Cultural Advisory Council Tuesday, December 5, 2023 Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes were approved at the Cultural Advisory Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park Room, 5th Floor North, 3pm.



Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Chair Coya Paz, Alison Cuddy, Amina Dickerson, Juan Díes, Brooke Flanagan, Robert Gomez, Akilah Halley, Josephine Lee, Bill Michel, Silvia Rivera, Omar Torres-Kortright, Claire Rice, Kaoru Watanabe, Vivian Teng, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Vice Chair Blake-Anthony Johnson, Bob Faust, Esther Grimm, Kevin Iega Jeff, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Debra Yepa-Pappan

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Erin Harkey, First Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Johnson Washington, Deputy Commissioner Kalena Chevalier, Deputy Commissioner Jamey Lundblad, Deputy Commissioner Nancy Villafranca, Deputy Commissioner Jonah Zeiger, Laura Trejo Lozano, Melanie Wang, Nina Melendez, Tenisha Wilkins



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 December 5, 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, along with Vice Chair Blake-Anthony Johnson who was not able to attend but supported preparation for the meeting.

The agenda for the meeting was outlined and a quorum was established. The minutes of the previous meeting on September 12, 2023 were unanimously approved.


II. DCASE Briefings

Kalena Chevalier, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Grants and Resources provided a year-end overview of grant activity. DCASE committed over $23.5 million in grant dollars in 2023 through annual and recovery programs. This represents a 25 percent increase over 2022 and included $12.7 million dollars toward annual grant programs, $10 million in recovery funding for arts organizations, as well as additional funds to support programming in Chicago's downtown, as a strategy complement recovery and revitalization efforts in the loop. This totals 749 grants this year across five programs, and is with some confidence the most grants in a single year in DCASE's history. Kalena acknowledged the Cultural Grants and Resources team for all of the incredible work to make that happen.

DCASE has continued to make strides towards granting that is more reflective of the City of Chicago and toward getting funds out to people in communities that have previously been under-resourced by our programs. 69 percent of Chicago Presents neighborhood events this year were on the South and West sides of the city. 89 percent of Neighborhood Access Program grantees are located on the south and west side. Through our CityArts program DCASE granted 126 grants to arts organizations by for or about black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) this year as compared to 58 in 2021, or more than double the support to such groups in prior years. In regards to process, 72 percent of grant panelists across all of our programs are BIPOC. DCASE thanks the CAC for their involvement and support for these programs.

Melanie Wang, Program Director of Cultural Grants provided an overview of the Individual Artists Program (IAP). The Individual Artists Program is one of our annual offerings and just recently opened on November 29 and goes through mid-January.

The mission of IAP is to support Chicago's practicing artists in creating work that develops their craft and elevates their careers while adding to the cultural vitality of the city. This is for Chicago artists, artisans, curators and cultural producers in need of funding, so many kinds of creators can apply. Grants can support projects that directly involve creation, development, presentation of artwork - as well as investments considered general and administrative costs associated with one's practice. An estimated 200-250 grantees will be supported, and artists can apply for up to $6,000.

An important element of IAP is a commitment for DCASE to invest in a broad range of artists, many who may not have been previously supported or get regularly supported by DCASE. DCASE's cultural grants program strives for an equitable distribution of arts and services across the city. This means DCASE will be considering how projects are broad representative of community areas, including those who have been historically under-resourced. The deadline is January 15, and applicants can apply at As always, CAC members are encouraged to serve as or recommend panelists for this process.

Laura Trejo Lozano, Program Director of Cultural Resources shared updates on a theater sector working group initiative. Following a listening session with Mayor Johnson and members of the theater community. A convening was hosted by DCASE in November and arts consultant Cheryl Yuen was engaged to help establish work groups delving into conversations more deeply. Four work groups were established to explore strategies in public engagement, collective and shared efforts, enhancing financial resources, and cultivating the creative work force. DCASE is currently finalizing participation in each work group and will be hosting meetings in early 2024 leading up to preliminary findings and recommendations in March 2024.

Jamey Lundblad, Deputy Commissioner of Marketing and Development, shared an update on the City’s support for a campaign to encourage attendees of Chicago theatre. This effort built upon an existing partnership with Choose Chicago, creative agency HMS, and the League of Chicago Theaters for its Go Live Chicago campaign this spring promoting all performing arts. Its aim was to encourage people to get back in the habit of attending live events. The campaign performed well, and DCASE made the strategic decision to further invest in theater based on a recent estimated media arts report, industry convenings, and listening session with the Mayor. The new fall campaign focused on claiming fall as “theater season.” It included animated social media ads with creative taglines like “Time to get dramatic,” “Bring the drama all season long,” and “It's theater season, get into character.” Video clips were shared and will be sent to members following the meeting.

