Cultural Advisory Council July 14, 2020 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, chair; Alison Cuddy, vice chair; Paola Aguirre-Serrano, Sandra Delgado, Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Tracie D. Hall, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ginger Lane, Josephine Lee, Tonika Lewis Johnson, William Michel, Heather A. Miller, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, Jennifer A. Scott, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford. Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Mark Kelly, Melanie Wang, Erin Harkey, Jamey Lundblad, Nina Melendez



I. Welcome and Introduction

The meeting was called to order at 3pm by Council chair Amina Dickerson. Amina confirmed a quorum of Council member attendance and welcomed members of DCASE and members of the public joining via livestream. Amina noted the meeting is being held virtually due to COVID-19 pandemic conditions. The meeting is in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements and current provisions for virtual participation in public meetings. For this meeting, this includes the ability to live stream to the general public via link from the DCASE website, and the opportunity for members of the public to pre-register for public comment. Amina confirmed there were no requests for public comment received, and therefore will not take place in today’s meeting.

Alison Cuddy, vice chair, also welcomed everyone and briefly reviewed the online Zoom meeting process for members. Alison thanked Commissioner Kelly, Deputy Commissioner Erin Harkey, and Chief Marketing Officer Jamey Lundblad for joining, and for Director Melanie Wang and Nina Melendez as staff supports to the Council. Alison applauded DCASE for their work to adapt their programs and realign their support to prioritize providing relief to artists and supporting communities on the city’s South and West sides.

Amina referenced the meeting minutes for the CAC’s February 18 meeting and were circulated in advance, requesting a motion to approve. Alison Cuddy made a motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Vivian Teng. The motion carried unanimously, approving the February 18, 2020 meeting minutes. Amina then reviewed the agenda to introduce the next items for Council discussion.


II. Reframing the Approach of the CAC: A Strategy for Active Engagement

Amina shifted the conversation to the Council’s approach and the need to reframe the Council’s agenda in the wake of the current pandemic and social unrest. She stated the CAC’s goal is to move us further to clarity and action and to ensure an active Council. Amina then provided a recap of survey questions that were recently sent to CAC Members and provided a summary of top responses to each. The five questions were:

1. What should the CAC advise on?
2. How to engage artists/communities more effectively?
3. What cultural policy should the CAC advocate for?
4. What action steps can we take in the near term?
5. What should we have achieved in 2 years?

Amina noted today’s discussion will focus on Questions 1 and 3. Question 1, “What should the CAC advise on?” had resulted in these top responses from CAC member survey:

  • How do we encourage Council members to act as a “body” to step outside our individual platform/concerns to address city-wide issues?
  • Return to/support the policies the Mayor included on her platform; don’t lose these, but develop a cohesive plan to help these advance
  • Play an active role in the formation of neighborhood cultural centers

Amina then facilitated further discussion related to Question 1. CAC members voiced:

  • The desire to meet in smaller groups to focus more deeply on a topic area. Proposal to frame working groups around existing versions of Mayor’s arts priorities versus starting from scratch.
  • Request to involve CAC members to offer input earlier in process when programs are still in development, such as INVEST South/West residency.
  • Focus on artistic mentoring and enabling more artist access to government resources and opportunities, not just administrators. Interest in greater knowledge and transparency in curatorial process, partnerships.
  • Seeking more information about the city’s stance on monuments and memorials as a result of current events.
  • Consider recently released Recovery Task Force Advisory Report and other current planning work as a way for CAC to align. While still challenging, also opportunity to reinforce arts as priority and incorporate in implementation.
  • CAC should be intentional in how to embed, root, celebrate and highlight equity, and more specifically racial equity as part of CAC service. Also not just citywide but prioritize neighborhoods with greater need or historically marginalized.
  • CAC can advance ambassadors to be a source of information, serve as intermediaries in activating artists at community level; Arts Alliance Illinois mentioned a similar project already in works and offered to partner.
  • The Council should acknowledge urgency of times but also consider long-term framework for the dismantling of systems in terms of inequities.


