArts State of the Sector Report, examining financial trends in DCASE grant applications from 2019-2022. Notably, the theater sector has been identified as the hardest hit and slowest to recover. The Metris Arts Consulting Music Assessment aims to position DCASE as a supporter of the music landscape, building ecosystem capacity and connectivity while emphasizing the importance of Chicago's music scene.


Q+A from CAC members

Q: What was the financial result of Taste of Chicago this year?
A: We no longer look at Taste as being a for-profit event as we are instead focused on delivering civic good. Our obligation is to produce for the city.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Cultural Markers program?
A: We have identified a consultant who will help steward community engagement and organize an advisory group. We are committed to standing up 100 markers.

Q: Can you tell us more about arts education?
A: DCASE is in the early stages of building a proposed plan that best supports CPS arts educators.

Q: Lollapalooza after-shows take place all over the city in which Lollapalooza music artists perform at local venues after their official shows. Can we use this model to organize after-shows during the Millennium Park Music Series?
A: We eliminated the performance exclusivity clause years ago, leaving no obstructions to moving forward with this idea. DCASE will look into sharing the 2024 MPMS performer roster with Gomez/CIVL once it is solidified.


V. Transition Report Discussion

Q: What is the Deputy Mayor of Arts and Culture role in the Transition Plan?
A: While the spirit of this recommendation is great, this is essentially a redundant position as these responsibilities fall under the Commissioner role at DCASE.

Q: Can you explain the Nightlife Coordinator/liaison role?
A: Other major cities already hold these types of positions. DCASE is working with BACP to operationalize this role and thoughtfully CAC member, Gomez, offered his assistance to this initiative.

Members asked DCASE to expand on how DCASE will study artist pay data. DCASE explained that in coordination with the creative worker rights campaign, DCASE will also work with SMU DataArts on a foundational research report on pay equity and creative work in Chicago. This report will summarize Census and employer-reported wage/earnings data, and take into account considerations like race, gender, artistic discipline, and other metrics (as the data allows). It will look at both W-2 and 1099- earners. Recognizing that there are shortcomings in federally reported data on creative workers, the research will also identify opportunities for future research projects that require other data sources/means of evaluation. The report will also look at Chicago as compared with a limited number of comparable cities. These other cities, and the final scope of work with SMU DataArts, are still in formation. This research is planned to happen in Q1-Q2 2024.

Members expressed a desire for a more robust promotional aspect, emphasizing Chicago's musical identity in tourism messaging to highlight the city's dynamism. Notably, 85% of visitors come for cultural reasons, urging a focus on marking strengths and assets. There's a call for a renewed interest in policy, cross-sector collaboration, and a refocus on creative workers. Acknowledging the need for restructuring within DCASE, members suggest decentralization and emphasize the importance of addressing nighttime strategies and structural considerations.

There is recognition that DCASE is unable to meet demand without regular reorganization. A notable point is the call for attention to the Cultural Bill of Rights. Members stress the necessity of establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives.

Looking forward, DCASE is developing a Creative Workers Rights campaign, slated for launch next year. This initiative aims to advocate for a minimum wage, contracts, and connecting workers to the office of labor standards. An advisory committee will be formed. Drawing inspiration from artist Sam Kirk helped visualize a recent Domestic Workers Campaign and utilizing data from the SMU DataArts report, including pay rates and regional/national comparisons, the campaign seeks to address crucial issues within the cultural sector.

The discussion, led by CAC Chair Coya Paz, highlighted five key topics of interest for the CAC:

1. Onboarding New Administration to Cultural Sector: Addressing the integration of new administration members into the cultural sector.

2. Evolution of Arts Education Agenda: Supporting and fostering the development of the arts education agenda.

3. Promoting Cultural Corridors during the DNC: Advocating for and promoting cultural corridors throughout the city during the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

4. Resources to CPS on Systemic Barriers in Arts Education: Providing resources to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) regarding systemic barriers in arts education.

5. Integration of Art as Diplomacy: Exploring the possibilities of integrating art as a form of diplomacy.

Coya Paz emphasized her interest in shaping conversation, aiming to represent various disciplines and organizations. The focus is on presenting a comprehensive view of what investment in arts and culture will entail, considering impacts and aligning with the evolving agenda of Mayor Johnson.

The overarching goal is to demonstrate that the arts are not merely a "nice-to-have" but an essential element that can be integrated into arts education, public safety initiatives, neighborhood health and well-being, and the economy. The approach involves informing and offering support, showcasing how the arts contribute to societal betterment.

Members questioned the end goal of conversations with Mayor Johnson, and it was emphasized that the discussions should intersect with the mayor's priorities, particularly in public safety and education. The objective is to demystify what it means to be an organization, focusing on proactive problem-solving and investing in individuals.

The discussion acknowledged that organizations are an amalgamation of individuals, and goals will be refined into 3-4 general buckets. With the DNC approaching, there is an opportunity to place culture at the forefront, hoping for a narrative change with pro-Chicago stories and narratives.


VI. Next Steps

In addition to the ongoing initiatives, DCASE is actively working on a Cultural Resource Guide tailored for the artist community. This guide aims to provide essential resources addressing current needs, including housing insecurity, food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more.

To disseminate this valuable information, DCASE plans to send out a special e-blast and integrate the guide onto its website. This comprehensive effort underscores DCASE's commitment to supporting the immediate and practical needs of the artist community.

The next CAC meeting will take place December 5, 2023. DCASE reminded CAC members that all meetings are now taking place in-person and not virtual.


VII. Adjourn

With no further questions or comments, the meeting was adjourned.