Jamey continued discussion to describe a collaborative marketing campaign to promote film production and strengthen Chicago and Illinois' film industry. It was created during the actors’ and writers’ strike, which is fortunately over. Some areas of the industry such as commercial filming continued to work through that time, and DCASE hoped to emphasize support for them to continue to do so. Visual samples of the advertising were shared onscreen. Jonah Zeiger, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Film Office affirmed the partnership with DCASE marketing as an impactful effort.

Lydia Ross, Senior Strategist, shared an update on major public art projects and recognized the work of the Public Art team led by Jimmy Castillo, Director, who was out sick but co-developed the presentation. Describing a watershed year for the public art team, a number of highlights were shared:

The city's single largest acquisition in the last 30 years is now predominantly on view at O'Hare's terminal 5, the international and long-flight terminal in partnership with the Department of Aviation. A celebration with the artists took place to recognize a dramatically transformed space to experience artworks by over 20 artists.

Woven Together, at the corner of 49th street and Ashland in the Back of the Yards Neighborhood, was just dedicated and is a collaboration between Luftwerk and Gloria Talamantes. In the West Humboldt and Austin neighborhood, Wayfindings designed by CAC member Bob Faust, was just completed at the new joint public safety training campus, designed to illustrate community connection and interaction between the Boys and Girls Club, the first responders, and members of the neighborhood.

DCASE inaugurated the latest Riverwalk banners by Leonard Suryajaya, as well as opened a piece by Theaster Gates at the Harold Washington Library Center as a partnership with Chicago Public Libraries supporting themes of creative expression, free speech, and the ability to read.


III. DCASE Leadership Report

Commissioner Erin Harkey mentioned the leadership report would begin earlier in the meeting so that the CAC discussion could follow and continue with summary remarks for DCASE activities the past year. Commissioner Harkey expressed pride for the hard work of DCASE staff reflecting the full diversity of the city and heartfelt thanks to the thoughtful leadership Coya Paz and Blake-Anthony Johnson.

DCASE has been very busy fulfilling its mission in the areas of cultural grants and resources, public art, theater recovery, and marketing and development. As this work is so critically important, DCASE is incredibly grateful for the CAC’s valuable advice, advocacy, and expertise informing DCASE projects.

Commissioner Harkey shared an update on behalf of Meida McNeal and the Arts and Health Pilot. Ten artists were successfully selected and will be participating at five mental health clinics for a year-long partnership. The artists in this cohort finished their first semester as part of the community health worker program at Malcolm X college. Apprenticeships will start in January, and services and events will take place throughout the next year featuring arts, health and wellness services for the community.

DCASE is publishing its second year of an online electronic impact report, with a few highlights and stats on what the department has been able to accomplish to follow:

DCASE presented $23.5 million in direct support to artists and arts organizations, a 25 percent increase over 2022, and $8.6 million of those funds were awarded to grantees on the south and west sides of the city. This represents 749 grantees this year, which includes the 27 announced today for the Neighborhood Access Program (NAP). The fact that 89 percent of NAP grantees are on the South and West sides of the city is extraordinary.

DCASE collaborated with the Department of Aviation on $3.5 million to commission 20 artists for public art. We recognize growth in public art from one coordinator managing a $300,000 budget to over $20 million. We also celebrated the $6.8 million grant from the Mellon foundations to create new works for the Chicago Monuments projects.

The Chicago Film Office celebrated a record breaking 700 million dollars in TV and production. That impact is for the state, but Chicago revenues account for about 90 percent of state revenue so most of that is credited to Chicago so we can celebrate that.

The Programming Division co-presented approximately 25 residencies for artists and organizations which included the Millennium Park residency program. Several residencies are now in the building, including a Dance Studio Residency and a new Playwriting Residency and Series for the Chicago Cultural Center.

Both of DCASE’s work homes, the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park, were featured in WTTW’s Most Beautiful Places in Chicago series. The Cultural Center is alive right now with exhibitions, including the fifth Chicago Architectural Biennial. Another highlight to be proud of is the Black Girlhood Altar Project, produced directly by DCASE in connection with the Biennial.