III. Counsel and Policy Agenda Priorities

Alison Cuddy then pointed to Question 3, “What cultural policy should the CAC advocate for?” which had resulted in these top responses from CAC member survey:

  • Advocate for changes that lead to more equitable policies and practices for artists in the gig economy, find ways to offer insurance, etc.
  • Update licensing, permitting, smaller policy changes that we can help to shift, make easier to understand, remove racial bias
  • Work with city and state to lobby the federal government to create a new national WPA effort to put artists to work

Alison facilitated further discussion related to Question 3. CAC members voiced:

  • Reconfirm interest in new WPA effort, perhaps not possible at federal level right now but could be at a municipal or state. We need to reframe the arts as an economic driver and an employment practice, not a “nice to have”.
  • Explore cultivating arts workers in communities. Many people are cultural producers but do not necessarily identify as artists.
  • Find ways to amplify efforts for K-12 arts education and student access to the arts. As policies are being set, how can the Council’s work complement other Arts organizations such as Ingenuity and Arts Alliance Illinois?
  • Using “neighborhoods” as framework for equity may not be as effective or inclusive. Disenfranchised are not all concentrated in specific neighborhoods. How can we empower artists in representing communities, broadly defined?
  • How can we as a council promote and foster collaboration between artist groups and individuals, knowing artists self-define in many ways and are often isolated?
  • Consider ways we can help position artists as collaborators outside of traditional arts spaces, the way arts teachers are a bridge to communities and youth. Leverage Council’s own diversity of disciplines as a way to reach outward.
  • Could we pair our interest in collaboration with Mayor’s framework, as a strategy and not to lose time or squander talent by starting from nothing? Groups such as Arts Alliance, Ingenuity and 3Arts are already at our fingertips.
  • Are there ways we can help advocate for updates to policies and processes at a city level for artists in the gig economy? What are some licensing, permitting and smaller policy changes, and can we advise how they can be made more equitable, accessible, transparent and more dispersed across the city?

Amina Dickerson and Alison Cuddy thanked the group for their comments and committed to taking them into consideration.


IV. CAC Summary of Next Steps

Amina Dickerson circled back to the draft arts priority areas presented by the Mayor’s Office of Policy at the February CAC meeting. They were presented as: arts education, livability, creative placemaking / placekeeping, creative economy, interagency workgroup.

CAC members were invited to reflect on their potential alignment with today’s discussion. Members shared:

  • Interest in broader history of Mayor Lightfoot’s arts priorities as exists in public record. DCASE will work with CAC chairs to share reference material as a next step. DCASE clarified Mayor has not yet defined specific arts recommendations, rather value statements and commitments to guide work that departments implement.
  • CAC should not looking to just “return to normal,” but instead take the opportunity to re-envision the role artists can play, defining it from a place of equity. Let’s place value in the arts and not just defend the need to value them.
  • Paola Aguirre offered practitioner perspective on creative placemaking by “activating public spaces and sleepy assets,” describing as “how we keep our spaces alive and vibrant and how we engage our communities.” Groups affiliated with CAC members were mentioned as examples such as Free Street Theater, Englewood Arts Collective, and Design Museum of Chicago.
  • Need to more explicit in identifying direct support via public funding as an area of need, including a racial equity lens, to be as important as the other topics listed. Should also consider if CAC has a role or involvement in emergent topics or areas that involve agencies other than DCASE, such as monuments or health.
  • Continued desire for more clarity on ultimate goal and mission for the CAC? We are involved in many groups and we need more understanding on what we intend to do here. Even if gathering into smaller groups, having one shared identity can be helpful to better tell a story and understand the whole.

Amina asked the Council for a show of hands to use the February 2020 arts priorities as a starting point for structuring CAC working groups, potentially with other topics as mentioned today. The CAC agreed to move forward with this proposal.

Amina also addressed the call for clarity regarding the mission of CAC. The CAC will continue to serve the mission of supporting DCASE in its work to advance the arts for the city of Chicago, with this charge and structure to be refined over the course of the next few meetings. The next meeting will also revisit the remaining questions that were offered for CAC reflection via survey.

In response to Alison’s request, Erin Harkey gave an update on the city’s current work regarding monuments and memorials. The process is not yet publicly announced, but will prioritize direct public engagement and input to how existing and future works are presented and created. This is a complex, multi-agency process with news to come.

Amina began closing the meeting by thanking Council members for their feedback and asking them to begin thinking what priority topic area they most aim to participate in.

Amina thanked DCASE for continuing to be responsive and open to CAC taking on a new, more engaged direction and to vice-chair Alison Cuddy for their shared leadership.


V. Adjourn

Amina called for a motion to adjourn. Alison Cuddy offered motion and was seconded by Paola Aguirre. The meeting adjourned at 5:02pm.

Minutes submitted by Nina Melendez, DCASE