Holiday activities are going forward, centered in Millennium Park, and in partnership with Choose Chicago to bring more to Chicago neighborhoods. A number of programs and grants supported local activities like a tree lighting ceremony in Austin. These efforts are fully supported by Mayor Brandon Johnson. For the downtown tree lighting, 30,000 attended and received significant coverage through a media partnership.

Commissioner Harkey noted looking forward to working with the Mayor to join a forthcoming meeting and thanked the CAC for their support.


IV. CAC Facilitated Discussion

Coya Paz acknowledged Commissioner Harkey and the work of DCASE, adding another example with the Sacred Spaces partnership with DCASE and Arts Alliance Illinois. Coya remarked feeling proud and honored to be a Chicago artist and joy to see the city alive with activity even in the cold of winter. She invited further comment from CAC members.

Amina Dickerson inquired if there is a way to be able to highlight how much grants and support have been in a region or a specific neighborhood, and how can the City further utilize these new neighborhood assets and leverage them in City and State planning to encourage people to go outside downtown. Jamey Lundblad noted that some of these highlights will be modeled in the upcoming DCASE Impact Report. Bill Michel suggested this could be an opportunity to encourage the CAC to help get the word out to communities.

Brooke Flanagan suggested involving artists in a showcase as a way to highlight the strength of Chicago’s creative scene. Brooke offered that creative economy and culture, television should be a calling card for the city. Commissioner Harkey offered an early idea for engaging arts reporters that has been previously discussed, and the access DCASE has to the City TV through BACP. Lydia Ross noted that a documentary on the T5 commissions is underway with the BACP film crew. Jonah Zeiger noted that his team can continue brainstorming, as part of the challenge with media is it is fragmented, but also has more opportunities to self-produce. Commissioner Harkey also noted possibilities with Choose Chicago such as an in-flight video.

A question was raised regarding plans for arts education. Kalena Chevalier updated that with the new CPS Director of Arts Education, there are early discussions on a forthcoming refreshed arts education plan. DCASE is helping to advise on strategy as a neutral party among CPS and other arts education partners and provider stakeholders. Kaoru Watanabe reaffirmed that arts education for youth is important, and also remains significant for other age groups including adults and seniors.

Returning to the geography topic, Brooke Flanagan inquired if the “report card” for arts education programs in schools still exists and could be combined with information about other DCASE support to that same neighborhood to share with a community. Melanie Wang offered that DCASE already produces geographic-based information for the annual budget process. It could be especially strategic to build off of existing processes to get information at the local level.

Amina Dickerson inquired if there was an update on DCASE involvement in the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and if there are plans for continuation for sustaining the DCASE grants budget when recovery federal funds are completed. Commissioner Harkey noted that the baseline budget for grants was $12.7 million without any recovery money, and the goal is to return to that level. Planning for the DNC has begun. DCASE’s focus has been to work in partnership with others to amplify Chicago’s presence leading up to the convention, as there is significant community engagement that goes on before the actual convention happens. Alison Cuddy noted the Terra Foundation Art Design Chicago theme is about connections and crossroads, which offers opportunities to highlight the City as a nexus and destination.

Omar Torres-Kortright opened a discussion about the timeliness of arts and cultural organizations as a partner supporting and engaging those involved and affected by the changing migrant population. Kaoru Watanabe noted that cultural organizations have long been an entry point to bridging across communities and educating people about other cultures’ perspectives much like in this moment. Commissioner Harkey noted some activities in development underway to help support arts organizations’ involvement in this effort.

Coya Paz prompted a final round of CAC comments and questions. Claire Rice noted some upcoming efforts for state advocacy for arts funding. Akilah Halley and Tanner Woodford mentioned a desire to continue the arts education conversation, with Tanner mentioning interest in education efforts serving harder to reach populations, like incarcerated youth and detention centers. Vivian Teng expressed interest in remaining connected between meetings. Josephine Lee provided an update for how their recent international exchange concert has been affected by timely conversation and policy climate around the conflict in Gaza. Josephine affirmed DCASE and the CAC’s work as important contributions to amplify the arts amid current events and issues.


V. Next Steps

The schedule of 2024 CAC meetings will be shared by email, with the first meeting expected February or March. DCASE reminded CAC members that all meetings are now taking place in-person and not virtual.


VI. Next Steps

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